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What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use disorder, also known as alcoholism, is a problematic pattern of alcohol use leading to significant impairment or distress, as demonstrated by at least two of the following factors, occurring within a 12-month period:

  • Alcohol often consumed in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
  • Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.
  • Excessive time spent obtaining alcohol, using alcohol, or recovering from its effects.
  • Craving, or a strong desire, to use alcohol.
  • Recurrent alcohol use resulting in a failure to fulfill major obligations at work, school, or home.
  • Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social/interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol.
  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities given up or reduced because of alcohol use.
  • Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous to consume alcohol.
  • Continued alcohol use despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by alcohol.
  • Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
    • A need for increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect.
    • A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol.
  • Withdrawal, as demonstrated by either of the following:
    • Characteristic alcohol withdrawal syndrome symptoms
    • Alcohol (or a closely related substance, such as benzodiazepine) is consumed to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol use disorder is rated as mild with the presence of 2-3 symptoms, moderate with 4-5 symptoms, and severe with 6 or more symptoms.

Mental Health Library Sources:

Information included in all topics of the Mental Health Library comes from the Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria From DSM-5 and Kaplan & Sadock’s Concise Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry. Complete diagnostic and treatment information may be found within these publications.


Information within the Mental Health Library is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis purposes. Rather, it is provided as a public educational service to make people aware of mental health conditions. Please consult a qualified mental health professional for a diagnosis of any suspected mental health illness.

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