In DSM-II, this disorder is called Alcohol addiction

This condition should be diagnosed when there is direct or strong presumptive evidence that the patient is dependent on alcohol. If available, the best direct evidence of such dependence is the appearance of withdrawal symptoms. The inability of the patient to go one day without drinking is presumptive evidence. When heavy drinking continues for three months or more it is reasonable to presume addiction to alcohol has been established.


Diagnostic Criteria

A. Either a pattern of pathological alcohol use or impairment in social or occupational functioning due to alcohol use:

  • Pattern of pathological alcohol use: need for daily use of alcohol for adequate functioning; inability to cut down or stop drinking; repeated efforts to control or reduce excess drinking by "going on the wagon" (periods of temporary abstinence) or restricting drinking to certain times of the day; binges (remaining intoxicated throughout the day for at least two days); occasional consumption of a fifth of spirits (or its equivalent in wine or beer); amnesic periods for events occurring while intoxicated (blackouts); continuation of drinking despite a serious physical disorder that the individual knows is exacerbated by alcohol use; drinking of non-beverage alcohol.
  • Impairment in social or occupational functioning due to alcohol use: e.g., violence while intoxicated, absence from work, loss of job, legal difficulties (e.g., arrest for intoxicated behavior, traffic accidents while intoxicated), arguments or difficulties with family or friends because of excessive alcohol use.

B. Either tolerance or withdrawal:

  • Tolerance: need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve the desired effect, or markedly diminished effect with regular use of the same amount.
  • Withdrawal: development of Alcohol Withdrawal (e.g., morning "shakes" and malaise relieved by drinking) after cessation of or reduction in drinking.


For more information, see Substance Dependence

Physiological dependence on alcohol is indicated by evidence of tolerance or symptoms of Withdrawal. Alcohol Withdrawal is characterized by the development of withdrawal symptoms 12 hours or so after the reduction of intake following prolonged, heavy, alcohol ingestion. Because Withdrawal from alcohol can be unpleasant and intense, individuals with Alcohol Dependence may continue to consume alcohol, despite adverse consequences, often to avoid or to relieve the symptoms of withdrawal. A substantial minority of individuals who have Alcohol Dependence never experience clinically relevant levels of Alcohol Withdrawal, and only about 5% of individuals with Alcohol Dependence ever experience severe complications of withdrawal (e.g., delirium, grand mal seizures). Once a patter of compulsive due develops, individuals with Dependence may devote substantial periods of time to obtaining and consuming alcoholic beverages. These individuals often continue to use alcohol despite evidence of adverse psychological or physical consequences (e.g., depression, blackouts, liver disease, or other sequelae).


The following specifiers may be applied to a diagnosis of Alcohol Dependence:

  • With Physiological Dependence
  • Without Physiological Dependence
  • Early Full Remission
  • Early Partial Remission
  • Sustained Full Remission
  • Sustained Partial Remission
  • On Agonist Therapy
  • In a Controlled Environment


See Alcohol Use Disorder

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.