Understanding Problematic Alcohol Use

You likely know someone (or maybe are someone) who is struggling with alcohol use. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is fairly common with research estimating 11% of adults (28.6 million) had AUD in 2021.1

What does alcohol use disorder (i.e., alcoholism, alcohol addiction / abuse / dependence) look like?

While someone may not have AUD, they can still misuse alcohol and exhibit problematic drinking behaviors, like binge drinking or heavy drinking, which increase the risk of developing AUD.

What is binge drinking and heavy drinking?

Binge drinking is a pattern of bringing blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent or higher. For an adult, this is consuming five (5) or more drinks (male), or four (4) or more drinks (female), in about two hours. Heavy drinking is consuming more than four (males) or three (females) drinks a day or more than 14 (males) or 7 (females) drinks per week. Keep in mind these figures are for standard-sized drinks. Alcohol misuse is not a diagnosable disorder, but it can still have negative impacts, as well as risk of harm to yourself and/or others, which can be reason enough to create a more healthy relationship to drinking.

Your Relationship to Alcohol

Acknowledging that you are uncomfortable or concerned with your alcohol consumption takes courage. If you are curious about alcohol use or changing your drinking habits, there are many resources that can provide information and support.

Concerned About a Loved One’s Alcohol Use

Having a loved one with AUD or problematic drinking behaviors is challenging and often leads to some degree of distress. For those around the loved one, it’s important that you take care of yourself and your emotional needs. Here are a few resources to support you:

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol use, your Employee Assistance Program can be a support resource, whether through EAP counseling or referral for substance abuse services.

Sources: (1) National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2023). Alcohol use disorder (AUD) in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohol-topics/alcohol-facts-and-statistics/alcohol-use-disorder-aud-united-states (2) National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2021, April). Understanding alcohol use disorder. Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-alcohol-use-disorder (3) Rethinking Drinking. (n.d.). What is alcohol misuse? U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from https://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/How-much-is-too-much/Whats-the-harm/What-is-Alcohol-Misuse.aspx

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