You’ve probably heard about “alcohol abuse,” alcohol dependence,” or “alcoholism.” Or maybe you know the new term that doctors use: “alcohol use disorder,” which can range from mild to moderate to severe.
These are the guidelines that define an alcohol use disorder, according to the American Psychiatric Association:
Tried to cut back or stop more than once, and couldn’t
Spend a lot of time drinking, or being sick after drinking
Want alcohol so badly you can’t think of anything else
Have problems with work, school, or family because of your habit (or being sick after having alcohol)
Kept drinking even though it caused problems for you with your relationships
Quit or cut back on other activities that were important or enjoyable to you, in order to drink
More than once found yourself in situations while or after drinking that made you more likely to get hurt
Kept having alcohol even though it made you feel depressed or anxious, hurt your health, or led to a memory blackout
Had to drink more than you used to in order to get the effect you wanted. Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before.
Found that you had withdrawal symptoms when the buzz wore off, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, or a seizure. Or seeing, hearing, or feeling things that were not there.
If you've had two or three of those symptoms in the last year, that’s a “mild” alcohol use disorder.
It’s a “moderate” disorder if you've had four to five of those symptoms. And it’s “severe” if you've had six or more.
Keep in mind that a serving of alcohol is:
12 ounces of regular beer
8-9 ounces of malt liquor
5 ounces of wine
3-4 ounces of fortified wine (such as sherry or port)
2-3 ounces of cordial, liqueur, or aperitif
1.5 ounces of brandy, cognac, or 80-proof distilled spirits
Many places over-serve booze. It’s easy to do, even at home, if your wine or beer glasses are big.