People often ask, “What is the definition of alcoholism or what is the definition of addiction?” Alcoholism is just one of many types of addiction, so let’s look at a definition of addiction.
Definition of Addiction: Addiction is a pathological dependency on a substance, person or behavior, to the extent that when the harmful consequences appear, the person doesn’t do anything to change it.
This is accurate as a definition of alcoholism as well as drug addiction. Drug addiction can include prescription as well as illegal drugs. Behavioral addictions, which are sometimes called “process” addictions can include eating disorders, gambling, compulsive sexual behaviors, gaming and relationship compulsivity.
The American Psychiatric Association, which publishes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual uses the term Substance Abuse Disorder (SUD) to describe drug and alcohol addiction.
The term Alcohol Abuse Disorder (AUD) is used to describe alcoholism. Mild AUD is experiencing two or three of the following 11 criteria. Moderate AUD is experiencing four to five of the criteria and Severe AUD is experiencing six or more.
- Drinking more alcohol or drinking for longer than intended
- Attempting to reduce drinking or stop but being unsuccessful
- Spending significant amounts of time drinking and/or feeling sick from a hangover or other aftereffects
- Difficulty in daily life and/or relationships because of drinking or being sick from drinking too much
- Craving alcohol
- Continuing to drink despite the damage to relationships with friends, family, or your work
- Cutting back on hobbies or other pleasurable activities so one can drink
- Repeatedly putting one’s self in situations which are risky or harmful
- Drinking greater amounts to achieve the desired effect
- Continuing to consume alcohol even though it has physical and emotional health risks including anxiety and depression
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the effect of the alcohol begins to wear off
The predominant indicators of alcoholism or drug addiction are: A Preoccupation with drinking or using, An Inability to stop drinking or using once the person has started and Loss of control once under the influence.
The recommended upper limit for alcohol consumption varies significantly around the world.
In the U.S. Canada and Sweden these limits have been that an adult male can consume the equivalent of two alcoholic beverages per day and an adult woman the equivalent of one alcoholic beverage per day.
Italy, Portugal and Spain suggest an upper limit of 50% more than these three countries while the UK recommends levels of approximately 50% less.
An alcoholic beverage is considered to be equal to one ounce of hard liquor, one beer or a five-ounce glass of wine.
The results of a massive study of nearly 600,000 people, published by the Lancet in April 2018, suggests that these recommendations are too high. This is based on findings of increased risk of death and disease due to alcohol consumption.
We always encourage open discussion with an individual’s physician about the extent of alcohol consumption and drug use and dialogue about the potential physical and emotional impacts.