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Alcohol addiction, now known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), occurs when a person excessively drinks on a regular basis. People with this disorder are unable to control their alcohol use despite the negative consequences that come with it.
Someone with an AUD also experiences physical alcohol dependence. Withdrawal symptoms will develop if they suddenly stop drinking, including nausea, shaking, anxiety, and seizures, among others.
Alcohol abuse and addiction can affect anyone at any age. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent alcohol use disorder (AUD), especially in underage drinkers. Prevention tips include talking with children about the dangers of alcohol, monitoring alcoholism behaviors at home, and teaching valuable coping mechanisms.
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) can affect anyone at any age. There are five different types of alcoholics, including:
When it comes to alcohol use disorder (addiction), every person’s situation is different. There isn’t just one cause of alcohol addiction, but possible causes fall into three categories:
Many young people under 21 years of age also look at alcohol as a rite of passage. At this age, people are looking for ways to assert their independence, engage in new experiences, and take risks. As a result, they may turn to alcohol and other substances. The dangers of underage drinking can be severe and even life-threatening if taken too far.
Changes in behavior are usually what cause people to recognize that their loved one has an alcohol addiction. These symptoms include:
Alcohol misuse and addiction can also have negative effects on your health, such as:
Hangovers are the result of the body’s attempt to recover from heavy alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking leads to frequent urination, which commonly results in dehydration, dry mouth, thirstiness, dizziness, and an electrolyte imbalance, among other symptoms.
The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal vary. For some people, they are mild and uncomfortable. In more severe cases, the symptoms of withdrawal can be life-threatening. Symptoms usually peak between 24 to 72 hours and usually settle within a week.
Long-term, heavy alcohol consumption can lead to heart disease. More specifically, alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a type of alcohol-induced heart disease that severely damages the heart muscle. The main cause of alcohol cardiomyopathy is linked to chronic alcohol addiction.
Drinking any amount of alcohol increases a person’s risk of developing certain cancers. However, heavy alcohol consumption and those with a long-term alcohol use disorder (AUD) are most at risk.
Alcohol and mental health issues share a bidirectional relationship. Alcohol can make other mental health disorders emerge or worsen. Likewise, having a mental health problem can worsen alcohol use disorders as people sometimes drink to cope with their condition.
An individual with social anxiety, for example, may use drinking alcohol as a coping skill to reduce symptoms. However, alcohol does not cure anxiety. It just covers the symptoms of anxiety.
In this case, the anxiety disorder would continue while the alcohol use disorder grows. Or sometimes someone with alcoholism may disrupt usual neurotransmitter flow in the brain, which could lead to new or worsening symptoms of a mental health condition.
Anxiety disorders are mental health disorders that cause constant fear and worry.
They can range from mild to severe, depending on the person. For many, alcohol provides temporary relief of anxiety symptoms and is a way to self-medicate. However, this cycle can lead to problems later on, such as a dual diagnosis (when a person has both an alcohol use disorder and a mental health disorder).
Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the U.S., affecting over 16 million American adults. Unfortunately, alcohol abuse is common in people with depression. Many turn to alcohol in order to escape feelings of sadness.
Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that causes extreme mood swings. Those with bipolar disorder often turn to alcohol to self-medicate and reduce unpleasant symptoms. However, doing so can lead to serious problems later on, such as alcohol addiction.
Binge drinking is when men consume five or more alcoholic drinks, or women drink four or more drinks over two hours. Someone who binges drinks sporadically may be able to stop on their own.
However, someone addicted to alcohol may not be able to stop binge drinking without help. In many circumstances, binge drinking can progress into alcoholism.
There is a class of alcoholism known as high-functioning alcoholism. High-functioning alcoholics can keep their condition from interfering in their professional and personal lives.
High-functioning alcoholics often do not recognize they have a problem until they are met with severe alcohol-related consequences. The danger of high-functioning alcoholics is that they can continue for years without anyone noticing they have a problem.
Physicians and mental health experts use visual assessment and interviewing to precisely diagnose alcohol problems, including abuse, dependence, and addiction. In some circumstances, a physical exam may help to identify intoxication or withdrawal.
The formal diagnosis for an individual with a problematic relationship with alcohol is alcohol use disorder.
To diagnose alcohol use disorder, a professional must investigate factors like:
An individual only requires two of these signs and symptoms to receive an alcohol use disorder diagnosis. Having more symptoms could suggest a more severe condition.
While these factors may help diagnose alcohol addiction, an accurate diagnosis depends on the individual’s honesty with their treatment provider. Being honest with a medical professional is essential to understanding if alcohol abuse should be diagnosed.
Alcoholism can negatively impact nearly every area of mental and physical health, leaving long-lasting effects on the individual. Fortunately, if a person can sober up, their body and brain can start the recovery process.
Before the recovery, an individual physically dependent on alcohol must go through detoxification.
During the detox period, a person can expect various withdrawal symptoms, including:
Many of these withdrawal symptoms start within a few hours following last alcohol use and typically last between two to eight days. Some signs, like anxiety and poor sleep, may persist for six months or longer.
While this may be discouraging, people recovering from alcoholism can enjoy a happy and fulfilling life with time and patience.
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