Although alcohol abuse seems to be a straightforward diagnosis, there are layers of complexity that medical professionals must consider. These require different diagnoses and, as a result, different treatments. To accurately diagnose the different types of alcohol use disorders, the medical industry uses ICD-10 codes. What are these codes, and how are they helpful?

ICD-10 Medical Codes

ICD-10 refers to the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision. These medical codes are used by healthcare professionals worldwide to categorize diseases and disorders. The codes are published by the World Health Organization (WHO) to provide healthcare professionals with a standardized system of categorizing diseases. This promotes consistency and accuracy when tracking new diseases and updating old ones.

The breakdown of the codes is as follows:

  • The first character is a letter.
  • The next character is a number that refers to a category (such as alcohol abuse).
  • The next numbers, often followed by a decimal point, specify the subcategory (such as alcohol abuse with alcohol-induced mood disorder).

Why Are ICD-10 Medical Codes Useful?

For people entering a medical facility, these medical codes don’t mean much. However, the healthcare industry has come to rely on these medical codes for various reasons:

Standardized System

These codes provide a standardized way to classify diseases and disorders. By ensuring worldwide uniformity, they help medical professionals to correctly treat the disorder. 


Insurance companies use codes to determine if treatments or surgeries are required. An F10.10 code for alcohol abuse won’t require X-rays, for example. If doctors order X-rays with an F10.10 code, the client’s insurance company will, most likely, refuse reimbursement. 

Documenting Treatment Plans

ICD-10 codes are important to accurately diagnose and treat clients. Individuals who transfer to another hospital can be assured of continuity of care if the healthcare professionals have the medical code for their disease or disorder. 


Doctors and scientists who study disease outbreaks use these codes to track how a disease spreads and what the initial symptoms are in a population. International teams can then use this information to come up with cures or vaccines. 

Allocating Resources

Healthcare facilities can appropriately allocate equipment and resources based on these codes. For example, if there seem to be more individuals with F02 (dementia) in a certain region, then healthcare facilities can allocate more dementia-related resources to hospitals and clinics in that area. 


As the ICD-10 medical codes are global, healthcare facilities can compare their data. This can help medical professionals understand the differences and similarities in their data (for example, where cancer is most prevalent or what countries have more cases of dementia).

Which ICD-10 Code Is for Alcohol Abuse?

The medical code for alcohol abuse is under the broader category of F10. Specifically, F10.10 stands for alcohol abuse, uncomplicated. This means the alcohol abuse disorder is related specifically to the individual’s abuse of alcohol (as opposed to any physical or mental comorbid conditions). 

The F10 category is an umbrella category that is used to describe alcohol dependence and alcohol use as well. There is an additional code that may be added for the blood-alcohol level.

Within the F10 category, there are subcategories where alcohol abuse is a co-existing condition, causes a disorder, or results from another disorder. 

What Are Other ICD-10 Codes for Related Alcohol Abuse Disorders?

Although the term “alcohol abuse” may seem relatively straightforward, the medical industry has created subcategories that further dissect the disorder. The disorder is broken down into 14 subcategories, as follows: 

F10.10: Alcohol abuse, uncomplicated

The F10.10 code indicates that alcohol abuse exists without any comorbid physical or mental issues. “Uncomplicated” means there are no complications beyond alcohol abuse, and all symptoms are related solely to the abuse of alcohol. 

F10.11: Alcohol abuse, in remission

This code differs slightly from the standard F10.10 code. The only difference here is that the individual’s uncomplicated alcohol abuse is currently in remission. This means the individual is no longer drinking alcohol or is not abusing alcohol. 

F10.120: Alcohol abuse with intoxication, uncomplicated

This code shows the individual has an alcohol use disorder and is currently under the influence of alcohol. As the individual’s physical state can lead to complications (such as passing out, vomiting, alcohol poisoning or more), medical professionals need to differentiate this code from the F10.10 code above (alcohol abuse, uncomplicated).

F10.121: Alcohol abuse with intoxication delirium

The F10.121 code indicates that the person has an alcohol use disorder, is intoxicated and is in a state of delirium caused by his or her alcohol consumption.

F10.129: Alcohol abuse with intoxication, unspecified

Although F10.129 is very similar to F10.120 (alcohol abuse with intoxication, uncomplicated), there are slight differences. The F10.129 designation means the individual is currently intoxicated, but it may not be just as a result of alcohol. There may be other drugs (unspecified ones) in the person’s system. 

F10.14: Alcohol abuse with alcohol-induced mood disorder

The F10.14 code indicates individuals who have an alcohol use disorder and are experiencing mood disorders that are directly related to their alcohol abuse. The mood disorder could be depression, anxiety, mania or something else. 

F10.150: Alcohol abuse with alcohol-induced psychotic disorder with delusions

The F10.150 code indicates someone who abuses alcohol, has a psychotic disorder as a result of alcohol and is currently suffering from delusions (false beliefs despite evidence to the contrary). 

F10.151: Alcohol abuse with alcohol-induced psychotic disorder with hallucinations

F10.151 is similar to F10.150. Both share two common features: alcohol abuse and a psychotic disorder. This code, however, indicates the person is suffering from hallucinations (seeing and feeling things that are not real). 

F10.159: Alcohol abuse with alcohol-induced psychotic disorder, unspecified

Whereas the F10.150 and F10.151 codes are very specific, the F10.159 code refers to a person who has an alcohol use disorder and is suffering from a psychotic disorder. In this case, however, medical professionals are unable to determine if the psychotic disorder is comorbid and separate, is caused by alcohol or is exacerbated by alcohol. 

F10.180: Alcohol abuse with alcohol-induced anxiety disorder

The F10.180 code indicates an individual who has an alcohol abuse disorder and is suffering from an anxiety disorder due to alcohol. An anxiety disorder can be described as excessive fear or nervousness, phobias, panic attacks or social anxiety.

F10.181: Alcohol abuse with alcohol-induced sexual dysfunction

Some individuals suffer sexual dysfunction as a result of abusing alcohol. They may suffer from a loss of libido or other dysfunctions. 

F10.182: Alcohol abuse with alcohol-induced sleep disorder

This code indicates individuals who abuse alcohol and suffer from a sleep disorder as a result. They may experience difficulty falling asleep (insomnia) or staying asleep. And they may sleep poorly. 

F10.188: Alcohol abuse with other alcohol-induced disorder

This code is a rather broad category as it indicates a person who suffers from an alcohol use disorder and has a range of disorders due to alcohol. Because these disorders do not fall into the above codes, they are classified simply as “other.” As an example, the individual may suffer from an alcohol-induced eating disorder. 

F10.19: Alcohol abuse with unspecified alcohol-induced disorder

This code is used because some alcohol-induced disorders may be difficult to diagnose. While it may be clear that the individual has an alcohol use disorder and clear that there is a disorder as a result of the alcohol, there is no further information. In cases like this, medical professionals need more time to diagnose the condition. 

Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder refers to the “abuse of alcohol” or the excessive drinking of alcohol to the degree that it has damaging effects on your physical and mental health. 

Consuming alcohol excessively and surpassing the recommended limits regularly is a key characteristic of alcohol abuse. Another characteristic is the inability to control how much you drink or when to stop. 

Some people who abuse alcohol may end up straining their family, social and work relationships. Others may engage in dangerous behavior such as drunk driving. 

As alcohol abuse worsens, the tolerance increases; you may need to drink more to feel the same effects. You may also experience withdrawal symptoms if you try to stop drinking alcohol. 

With time, abusing alcohol can cause health problems, such as liver disease, cardiovascular issues, memory problems and more. 

Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse

Treating alcohol abuse is multilayered, especially if there are comorbid conditions or disorders caused by alcohol. This is why medical professionals need to develop a customized treatment plan. 

Here are some treatment options that healthcare professionals typically turn to:

Medical Detox

Before treatment begins, it is crucial to detox, that is, remove all the alcohol from the system. This allows you to have a clear, level head when going through treatment. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe, so it’s important to detox under the care of healthcare professionals. 

Behavioral Therapies

There are a number of behavioral therapies or talk therapies that can help those with an alcohol use disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), is one example. Therapists using CBT help clients to trade their negative thought patterns for more positive, constructive ones. This allows people to build coping skills to deal with their addiction.

Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) focuses on building individuals’ motivation, so they can change their behavior and prevent relapses.


Behavioral therapy may not be enough to prevent relapses. In these cases, treatment plans may combine therapy with medication. Some medications, such as Antabuse, cause negative reactions when alcohol is consumed. 

Support Groups

For those who need a community, support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) can provide peer support. Although this is not one-on-one therapy, the structured setting and opportunity to meet with others who share their struggle can help individuals maintain their sobriety. 


For those with severe alcohol use disorder, there are inpatient and outpatient rehab programs. These provide a structured setting where cllients can detoxify, get one-on-one therapy and have access to medical support. 

How Accurate ICD-10 Medical Codes Can Help Diagnose and Treat Clients

The medical codes for alcohol abuse are quite specific. Although this may seem excessive if you’re a client, the medical industry needs these codes to accurately diagnose and treat people correctly.

When healthcare professionals assign a code to a client, it means he or she will get the right treatment. Slight variations in treatment — or even the wrong medication — can have devastating consequences for an individual. 

Accurate codes also help medical professionals to develop the right treatment plan. A treatment plan for F10.180 (alcohol abuse with alcohol-induced anxiety disorder) will be different from a treatment plan for F10.150 (alcohol abuse with alcohol-induced psychotic disorder with delusions), even though both individuals suffer from alcohol abuse. 

Medication errors are also minimized when healthcare facilities assign the right medical codes. As mentioned above, there can be devastating effects if someone receives the wrong medication due to a coding error or misdiagnosis.

Accurate coding also lets healthcare professionals follow up with treatments. They can monitor clients and determine the effectiveness of their treatment plans. They can also use their data to make improvements to the kind of care they are giving. 


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