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What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is the clinical diagnosis addiction professionals use to describe the medical condition known for decades as alcoholism or alcohol dependence. There are three levels of AUD: mild, moderate, and severe.

How Can You Tell If You Have A Problem With Alcohol? (Self Assessment)

To determine whether you meet diagnostic criteria for mild, moderate, or severe AUD, consider the following questions about your alcohol use over the past year:

  1. Were there times when you drank more, or for a longer period, than you planned?
  2. Did you try – unsuccessfully – to cut down or quit drinking?
  3. Did you spend time managing the effects of drinking, such as hangovers or feeling sick?
  4. Have you experienced strong cravings for alcohol?
  5. Has drinking had a negative impact on your home, work, or education?
  6. If you answered yes to question (5), did you keep drinking anyway?
  7. Have you stopped activities you used to love, in order to drink – or manage hangovers – instead?
  8. Have you engaged in risky behavior, such as driving under the influence?
  9. Have you kept drinking even though it causes physical, psychological, and emotional discomfort?
  10. Have you had to drink more to get the same effect?
  11. Have you had a drink to avoid symptoms such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, anxiety, irritability, or depression?

How to score yourself:

  • If you answer yes to 2-3 questions, you meet the criteria for mild AUD.
  • If you answer yes to 4-5 questions, you meet the criteria for moderate AUD.
  • If you answer yes to 6 or more questions, you meet the criteria for severe AUD.

We share this here to help you understand your level of risk, understand how addiction professionals arrive at a diagnosis for AUD, and help you decide if you need to seek treatment for your alcohol use.

What Is Evidence-Based Treatment & Rehab for Alcohol Use Disorder?

Research shows the most effective way to treat problem drinking is with an integrated, individualized plan that includes lifestyle changes, therapy, counseling, community support programs, and in some cases, medication. All aspects of the disordered alcohol use must be addressed: the biological, the psychological, and the social.

At The Ridge, we treat the entire person. That’s what we mean when we say our approach is holistic for alcohol rehab. We welcome you to our treatment community with open arms. We administer a full medical and psychiatric evaluation. We get to know who you are, learn about your goals for treatment, and identify your strengths and challenge areas. Then we collaborate with you to create a treatment plan that addresses your immediate needs and gives you the tools you need to begin your path to lifelong recovery.

How Does Alcoholism Develop?

Alcohol use is so widespread that it’s easy to develop an addiction without seeing it coming. Millions of Americans socialize with alcohol, drinking at parties, dinners, and at events. Binge drinking is often the center of the culture at some colleges and high schools.  For many people, drinking alcohol responsibly is possible. However, some people are genetically predisposed to alcoholism.

What Are The Long-Term Effects of Alcoholism?

Long-term alcohol use can have a serious impact on the brain and body. This is especially true with heavy drinking habits. In general, the more heavily a person drinks over the long term, the greater the risk of negative side effects increases.

Over the long term, heavy drinking can cause serious physical complications like:

  • Damage to brain cells, lowering brain mass.
  • Liver damage.
  • Stomach and intestinal ulcers.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Decrease in male sperm production.
  • Low levels of vitamins and minerals like iron and vitamin B.
  • A higher risk of some cancers.

How Many People Abuse Alcohol?

Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in the United States.  Alcohol causes the brain to release unnaturally large amounts of the pleasure-causing chemical dopamine. After prolonged alcohol abuse, the brain begins to cease natural dopamine production.  Soon, the only way an individual who abuses alcohol can feel any sense of pleasure is by drinking.

Alcohol Abuse

What Are The Symptoms Of Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol abuse can lead to a number of different problems. It can damage your liver, cause problems with your digestion, and make you more susceptible to infection. It can also lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and an increased risk for certain types of cancer. In addition, alcohol abuse can impact your mental health, causing anxiety, depression, and memory problems. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse, it is important to seek help. There are a variety of treatment options available, and with the right support, recovery is possible.

Alcohol Abuse And Violence

Although the link between alcohol abuse and violence is well established, it is important to remember that the vast majority of people who drink alcohol do not become violent. However, alcohol does lower inhibitions and increase impulsive behavior, which can lead to arguments and fights. In addition, alcohol abuse is often associated with other factors that can increase the risk of violence, such as poverty, mental illness, and exposure to violence in the home. Therefore, it is important to address all of these factors when working to prevent violence. By reducing alcohol abuse and addressing the underlying causes of violence, we can create a safer world for everyone.

Alcohol Abuse And Mental Illness

Alcohol abuse and mental illness are often interconnected. People who suffer from conditions like anxiety and depression may turn to alcohol as a way to self-medicate, numbing the symptoms of their mental illness. In turn, chronic drinking can worsen the symptoms of mental illness, leading to a spiral of abuse that becomes increasingly difficult to break free from. It’s estimated that nearly 30% of people with Alcohol Use Disorder also suffer from some form of mental illness. This high rate of co-occurrence is likely due to the fact that both alcohol abuse and mental illness are stress-related disorders. People who suffer from either condition are often under a great deal of stress, which can trigger episodes of abuse or exacerbation of symptoms. The link between alcohol abuse and mental illness is complex, but it’s clear that they often occur together. Treatment for both conditions is essential for a person to recover fully.

Alcohol Abuse and Pregnancy

It is well-known that alcohol abuse can have serious negative consequences, both for the individual and for society as a whole. However, many people are unaware of the dangers of alcohol abuse during pregnancy. Alcohol is a teratogen, which means that it can cause birth defects and other problems in developing fetuses. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a condition that can cause intellectual disability, physical deformities, and behavioral problems. Women who abuse alcohol during pregnancy are also at increased risk for miscarrying or delivering a baby prematurely. In addition, maternal alcohol abuse can lead to neonatal abstinence syndrome, a condition in which newborns experience withdrawal symptoms due to their exposure to alcohol in the womb. Because of the potential risks, it is important for women to abstain from alcohol completely if they are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

Alcohol Abuse In The United States

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol consumption is associated with a range of short- and long-term health effects. In the United States, alcohol use is a significant contributor to premature death and disability. Excessive drinking is responsible for approximately 88,000 deaths each year and is a factor in more than 200 diseases and injury conditions. Alcohol abuse also increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. The economic cost of excessive drinking in the United States is estimated to be $223 billion per year. These costs are attributable to lost productivity, healthcare expenses, criminal justice system costs, and property damage. Excessive alcohol consumption is a major public health problem in the United States.

The NSDUH reports that of the 140 million people in the U.S. who drink regularly, almost 15 million meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder. Of those 15 million, less than 10 percent receive treatment for their disorder. Mental health and addiction professionals call this the treatment gap. At The Ridge, we commit to closing the treatment gap. We can’t wave a magic wand and help millions of people overnight. We can help one person at a time, one day at a time – and that includes you.

You Don’t Have to Face Addiction Alone

If you have a problem with drinking, The Ridge can help. We have several treatment programs for alcohol abuse disorder, including residential treatment, outpatient treatment programs, and treatment programs for licensed professionals. Learn more about our treatment options for alcohol abuse here.

This questionnaire is not a formal assessment and does not take the place of an evaluation for AUD administered by a medical professional.

Sources:

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohols-effects-body

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