Alcohol Use Disorder

Shulamith Lala Ashenberg Straussner and Sarina Beth Straussner

in Social Work

ISBN: 9780195389678
Published online July 2012 | | DOI:
Alcohol Use Disorder


Millions of individuals use alcohol every day; however, not everyone experiences a problem due to such use. It is therefore helpful to conceptualize alcohol use as ranging on a continuum from nonproblematic social use (e.g., a glass of wine with dinner) to alcohol misuse (e.g., a one-time incident of binge drinking), to excessive use or abuse (e.g., frequent use of alcohol that results in a negative impact on the life of the individual and those around him or her, such as recurrent driving under the influence of alcohol), and finally, to physical dependence or addiction to alcohol (e.g., a chronic disorder that may require medical detoxification and/or formal treatment). While not used professionally, the commonly used term alcoholism has been used synonymously with alcohol addiction and refers to the compulsive use of alcoholic beverages. Both terms imply a progressive deterioration of the individual’s social, physical, and mental status combined with the inability to stop using alcohol even when wishing to do so. Although the professional literature on alcohol use problems is extensive and can be found in almost every country in the world, the inconsistent use of terminology is often confusing. There is a tremendous overlap with literature on topics such as alcohol-related problems, risky drinking, alcohol abuse and dependence, substance abuse, and alcohol addiction. The confusion has been compounded by the recent changes in the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5; Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2013), which eliminated the previous diagnostic classifications of “alcohol abuse” and “alcohol dependence” and replace them with the overall category of “Alcohol Use Disorders” (AUD), which itself is part of the broader new DSM-5 category of “Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders.” A fuller discussion of the DSM changes can be seen in Straussner 2013. Research studies in the United States indicate a general decrease in the proportions of individuals with “pure” alcohol use diagnosis and an increase among those using multiple substances. Consequently, the topic of alcohol-use disorders needs to be considered within the context of the literature on problematic use of a variety of other chemical substances as well as other addictions, such as gambling and smoking. It also needs to take into account co-occurring mental disorders; age, gender, and sexual identity of users; socioeconomic and psychological issues; family dynamics; and ethnocultural factors. Finally, research and treatment focusing on AUD must be viewed within the context of governmental policies, which vary over time and in different locations.

Article.  9264 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »