Who is considered an alcoholic?
The term alcohol use disorder (AUD) refers to a condition in which a person has a strong and compulsive desire to consume alcohol despite the presence of negative consequences or impact on their life. The term alcoholic was previously used for a person with such a condition, but because it carries a negative or discriminatory message, the terms alcoholic and alcoholism are not used anymore.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a person can be diagnosed as suffering from AUD if they meet any two of the following criteria within the same 12-month period:
- Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of alcohol.
- Cravings or a strong desire to use alcohol.
- Being unable to cut down on alcohol use despite a desire to do so.
- Continuing to abuse alcohol despite negative interpersonal or social problems that are likely due to alcohol use.
- Using alcohol in physically dangerous situations (such as driving or operating machinery).
- Drinking more or for a longer time than originally intended.
- Continuing to abuse alcohol despite the presence of a psychological or physical problem that is probably due to alcohol use.
- Being unable to fulfill major obligations at home, work, or school due to alcohol use.
- Giving up previously enjoyed social, occupational, or recreational activities due to alcohol use.
- Having a tolerance (i.e., needing to drink increasingly large or more frequent amounts of alcohol to achieve the desired effect).
- Developing symptoms of withdrawal when efforts are made to stop using alcohol.
What causes someone to be an alcoholic?
The exact reason for someone to get an alcohol use disorder (AUD) is not completely understood. Researchers suggest that chronic alcohol consumption affects the brain of a person to the extent that they become physically, emotionally, and mentally dependent upon alcohol. There are several factors that put people at risk, including:
- Psychological disorders like depression and anxiety
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of belonging or feeling out of place
- Childhood history of mental, physical, or sexual abuse
- Having the first alcoholic drink at an early age (between 11 and 14 years).
- Family history of AUD
- Peer pressure
- Personal losses or failures
- Proximity to alcohol retail stores or bars: Researchers suggest that people who live closer to alcohol establishments tend to have a more positive view of drinking and are more likely to participate in the activity.
How many alcoholic drinks a day are considered safe?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 suggests that drinking up to one standard drink per day for women and up to two standard drinks per day for men can be considered as a safe or moderate level of drinking. In the US, a standard drink contains approximately 14 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol, which is typically found in the following:
- Five ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol content).
- Eight ounces of malt liquor (7 percent alcohol content).
- Twelve ounces of beer (5 percent alcohol content).
- One and a half ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40 percent alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., vodka, whiskey, gin, rum).
Medically Reviewed on 6/26/2020
Medscape Medical Reference