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Alcohol

Alcohol Use Disorder

Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that in 2014, slightly more than half (52.7%) of Americans ages 12 and up reported being current drinkers of alcohol. Most people drink alcohol in moderation. However, of those 176.6 million alcohol users, an estimated 17 million have an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).

Many Americans begin drinking at an early age. In 2012, about 24% of eighth graders and 64% of twelfth graders used alcohol in the past year.

The definitions for the different levels of drinking include the following:

  • Moderate Drinking—According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking is up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.
  • Binge Drinking—SAMHSA defines binge drinking as drinking five or more alcoholic drinks on the same occasion on at least one day in the past 30 days. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that produces blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of greater than 0.08 g/dL. This usually occurs after four drinks for women and five drinks for men over a two hour period.
  • Heavy Drinking—SAMHSA defines heavy drinking as drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion on each of five or more days in the past 30 days.

Excessive drinking can put you at risk of developing an alcohol use disorder in addition to other health and safety problems. Genetics have also been shown to be a risk factor for the development of an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).

To be diagnosed with an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), individuals must meet certain diagnostic criteria. Some of these criteria include problems controlling intake of alcohol, continued use of alcohol despite problems resulting from drinking, development of a tolerance, drinking that leads to risky situations, or the development of withdrawal symptoms. The severity of an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)—mild, moderate, or severe—is based on the number of criteria met.