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.
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.
How does alcohol affect
the brain and body?
Your body’s response to alcohol depends on many factors. These can include your age, gender, and overall health. It also depends on how much you drink, how often you drink, and how long you’ve been drinking.
Your whole body absorbs alcohol, but it can be especially damaging to your brain. Alcohol can interfere with how your brain communicates, and how it processes information. When alcohol is consumed, the chemistry within your brain changes, causing altered moods, slurred speech, unsteady gait, lapses in short-term memory, and slower reflexes.
Regular use of alcohol can disrupt a person's body chemistry as well. Drinking excess amounts of alcohol over time can cause liver problems like fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis of the liver. Higher doses and longer periods of drinking increase your risk for developing these problems.
Using large amounts of alcohol can lead to a number of different heart problems. A person with alcohol use disorder may have a greater risk of heart failure, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.