What Are the Criteria for Alcoholism?

Drinking alcohol is a common part of American culture. In fact, the 2012 National Health Interview Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 51.3% of those ages 18 and older classify as regular drinkers. Clearly, not everyone who drinks suffers from alcoholism. A majority of drinkers are able to maintain a healthy relationship with alcohol and only drink in moderation.

However, it can be hard to detect when social drinking has progressed into binge drinking and when binge drinking has progressed into alcoholism. There are many assessment tools addiction professionals can use to check a person’s drinking behavior against the criteria for alcoholism.

Alcohol Addiction Criteria

One of the most commonly used screening tools for alcoholism is called the CAGE questionnaire. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the CAGE questionnaire asks the following four questions:

  • Cut: Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
  • Annoyed: Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  • Guilt: Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
  • Eye opener: Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover?

Answering yes to two of these questions is considered statistically significant and is a strong indication for alcoholism. Another common assessment tool is the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). This 10-question test is thought to be one of the most accurate methods of assessing alcoholism. The AUDIT screening tool can be found online with detailed instructions on the NIAAA (http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/) publications webpage.

Treating Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

To any extent, alcohol abuse can negatively impact all aspects of your life. The call must eventually be made to turn things around by choosing recovery and treatment. This is even true for those who do not fit the full criteria for alcoholism. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of alcohol abuse and addiction, there is hope for recovery. However, treatment opportunities may vary depending on how severe a person’s alcohol problem is.

Those who suffer from alcohol abuse without meeting the criteria for addiction might not require the same level of treatment as alcoholics. In fact, many treatment centers will not admit those who do not meet the specific criteria. However, this does not mean that treatment is not available. Individual therapy is a common and effective method of treatment available to those who struggle with alcohol abuse. In therapy, you can expect to work with a trained professional to pinpoint the underlying causes of your alcohol problem and to develop alternative, health coping techniques.

Individual therapy is also an essential component of alcohol addiction treatment programs. Additional treatment depends on the severity of a person’s alcoholism as well as personal needs. Alcoholics typically benefit most from treatment in an inpatient or outpatient rehab facility. While specific treatments vary between locations, most programs offer individual therapy, group therapy, educational programs and support groups for a well-rounded treatment experience.