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It was estimated that in 2018 around 14.8 million individuals 12 years old and up in the United States had an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in the previous year.1Alcohol use disorder is a brain disease that is chronic.2 The first and second editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) used the term “alcoholism”.3,4
The fifth edition of the DSM includes “alcohol use disorder” as a disorder, and symptoms of alcohol use disorder include: 5
Some of the risk factors for an alcohol use disorder may include:5-14
A risk factor for alcohol use disorder is something that makes alcohol use disorder more likely.15
In the short-term and in the long-term, consuming too much alcohol could be harmful or even deadly.16,17
In the short-term, using too much alcohol can raise a person’s risk of problems including alcohol poisoning, violence, injury, and risky sexual activity.16,17 Death might occur, for example from alcohol poisoning or a crash involving a driver impaired by alcohol.5,14,16,17,18
The CDC conveys that individuals that intend to drive or are driving should consume no alcohol at all.16 Alcohol use starts impairing at amounts much lower than the legal limit.19 For instance, a person could have reduced visual functions and could be less capable of doing two things at once at a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 g/dL.20
Additionally, when pregnant or attempting to conceive, using any alcohol could be dangerous— no amount is known to be safe.21 Death of the baby and lifelong disability affecting the baby can occur because of the baby’s mother using alcohol when pregnant: stillbirth, miscarriage, and a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder can result due to a woman who is pregnant using alcohol.16,21Even prior to a woman being aware of her pregnancy, alcohol is able to cause her baby problems.21 The CDC conveys that pregnant women and women who might be pregnant should consume no alcohol at all.16
Furthermore, for several other categories of individuals, the CDC indicates they should consume no alcohol at all.16
Death or lasting damage to the brain may result from alcohol poisoning, which is also called alcohol overdose.17
Alcohol poisoning symptoms and signs may include:17
If you think you or someone else may have overdosed on alcohol, call 911 right away. Alcohol present in a person’s intestine and stomach keeps going into the person’s blood and moving through the person’s body even after the individual ceases drinking.17
Using alcohol heavily for a while might bring about issues including:11,16
Dependence may develop if a person uses too much alcohol chronically.22 Withdrawal can occur if a person who is dependent on alcohol suddenly stops or significantly decreases consumption of alcohol.5,22
Possible symptoms and signs of alcohol withdrawal include:5,23
Alcohol withdrawal can be deadly. If you or someone else may be experiencing alcohol withdrawal, get to an emergency department or talk to a medical provider right away. If fever, hallucinations, seizures, heartbeat that is not regular, or confusion that is severe arises, call 911 or get to an emergency department right away.24
Do not stop drinking on your own if you could have alcohol dependence; get medical help, as withdrawal could put your life in danger.25
If you think you may have a problem with alcohol use, talk to a healthcare provider.19 An individual who has a problem with drinking should get an assessment conducted by a healthcare provider.2,26 Treatment can be beneficial for the majority of individuals with alcohol use disorder.2
AUD treatment may include behavioral treatment (also called “talk therapy” or counseling) and/or medicine.27,28