Alcohol Use Disorder: Definition, Symptoms, Types and Treatment

Last Update on July 21, 2022 : Published on May 11, 2021
Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcoholism, previously known as “alcohol abuse” or “alcohol dependence”, can be clinically and formally termed as “Alcohol Use Disorder”. This disorder develops when you are dependent on substances such as alcohol to cope with emotional, physical, or mental distress.

Alcohol use disorder can have some serious negative consequences such as losing a job, losing a relationship, or even, in severe cases, death. Even knowing the consequences, people with this disorder find it difficult to cope and overcome the problem.

In a 2022 study from Carnegie Mellon University, it was found that adolescents (aged 18) and young adults who drank alone in their early 20s were at greater risk of developing alcohol use disorder later in adulthood (aged 35). The study had more than 4000 participants and was asked about their drinking patterns, including whether they drank alone.

For 17 years, these participants were followed and were asked to provide information about their alcohol consumption in young adulthood (aged 24) and/or symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder in their adulthood (aged 35).

The results of the study showed that young adults who drank alone were at a 60% higher risk of developing AUD later in life and adolescents who drank alone were at 35% higher risk than their peers who drank in a social setting. Early risk factors for AUD such as alcoholism, binge drinking, and frequent drinking were accounted for in this study.

Kasey Creswell, the lead author of the study said,

“Most young people who drink do it with others in social settings, but a substantial minority of young people are drinking alone. Solitary drinking is a unique and robust risk factor for future alcohol use disorder.”

The original study was published in the July issue of the Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal.

In this article, you’ll explore more about alcohol use disorder, its symptoms, the risk factors related to this disorder, alcohol use disorder treatment, how to cope with it, and much more.

Related: Impact of Substance Abuse on Your Health and How It Can be Treated

What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?

What Is Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol Use Disorder can be described as a disorder where a person develops an emotional dependence on alcohol. This can involve problems such as binge drinking or having trouble controlling the consumption of alcohol. Unhealthy alcohol consumption can put your health at risk, not just physically but emotionally and mentally as well.

If continuous drinking is creating distress and problems in your daily life and overall health, it is likely you have Alcohol Use Disorder.

Symptoms Of Alcohol Use Disorder:

The DSM-5 has created a list of 11 symptoms for Alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder symptoms can be:

  • Consuming alcohol in larger amounts over a long period than intended.
  • Trouble cutting down or controlling alcohol consumption.
  • Spending too much time drinking alcohol or recovering from its after-effects.
  • Craving or having a strong urge to drink.
  • Facing failure at school or work due to drinking.
  • Drinking alcohol despite having personal or professional problems.
  • Decrease in social or recreational activities due to drinking.
  • Frequent consumption of alcohol even in physically dangerous situations.
  • Drinking alcohol knowing the physical and mental problems the consumption is causing.
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit

There are three types of Alcohol Use Disorder:

1. Mild: To be diagnosed with mild Alcohol Use Disorder, you must have at least one or two of the above symptoms.

2. Moderate: To be diagnosed with moderate Alcohol Use Disorder, you must have at least four or five of the above symptoms.

3. Severe: To be diagnosed with severe Alcohol Use Disorder, you must have six or more of the above symptoms.

To be diagnosed with Disorder, a person must experience two or more of the AUD Disorder symptoms mentioned above.

Causes Of Alcohol Use Disorder

Causes Of Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder can be caused by environmental and situational factors. Alcohol use disorder causes can be:

A. Family history: Children with parents diagnosed with AUD are more likely to develop alcohol use disorder.

B. Traumatic history: A person with a history of abuse, trauma, loss, abandonment, and neglect is also more likely to develop AUD.

C. Psychiatric disorders: People with mental health disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar, or other conditions are more prone to develop AUD than others.

D. Societal influence: Having parents, peers, spouses, or partners with a drinking problem may also cause a person to develop AUD.

If you or your loved one is dealing with AUD symptoms, it is recommended you immediately consult a professional therapist.

Treatment & Coping With Alcohol Use Disorder

Most people diagnosed with AUD can get treatment and the best part is that AUD can be treated with the help of detoxification, behavioral therapy, and medications. However, if left untreated, AUD can be harmful not only to your health but also to your profession, relationships, finances, and your life as a whole.

Alcohol use disorder treatment can be as follows:

1. Detoxification

Detoxification treatment depends on the intensity of your AUD. Detox can be performed on an inpatient or outpatient basis as it includes transmitting IV fluids to help avoid dehydration which can be a symptom of withdrawal.

2. Psychotherapy


AUD can also be treated with the help of behavioral therapy approaches. This can also help treat co-occurring mental health disorders. Treatment approaches used to treat AUD can be:

3. Medications

While there are not many medications that can be used to control the symptoms of AUD, there are some approved by the FDA that can help reduce craving for alcohol and reduce withdrawal symptoms.

Please do not take any medications with alcohol and consult with your therapist before taking any medications. Some medications may have side effects that may worsen your symptoms.

4. Support Groups

There are online and in-person support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery that you can join to seek support and guidance from fellow alcoholics. Support groups can help you find people to connect with similar problems and experiences.

You can also seek support from professional counselors or therapists and friends or family.

5. Self Care

One of the biggest parts of the recovery process is to take care of yourself. Recognize the triggers that cause you to drink and try to avoid or remove them as much as possible. Practice some self-care techniques not only focusing on physical care but also social, mental, emotional, and spiritual as well.

Recovery Is Possible

Alcohol Use Disorder might be a difficult disorder to recover from but it is not impossible. The road to recovery might be challenging but with support, courage, and determination, you can easily reach your destination.

If you are having difficulty managing your alcohol consumption, you can always reach out to your loved ones or other people with similar experiences for support.

Remember, you are not alone.

Breaking free from addiction is a long road, so take one step at a time.

I hope this article helped you understand what is alcohol use disorder, its symptoms, causes, types, and alcohol use disorder treatment.

For more, you can write to us at or connect with us on our social media pages.

Take care, be kind to yourself, and stay safe.

Next Read:

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About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

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