Alcohol use disorder (AUD) can be diagnosed by a healthcare professional through a physical examination, a psychological evaluation, and a review of a person’s medical and family history. The diagnostic criteria for AUD are outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.
To be diagnosed with AUD, a person must meet at least two of the following criteria within a 12-month period:
Drinking more alcohol or for a longer time than intended
Difficulty in controlling or cutting down on drinking
Spending a significant amount of time drinking or recovering from its effects
Craving or having a strong desire to drink
Continuing to drink despite negative consequences to one’s health, work, or personal life
Giving up important activities or social relationships due to alcohol use
Continuing to drink despite the knowledge of having a physical or mental health problem caused or worsened by alcohol use
Developing a tolerance to alcohol (needing to drink more to achieve the desired effect) or experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stopping or reducing alcohol use.
A healthcare professional may also conduct blood tests, imaging studies, or other tests to assess the extent of damage caused by long-term alcohol use. The severity of AUD is classified as mild, moderate, or severe, based on the number of criteria met. Treatment for AUD can involve medications, behavioral therapies, support groups, or a combination of these approaches.