What Are the Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder?

person drinking beer bottle while driving car - alcohol use disorder

Problem drinking can be described in several ways. People often want to talk around the issue of alcohol abuse rather than saying that someone is an alcoholic. However, defining problem drinking as Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) and classifying it as mild, moderate or severe places it squarely in the realm of a medical issue. The symptoms are clearly set out and the severity of the disorder depends on how many a particular person exhibits.

With this type of logical means of determining whether someone meets the criteria for having AUD, it’s more difficult to minimize the seriousness of alcohol abuse. Identifying the problem clearly leads to opportunities for treatment.

Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder

If you or a loved one have any of the following symptoms of AUD, alcohol use may be something to be concerned about.

  1. Alcohol is used in larger amounts or over longer periods than originally intended.
  2. There has been more than one attempt to cut down or stop drinking, without success.
  3. A significant amount of time is spent getting alcohol, drinking, or recovering from the aftereffects of alcohol consumption.
  4. A person experiences cravings or strong urges to use alcohol.
  5. Repeated alcohol use results in an inability to keep up with major obligations on the job, at school or at home.
  6. Alcohol use continues in spite of “persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems” either caused or worsened by drinking.
  7. Participation in recreational activities and hobbies is reduced or abandoned entirely because of drinking.
  8. Alcohol use occurs in situations where it’s physically hazardous.
  9. Alcohol use continues in spite of a person having a “persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem” that is probably either caused or made worse by drinking.
  10. A tolerance for alcohol has developed, which is defined as either one of the following: (a) needing to drink more alcohol to achieve the same effect (level of intoxication); or (b) a significantly diminished effect with continued use of the same number of alcoholic drinks.
  11. Withdrawal symptoms occur if a significant period of time has passed without drinking alcohol or if using alcohol helps relieve withdrawal symptoms.

How AUD Diagnosis Is Made

To diagnose AUD, a client will be asked to look at the above list of diagnostic criteria. They will be asked if they have experienced any of these symptoms within the past year. The client will add up the number of symptoms they have experienced and the diagnosis, if any, will be based on the number of symptoms experienced.

At least two symptoms are needed to indicate a diagnosis with AUD.

  • Mild AUD: At least 2-3 symptoms in the past year
  • Moderate AUD: 4-5 symptoms in the past year
  • Severe AUD: 6 or more symptoms in the past year

Get Help for AUD at English Mountain Recovery

The more symptoms that a person with AUD presents with, the more serious their condition is. It’s never too late to seek professional help for an alcohol use disorder, however.

Making an appointment with a primary care physician for an assessment is often a good first step. If appropriate, the physician can provide a referral for residential treatment.

English Mountain Recovery offers flexible, gender-specific treatment plans for clients. We have experience working with people who have been living with severe or long-standing addictions and can provide a caring, supportive environment where our clients can focus their full attention on their sobriety.

By Jodee Redmond