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Diagnosis of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

The doctor will ask about a person's symptoms and health history. The person will also be asked about their alcohol use and the impact it may be having on their life.

AUD is diagnosed when a person has 2 or more of the following problems in the past year:

  • Drinking more or longer than intended
  • Wanting to cut down or stop drinking but not being able to do so
  • Spending a lot of time drinking, being sick, or recovering from drinking
  • Wanting a drink so badly that it gets in the way of all other thoughts
  • Drinking habits that cause problems with a person's home, family, job, or school
  • Drinking despite the problems that it causes with family and friends
  • Giving up or cutting back on activities to spend more time drinking
  • Using alcohol in dangerous situations, such as when swimming
  • Drinking despite knowing the physical and mental health problems it is worsening
  • Needing to drink more to get the same effect
  • Having withdrawal symptoms when alcohol wears off, such as problems sleeping, shakiness, and nausea

A physical exam will be done to look for signs of damage from AUD. This is often enough to make the diagnosis. There are no tests to diagnose AUD.

REFERENCES:

Alcoholism. Lab Tests Online—American Association for Clinical Chemistry website. Available at: https://labtestsonline.org/conditions/alcoholism. Accessed September 3, 2020.

Alcohol use disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/alcohol-use-disorder. Accessed September 3, 2020.

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/alcohol-withdrawal-syndrome. Accessed September 3, 2020.

Day E, Copello A, Hull M. Assessment and management of alcohol use disorders. BMJ. 2015 Feb 19;350:h715.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). American Psychiatric Association; 2013.

Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 2/19/2021