The term alcoholism was recently replaced by the term “alcohol use disorder” (AUD).
Alcohol use disorder is the cyclic presence of tolerance, withdrawal, and excessive alcohol use; the drinker’s inability to control such compulsive drinking, despite awareness of its harm to his or her health, indicates that the person might be an alcoholic.
AUD is the addiction to or dependency upon drinking excessive amounts of alcoholic beverages. Since the late twentieth century, it has been considered an addictive disorder. It is characterized by compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcohol, usually to the detriment of the drinker’s health, personal relationships, and social standing.
Like other drug addictions, AUD is medically defined as a treatable disease. The term alcoholism is widely used, and was first coined in 1849 by Magnus Huss, but in medicine the term was replaced by “alcohol abuse” and “alcohol dependence” in the 1980s DSM III. (The term alcohol dependence is sometimes used as a synonym for alcoholism, sometimes in a narrower sense.)
Similarly in 1979 an expert World Health Organization committee disfavored the use of “alcoholism” as a diagnostic entity, preferring the category of “alcohol dependence syndrome”. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, alcohol dependence was called dipsomania before the term “alcoholism” replaced it.
AUD is a progressive, fatal disease. It is an illness. Treatment and recovery is helping millions of alcoholics live happy normal lives.
AUD treatment works for many people. But like other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma, there are varying levels of success when it comes to treatment. Some people stop drinking and remain sober. Others have long periods of sobriety with bouts of relapse. And still others cannot stop drinking for any length of time. With treatment, one thing is clear, however: the longer a person abstains from alcohol, the more likely he or she will be able to stay sober.