Alcohol is one of the most widely abused drugs across the globe. With an estimated 16 million people in the United States alone suffering from alcohol use disorder, it comes as no surprise that alcohol abuse and alcoholism are so common.
As a legal and easily accessible drug, alcohol can be a difficult drug to say no to. Determining what an appropriate or healthy amount of alcohol to consume can be difficult. It is so socially accepted that many people may suffer from an alcohol use disorder without even realizing it.
What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?
An alcohol use disorder is generally defined as a disease that causes lack of control and compulsiveness associated with drinking alcohol. While there are many levels of severity to this disease, alcohol use disorder can worsen quickly, leading to alcoholism and alcohol dependency.
To determine if a loved one is suffering from an alcohol use disorder, it is first important to understand what defines an alcohol use disorder. While there are many ways that an alcohol use disorder can present itself in a person, often times the foundation of the problem is rooted in an individual’s behavior surrounding the consumption of alcohol.
Individuals who suffer from an alcohol use disorder tend to take unnecessary and sometimes dangerous risks while drinking. Those who make risky decisions while they are drunk or after the consumption of alcohol can often point to signs of an alcohol use disorder. These risky decisions can include:
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol
- Participating in unsafe sex, such as random partners or not using protection
- Participating in unlawful activities, such as theft
- Demonstrating excessive aggression while drinking, such as getting into a fight at a bar
- Drinking to the point of passing out, or putting yourself at risk for alcohol poisoning
- Mixing alcohol with other drugs
- Going to work or school while under the influence of alcohol
Alcohol use disorders can also be apparent when an individual neglects some aspects of their typical routine or day-to-day life. One example of this could be missing an important assignment for school in order to go out and drink or being late or absent to work due to a bad hangover. Often times when responsibilities are missed or ignored, it can be a telltale sign of alcohol use disorder.
Signs Of An Alcohol Use Disorder
If you suspect a loved one may suffer from alcohol use disorder, or if you believe you may have some symptoms of alcohol use disorder, there are some signs to look for.
Signs of an alcohol use disorder include:
- Inability to control the amount or frequency of alcohol consumed
- Lying to friends or family about the amount or frequency of alcohol consumed
- Continuing to drink despite negative consequences such as lost friendships or financial difficulties
- Demonstrating withdrawal symptoms after periods of not drinking
- No longer interested in activities or hobbies that don’t include drinking or the consumption of alcohol
- Getting into dangerous or risky situations because of drinking (for example, committing a crime or participating in unsafe sex)
- Have attempted to cut back or stop drinking in the past but could not
- Experiencing intense cravings for alcohol or drunkenness
- Feelings of depression or anxiety when not drinking
If you have experienced these symptoms in the past, it is possible you suffer from an alcohol use disorder. It is important to be honest with yourself when considering your relationship with alcohol, as it can be easy to lie about the amount of alcohol you consume or your actions surrounding the consumption of alcohol.
Alcohol Use Disorders vs Alcoholism
While both alcohol use disorders and alcoholism can both lead to devastating results, they are two different diseases. In simple terms, alcoholism is far more severe than most cases of alcohol use disorders. Often times an alcohol use disorder is a disease that can turn into alcoholism when left untreated.
Alcoholism is considered a severe and debilitating disease, and with good cause. This severity of alcohol use disorder leaves individuals with a form of alcohol dependence that is completely dominant over their lives. Someone who suffers from alcoholism often has little or no control over the frequency or volume of alcohol they are consuming. These individuals are not blind to the negative consequences happening as a result of their disease, however they do not have the power to overcome their own cravings. Ignoring financial, social, and professional implications of their drinking habits is not uncommon for someone suffering from alcoholism, as they cannot control their own urges.
An alcohol use disorder is still very dangerous, although it is not as severe as alcoholism. The cravings, habits, and risky behaviors often associated with alcohol use disorder can make those individuals especially prone to alcoholism. Individuals suffering from alcohol use disorders may also find themselves with the same broken relationships, lost jobs, and legal issues that those suffering from full alcoholism may also struggle with.
The good news is with an AUD there is still a good opportunity to try to overcome some of the cravings and other symptoms associated with the disease. Even making simple life changes, such as choosing activities and hobbies that have no association with drinking can help distance the relationship you have with alcohol. Distancing yourself from alcohol can also help you associate other sober activities with positive experiences. Making some of these simple changes can help put you back in charge of your life, giving you a better chance of standing up to the cravings when they hit again.
Treatment For Alcohol Use Disorders
There are many steps that you can take in your own life to distance yourself from alcohol, such as the ones mentioned above. Surrounding yourself with people and activities that are not associated with alcohol can enrich your life with sobriety and new experiences. Exercising your own power over cravings for alcohol is important, and can also help you to realize just how significant of a role alcohol plays in your life.
It is, however, equally as important to be honest with yourself when you have lost some of that power over your cravings for alcohol. If you have reached a point where you begin to cancel on plans that do not involve drinking for ones that do, or if you choose to hang out with the bar crowd over your sober crowd, then it may be time for some professional help.
Professional help is essential when it comes to diagnosing and treating some cases of alcohol use disorder. Therapists and counselors who are specifically trained to treat clients with alcohol use disorder are accessible through many addiction treatment programs. These professionals can help address both the physical dependency of alcohol use disorder as well as the psychological and mental symptoms of the disease. In treating all aspects of an alcohol use disorder, clients are more likely to have a successful recovery and less likely to suffer from a relapse in the future.
Get Help For An Alcohol Use Disorder Today
If you are interested in the treatment mentioned above for yourself or for a loved one, we are able to help you find a program that fits your needs. Our addiction treatment specialists are available 24/7 to talk with you about your program options. Your call is always confidential. Contact a treatment specialist today to learn more.
For More Information Related to “What is an Alcohol Use Disorder?” Be Sure To Check Out These Additional Resources From DrugRehab.org:
Drug and Alcohol Dependence (journal) – The Alcohol Use Disorder And Associated Disabilities Interview Schedule
JAMA Network – Prevalence and Co-occurrence of Substance Use Disorders and IndependentMood and Anxiety Disorders
National Institute of Health – Alcohol Use Disorders