The term “alcoholic” is often used colloquially to describe someone who has a problematic relationship with alcohol, but clinically, the condition is known as Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), to be diagnosed with AUD, an individual must meet at least two of the following criteria within a 12-month period:
Alcohol is often consumed in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended.
Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.
A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain, use, or recover from the effects of alcohol.
Craving or a strong desire or urge to use alcohol.
Recurrent alcohol use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
Continued alcohol use despite persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol.
Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use.
Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
Continued alcohol use despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by alcohol.
Tolerance, as defined by either a need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect or a markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol.
Withdrawal, as manifested by either the characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol or alcohol is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
It’s important to note that the severity of AUD can range from mild to severe, depending on the number of diagnostic criteria met. It’s also important to seek professional help and support if you or someone you know is struggling with problematic alcohol use, as early intervention and treatment can improve outcomes and reduce the risk of negative health consequences.