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Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a growing problem in the United States and around the world. It occurs when a person drinks heavily and cannot control their alcohol use. They continue to drink despite the negative effects it has on their life.
Those addicted to alcohol also develop withdrawal symptoms after they stop drinking. These symptoms can range from mild to severe. They may include shaking, tremors, intense sweating, extreme cravings, and more.
Some people become addicted to alcohol over time, while others do not. The cause of alcohol use disorder (AUD) can be attributed to a variety of factors, including:
14.1 million people (18 and over) struggle with an alcohol use disorder. The disorder encompasses alcohol abuse, alcohol addiction, and alcoholism.The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism report from 2017
These are some risk factors associated with alcohol addiction:
When it comes to alcohol addiction, every person is different. An alcohol use disorder can be triggered by a variety of factors, including:
Genetic factors and a family history of alcoholism can contribute to your risk of developing an AUD.
However, there isn't just one "alcoholic gene" that increases a person's risk of developing alcoholism.
Studies show that AUD is a complex genetic disease, and hundreds of genes can impact the risk. Certain gene combinations can also make you more susceptible.
Two genes that have the strongest known link to alcoholism include:
Certain gene variations decrease your risk of developing alcoholism.
For example, if you have the beta-klotho gene, it may be easy for you to control your drinking behaviors. In other words, you can cut yourself off after one or two alcoholic beverages.
People who don't have the beta-klotho gene may find it difficult to have just one or two drinks.
According to the NIAAA, genetic factors account for about 50% of the reason why people develop an AUD.
Different psychological factors can contribute to the risk of alcohol use disorder (AUD).
A person’s poor coping skills regarding stress, negative feelings, and boredom can make them vulnerable to alcohol addiction. If they are unable to handle stressors, alcohol can make coping easier for them.
AUD often co-occurs with a mental health disorder (dual diagnosis). Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are common. People who have received a dual diagnosis often drink alcohol to relieve unpleasant symptoms.
Some people also believe alcohol controls their symptoms better than medications. They also claim to experience no adverse side effects. However, using alcohol as a "crutch" to ease symptoms increases the risk of alcoholism.
Many social and environmental factors increase the risk of alcohol addiction. For example, people are often encouraged to drink in social situations, such as on college campuses .
While drinking in college may seem ordinary, it can lead to alcoholism down the road. This is because college students tend to binge drink. This type of drinking can continue even after someone leaves college, potentially leading to an AUD.
Binge drinking is a harmful drinking pattern that makes someone’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level rise to 0.08 percent or higher. Men reach this BAC after consuming about five drinks within two hours. Women reach this BAC after consuming about four drinks within two hours.
In addition to these factors, learned behaviors can affect how a person perceives alcohol later in life. Even without a genetic component, you can still develop AUD when raised in a specific type of environment.
Families that encourage drinking increase the risk of alcoholism among family members. Growing up around people with addiction also predisposes someone to develop an AUD.
Other known risk factors for alcohol use disorder include:
Alcoholism puts people at an increased risk for a variety of health problems, including:
These are only some of the alcohol problems that heavy drinkers may experience. It is important for anyone struggling with alcoholism to seek medical advice to avoid health complications.
The symptoms of alcoholism can range from mild to severe (based on how many symptoms you have).
The most common signs of alcohol use disorder include:
Common treatment options for AUD include:
Inpatient treatment is an effective option for alcohol use disorder (AUD). This type of treatment takes place at a licensed residential treatment center. Patients receive 24-hour comprehensive and structured care. They also undergo medical detox, which may include medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
Outpatient treatment helps people with less severe alcohol use disorders. It works around a person's schedule and does not provide 24-hour care.
If you or a loved one struggles with an alcohol use disorder (AUD), there is help available. Common addiction treatment programs include support groups, alcoholics anonymous (AA), and professional detoxification (inpatient or outpatient treatment).
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