Alcoholism, also known as alcohol-use disorder (AUD), alcohol addiction, or alcohol dependence, is characterized by a compulsion to drink and abuse alcohol despite ongoing negative consequences. These consequences can include harm to one’s family and social relationships, career, and physical health. A person who is addicted to alcohol develops a physical and psychological dependence, resulting in symptoms of withdrawal and strong cravings for alcohol when drinking is stopped.
Professionals make a distinction between alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction for the purposes of diagnosis and treatment. Alcohol abuse typically means the user has some control over their drinking, but is engaging in harmful behaviors. Over time, alcohol abuse can lead to addiction.
Alcohol abuse is characterized by the following signs and symptoms:
Alcohol addiction is characterized by all of the symptoms of alcohol abuse, plus these signs and symptoms:
Do the signs and symptoms listed in the previous section sound familiar to you? Each person’s circumstance is unique, and what constitutes problem drinking varies from person to person. A good rule of thumb is: if your drinking is causing problems in your life, you have a drinking problem.
Some online resources allow you to gauge the severity of your symptoms while learning about alcohol-use disorder:
If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, the important thing is to do something—try any of the treatment options available, and keep trying until you find one that helps you. You have choices. There are entire networks of people standing by to help you if you will take the first step and make contact.