For as long as alcohol has been available for consumption, there has existed the potential for abuse. Alcohol is widely consumed around the world. The rehabilitation and counseling company AbbeyCare Group notes that the yearly average alcohol use globally is 6.4 liters for every individual over the age of 15. That level of consumption equates to 53 bottles of wine consumed per year for every individual older than 15, or about one liter of wine per week per person. A liter is equivalent to almost 4 1⁄4 cups or 38 fluid ounces.

Alcohol abuse is known by many names, including alcohol addiction, alcoholism, and Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), which is the term that medical professionals use today. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says AUD is “a condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.” A 2022 National Study on Drug Use and Health found 28.8 million adults ages 18 and older in the United States had AUD in 2021. Statistics Canada says in 2021, almost 5.1 million people age 12 and older engaged in heavy drinking, defined as five or more drinks for men and four or more for women, on one occasion, at least once in the last year.

Although some people are very good at masking AUD, certain symptoms may be present if one is abusing alcohol. These include:

  • Secretive or dishonest behavior in relation to alcohol.
  • Drinking heavily alone.
  • Spending increased time feeling ill or hungover.
  • Drinking more or longer than one plans to.
  • Having problems with work, school, or family because of alcohol.
  • Wanting alcohol so badly that this person cannot think of anything else.
  • Spending a great deal of time in activities necessary to obtain alcohol or use alcohol.
  • Using alcohol in situations in which it is physically hazardous to do so, such as while driving.
  • Noticing that one has a significantly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol.
  • Going through withdrawal symptoms when alcohol consumption ceases.
  • Lack of concern over personal appearance or hygiene.
  • Weight loss or weight gain from changes in appetite.
  • Turning to alcohol to alleviate feelings of depression or anxiety.

Genetics, family history, and drinking at an early age can play a significant role in relation to AUD. Medications, behavioral treatments, and support groups are the main avenues that those who have AUD can use to recover from this condition. Visit the NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator at for more help with AUD in the U.S. In Canada, visit for addiction treatment helplines.

Locally, learn about some of the initiatives being undertaken at University at Buffalo’s Clinical and Research Institute on Addictions to alcohol and other substances at Also, see currently funded research projects at