Is DUI or DWI a Sign of Alcoholism?


What is a DUI or DWI?

Before we get into whether or not DUI or DWI is a sign of alcoholism, let’s discuss what a DUI/DWI is. DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated) occurs when a motorist is driving while having a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit which is .08 or when a motorist is impaired on another substance and fails a field sobriety test. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on DUI/DWI as it relates to alcohol. As it stands currently the legal limit for BAC or blood alcohol concentration is .08%. For an average man, it takes approximately 2 drinks in an hour to reach this level for a woman it typically only takes 1 drink in an hour to reach the legal limit. Every day in the United States about 28 people die in drunk driving-related crashes, this equates to 1 person every 58 minutes. In 2019 10,142 people died in drunk driving incidents and surprisingly this was the lowest level in many years.


Why Is Drinking and Driving so Dangerous?


Alcohol is a drug that impairs the brain’s basic functioning. It impairs decision-making, slows reaction time, reduces one’s ability to use reason, and reduces muscle coordination. As BAC levels increase so does the level of impairment in the brain. Alcohol is digested and absorbed directly from the stomach and small intestine. It then enters the bloodstream where it will accumulate until processed by the liver. The alcohol content is measured by the weight of the alcohol contained in a specific volume of blood. This is how the BAC or blood alcohol concentration is derived. When an individual has a .08 BAC that translates to .08 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood (g/dl). Beyond this .08 benchmark, the risk of crash or accident begins to increase exponentially. This does not mean driving below a .08 BAC is safe. In 2019, there were 1,775 people killed in alcohol-related crashes where a driver had a BAC of .01 to .07 g/dL.


Does getting a DUI or DWI make you an alcoholic?


Unfortunately, this question does not have a simple answer. Are there individuals who get a DUI/DWI who are not alcoholics? Absolutely. Are there individuals who get a DUI/DWI who are alcoholics? Also, yes. A DUI/DWI is definitely a warning sign that someone is having some issues related to alcohol but it is not a definitive diagnosis of alcoholism. If the DUI/DWI is an isolated incident and there are no other alcohol-related issues it is possible that the individual in question is nonalcoholic. That being said, just because an individual does not have a lot of external consequences, does not mean they are definitely not an alcoholic. If the DUI/DWI is part of a larger pattern of negative behavior and consequences related to alcohol consumption though, it could very likely mean that the individual either is alcoholic or has an alcohol abuse issue.


We also find it pertinent to mention that if an individual or their loved one even has to consider whether or not they are an alcoholic, they most likely are already at a minimum headed in that direction if not already a full-blown alcoholic.


What to do if you think you or someone you know may be an alcoholic?


It is always advisable to heir on the side of caution in this arena. Meeting or speaking with a professional in the substance abuse treatment field is a great first step. If someone is alcoholic there are many treatment options available.


If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse of any kind, we are here to help. Please call us at 855-698-3554 or directly at 201-663-2914 for a confidential consultation with one of our treatment specialists. If you prefer to communicate with us via email please click here or email us at