A man holds a bottle of alcohol next to his head while sitting

Alcohol remains the most popular substance of abuse in the United States. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported in 2015 that 86.4% of adults 18 and over reported alcohol use at some point in their lives.

Of all adults aged 18 and over, the survey found that 6.2% suffered from Alcohol Use Disorder. (1) So what separates someone who regularly drinks alcohol and an alcoholic? Here we take a look.

The difference between a frequent drinker and an alcoholic

It can certainly be difficult at times to separate someone who drinks regularly from someone who truly has a problem with alcohol. For example, 26.9% of participants in a survey aged 18 A man sits and wonders about his alcohol use disorder on a park benchand over reported binge drinking in the past month. (2) So what makes someone an alcoholic?

The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual (DSM) defines those who suffer from alcoholism as having a disorder known as Alcohol Use Disorder. The DSM is the standard for diagnosing mental and neurological disorders in individuals. The most recent version, the DSM-V, redefied Alcohol Use Disorder.

What are the signs of alcoholism?

The DSM-V lists eleven straightforward questions that help determine whether someone suffers from Alcohol Use Disorder or not.

The following are signs of alcoholism (3):

  • Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended? More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
  • Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over other after-effects of heavy drinking?
  • Wanted a drink so badly you couldn’t think of anything else?
  • Found that drinking—or being sick from drinking—often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
  • Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  • Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  • More than once gotten into 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)?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • 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?

So what does this mean?

If you or a loved one can relate to these signs and symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder, it may be time to consider seeking a professional opinion. Alcoholism claimed the lives of approximately 88,000 people per year in the United States from 2006-2010. (4)

Recovery from alcoholism is possible, and we do not have to become a statistic.

Final Note

This article is intended for those considering a new way of life, free of the pain of drug and alcohol addiction. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.


  1. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
  2. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015.htm#tab2-46b
  3. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/dsmfactsheet/dsmfact.pdf
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm