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Alcohol use disorder (AUD), more commonly known as alcoholism, is a chronic relapsing brain disease. It develops with alcohol abuse or dependency on alcohol.
Despite alcoholism’s physical and mental health consequences, alcoholics battle an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol intake. This is because alcoholics may struggle when they’re not drinking.
If you have a history of alcoholism in your family or battle depression, you may be at a higher risk of developing alcohol addiction.
If you’re wondering, am I an alcoholic, you’re not alone. An estimated 15 million people cope with alcoholism in the United States. But, in order to tell if you’re an alcoholic, it’s important to understand the difference between binge drinking, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism.NIAAA
Binge Drinking vs. Alcohol Abuse vs. Alcoholism
Binge drinking, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism are all considered alcohol use disorder (AUD). That said, binge drinking can lead to alcohol abuse, which can ultimately lead to alcoholism.
The NIAAA defines binge drinking as a drinking pattern that elevates one’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level to 0.08 g/dL. One’s BAC level differs depending on a gamut of factors—from food intake, weight, and medications (or lack thereof). But it typically reaches .08 g/dL after four drinks for women and five drinks for men in about two hours.
Someone who binge drinks now and then is not necessarily an alcohol abuser. Alcohol abusers continue to drink alcohol despite:
- Recurrent, alcohol-induced health problems
- Social consequences
- Occupational consequences
- Legal consequences
Nearly one-third of American adults are deemed excessive drinkers, but only 10 percent of them are considered alcoholics.CDC
People who abuse alcohol may have an easier time breaking their habits, while alcoholics will likely experience dependency-induced consequences.
Alcoholism is characterized by an addiction to alcohol. Alcoholics may suffer withdrawals while not drinking that can complicate their already-impaired ability to quit. This is because alcohol addiction actually causes a chemical change in one’s brain. This drives them to drink more and more often—first for the pleasure, then for the avoidance of withdrawal symptoms.
Signs of Alcoholism (Alcohol Use Disorder)
Do you exhibit the following 10 signs of alcohol use disorder (AUD)?
- Do you experience any inability to limit your drinking?
- Have you noticed that you continue to consume more and more alcohol?
- Have you developed a high tolerance for alcohol that requires you to drink more and more to achieve the same effect?
- Do you find yourself neglecting your self-care, like your hygiene or nutrition?
- Do you often drink alone?
- Do you find yourself letting your obligations and responsibilities like work, school, and family fall to the wayside?
- Have you noticed yourself lying or making excuses about your drinking habits?
- Do you continue to consume alcohol despite alcohol-induced issues?
- Have you had any cravings for alcohol?
- Have you experienced any alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, irritability, or tremors?
Do I Have A Drinking Problem? Self-Assessment Questionnaire
If you’re asking yourself, am I an alcoholic, this self-assessment questionnaire may be helpful for you.
- Have I wanted to cut back on drinking or quit but cannot?
- Have I been drinking more or more often than I’d planned to drink?
- Do I keep drinking more and more to feel the effects of alcohol?
- Do I find that drinking interferes with aspects of my life, such as my job, family, or self-care?
- Do I spend a lot of time drinking alone?
- Do I spend a lot of time seeking out opportunities to drink or recovering from drinking?
- Am I experiencing alcohol-induced health complications?
- Do I continue to keep drinking despite health, social, financial, or legal issues?
- Do I have severe cravings for alcohol?
- Do I experience withdrawal symptoms when I’m not drinking alcohol, such as nausea, irritability, or tremors?
Treatment & Support Groups for Alcoholism
There are different addiction treatment options for those facing alcoholism. These include support groups, therapies, medical treatments, and more that are typically used in conjunction with detox and withdrawal. Here are some options to get you started.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
There are various support groups for alcoholics, but Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is arguably the most well-known option. It’s a global, community-driven program that involves regular accountability meetings and group discussions surrounding addiction. It’s “nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere.”
Alcoholics Anonymous also uses a 12-Step approach to overcoming an addiction to alcohol, which members can revisit at any time. These steps include admitting to addiction, making conscious choices to change, and using prayer and meditation to overcome the addiction.
Addiction Rehab Options
There are inpatient and outpatient treatment options for those interested in visiting a rehabilitation center. Rehabilitation centers can help you to develop new coping skills, get medical support from trusted healthcare professionals, and hold yourself accountable. Inpatient care is ideal for anyone with a severe addiction to alcohol and a need for constant supervision during the withdrawal journey and recovery phase.
Outpatient care, on the other hand, may be appropriate for someone with a less severe addiction to alcohol but who still needs professional help.
Counseling through traditional therapy can help you discover any mental or emotional baggage that can trigger your alcohol addiction. Identifying the causes of your alcohol addiction can help you overcome your addiction in a healthy way.
Medication for alcoholism is usually used in combination with other methods of treatment. Medication might include Naltrexone that can help to reduce alcohol cravings. Acamprosate can also help to repair the brain. And Disulfiram can trigger a negative physical reaction to alcohol to help prevent you from drinking it.
Since alcohol can take a toll on your health with abuse and addiction, quitting isn’t necessarily easy to do on your own. Find professional help today.