What is an Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol is one of the most commonly consumed intoxicating substances and legal in most parts of the world. Drinking too much can cause a range of unintended consequences, and increase one’s risk for a variety of health problems. ​ Alcohol (ethanol) is formed when yeast breaks down the sugars in certain foods (such as grapes, barley, potatoes) through a process called fermentation. ​ Alcohol is the active ingredient in drinks such as beer, wine, and hard liquor. A standard drink consists of:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer, which is about five percent alcohol

  • 5 ounces of wine, which is about 12 percent alcohol

  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is about 40 percent alcohol


Alcohol Use Disorder When a person has trouble controlling their drinking despite negative consequences to their health and/or relationships, they may have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Severe AUD, also known as addiction, is a chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not drinking. Drinking too much over a long period of time can also take a serious toll on a person’s physical health. Heavy drinking can damage the heart, liver, pancreas, weaken the immune system, and increase the person’s risk of developing certain cancers. Learn more about alcohol’s effect on the body.   ​ Treatments for AUD ​ Many peop