Alcohol Use Disorders (AUDs) — sometimes collectively termed alcoholism — represent a costly and prevalent problem in the United States. The annual cost of alcohol dependence in the United States is over $150 billion dollars, and about 100,000 people die annually due to alcohol-related causes.
People with alcohol-related medical illnesses have more frequent hospitalizations and longer hospital stays compared with individuals without alcoholism. In fact, the price of healthcare resulting from AUDs in the United States is estimated at more than $26 billion per year.
Unfortunately, alcohol abuse and dependence are frequently under-diagnosed in the clinical setting, typically due to inadequate screening and the unreliability of self-reported alcohol use. In one study, retrospective analysis demonstrated that less than 25% of patients admitted to hospital who screened positively for AUD received either inpatient alcohol intervention or a referral for outpatient alcohol treatment.
Alcoholism occurs when a person has developed dependence on alcohol and continues to use it, despite the problems it causes with that person’s job performance, academic performance, or relationships. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that alcoholism is defined as a “chronic, relapsing brain disease” when the chronic use of a substance causes changes in the structure of the brain and how it works.
An Alcohol Use Disorder starts with drinking to excess on multiple occasions. This may include drinking alcohol to the point of feeling intoxicated or out of control in behavior. A person can still develop a drinking problem when he or she drinks more than what is recommended for health and safety.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the following are the recommended Maximum Drinking Limits. People, with exceptions noted below, are advised to stay within these limits:
For healthy men up to age 65
- No more than 4 drinks a day AND
- No more than 14 drinks in a week
For healthy women (and healthy men over age 65)
- No more than 3 drinks in a day AND
- No more than 7 drinks in a week
Abstinence is advised to individuals who:
- Take prescriptions or over-the-counter medications that may interact with alcohol
- Have a health condition that may be exacerbated by alcohol
- Are pregnant
- Are considering becoming pregnant
- Are younger than age 21