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There are different kinds of problem drinking. Heavy drinking involves consuming at least one or two servings of alcohol every day of the week while binge drinking is consuming more than four servings of alcohol in one “event,” which may be within two or three hours. While neither of these forms of problem drinking are alcoholism, they can indicate potential alcohol use disorder (AUD), the current medical term for alcohol addiction.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) lists 11 symptoms that clinicians can use to diagnose a potential AUD. If a person struggles with at least two of these 11 symptoms over the course of one year, then this may indicate an AUD.
The DSM-5 also defines distinct levels of AUD, including:
Even if one does not have an AUD, drinking heavily or binge drinking can cause serious health consequences. Alcohol poisoning from binge drinking can cause brain and internal organ damage or lead to death; heavy drinking increases the risk of heart disease, liver damage, and some cancers. AUD, however, is a serious problem in the United States, with 15.1 million adults, ages 18 and older, struggling with their alcohol consumption as of 2015. Trying alcohol before the legal drinking age, during adolescence, increases the risk of substance abuse later in life, and about 623,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 suffer from alcohol use disorder.
People who experience problem drinking in any form may experience health consequences, but those who struggle with alcohol use disorder are at the greatest risk. For those who are concerned about how much they drink because of its health, financial, emotional, or social impact, this 20-question quiz may highlight whether or not alcohol has become a problem.
These questions are based on the definition of AUD from the DSM-5. If the answer is “yes” to more than two, it may be time to seek help for problem drinking, heavy drinking, binge drinking, or AUD.
Anyone concerned about a friend or a loved one should talk to that person about their alcohol use patterns. At the same time, anyone who has concerns about how much they drink, and how this could impact their physical and mental health, should talk to a physician or therapist, particularly one who works with those struggling with AUD. A professional assessment can determine if detox and rehabilitation are needed.
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