Alcohol use disorder (AUD) occurs when an individual drinks alcohol despite adverse consequences. The conditions can be mild, moderate, or severe. A person suffering from AUD may have difficulties at work, in relationships, and with their health. When you have this condition, you may feel unable to control your drinking. You may continue to drink despite the problems it causes. Consult your doctor if you think you may have AUD.
They can help you get the treatment you need. AUD is a clinical term. However, it is also known by many informal names, such as alcohol abuse, alcohol misuse, alcoholism, alcohol dependence, and alcohol addiction. A family history of alcohol abuse, mental health conditions, and early age of onset is associated with this disorder. The risk of liver disease, cancer, and other health problems is higher for people with it.
Standard Definitions of Alcohol Abuse
It is common for people to drink alcohol in moderation and not develop a problem. Moderate drinking is defined differently in diverse cultures. The United States defines moderate drinking as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Moderate drinking is often associated with social drinking. In contrast, alcohol abuse refers to drinking too much or too often.
The consequences of continued drinking can eventually lead to alcohol dependence or addiction. This happens when your body becomes physically dependent on alcohol, and when you stop drinking suddenly, withdrawal symptoms occur. People who abuse alcohol may not necessarily binge drink, but they drink more frequently or in larger amounts than moderation would allow.
As an example, a man who drinks four beers every night after work is abusing alcohol even if he does not binge drink. The same applies to a woman who drinks three glasses of wine with dinner every night.
Why Alcohol Abuse is Problematic
Some people who abuse alcohol don’t realize they have a problem. Although drinking has caused problems in their lives, they may be in denial. There are many adverse effects on one’s health, quality of life, and relationships because of addiction. Some of the adverse effects of excessive alcohol consumption include:
- Accidents involving heavy machinery at work and car accidents.
- Chronic diseases, such as cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, cancer, and cognitive impairment.
- Practicing risky behavior, such as driving while intoxicated or having unprotected sexual relations
- Absenteeism from work or school.
- Negative pregnancy outcomes.
Alcohol Abuse Symptoms and Diagnosis
Intoxication with alcohol impairs speech and reflexes, impairs concentration and memory, and impairs decision-making. This is due to alcohol’s depressing effect on the central nervous system. Intoxication levels are determined by the amount of alcohol consumed, the person’s age, gender, weight, and level of fitness. As alcohol is metabolized in the liver, it can take the body an hour or more to break down one drink of alcohol.
If you drink two alcoholic beverages in an hour, you will be more intoxicated than if you spaced them out over two hours. Intoxication is measured by the blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is the amount of alcohol (ethanol) in 100 milliliters of blood. A BAC of 0.08 is considered legally intoxicated in the United States. Intoxication causes slurred speech, impaired balance, slowed reaction time, and poor judgment. Some people also experience flushed skin, increased urination, and vomiting while drinking alcohol.
Medication for Alcohol Dependence
The success of psychological intervention for AUD usually depends on the use of medication to reduce or eliminate alcohol cravings Three medications have been shown in numerous clinical trials to be effective in reducing the craving for alcohol and the frequency of drinking. These FDA-approved medications are naltrexone (Vivitrol), acamprosate (Campral), and disulfiram (Antabuse) for treating alcohol dependence. Healthcare professionals administer injections of naltrexone once a month.
Acamprosate is a pill taken orally. Disulfiram is a medication taken by mouth that restores the balance of chemicals in the brain. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking one of these medications. Consider talking to a doctor or therapist if you think you or someone you know has an alcohol problem. Our counselors can also be reached at 844-639-8371 to provide information about recovering from alcohol addiction.