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Alcohol Use Disorder & Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol use occurs along a spectrum that can range from casual drinking to abuse and addiction. Alcohol abuse involves drinking in harmful ways, while an alcohol addiction—also known as an alcohol use disorder (AUD)—is a much more severe form of problematic drinking.1,2

What is Alcohol Addiction?

Is alcohol addictive? It can be. A drinking problem can involve any combination of beer, wine, and liquor and may not necessarily stem from just one of these types of drinks. Binge drinking is a pattern of alcohol misuse, where a large amount of alcohol is consumed in a short period of time.4,5,6 This generally means having 5 or more drinks for men or 4 or more drinks for women within a couple of hours.3,4,6 Binge drinking and heavy drinking are both patterns of drinking that can increase a person’s risk of AUD.4,6

Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder (AUD), refers to a chronic but treatable disease where it is difficult to control your use of alcohol, even after drinking has had a negative impact on 1 or more areas of your life.1,2 Alcohol dependence can be psychological—you rely on alcohol to manage stressors. It can also be physical, meaning your body becomes accustomed to the presence of alcohol after long periods of heavy use (i.e., tolerance) and relies on alcohol to avoid going through withdrawal.1,4,7

Drinking alcohol over time can cause changes in how the brain works.3,8 These changes contribute to the diagnostic characteristics of an AUD, which includes trouble controlling how much you drink, alcohol use affecting your social functioning, drinking when it is harmful to your physical or mental health, and the development of tolerance and physical dependence.2,7-9

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction?

If you are concerned that you or someone you care about is struggling with alcohol abuse or alcoholism, you may want to be aware of some behaviors and signs of alcohol addiction.

What are the Health Risks of Alcohol Abuse?

The effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism can have negative consequences on your physical and mental health.1,7,10  These consequences may include alcohol poisoning, which can be extremely dangerous and potentially fatal. Also, cardiovascular system problems, including damage to the heart muscle, high cholesterol, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

Am I an Alcoholic?

A person who finds it difficult to control their use of alcohol, even after experiencing significant personal or professional problems, is likely to be considered an alcoholic.7,10 The best way to find out if you have a problem with alcohol is to speak honestly with a medical or psychiatric professional who can diagnose alcohol use disorder.2,10 There is no specific number of drinks you need to consume daily to be considered an alcoholic, but if you regularly drink more than moderate amounts of alcohol, you may have an issue.

How Do I Get Help for Alcohol Addiction?

There are various types of alcohol rehab treatment. Treatment may involve detox, inpatient or residential rehab, outpatient rehab, aftercare, and support groups (including AA).

Where Can I Learn More about Treating Alcohol Addiction?

For more information about alcohol abuse and addiction treatment, you may want to reach out to your doctor. Or you can contact one of our admissions navigators at for the information and support you are looking for as you look for alcoholism treatment.

There are various treatment programs and strategies available for alcohol addiction, so don’t give up if the first program you check out doesn’t meet your individual needs. Learn more about alcohol addiction treatment.

Take Our “Am I Addicted to Alcohol?” Self-Assessment