Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Dependence were the previous terms used in the DSM IV, which is the book psychiatrists and psychologists turn to for diagnosing mental illness. DSM V was released within the last couple of years and people are still unfamiliar with the new terminology for problematic drinking. This leads to confusion in general among physicians, patients and insurance companies.
Alcohol abuse and dependence were disposed of. Alcoholism as a formal diagnosis has not existed in many generations of the DSM. The new category and diagnostic criteria utilize a three-tiered system:
Alcohol Use Disorder Mild: 2-3 of the criteria are met
Alcohol Use Disorder Moderate: 4-5 criteria are met
Alcohol Use Disorder Severe: 6 or more criteria are met
People often come into the office very concerned about their drinking and they ask whether they are an alcoholic or not, as if me labeling them will dictate whether they will continue on with their lives feeling relieved vs. feeling as if a change is necessary. I avoid labels the majority of the time. I believe it is more accurate to simply indicate whether alcohol has negatively impacted your life in some way. If it has, is it something that is bothersome enough to deal with by quitting drinking or moderating drinking? Or is the problem minor in your eyes and not worth the effort to change your drinking behavior?
When in doubt, it typically means you could benefit from some degree of help. Even if it is to put your mind to rest that you do not have a problem. Talk to your physician or psychiatrist if you have any question about whether you have a problem or not and ultimately, and most importantly, do not get hung up on a label. Everyone struggles with something and alcohol is just another "something" in our lives. Thankfully, an option exists that does not disrupt people's lives and is really successful. The Moderation Method can address mild, moderate or severe drinkers with equal success.
Michael Yasinski MD