When does alcohol use become alcoholism?
Using alcohol in larger amounts or over longer periods of time than originally intended Criteria for alcoholism.
Developing a tolerance to alcohol, in which greater and greater amounts of alcohol are needed to achieve the same effects over time
Spending a considerable amount of time and energy trying to get alcohol, use alcohol, and recover from its effects
Failing to fulfill responsibilities and obligations at school, work, or home
Giving up important family, work, social, or recreational activities in order to use alcohol or because of the effects of alcohol use
Continuing to use alcohol even when it causes stress or negative consequences in social or interpersonal relationships
Visual, tactile, or auditory hallucinations
If someone you know meets at least two of these criteria, they may have alcohol use disorder (or be an alcoholic) and need help. It’s important to make sure that heavy drinkers don’t detoxify alone – the seizures that can occur during withdrawal can be severe enough to be fatal without medical supervision.
Other signs that someone may be addicted to alcohol include:
Intoxication at odd times, such as during the day or during important obligations
Brushing teeth at odd times to mask the scent of alcohol on the breath
Secretive behavior meant to downplay or conceal the amount of alcohol consumed
Diagnostic criteria for alcoholic liver disease
Suspicious, dishonest, or deceitful behavior
Being frequently unreachable
Unexplained scrapes, bruises, or injuries
Uncharacteristic moodiness or inhibition
Difficulty paying attention, forgetfulness, or sleepiness
Loss of interest in usual hobbies or activities
Loss of motivation or energy
Unexplained problems with performance or attendance at work or school
Unexplained lateness to events
Unexplained shifts in personality or priorities
Spending more money on alcohol than can be easily spared
Stealing money or asking for money without explanation
Possession of a false identification card
Risks of alcohol abuse or alcoholism
Consuming enough alcohol to become intoxicated can cause a number of immediate effects, including:
Loss of coordination and dexterity
Memory loss or “blackout”
According to the CDC, excessive alcohol use and associated intoxication increase the risk for:
Injuries or accidents such as falls, burns, drowning, or motor vehicle collisions
Violence, including sexual assault, intimate partner violence, suicide, and homicide
Risky sexual behaviors such as unprotected sex or sex with strangers
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to acute poisoning, which can cause nausea, vomiting, unconsciousness, coma, and death. Nearly 90,000 people die each year from excessive alcohol consumption, reports the CDC. The consequences of excessive alcohol consumption cost the United States over $223 billion annually.
Long after the acute effects of intoxication have faded, excessive alcohol consumption can continue to cause hangovers, which are characterized by flulike symptoms such as:
New dsm criteria for alcoholism
Impaired reaction times
A study in Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology found that the impairments in reaction times caused by alcohol consumption lasts a full 16 hours, long after the study participants had sobered up. Driving while hungover presents a very real danger.
Hangovers also cause problems like missed class or work, low quality work or schoolwork, and lost productivity. Hangover-related problems cost the United States over $148 billion annually (about $2,000 per working adult), according to the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Long-term excessive alcohol use can also cause a number of other health problems:
Cancer, especially digestive cancers
In addition to affecting the rest of the body, long-term alcohol abuse also affects the brain. This can cause:
Damage to areas controlling attention and decision-making
Korsakoff syndrome, a disorder of memory in which people have difficulty recalling old memories, cannot form new memories, and instead invent false “memories” or stories to fill the gaps, believing them to be true