Alcohol Use and Older Adults

Frequently Asked Questions

17. What is alcohol use disorder (AUD)?

If a person drinks too much or too often he or she may develop an alcohol use disorder (AUD). An AUD can range in severity from mild to severe. On one end of this spectrum, drinking might cause sickness, depression, or sleeping problems. More severe symptoms include drinking more than intended or craving alcohol once you’ve stopped drinking.

AUD can be a lifelong disease in which people have a strong need to drink, cannot control their drinking once they start, and over time need to drink greater and greater amounts of alcohol to get “high.” Older adults who develop a severe AUD become physically dependent on alcohol. When they stop drinking, they can get nauseated, sweaty, shaky, and restless. These withdrawal symptoms can cause them to start drinking again to feel better, even though doing so can lead to physical or psychological problems.

Learn more about alcohol use disorder.