Background Image


Alcoholism is when one can no longer control their use of alcohol, compulsively abuse alcohol, despite its negative ramifications, and/or experience emotional distress when they are not drinking.(1)
Call 888-685-5770
Helpline Information

What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD)  is a chronic, relapsing disease that is diagnosed based on an individual meeting certain criteria outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism (NIAAA), women who have no more than 3 drinks on a given day and no more than 7 per week are at low-risk for developing AUD.

For men, this low-risk range is defined as no more than 4 drinks on a given day and no more than 14 per week.

women and alcohol

drinking alcohol while on antidepressants

Statistics on Alcohol Addiction & Use in the US

According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 51% of the population aged 12 and older reported binge drinking in the past month.

The NSDUH reports that more than 14 million people aged 12 and older had an AUD in 2017, with AUD occurring in 7% of males and 3.8% of females aged 12 and older.4

Is Alcoholism Hereditary?

According to the DSM-5, alcoholism is believed to have a strong heritable component, with between 40–60% of the variance of risk being attributable to genetic factors.2 However, there is no cut-and-dry formula to explain alcoholism.

It is a multifaceted and complex disease, so while someone may inherit a predisposition to the disorder, genes do not fully determine a person’s outcome.

The way genes are affected by environmental factors plays an important role in AUD.8 For example, being around parental figures who abuse alcohol, being exposed to peers who are heavy alcohol users, and using alcohol for the first time at an early age, can all influence the development of AUD.

Alcoholism Short & Long-Term Physical Health Issues

There are various short- and long-term health issues that can result from alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning can occur when you ingest too much alcohol too quickly (as with rapid binge drinking), resulting in very high blood alcohol levels that impair brain control of vital functions such as breathing, heart rate, and body temperature, resulting in death.14

Individuals who ingest lethal amounts of alcohol often cease breathing. Even those who survive can suffer irreversible brain damage from a sustained lack of oxygen delivery.14 People who have an AUD are at an increased risk of alcohol poisoning.7

Just because someone may appear to be “sleeping it off,” they can still be in danger of serious harm from alcohol poisoning. Call 911 immediately if you suspect someone may be in danger of an alcohol overdose.

alcohol poisoning treatment

Instantly find your coverage information

We'll be able to tell you if your insurance provider is in network with an American Addiction Centers treatment facility.

  • Dual-diagnosis treatment centers.
  • Personalized treatment plans.
  • Financial options available.
HIPAA badge
Step 1/4 Check Coverage
* These fields are required

Treatment Options for Alcoholism

How to stop drinking: If you suspect that you or someone you care about has an AUD, it may be time to seek professional help. No matter how serious the problem seems, people can recover from alcoholism and live happier, more productive lives.

NIAAA reports that alcohol addiction treatment can be very effective, with research showing “that about 1/3 of people who are treated for alcohol problems have no further symptoms 1 year later.”

Many people are able to significantly reduce their drinking and suffer from fewer alcohol-related problems after treatment.15

Steps to Rehabilitation