Alcohol use disorder: The new diagnosis

Alcohol Use Disorder
NIAAA Interview
Published:
Updated:

Health experts are drawing attention to women reaching for a drink to take the edge off after analysis shows they may be consuming more alcohol.

The National Institutes of Health highlights a trend that has women closing in on the gender drinking gap.

"Men drink more than women, but the gap is shrinking," said Dr. George Koob, Director of the National Institutes of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The NIAAA cited a 2015 study led by Aaron White, Ph.D., NIAAA’s senior scientific advisor to the Director. The organization said longstanding differences between men and women in alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms might be narrowing within the nation.

The analysis reviewed data including current drinking, number of drinking days per month, reaching criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder", or AUD, and driving under the influence of alcohol over the past year.

The NIAAA says the data shows a narrowing gap for females and males between 2002 and 2012. The data shows the percentage of people who drank alcohol in the previous 30 days increased for females from 44.9 percent to 48.3 percent, but decreased for males from 57.4 percent to 56.1 percent.

The NIH indicated more than 5 million women live with AUD. Doctors say the line can be murky between the health benefits of a nightly glass of wine and the amount that could catalyze habits with consequences. While many women in central Ohio may not be diagnosed with AUD, they may say ‘yes’ to an evening treat of "mommy juice".

"That's meant to describe alcohol, but in a way that it fuels you," explains Columbus resident Shelby Fulton. "Coffee is your morning 'mommy juice' and in the evening you have a glass of wine to decompress. And if you're stressed out you're not going to be the best version of the mom you want to be. It helps you relax. There's nothing wrong with that."

Dr. Koob agrees that one glass may not be a problem, but calls for women to take note of the quantity of consumption.

Alcohol Use Disorder includes people who find it difficult to stop or control alcohol use. Doctors say women sipping more than either three drinks per day or seven drinks per week are at risk.

"When you start exceeding those levels you're pushing the envelope for problems associated with alcohol," said Koob.

To assess whether you or loved one may have AUD, here are some questions to ask. If you answer yes to any of these, doctors suggest you speak to a professional.

In the past year, have you:

  • 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 the aftereffects?
  • Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
  • 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, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?

Resources:

Researchers found women may have to consume more alcohol than men to trigger the reward center in the brain. To learn more about this study, click here.

To learn more about AUD and growing trends, click here.

If you are concerned about your drinking habits, you can call locally 614–253–8501 or 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or click here.