Why We Should Cancel The Word “Alcoholic”

Spoiler Alert: It’s Not Because It’s Offensive

Dave Tieff


No one knows what the word means

Few words contain as much social stigma as the word “alcoholic.” It’s a label that no one wants and no one asks for. Yet, no one can tell you exactly what it means — not even Alcoholics Anonymous.

Here’s what AA has to say about alcoholism:

While there is no formal “A.A. definition” of alcoholism, the majority of our members agree that, for most of us, it could be described as a physical compulsion, coupled with a mental obsession.

I highlighted the “could-be” terms in AA’s definition which shows that even Alcoholics Anonymous isn’t clear on the meaning.

The word “alcoholic” is just a colloquialism, like “drunk” or “lush.” It’s not intended as a medical diagnosis.

The reason we should stop using such an antiquated word is simple.

The term “Alcoholic” paints a misleading picture of a disorder that needs as much clarity as possible.

If we can’t represent it accurately, how can we treat i t— or stop it before it happens?

We have a much better understanding of what the disorder is than AA had when they first used the term “alcoholism” in the AA Big Book (1939) — before there was a cure for polio.

The correct term is AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder)

The AUD spectrum

It’s important to use the most current medical definition and do away with words like “alcoholic” or “alcoholism” because AUD exists on a spectrum.

We’ve been led to believe that alcoholism — or being an “alcoholic” — is an either/or proposition. That you are either a “normal drinker,” or an “alcoholic.”

Neither of these are true. Alcohol use and abuse is not a black-and-white issue.

The AUD spectrum goes from mild to moderate to severe, with a potentially unlimited number of levels in between.



Dave Tieff

Alcohol Free (AF) singer-songwriter & cyber journalist. Here to discuss everything sex, drugs, rock, and culture🤘🍄🎙💋 www.davetieff.com