When you have alcohol use disorder (AUD), you might lose control over when and how much you drink, feel bad when you aren’t drinking, or keep using alcohol even when it starts to cause problems in your life.
People who drink heavily or binge drink regularly are more likely to have alcohol use disorder. Heavy drinking is more than four drinks in a day or more than 14 in a week for men. Women are considered heavy drinkers when they have more than three drinks in a day or more than seven in a week.
But there’s no specific number of drinks per day or week that mean you have the condition. The diagnosis depends on how alcohol affects your life.
Your answers to some questions about your alcohol use can help you decide if you have a problem.
Screening Test for Alcohol Use Disorder
In the past year, have you:
- Had times when you drank more or for longer than you meant to?
- Tried (or wanted to try) multiple times to cut back or stop drinking, but you couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking or getting over the effects of alcohol?
- Felt a strong need, urge, or craving to drink?
- Found that drinking or its effects kept you from doing work, going to school, or taking care of your family?
- Continued to drink even when it caused tension with family and friends?
- Skipped out on or decreased activities you enjoy so you could drink?
- More than once found yourself doing risky things during or after drinking, like driving or having unsafe sex?
- Kept drinking even though it made you blackout, feel sad or anxious, or made another health problem worse?
- Had to drink more than you once did to get the same effects?
- Felt withdrawal symptoms from alcohol, like insomnia, shakiness, nausea, or a racing heart?
If you answered yes to any of these, you may have alcohol use disorder.
See a Health Care Professional
They can do a formal assessment to see if you have alcohol use disorder.
They'll ask you questions about your drinking habits, like how much you drink, how often, whether it’s affected your relationships or work, and if you’ve ever done risky things after you’ve had alcohol. They may have you fill out a questionnaire about your drinking habits. Questions about your symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors help check on your mental health.
The health care professional may ask if they can speak with your family members or friends, too. (They won’t give out any information about you without your consent.)
A physical exam can show signs that alcohol is affecting your health, such as a mild tremor, an enlarged, tender liver, changing blood pressure, or a fast heartbeat.
No specific lab tests diagnose alcohol use disorder. But your doctor can test your blood to check how well your liver works, since heavy drinking can affect it.
If you’re diagnosed with AUD, treatment can range from individual or group counseling, to medications, to an outpatient alcohol program, to an inpatient stay. No matter how severe the problem may seem, treatment can make a difference. Learn more about untreated alcoholism.
Don't wait. It’s best to find help as early as possible. There are also many free community resources to help with recovery including Alcoholics Anonymous, Smart Recovery, Celebrate Recovery and more. You can also call the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Hotline at 800-662-HELP (4357).