Many people don’t realize that they have a troubled relationship with alcohol until something happens that forces them to face reality. They lose their job, face DUI charges, or a significant relationship falls apart. Suddenly, they can’t deny the impact alcohol has had on their life and wellbeing.

Alcohol addiction can sneak up on you. It starts with occasional social drinking, but can quickly escalate to problematic behavior and eventually dependence. It’s also often overlooked in our culture — research suggests that alcohol use disorder (AUD) is among the least treated in the U.S. It’s important to be able to recognize the warning signs for yourself so you can get the help you need before it’s too late.

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

If you question whether or not you would meet the diagnosis criteria for alcohol use disorder, you’re not alone. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that an estimated 17 million people have a diagnosable alcohol use disorder.

While no two people with alcohol addiction will have the exact same set of symptoms, the disorder is characterized by a preoccupation with and compulsive use of alcohol. There are also 11 recognized symptoms of alcohol use disorder according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder-5 (DSM-5).

Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder

In order to be diagnosed with alcohol use disorder, an individual must have demonstrated at least two of the following symptoms in the last year. Two or three symptoms would indicate mild alcohol use disorder, four to five would indicate moderate alcohol use disorder, and six or more would indicate severe alcohol use disorder.

  1. Frequent alcohol consumption in large amounts and over a longer period than intended.
  2. There are many attempts to cut down on alcohol use without success.
  3. Experiencing a strong, persistent craving for alcohol.
  4. Recurrent alcohol use that results in a failure to fulfill a certain role, whether at work, school, or home.
  5. Spending a lot of time on obtaining, consuming, and recovering from alcohol.
  6. Alcohol use continues despite having physical or psychological problems that are exacerbated by alcohol.
  7. A need to consume increased amounts of alcohol to achieve the same effect (tolerance).
  8. Reducing or entirely giving up important activities due to alcohol use.
  9. Recurrent alcohol use that causes physical danger.
  10. Alcohol use that continues despite a negative social impact.
  11. Experiencing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal when drinking stops, or needing to drink to offset withdrawal symptoms.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Alcohol use disorder can start with a couple of mild symptoms and escalate quickly. If you’re not sure whether or not your alcohol use is truly problematic, consider the following questions:

  • In the last year, have you ended up drinking for more or longer than you intended?
  • Have you tried to cut back on drinking and haven’t been able to? Has this happened more than once?
  • Have you ever been a situation when drinking put you in a dangerous situation (i.e. driving while drunk, going to a dangerous place, or having unprotected sex)?
  • Have you found that you need to drink more to achieve the same effect? Does your usual number of drinks not have the same impact as it used to?
  • Do you drink even though you have noticed that it makes you depressed or anxious? Do you drink even though you have a physical health problem that is aggravated by alcohol?
  • Have you ever blacked out from drinking?
  • Do you drink even though your friends or family have expressed concerns about your drinking?
  • Has drinking ever interfered with your ability to take care of your home or family? Do you have trouble at your job or school due to your drinking?
  • Have you significantly cut back on or stopped doing an activity that used to mean a lot to you because of your drinking?
  • Have you ever had legal problems due to your drinking?
  • Have you ever experienced symptoms of alcohol withdrawal when you stopped drinking, such as difficulty sleeping, restlessness, nausea, racing heart, or sweating?

If you answered “yes” to two or more of these questions, you may want to speak with one of our specialists at our alcohol treatment center in Denver. Through this free consultation, we can help you assess whether you would benefit from our medically based, outpatient treatment program. Contact us today.


Mayo Clinic

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

National Institute of Health

More From This Category

Why Can’t I Stop Drinking?

You have tried to quit before, but it never seems to stick. You may go a few days or even a couple of weeks without drinking, but inevitably, you pick up the bottle again. You may feel overwhelmed with anxiety, or even have physical symptoms that make it difficult to...

It’s Not About “Willpower”: The Science of Alcohol Addiction

By now, you have resolved to stop drinking countless times. You know how much it hurts your loved ones when you drink. You know that it impacts your job performance. You know that your life is at risk due to your drinking. Yet every time you say, “this is my last...

Breaking The Cycle: The Go Sober Difference

On average, those who struggle with alcohol dependence go through typical treatment about six times before they are able to fully get rid of that dependence. At Go Sober, 80% of our patients go through our program once and are then alcohol free for the rest of their...

Depression and Alcohol

While it probably won’t hurt to have a glass of wine or a beer with dinner occasionally, turning to alcohol in order to get through your day could be a sign of a more serious problem. Alcohol use, and abuse have continued to have a strong link to depression. Nearly...

Life Gets Better When You’re Sober

It can seem impossible to imagine a life without alcohol when you’ve been living in a life where alcohol is at the center of your world. You’ve said it so many times before, “This is my last drink”, but sadly that is not usually the case. If you’ve been looking for an...

Getting A DUI for the First Time: What You Need to Know

It’s never a good idea to get behind the wheel of a vehicle after consuming alcohol. All states in the union take drunk driving very seriously. Colorado is no exception. Even your first offense can have severe implications. Here, we answer some of your most frequently...

Signs It’s Time for Outpatient Alcohol Treatment

If you suspect you need professional help for alcoholism, you aren’t alone. Every year, millions of Americans struggle with alcohol use disorder (AUD), but many will never get the help they need. This is unfortunate, because there is a biological reason for their...

What Happens to Your Body When You Quit Drinking?

Alcohol has negatively impacted your life in so many ways that you’re finally ready to go sober. You may be prepared to live a healthier lifestyle, you may be wondering what to expect when you finally do put down the bottle. Here are some things you can expect to...

COVID-19 Quarantine Poses Serious Threat to Those Struggling With Alcohol Abuse

The recent call to stay at home and isolate to halt the spread of Coronavirus hits those struggling with alcohol abuse harder than most. Keep reading to hear from Go Sober co-founder, Greg Hoffman, to learn about how the quarantine can impact those individuals...

The Brain and Addiction

The term “addiction”is derived from the Latin term meaning “enslaved by” or “bound to”. It is not a character or personality flaw that occurs in people, which is how it was traditionally seen as and still can be seen as that. However, we need to look at addiction as a...