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Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a type of substance use problem characterized by a person’s inability to control or culminate alcohol use despite knowing its adverse occupational, social and health consequences.
AUD refers to a set of conditions including alcohol addiction, alcohol use, alcohol dependence, and the conversational term, alcoholism. Many people are not aware that AUD is a brain disorder, characterized by lasting changes in the brain caused due to alcohol misuse.
Treatment for AUD
People suffering from AUD of any severity can achieve and maintain recovery through evidence-based treatments, including behavioral therapies (such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)), medications, and/or mutual-support groups.
Medications – Three medications are widely recommended to stop or reduce alcohol use as well to prevent relapse:
naltrexone (oral and long-acting injectable)
All these medications are non-addictive and can be used alone or in combination with behavioral treatments (such as CBT) or mutual-support groups to treat alcohol addiction. However, medications combined with behavioral therapy and counselling has proved to help a person stay sober longer.
Behavioral Treatments – Behavioral treatments or alcohol counselling aims at altering drinking behavior and pattern through positive affirmations. During behavioral counselling, mental health experts try to equip the patient with skills needed to curb, manage, and reduce the urge to drink.
Patients are also trained to build amicable social support system and learn avoiding the triggers that might cause relapse. Some effective behavioral treatments include cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational enhancement therapy, brief interventions, and marital and family counseling.
Mutual-Support Groups – Peer support can also help people overcome their alcohol-related problems. Meeting and conversing with people with a similar situation help see the problem in new light. Additionally, interacting with people who have successfully attained sobriety helps them realize that they are not alone and boost the patient’s confidence. Mutual support groups, in combination with treatment led by health professionals, can act as an effective added layer of support.
Risk Factors for AUD
A major part of people’s risk of developing AUD is attributed to three important factors
Amount of alcohol consumed
Frequency of alcohol consumed
Time duration in which alcohol is consumed
Additionally, other factors contributing to AUD include:
Starting Drinking at an Early Age: According to a survey, people in the age group 26 and older, who start drinking before the age of 15 years have a 5-times higher risk of having AUD in the past year than those who start drinking at 21 years of age or later.
Family History and Genetics: It is estimated that heredity has around 60 percent role in contributing to AUD. However, like other chronic health conditions, environment factors as well as the lifestyle can interfere in defining one’s risk of developing the disorder.
Mental Health and a Traumatic Past: Mental health problems including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety often co-exist with AUD increasing the risk of AUD. At the same time, people who have experienced trauma during childhood are more likely to develop AUD.
Diagnosis of AUD
To diagnosis AUD, an addiction treatment specialist may ask about the patient’s lifestyle and drinking pattern in the past year. Some questions that the addiction treatment expert might ask include:
Has the patient felt an uncontrollable urge to drink?
Has the patient notices increased drinking time or experienced more hangovers than usual?
Were there incidences when the patient felt more drunk and for a longer duration?
Did the patient at any time in the past wanted to cut down or stop drinking but couldn’t?
Did the patient continue to drink without bothering about the troubles their family or friends suffered because of their drinking habits or patterns?
Did the patient encounter situations when drinking raised their chances of getting hurt in situations like driving, swimming, walking in a dangerous area, using machinery, or having unprotected sex?
Did the patient continue drinking even despite experiencing depression or anxiety or having a memory blackout?
Did the patient need to consume more alcohol to feel the same high?
Does abstinence from alcohol produce withdrawal symptoms, such as restlessness, nausea, trouble sleeping, shakiness, sweating, a racing heart, or a seizure among others?
In the case of an AUD, seeking early help is crucial to ensure that organs do not face irreparable damage. Seeking timely treatment ensures early arrest of the disorder with remedial interventions.
Symptoms of AUD
AUD can be difficult to recognize as alcohol is a major part of parties, get-togethers, social gatherings, and a way to have fun. Owing to its wide acceptance as a social drink it can be challenging to differentiate between a person who merely likes to unwind with a couple of drinks after a long day and a person who has a real problem.
However, if any of the following symptoms are noticed, the person may be developing or may have developed a dependence on alcohol.
An uncontrollable urge to drink alcohol
Hiding or lying about alcohol use
Not attending or going to extreme lengths to avoid places where alcohol would not be served
Changing social circle to hang out with people who are heavy drinkers
Increased tolerance and absence of hangover
Drinking at unsuitable times or locations like right in the morning or in office meetings
Feeling restless and irritable during absence of alcohol
Experiencing tremors, shakes, shivers or other bodily discomfort till alcohol is consumed
Giving excuses like it helps to sleep to justify drinking
Looking to be alone to drink to avoid judgment calls over amount consumed
Using alcohol to self-medicate symptoms of mental disorders like depression, anxiety and PTSD
Depending on alcohol to complete even basic everyday functions
Facing legal, financial, professional or personal trouble because of alcohol consumption
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction or dependence, call our 24×7 Alcohol Addiction Treatment helpline 9289086193 to seek effective treatment interventions for problems related to alcohol use.