It can be difficult, and sometimes even frustrating, to try to figure out if you meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder. I can tell you that it’s not that hard to qualify, and more and more people are entering the ranks. Many of the patients we see at the Coleman Network for Addiction Medicine struggle with this.
From 2001 to 2012, the prevalence of alcohol use disorder (AUD) increased by 50% in the US general population (from 8.5% to 13%), affecting nearly 1 in 6 Americans. This increase disproportionately affected women, older adults, and persons of lower socioeconomic status, according to JAMA Psychiatry2017;74:911‐923.
How Do I Know If I Have Alcohol Problems?
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a handbook used by healthcare professionals in the United States as the authoritative guide to diagnosing mental disorders, outlines the criteria that dictates an AUD diagnosis. Under DSM–5, anyone meeting any 2 of the 11 criteria during a consecutive 12-month period can be diagnosed with AUD. The severity of AUD, whether mild, moderate, or severe, is based on the number of criteria met.
To determine whether you may have AUD, ask yourself these questions. In the past year, have you:
- Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
- More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the after effects?
- Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
- Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
- More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
- Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
- Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
- Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there.
Calculate Your Alcohol Dependence
Another tool that can help you find clarification about your alcohol consumption is The Audit C. This 3-question resource is used by healthcare and addiction treatment professionals to identify patients who may have alcohol use disorder.
1. How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?
B. Monthly or less
C. 2-4 times a month
D. 2-3 times a week
E. 4 or more times a week
2. How many standard drinks containing alcohol do you have on a typical day?
A. 1 or 2
B. 3 or 4
C. 5 or 6
D. 7 to 9
E. 10 or more
3. How often do you have 6+ drinks in a single occasion?
B. Less than monthly
E. Daily or almost daily
The AUDIT-C is scored on a scale of 0-12. Points are allotted as follows: A = 0 points, B = 1 point, C = 2 points, D = 3 points, E = 4 points.
For men, a score of 4 or more is considered positive for identifying hazardous drinking or active alcohol use disorders. For women, a score of 3 or more is considered positive. However, when the points are all from question #1 alone (#2 and #3 are zero), it can be assumed that the patient is drinking below recommended limits and it is suggested that the provider review the patient’s alcohol intake over the past few months to confirm accuracy. Generally, the higher the score, the more likely it is that the patient’s drinking is their safety.
An Easy Comfortable Alcohol Detox
At Coleman Network for Addiction Medicine, we help people who want to take control of their alcohol use disorder in a safe, comfortable way. In the privacy of our clinic, with your support person present, your are monitored as medication is given to prevent dangerous withdrawal symptoms. You then return for the following two days to assess physical and emotional response to the treatment, and to review medication effectiveness.
Please give us a call at 877-773-3869 if you are considering abstinence and want to detox off alcohol safely. Not every person who stops drinking needs a medically assisted detox in a clinical setting, and our call center can help you discern this.
Joan Shepherd, FNP