Alcohol Abuse and Physical Dependence to Alcohol

Until recently, alcohol abuse and physical dependence to alcohol were described as two distinct disorders. However, with the publication of the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, otherwise known as the “bible of psychiatry”, the two disorders are integrated into one, alcohol use disorder (AUD), with mild, moderate, and severe subclassifications. The diagnosis is based on 11 criteria, with severity of the disorder (mild to severe) being graded on the number of criteria met.

Why Should You Care?

There are a few reasons why this change is important for patients. First of all, making a distinction between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence made one seem less serious than the other, which in turn, made it easier for patients who did not meet the criteria for alcohol dependence to ignore their problem.

Secondly, the terminology was confusing to many patients. Physical dependence to alcohol was viewed in the same way as addiction. However, there is an important distinction between abuse and dependence. Dependence refers to the body’s reliance on a particular substance, and as such, is predictable, controllable, and can be resolved with a slow weaning off the substance. Addiction, on the other hand, is classified as a disease and is characterized by strong cravings and the inability to control one’s use of the substance.

Alcohol Abuse and Physical Dependence to Alcohol

Do You Meet the Criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder?

If the above description of alcohol addiction and physical dependence to alcohol sound similar to your experience, refer to the following criteria for determining if you, in fact, might be suffering from problems with alcohol.

In the past year, have you:

  1. Had times when you ended up drinking more than you intended?
  2. Despite attempts to cut down or stop drinking, were not able to?
  3. Spent a great deal of time on activities necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol, or recover from its effects?
  4. Spent a lot of time drinking or getting over the effects of alcohol?
  5. Found that drinking or recovering from drinking often interfered with your interpersonal relationships, caused problems at school, interfered with your work performance, or made it difficult to perform your responsibilities?
  6. Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  7. Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  8. Become involved in 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)?
  9. 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?
  10. 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?
  11. Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, or a seizure? Or sensed things that were not there?

What if I Meet More Than one Criteria?

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, it is best to seek help. Even if you meet only a few criteria and don’t think your problem is severe, it is best to refer to a professional before your alcohol use escalates to a disorder.

At Iris Healing Retreat, compassionate staff are ready to help you take the next steps to overcome your problems with alcohol. For more information call us at (844) 663-4747.