When it comes to finding whether someone has a drinking problem, the process is fluid.
This is because defining alcohol use disorder varies by individual.
It is a medical condition that doctors diagnose when a patient’s drinking causes distress or harm.
There’s no quantity or frequency of alcohol included in the definition.
But there are outward signs, including risky behavior and neglected relationships.
Family members or an employer are often the first to notice a problem with alcohol, as the affected person might not recognize the extent of his or her actions.
And there is no single diagnostic method for drinking problems.
Here experts from Michigan Medicine recommend a list of 11 criteria that could show alcohol use disorder.
To assess a patient’s likelihood of alcohol use disorder, doctors usually ask if any of the following things has taken place in the past year:
Had times when you ended up drinking alcohol more or longer than intended?
More than once wanted or tried to reduce or stop drinking but couldn’t?
Spent a lot of time drinking or being sick from the aftereffects?
Wanted a drink so badly you couldn’t think of anything else?
Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with work, family or school duties?
Continued to drink alcohol even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
Given up or cut back on activities that were important, interesting or pleasurable to you in order to drink?
More than once gotten into situations while or after consuming alcohol that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as swimming, driving, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area or having unsafe sex)?
Continued to drink alcohol even though it was making you feel depressed, 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 the usual number of drinks had much less effect?
Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, racing heart or a seizure? Or sensed things that were not there?
The criteria come from an authoritative handbook known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (or DSM-5).
The more “yes” one has, the more serious the alcohol use disorder.
According to the DSM-5, a patient who answers 2-3 questions in the affirmative is considered to have mild alcohol use disorder.
Those who cite 4-5 are moderate cases. Those who confirm 6+ criteria are believed to be severely affected by their alcohol consumption.
How to treat alcohol use disorder?
Drugs and alcohol cause changes in the brain that can make the process of quitting extremely complex.
Addiction is also caused by factors such as genetics, environmental influences and developmental factors (such as the age that a person’s substance use begins).
Which is why a severe case of alcohol use disorder may require specialized care. Cutting off alcohol in those with long-term or chronic consumption could lead to withdrawal and be fatal.
Other treatment options include counseling and 12-step support groups.
The therapy targets people who may or may not feel they have a substance use problem and are unsure whether they want to change.
Some patients may need a prescription medication (naltrexone, acamprosate or disulfiram) that helps reduce alcohol dependence.
Source: Michigan Medicine.