Alcohol use disorder

People may drink alcohol for all sorts of reasons — celebrating a special event, unwinding after a long day, socializing with friends, bonding over the hobby of home-brewed beers. In moderation, it might be a normal part of life. But sometimes alcohol use can become too frequent and may cause serious problems. The definition of alcoholism is the inability to stop or control alcohol use, even if it has negative social, professional or health consequences. 1 Knowing how to identify symptoms and find treatment resources at any stage can help you or a loved one struggling with alcohol use disorder.

How much alcohol is too much?

It can be hard to know how much alcohol is considered problematic. Generally, one drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men is considered moderate. For example, a 12-ounce beer or 5-ounce glass of wine with dinner may not be a red flag. When those drinks turn in to 4 or more in one day, or more than 14 drinks in a single week, it may raise concern. That’s considered heavy or high-risk drinking.2

What are the signs of alcoholism?

Did you know alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism, has a spectrum? The condition can be mild, moderate or severe. This spectrum helps determine which treatment and therapies may work best to help people recover. Alcohol use disorder can show up differently in everyone. Common signs include:3

  • Blacking out or not remembering things that happened
  • Drinking even when it causes distress or harm
  • Drinking more or longer than you planned
  • Feeling irritable when you’re not drinking
  • Frequent hangovers
  • Getting into dangerous situations when drinking

What are the treatment options for alcohol addiction?

There are a number of treatment options that may be available for people who struggle with drinking. And each person’s treatment journey can look different. One of the following treatments might be an effective option to try solo, or in addition to others but please talk to your doctor first.7

  • Behavioral therapies: Counseling, or talk therapy, with a psychologist or mental health provider can teach people ways to change behavior.
  • Support groups: Group meetings with other people living with alcoholism can be a helpful addition to treatment. These meetings may be free and available in many communities.
  • Medicine: Certain medication may help decrease alcohol cravings.
  • Medical facilities: In severe cases, someone may need medical treatment in a hospital or rehabilitation center.

When should I call the Substance Use Helpline?

Concerned about yourself or a loved one? Substance use resources are available to help you get the support you need. Call the 24-hour Substance Use Helpline at 1-855-780-5955 / TTY 711 to talk to a specialized substance use recovery advocate. You’ll get confidential support, guidance on recommended treatment options, help finding a network provider and answers to many of your questions — including concerns about your personal health or care for a family member, coverage, cost of care and more. Even if you’re not 100% sure it’s time to take next steps, talking with a recovery advocate may help you decide what might be best for you or your someone you care about.