Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can increase a patient’s risk of serious health issues. If you have an alcohol dependency, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent further health complications.
Levels of Drinking
There are several different levels of drinking, defined below:
- Moderate Drinking—According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking is up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.
- Binge Drinking—SAMHSA defines binge drinking as drinking 5 or more alcoholic drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that produces blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of greater than 0.08 g/dL. This usually occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men over a 2 hour period.
- Heavy Drinking—SAMHSA defines heavy drinking as drinking 5 or more drinks on the same occasion on each of 5 or more days in the past 30 days.
Excessive drinking can put you at risk of developing an alcohol use disorder in addition to other health and safety problems. Genetics have also been shown to be a risk factor for the development of an AUD.
To be diagnosed with an AUD, individuals must meet certain diagnostic criteria. Some of these criteria include problems controlling intake of alcohol, continued use of alcohol despite problems resulting from drinking, development of a tolerance, drinking that leads to risky situations, or the development of withdrawal symptoms. The severity of an AUD—mild, moderate, or severe—is based on the number of criteria met.
Alcohol Use Disorder
Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” or AUD. To be diagnosed with an AUD, individuals must meet certain criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). A patient who meets two or more of the below 11 criteria during the same 12-month period receives a diagnosis of AUD. To see if you meet the criteria for AUD, ask yourself the following questions. In the past year, have you:
- Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
- More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
- Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
- Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
- More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
- Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
- Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
- Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?
If you have any of these symptoms, your drinking may already be a cause for concern. The more symptoms you have, the more urgent the need for change. Contact a doctor as soon as possible if you think you have a problem with alcohol use.