When Does Drinking Cross the Line into Alcohol Addiction?

While drinking alcohol is not necessarily a problem for some people, for others drinking too much can lead to a wide range of consequences. Alcohol-related problems have serious mental, physical and social effects.

People who experience problems from drinking may be diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder (AUD). A survey by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that about 7.2 percent of people in the US, aged 18 and over, had an AUD in 2012. Split by gender, this added up to about 11 million men and close to 6 million women.1

Alcohol Use Disorder

To meet the criteria for an AUD diagnosis, a person must display any two of the 11 points outlined in the same twelve month time frame. Whether the AUD is mild, moderate or severe is based on the number of criteria met.

There are two types of alcohol use that fall under the diagnosis of AUD:


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Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse is a condition of excessive drinking but without physical dependency. Binge drinking, where someone drinks many alcoholic beverages to the point of inebriation in one sitting, is one type of alcohol abuse. Another example is excessive drinking leading to blackouts. A blackout is when an individual loses recall of events while under the influence of alcohol.

Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction, commonly called alcoholism, is the condition of consuming alcohol regularly and includes symptoms of alcohol dependence. A sign people have an alcohol addiction is when they try to stop or decrease their alcohol intake, withdrawal symptoms develop.2

Signs of alcoholism include:


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When individuals have an alcohol use disorder, it's important to seek professional treatment. Alcohol use disorder is a psychological as well as physical condition needing comprehensive treatment to address all issues. Alcohol addiction is a disease that needs special care, starting with a medical detox to wean someone off alcohol safely by preventing potentially serious and sometimes fatal withdrawal symptoms. Consult with a high-quality treatment center if you suspect you or someone you know has a serious problem with alcohol.


  1. https://niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders
  2. http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/alcohol-abuse-and-dependence-symptoms
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