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Alcoholism & Addiction

A Task Force Looks to Redefine the Degrees of Alcoholism

Most mental health experts look to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as the Bible for what is and isn’t a mental disorder. From time to time, changes are made as new findings are made. For instance, Asperger’s syndrome was dropped from the manual and pushed into a group in the autism spectrum disorder.

A total revision of the manual has not been undertaken in 15 years, but a task force is working on exactly that. It’s expected that there will be changes regarding alcoholism, which has for years been approached in a black or white manner ‘ you’re either a drinker that is not an alcoholic, or one that is. But drinking problems are more complex than simple abuse and dependence, and the task force is expected to reveal that in their revision, which will likely span from normal social drinking to near alcoholism, to alcohol abuse to full-blown alcoholism.

Normal drinking would be no more than seven drinks per week, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). But there is a massive area between normal drinking and what is considered alcoholism. As the American Psychiatric Association looks to going from a categorical method to one that looks at the various dimensions of drinking, it becomes more possible to address the degrees of drinking rather than lumping everyone into categories.

Some research from the NIAAA points to the gray area between social drinking and alcoholism as moderate or low-risk drinking, which would include having no more than four drinks in one drinking session for men, three for women. But the scale then immediately jumps to binge drinking, which is classified as drinking enough in a two-hour period to bring ones blood alcohol content to .08. Such a person would be considered to be "at-risk."

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