Many people in the US safely consume alcohol and do not develop a dependence or addiction to alcohol. Studies indicate that 86% of US adults have had an alcoholic beverage at some point in their lives. But around 6% of all US adults will go on to develop a dependence and full-blown addiction to alcohol. More adult men than women struggle with alcohol addiction and abuse.
There is not one definitive trigger that turns someone from a casual drinker into an alcoholic. Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a complex disease. A combination of genetics, temperament, outside influences and triggers can all make someone vulnerable to developing AUD.
AUD is a pattern of alcohol use where the individual has issues controlling the amount they drink. They are preoccupied with drinking and continue to use alcohol despite any negative consequences that excessive drinking causes. People who have AUD will need to consume more significant amounts of alcohol to get the desired effect (tolerance). When they try to quit drinking altogether or limit their consumption, they will experience withdrawal symptoms that can vary in intensity and harshness.
An AUD is suspected when the individual’s health and safety are put at risk because of drinking, or they experience other alcohol-related problems. Binge drinking can be a symptom of AUD, but not all binge drinkers are dependent on alcohol. For men, binge drinking is when someone consumes five or more drinks within two hours. For women, it is four drinks within two hours.