Some experts believe there is an inherent stigma attached to the labels alcoholism and alcoholic. The suggestion is that anyone suffering from the condition is beyond help when, in fact, alcoholism is a treatable disease. As a result, many healthcare professionals now prefer the classification Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).
- Alcohol consumption is responsible for an estimated 88,000 deaths a year. A staggering number of those deaths, 70 percent, are among working adults.
In 2013, the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) by the American Psychiatric Association contained diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder different from the 4th edition of the DSM.
Comparing the DSM–4 vs. DSM–5 regarding the definition of alcohol use disorder finds the following differences:
- In the DSM-IV, alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse are distinct disorders. The DSM-5 integrates alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse into one condition–AUD– and offers sub-classifications of AUD (mild, moderate, and severe).
- In the DSM-IV, diagnostic particulars for dependence and abuse were separate, with abuse and dependence criteria based on 12 months. According to the DSM-V, if someone meets just two of 11 measures in 12 months, they would probably be diagnosed with alcohol use disorder.
- One of the DSM-IV criteria for alcohol abuse and dependence is legal problems. Legal problems are no longer in the DSM-5. However, a new criterion, cravings, has been included in the DSM-V for diagnosing AUD.
According to the Mayo Clinic, alcohol use disorder is;
“Alcoholism is a pattern of alcohol use that involves;
problems controlling drinking
being preoccupied with alcohol
continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems
having to drink more to get the same effect
having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking.”
Because so much social interaction centers around the consumption of alcohol, either professionally or with friends and family, the symptoms of alcoholism are not always simple to spot. As the label “alcoholic” implies, not everyone hits a “rock bottom” moment where alcohol abuse has ruined every aspect of their life. Many problem drinkers can maintain the appearance of normalcy in their everyday lives.
Chronic alcoholism, though, inevitably ravages anyone’s physical and mental health. For example, individuals with AUD are more likely to suffer from depression due to drinking too much. Conversely, people who have a mental illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety attacks, or bipolar disorder are more likely to self-medicate with alcohol and develop a dependency or addiction.
Physically, alcohol relates to a vast number of deadly diseases. For example, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence includes some of the following health risks:
- Cancers, such as liver, mouth, throat, larynx, and esophagus
- Cardiovascular issues, such as high blood pressure and heart attacks
- Increased risk for strokes
- Greater likelihood for unintentional injuries, such as car crashes, falls, and drowning.
There’s no shortage of information on the negative consequences of excessive alcohol consumption. A simple internet search on alcoholism will link to page after page of statistics and analysis. In addition, several prominent therapists and healthcare professionals suggest that instead of worrying about the label “alcoholic,” honestly examine your habits and relationship to alcohol.
If you suspect or friends are dropping hints that you have issues because of alcohol, alcoholism might be a factor. However, it’s important to remember that help is available, and people of all different races, genders, and walks of life have overcome their struggle and addiction to alcohol.
The popular 12-step belief holds that alcoholism is a lifelong, progressive sickness. In contrast, a survey by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that nearly 40 percent of people that developed an addiction to alcohol more than one year in the past fully recovered.
Even with advances in medical technology and a better understanding of alcoholism than ever before, excessive alcohol use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, “Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems.”