Many people don’t recognize the damaging effects of alcohol because it is so prevalent in society. Whether it’s having one too many drinks at happy hour after work one night or developing a pattern of frequent binge drinking, the effects of alcohol can be seen across the country in many forms.
In 2013, an estimated 16.6 million adults in America had an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Because alcohol is so prevalent throughout society, diagnosing an addiction to it can be difficult. Heavy drinking can lead to dependence, but a heavy drinker doesn’t necessarily have a use disorder — at least by the clinical definition.
An alcohol use disorder can be mild, where the drinker only meets two or three of the criteria for addiction; four or five is considered a moderate disorder. The more criteria present, the more severe the disorder. These are what people traditionally think of as alcoholics.
Recognizing an AUD comes down to the negative effect of alcohol on the user’s life. When alcohol takes priority over close relationships, work responsibilities or personal health, the user likely has a problem. Alcohol has the highest rates of abuse and addiction in America, with millions of people suffering. There are also many rehabilitation centers and programs that are experienced specifically in treating alcoholism.