Health

This section provides information about the harms associated with alcohol consumption. The impact of alcohol use on mental and physical health is examined, as well as other conditions that often co-occur with alcohol-related disorders.

Sources of health data utilised in this section are Causes of Death data (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2019) and the National Hospital Morbidity Database 2018-19 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020).

How many Australians die each year from alcohol-related causes?

Alcohol-related deaths include those that arise from:

  • alcohol-related injuries
  • diseases that are associated with alcohol use
  • diseases that are directly caused by alcohol use.

In 2019, 1,287 Australians died from alcohol-caused diseases. Many more died from illnesses and injuries where their own or another person's alcohol use played a contributory role.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Causes of Death, Australia 2019.

Please note: The number of deaths reported in this FAQ underestimates the true number of Australia’s who die from alcohol-related causes. Data were not available for all alcohol-caused diseases. The number of deaths reported are due to the following alcohol-caused diseases: mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use; alcoholic liver disease; accidental poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; intentional self-poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; poisoning by and exposure to alcohol, undetermined intent; evidence of alcohol involvement in morbidity/mortality determined by blood alcohol level; evidence of alcohol involvement in morbidity/mortality determined by level of intoxication.

Alcohol-Caused Disease: A disease, disorder or condition which was directly caused by the individual’s own alcohol consumption.

Diseases classified as directly caused by alcohol use include: mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use; alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing’s syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; special epileptic syndromes; alcoholic polyneuropathy; alcoholic myopathy; alcoholic cardiomyopathy; alcoholic gastritis; alcoholic liver disease; alcohol-induced acute pancreatitis; alcohol-induced chronic pancreatitis; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); finding of alcohol in blood; alcohol toxicity; accidental poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; intentional self-poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; poisoning by and exposure to alcohol, undetermined intent; evidence of alcohol involvement in morbidity/mortality determined by blood alcohol level; evidence of alcohol involvement in morbidity/mortality determined by level of intoxication. 

Are men or women in Australia more likely to die from alcohol-caused diseases?

Men are more likely than women to die from alcohol-caused diseases. In 2019, 934 men died from alcohol-caused diseases, compared to 353 women.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Causes of Death, Australia 2019.

Please note: The number of deaths reported in this FAQ underestimates the true number of Australia’s who die from alcohol-related causes. Data were not available for all alcohol-caused diseases. The number of deaths reported are due to the following alcohol-caused diseases: mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use; alcoholic liver disease; accidental poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; intentional self-poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; poisoning by and exposure to alcohol, undetermined intent; evidence of alcohol involvement in morbidity/mortality determined by blood alcohol level; evidence of alcohol involvement in morbidity/mortality determined by level of intoxication.

Alcohol-Caused Disease: A disease, disorder or condition which was directly caused by the individual’s own alcohol consumption.

Diseases classified as directly caused by alcohol use include: mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use; alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing’s syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; special epileptic syndromes; alcoholic polyneuropathy; alcoholic myopathy; alcoholic cardiomyopathy; alcoholic gastritis; alcoholic liver disease; alcohol-induced acute pancreatitis; alcohol-induced chronic pancreatitis; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); finding of alcohol in blood; alcohol toxicity; accidental poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; intentional self-poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; poisoning by and exposure to alcohol, undetermined intent; evidence of alcohol involvement in morbidity/mortality determined by blood alcohol level; evidence of alcohol involvement in morbidity/mortality determined by level of intoxication.

What are the most common alcohol-caused diseases from which Australians die?

The most common alcohol-caused disease from which Australians die is alcoholic liver disease, followed by mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Causes of Death, Australia 2019.

Please note: The proportion of alcohol-caused deaths reported in this FAQ may not reflect the true proportions. Data were not available for all alcohol-caused diseases. Proportions reported are based on the following alcohol-caused diseases: mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use; alcoholic liver disease; accidental poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; intentional self-poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; poisoning by and exposure to alcohol, undetermined intent; evidence of alcohol involvement in morbidity/mortality determined by blood alcohol level; evidence of alcohol involvement in morbidity/mortality determined by level of intoxication.

Alcohol-Caused Disease: A disease, disorder or condition which was directly caused by the individual’s own alcohol consumption.

Diseases classified as directly caused by alcohol use include: mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use; alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing’s syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; special epileptic syndromes; alcoholic polyneuropathy; alcoholic myopathy; alcoholic cardiomyopathy; alcoholic gastritis; alcoholic liver disease; alcohol-induced acute pancreatitis; alcohol-induced chronic pancreatitis; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); finding of alcohol in blood; alcohol toxicity; accidental poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; intentional self-poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; poisoning by and exposure to alcohol, undetermined intent; evidence of alcohol involvement in morbidity/mortality determined by blood alcohol level; evidence of alcohol involvement in morbidity/mortality determined by level of intoxication. 

Do men and women in Australia die from different alcohol-caused diseases?

In general, men are more likely to die from alcohol-caused diseases than women. Both men and women are most likely to die from alcoholic liver disease, followed by mental and behavioural disorders.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Causes of Death, Australia 2019.

Please note: Percentages may not tally to 100% due to rounding.

The proportion of alcohol-caused deaths reported in this FAQ may not reflect the true proportions. Data were not available for all alcohol-caused diseases. Proportions reported are based on the following alcohol-caused diseases: mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use; alcoholic liver disease; accidental poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; intentional self-poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; poisoning by and exposure to alcohol, undetermined intent; evidence of alcohol involvement in morbidity/mortality determined by blood alcohol level; evidence of alcohol involvement in morbidity/mortality determined by level of intoxication.

Alcohol-Caused Disease: A disease, disorder or condition which was directly caused by the individual’s own alcohol consumption.

Diseases classified as directly caused by alcohol use include: mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use; alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing’s syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; special epileptic syndromes; alcoholic polyneuropathy; alcoholic myopathy; alcoholic cardiomyopathy; alcoholic gastritis; alcoholic liver disease; alcohol-induced acute pancreatitis; alcohol-induced chronic pancreatitis; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); finding of alcohol in blood; alcohol toxicity; accidental poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; intentional self-poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; poisoning by and exposure to alcohol, undetermined intent; evidence of alcohol involvement in morbidity/mortality determined by blood alcohol level; evidence of alcohol involvement in morbidity/mortality determined by level of intoxication.

How many Australians are hospitalised each year for alcohol-caused diseases?

There were 75,494 hospital separations due to alcohol-caused diseases in 2018-19. Many more Australians are hospitalised each year as a result of illnesses or injuries where their own or another person's alcohol use played a contributory role.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). National Hospital Morbidity Database 2018-19 (NCETA secondary analysis, 2021).

Please note: This is likely to be an under-estimation of the true number of alcohol-related hospital separations, as data for several alcohol-caused diseases (alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing's syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; alcoholic polyneuropathy; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); finding of alcohol in blood) are not publicly available for confidentiality reasons.

Alcohol-Caused Disease: A disease, disorder or condition which was directly caused by the individual’s own alcohol consumption.

Diseases classified as directly caused by alcohol use include: mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use; alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing’s syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; alcoholic polyneuropathy; alcoholic myopathy; alcoholic cardiomyopathy; alcoholic gastritis; alcoholic liver disease; alcohol-induced acute pancreatitis; alcohol-induced chronic pancreatitis; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); finding of alcohol in blood; and toxic effect of alcohol. For confidentiality reasons, the 2018-19 National Hospital Morbidity Database excludes data for alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing's syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; alcoholic polyneuropathy; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); finding of alcohol in blood.

Hospital separation: An episode of care for an admitted patient, which can be:

  • a total hospital stay (from admission to discharge, transfer or death); or
  • a portion of a hospital stay beginning or ending in a change of type of care (for example, from acute to rehabilitation).

Separation also means the process by which an admitted patient completes an episode of care either by being discharged, transferring to another hospital, changing type of care, or dying.

Are men or women in Australia more likely to be hospitalised for alcohol-caused diseases?

In 2018-19, men accounted for more hospital separations due to alcohol-caused diseases than women (58% vs. 42%, respectively).

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). National Hospital Morbidity Database, 2018-19 (NCETA secondary analysis, 2021).

Please note: This is likely to be an under-estimation of the true number of alcohol-related hospital separations, as data for several alcohol-caused diseases (alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing's syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; alcoholic polyneuropathy; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); finding of alcohol in blood) are not publicly available for confidentiality reasons.

Alcohol-Caused Disease: A disease, disorder or condition which was directly caused by the individual’s own alcohol consumption.

Diseases classified as directly caused by alcohol use include: mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use; alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing’s syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; alcoholic polyneuropathy; alcoholic myopathy; alcoholic cardiomyopathy; alcoholic gastritis; alcoholic liver disease; alcohol-induced acute pancreatitis; alcohol-induced chronic pancreatitis; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); finding of alcohol in blood; and toxic effect of alcohol. For confidentiality reasons, the 2018-19 National Hospital Morbidity Database excludes data for alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing's syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; alcoholic polyneuropathy; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); finding of alcohol in blood.

Hospital separation: An episode of care for an admitted patient, which can be:

  • a total hospital stay (from admission to discharge, transfer or death); or
  • a portion of a hospital stay beginning or ending in a change of type of care (for example, from acute to rehabilitation).

Separation also means the process by which an admitted patient completes an episode of care either by being discharged, transferring to another hospital, changing type of care, or dying.

Are younger or older Australians more likely to be hospitalised for alcohol-caused diseases?

In 2018-19, the largest proportion of hospital separations due to alcohol-caused diseases occurred among 40-49 year olds (27%), followed by 50-59 year olds (24%).

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). National Hospital Morbidity Database, 2018-19 (NCETA secondary analysis, 2021).

Please note: Percentages may not tally to 100% due to rounding.

This is likely to be an under-estimation of the true number of alcohol-related hospital separations, as data for several alcohol-caused diseases (alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing's syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; alcoholic polyneuropathy; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); finding of alcohol in blood) are not publicly available for confidentiality reasons.

Alcohol-Caused Disease: A disease, disorder or condition which was directly caused by the individual’s own alcohol consumption.

Diseases classified as directly caused by alcohol use include: mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use; alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing’s syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; alcoholic polyneuropathy; alcoholic myopathy; alcoholic cardiomyopathy; alcoholic gastritis; alcoholic liver disease; alcohol-induced acute pancreatitis; alcohol-induced chronic pancreatitis; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); finding of alcohol in blood; and toxic effect of alcohol. For confidentiality reasons, the 2018-19 National Hospital Morbidity Database excludes data for alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing's syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; alcoholic polyneuropathy; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); finding of alcohol in blood.

Hospital separation: An episode of care for an admitted patient, which can be:

  • a total hospital stay (from admission to discharge, transfer or death); or
  • a portion of a hospital stay beginning or ending in a change of type of care (for example, from acute to rehabilitation).

Separation also means the process by which an admitted patient completes an episode of care either by being discharged, transferring to another hospital, changing type of care, or dying.

What are the most common alcohol-caused diseases for which Australians are hospitalised?

Of the 75,494 hospital separations due to alcohol-caused diseases in 2018-19, the majority (84%) were due to mental and behavioural disorders due to use of alcohol.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). National Hospital Morbidity Database 2018-19 (NCETA secondary analysis, 2021).

Please note: This is likely to be an under-estimation of the true number of alcohol-related hospital separations, as data for several alcohol-caused diseases (alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing's syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; alcoholic polyneuropathy; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); finding of alcohol in blood) are not publicly available for confidentiality reasons.

Alcohol-Caused Disease: A disease, disorder or condition which was directly caused by the individual’s own alcohol consumption.

Diseases classified as directly caused by alcohol use include: mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use; alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing’s syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; alcoholic polyneuropathy; alcoholic myopathy; alcoholic cardiomyopathy; alcoholic gastritis; alcoholic liver disease; alcohol-induced acute pancreatitis; alcohol-induced chronic pancreatitis; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); finding of alcohol in blood; and toxic effect of alcohol. For confidentiality reasons, the 2018-19 National Hospital Morbidity Database excludes data for alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing's syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; alcoholic polyneuropathy; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); finding of alcohol in blood.

Hospital separation: An episode of care for an admitted patient, which can be:

  • a total hospital stay (from admission to discharge, transfer or death); or
  • a portion of a hospital stay beginning or ending in a change of type of care (for example, from acute to rehabilitation).

Separation also means the process by which an admitted patient completes an episode of care either by being discharged, transferring to another hospital, changing type of care, or dying.

Are men and women in Australia hospitalised for different alcohol-caused diseases?

Australian men and women are usually hospitalised for similar alcohol-caused diseases. In 2017-18, mental and behavioural disorders due to use of alcohol accounted for the largest proportion of hospital separations for both men (78%) and women (87%). Alcoholic liver disease accounted for the second largest proportion of separations (9% for men and 5% for women).

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). National Hospital Morbidity Database 2017-18 (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

Please note: This is likely to be an under-estimation of the true number of alcohol-related hospital separations, as data for several alcohol-caused diseases (alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing's syndrome; alcoholic polyneuropathy; alcoholic myopathy; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); finding of alcohol in blood) are not publicly available for confidentiality reasons.

Alcohol-Caused Disease: A disease, disorder or condition which was directly caused by the individual’s own alcohol consumption.

Diseases classified as directly caused by alcohol use include: mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use; alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing’s syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; alcoholic polyneuropathy; alcoholic myopathy; alcoholic cardiomyopathy; alcoholic gastritis; alcoholic liver disease; alcohol-induced acute pancreatitis; alcohol-induced chronic pancreatitis; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); finding of alcohol in blood; and toxic effect of alcohol. For confidentiality reasons, the 2017-18 National Hospital Morbidity Database excludes data for alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing's syndrome; alcoholic polyneuropathy; alcoholic myopathy; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); and finding of alcohol in blood.

Hospital separation: An episode of care for an admitted patient, which can be:

  • a total hospital stay (from admission to discharge, transfer or death); or
  • a portion of a hospital stay beginning or ending in a change of type of care (for example, from acute to rehabilitation).

Separation also means the process by which an admitted patient completes an episode of care either by being discharged, transferring to another hospital, changing type of care, or dying.

Are younger and older Australians hospitalised for different alcohol-caused diseases?

Mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use was the most common alcohol-caused disease resulting in hospitalisation for all age groups in 2017-18.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). National Hospital Morbidity Database 2017-18 (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

Please note: Percentages may not tally to 100% due to rounding.

This is likely to be an under-estimation of the true number of alcohol-related hospital separations, as data for several alcohol-caused diseases (alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing's syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; alcoholic polyneuropathy; alcoholic myopathy; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; finding of alcohol in blood) are not publicly available for confidentiality reasons.

Alcohol-Caused Disease: A disease, disorder or condition which was directly caused by the individual’s own alcohol consumption.

Diseases classified as directly caused by alcohol use include: mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use; alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing’s syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; alcoholic polyneuropathy; alcoholic myopathy; alcoholic cardiomyopathy; alcoholic gastritis; alcoholic liver disease; alcohol-induced acute pancreatitis; alcohol-induced chronic pancreatitis; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic); finding of alcohol in blood; and toxic effect of alcohol. For confidentiality reasons, the 2017-18 National Hospital Morbidity Database excludes data for alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing's syndrome; degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; alcoholic polyneuropathy; alcoholic myopathy; maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetus from alcohol; fetus and newborn affected by maternal use of alcohol; and finding of alcohol in blood.

Hospital separation: An episode of care for an admitted patient, which can be:

  • a total hospital stay (from admission to discharge, transfer or death); or
  • a portion of a hospital stay beginning or ending in a change of type of care (for example, from acute to rehabilitation).

Separation also means the process by which an admitted patient completes an episode of care either by being discharged, transferring to another hospital, changing type of care, or dying.

What is the relationship between alcohol consumption and mental health?

The relationship between alcohol and mental health is complex. Alcohol consumption can cause alcohol-related mental health conditions such as an alcohol use disorder. It is also associated with a higher likelihood of having other mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression.

Excessive alcohol use can also make it difficult for health professionals to assess and treat existing mental health conditions. Many of the symptoms of alcohol-related mental health disorders are similar to those of general mental health disorders.

In addition, heavy alcohol use can lead to poorer outcomes for people who have existing mental health conditions. For example, people who are depressed and also drink heavily are at greater risk of self-harm and suicide.

What are the diagnostic criteria for alcohol-related mental health disorders?

The reference guide used by clinicians to diagnose mental health disorders is known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The most recent version of the manual, the DSM-5, was released in May 2013. Prior to this, the DSM-IV-TR was used by clinicians and researchers from 2000 to 2013.

The diagnostic criteria for alcohol-related mental health disorders differ significantly between the DSM-IV-TR and the new DSM-5. These differences are explained in more detail below. For the purposes of the NADK, all reported data on alcohol-related mental health disorders utilise the DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria. This is because at the time of data collection, the newer version of the DSM had not been released.

DSM - IV Diagnostic Criteria

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 4th Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR), there are two main alcohol-related mental health disorders: alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse. The diagnostic criteria for each are presented below.

Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol dependence is defined by the DSM-IV-TR as:

A maladaptive pattern of alcohol use, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by three or more of the following seven criteria, occurring at any time in the same 12-month period:

1.  Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:

·         A need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect

·         Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol

2.  Withdrawal, as defined by either of the following:

·         The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol (refer to DSM-IV-TR for further details)

·         Alcohol is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms

3.  Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended
4. There is a persistent desire or there are unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use
5.  A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol or recover from its effects
6.  Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use
7.  The individual continues to use alcohol despite knowing that they suffer from a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by drinking alcohol.

Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse is defined by the DSM-IV-TR as:

A maladaptive pattern of alcohol abuse leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by one or more of the following, occurring within a 12-month period:

  1. Recurrent alcohol use resulting in failure to fulfil major role obligations at work, school, or home (e.g., repeated absences or poor work performance related to substance use; substance-related absences, suspensions or expulsions from school; or neglect of children or household)
  2. Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving an automobile or operating a machine)
  3. Recurrent alcohol-related legal problems (e.g., arrests for alcohol-related disorderly conduct)
  4. Continued alcohol use despite persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the alcohol (e.g., arguments with spouse about consequences of intoxication or physical fights).

DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th Edition (DSM-5), there is one main alcohol-related mental health disorder: an alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder is defined by the DSM-5 as:  

A problematic pattern of alcohol use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least two of the following, occurring within a 12-month period:

1.  Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended
2.  There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use
3.  A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol, or recover from its effects
4.  Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use alcohol
5.  Recurrent alcohol use resulting in a failure to fulfil major role obligations at work, school, or home
6.  Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol
7.  Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use
8.  Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous
9. Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by alcohol
10. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:

a)  A need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect

b)  A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol

11. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:

a)    The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol (refer to DSM-5 for further details)

b)    Alcohol (or a closely related substance, such as a benzodiazepine) is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

A mild alcohol use disorder is defined as the presence of 2-3 of the above symptoms.

A moderate alcohol use disorder is defined as the presence of 4-5 of the above symptoms.

A severe alcohol use disorder is defined as the presence of 6 or more of the above symptoms.

Sources: American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text rev.); American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.).

DSM-IV-TR: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: fourth edition, text revision. In use from 2000-2013.

DSM-5: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: fifth edition. Released May 2013.