Alcohol Abuse Why it's addictive & how it's diagnosed

Alcohol is by far the most used substance in America. Through significant promotion of alcohol use on social media and entertainment venues, alcohol abuse has become a problem across the country.

Alcohol abuse can become more severe as the person becomes dependent on the substance. Some side effects include slurred speech, confusion, coma, problems breathing, and even death. The CDC reports 88,000 deaths in the United States each year due to alcohol-related issues.

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1 in 10 adults die from alcohol abuse each year in the United States. As the most common addiction in the country, there are numerous resources to help you or your loved one get the help they need. Speak with The Hope House addiction specialists today to learn more about your options.

What is Alcohol?

Alcohol occurs in three forms (isopropyl, methyl, and ethyl) all toxic to the human body. Ethyl alcohol is the only form that can be consumed and is typically produced by the fermentation of starches, yeast, and sugar.

Classified as a central nervous system depressant, alcohol is rapidly absorbed through the stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream. The liver then metabolizes the toxic substance but is only able to break down small amounts of alcohol at a time. This leads to people experiencing both physical and behavioral side effects. The changes vary largely as the amount consumed, alcohol content in each drink, and overall body chemistry play a factor.

3 Forms of Alcohol

When someone thinks of a glass of alcohol, they are thinking of what’s scientifically known as ethyl alcohol. This form of alcohol is mixed with a variety of ingredients giving a specific taste and level of pure alcohol in each serving. There are also two other forms of alcohol you likely use in other areas of your life.

Bottle Of Liquid Symbolizing The Isopropyl Type Of Alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol is often mixed with water so as to be used as a rubbing alcohol antiseptic. It is typically found in aftershave, hand lotions, and other forms of cosmetics.

Container With Some Liquid Symbolizing Methyl Alcohol

Methyl alcohol, or methanol, is used as a solvent in the manufacturing of plastics, polyesters, and other chemicals.

Group Of Bottles Symbolizing The Type Of Alcohol People Drink Ethyl Alcohol

Ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, like isopropyl and methyl, is a clear and colorless liquid. However, this form of alcohol is the primary ingredient in alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, and spirits.

Popular Alcoholic Beverages

and their typical serving size and alcohol content

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12oz of beer typically contains 5% alcohol

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5oz of wine typically contains 7% alcohol

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Distilled Spirits

(gin, rum, vodka, etc)
1.5 oz of distilled spirits typically contain 40% alcohol

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Malt Liquor

(lager, ale, etc)
8oz of malt liquor typically contains 7% alcohol

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

The answer to the question “how long does alcohol stay in your system” can vary depending on factors like the amount consumed, your metabolism, and other factors. On average, alcohol can be detected in your urine for up to 48 hours and in your blood for about 12 hours. However, it’s important to note that heavy drinking can lead to longer detection times.

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Alcohol addiction can come in many different forms and it may be hard for some people to know or recognize a problem in themselves or in a loved one. It’s also important to remember that just because someone binge drinks on occasion or abuses alcohol enough to become physically dependent on it, they may not meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol addiction. With alcohol use being so readily normalized, you might see a rise in alcohol abuse in the workplace or

Icon Of Alcohol with a glass

Medical Definition of
Alcohol Abuse

“Alcohol abuse is the consumption of alcohol in a way that can put the user at an increased risk of consequences.” – CDC

Oftentimes, alcohol abuse can lead to alcoholism and thus is considered a “mild” for of Alcohol Use Disorder. Those abusing alcohol should be closely monitored for signs of severe alcoholism.

Icon Of Alcohol For The Medical Definition Of Alcohol Dependence

Medical Definition of

“Alcohol dependence (alcoholism) is a chronic disease associated with experiencing withdrawal symptoms, loss of control, or alcohol tolerance.” – CDC

Alcohol dependence is considered a “severe” form of Alcohol Use Disorder and requires medical intervention to overcome.

Icon Of Alcohol For The Medical Definition Of Binge Drinking

Medical Definition of
Binge Drinking

“Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or above.” – CDC

While binge drinking is a form of alcohol abuse, most are not alcoholics.  However, binge drinking is the most common and deadly form of excessive alcohol consumption in the U.S.

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Why is Alcohol Addictive?

Alcohol can be addictive for a variety of reasons and will vary from person-to-person. For most, consuming alcohol releases pleasure chemicals (like dopamine) throughout the body. Continued drinking can permanently alter the brain and alter the reward circuit in the body.

Factors in Alcoholism

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Research shows your genetics are responsible for about half the risk of developing AUD. While there is no “alcoholic gene,” there are traits that can be passed on, making one’s body respond differently to alcohol and more inclined to abuse it. Alternately, there are genes that make one less likely to abuse alcohol, as well.

Icon of a hand holding a plant for environmental causes


Adverse life events, traumatic experiences, and early exposure to alcohol are all environmental factors that can influence a person. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is an assessment used to measure experiences as a child that increase one’s risk of alcohol abuse.

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A common risk factor of alcohol addiction is mental health problems. Depression, bipolar disorder, and many more, have often led to alcohol abuse as a form of self-medication. Simultaneous substance abuse and mental health issues are referred to as a dual diagnosis and require a specific treatment programs.

Who Is Most Likely to Abuse Alcohol?

While addiction to alcohol can affect almost anyone, studies show various factors that may make a person more inclined to addiction. A person’s genetics, the makeup of their brain, and the environment they are in are the most likely indicators of abuse. Statistically, men and those of native american descent are most likely to experience alcohol addiction.

Mental Health & Alcoholism

With so many clients having a dual diagnosis we’ve developed a dedicated program to ensure they receive the personalized care they deserve. From staffing clinicians who specialize in multiple disciplines to offering whole-body therapies, our team is committed to ensuring the success of our clients.

Alcoholism by Race

Alcohol abuse can affect any race, gender, profession, or age. However, when looking across studies, specific groups of people appear to experience alcohol addiction more than others. A recent study found that 6.4% of Native Americans abuse alcohol, while just 2.4% of Asian Americans have been diagnosed with alcoholism.

Alcoholism by Gender

When analyzing the same data by gender, men appeared more likely to be diagnosed with alcoholism (5.4%). Sociodemographic alone cannot determine a person’s likelihood to abuse alcohol. For example, many Asian Americans metabolize alcohol differently than other races giving them a negative reaction to alcohol, which may be one of the reasons they experience the lowest rate of alcoholism.

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How Is Alcohol Abuse Diagnosed?

Alcohol addiction can come in many different forms, and it may be hard for some people to know or recognize a problem in themselves or a loved one. With alcohol use being so readily normalized, it can also be common to see alcohol abuse in the workplace or high functioning alcoholics that can balance work and life with their alcohol addiction. It’s also important to remember that just because someone binge drinks on occasion or abuses alcohol enough to become physically dependent on it, they may not meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol addiction.

3 Steps to Diagnosing Alcoholism

Group Of Medical Professionals Performing An Alcohol Dependence Diagnosis

While you may already have a belief that you or a loved one are abusing alcohol, it is best to work with a medical professional to understand the severity of this. You can meet with your general doctor, mental health professional, or — more commonly – an addiction treatment specialist.

Man Completing A Self Evaluation To Determine If They Have An Alcohol Use Disorder

When meeting with a medical professional they will likely ask you a series of questions from an approved diagnosis method. The American Psychiatric Association has published multiple diagnostic manuals over the years to help clinicians properly assess if someone has mild to severe AUD. Some criteria includes:

  1. The need for increased amounts of alcohol to achieve the desired effects
  2. A great deal of time is spent drinking alcohol
  3. When drinking is ceased, withdrawal symptoms become present
  4. Continued drinking despite the presence of alcohol-induced problems
Doctor Writing Down Notes About A Medical Examination Needed To Diagnose Alcohol Abuse

While diagnostic measures vary, many doctors perform a psychological and physical evaluation to get a better sense of one’s specific symptoms and if there are co-occurring mental health disorders.

Before someone can be admitted into The Hope House our staff will go through all three stages of this diagnostic process. This helps us understand if someone needs to go through detox, can enter our residential treatment center immediately, or any mental health needs we will need to accommodate upon admission.

Schedule an assessment with our addiction specialists today.

thousand people die

from alcohol-related deaths each year in the U.S.

of children

live with a parent abusing alcohol in the U.S.

of college students

meet the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder

Don't become a statistic.

Finding A Rehab Near Me

Following a positive AUD diagnosis, it is recommended that clients go through a treatment plan to help overcome this problem and work to achieve long-term sobriety. Finding the correct treatment center can be difficult, but there are a few clinical services you should look for when deciding:

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Icon of a pill for medication treatment


Icon of two individual of completed the rehab treatment supporting each other


Treatment will look different for each client as they uncover the level of care they are willing to undergo. However, alcohol abuse is a substance that typically requires medical detoxification before someone can begin dealing with the causes of their addiction. If done improperly, alcohol detox can result in death, which is why medical diagnosis and detox is strongly recommended.

Our addiction specialists can work with you to better understand the necessary level of care and ensure you or your loved one get the right treatment.

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