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Our Experience

Our experience with alcohol use disorder (AUD) is that it is still one of the most common and debilitating of all the disorders because of the availability of alcohol. The prevalence rate of AUD is estimated to be 8-10% in the US. Alcohol use disorder has the most difficult and complicated detoxes because it is the only substance that can cause delirium tremors and death in the acute detox phase. Additionally, alcohol use disorder has high comorbidity with other substance use disorders and mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.


Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is indeed a complex and impactful condition. Let’s explore it further:

  • Definition: AUD involves an impaired ability to control alcohol use despite negative consequences. It encompasses terms like alcohol abuse, dependence, addiction, and colloquially, alcoholism.

  • Brain Disorder: AUD is considered a brain disorder. Prolonged alcohol misuse leads to lasting changes in the brain, perpetuating the condition and increasing vulnerability to relapse.

  • Severity: AUD can manifest as mild, moderate, or severe, affecting individuals differently.

  • Hope: The encouraging aspect is that evidence-based treatments exist:

    • Behavioral Therapies: These interventions address psychological and behavioral aspects of AUD. They help individuals learn coping strategies, manage triggers, and modify harmful patterns.

    • Mutual Support Groups: Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) provide peer support, encouragement, and a sense of community.

    • Medications: Certain medications, such as Naltrexone and Acamprosate, can aid in reducing cravings and promoting abstinence.

Remember, seeking professional help and building a strong support network are essential steps toward recovery.


Let’s delve into the factors that contribute to the risk of developing Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD):

  1. Alcohol Consumption Patterns:

    • Amount, Frequency, and Speed: The risk of AUD is influenced by how much, how often, and how quickly a person consumes alcohol. Prolonged alcohol misuse, including binge drinking and heavy alcohol use, escalates this risk.

  2. Early Age of Drinking:

    • Impact: Initiating alcohol consumption at an early age significantly affects the likelihood of developing AUD.

    • Findings: A recent national survey revealed that individuals who began drinking before age 15 were more than three times as likely to report AUD in the past year compared to those who waited until age 21 or later to start drinking. Notably, the risk is higher for females in this group.

  3. Genetics and Family History:

    • Heritability: Genetics play a substantial role, accounting for approximately 60% of AUD risk.

    • Gene-Environment Interaction: However, like other chronic health conditions, the risk of AUD results from the interplay between a person’s genes and their environment.

    • Parental Influence: Parents’ drinking patterns may also impact the likelihood of their child developing AUD.

  4. Mental Health Conditions and Trauma:

    • Comorbidity: Various psychiatric conditions, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), are associated with an increased risk of AUD.

    • Childhood Trauma: Individuals with a history of childhood trauma are particularly vulnerable to AUD.


Understanding these risk factors allows clinicians and individuals to make informed decisions and tailor interventions for prevention and treatment.


Let’s break down the questions related to assessing symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) based on the DSM-5 criteria. These questions help healthcare professionals evaluate whether an individual may have AUD and determine its severity.

  1. Have you had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended?

    • This refers to instances where someone exceeded their planned alcohol consumption.

  2. Have you more than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, but couldn’t?

    • This question assesses whether a person has tried to reduce alcohol intake unsuccessfully.

  3. Have you spent a lot of time drinking, being sick from drinking, or recovering from its effects?

    • It considers the impact of alcohol on daily life, including time spent drinking or dealing with its consequences.

  4. Have you wanted a drink so badly that you couldn’t think of anything else?

    • This question explores intense cravings for alcohol.

  5. Has drinking interfered with taking care of your home, family, job, or school?

    • It evaluates whether alcohol use has negatively affected responsibilities.

  6. Have you continued to drink despite causing trouble with family or friends?

    • This addresses persistent alcohol use despite social consequences.

  7. Have you given up or cut back on important activities to drink?

    • It examines whether alcohol use has led to sacrificing other meaningful pursuits.

  8. Have you been in situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt?

    • This includes risky behaviors like driving under the influence or unsafe sexual behavior.

  9. Have you continued to drink even when it worsened depression, anxiety, or other health problems?

    • It considers whether alcohol use exacerbates mental health issues.

  10. Have you needed to drink more than before to achieve the desired effect? Or found your usual drinks less effective?

    • This addresses tolerance, where more alcohol is needed for the same effect.

  11. Have you experienced withdrawal symptoms when alcohol effects wear off?

    • Withdrawal symptoms include trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, dysphoria, malaise, feeling low, or even hallucinations.


Remember that healthcare professionals use these questions to assess AUD, and the severity is categorized as mild, moderate, or severe based on the number of criteria met.

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Verified by

Psychology Today
Association of Intervention Specialists
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