Alcohol Use Disorder and Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol use disorder (AUD), also called alcoholism, is a chronic and progressive disease that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by a pattern of excessive and compulsive alcohol use, which can cause significant harm to the individual’s health, relationships, and daily functioning. Identifying the symptoms of alcohol use disorder is critical for early intervention and successful treatment.

In this blog post, we will discuss the signs and symptoms of alcoholism, the concepts of tolerance, dependence, and addiction, the differences between acute alcohol intoxication and long-term alcohol use, and how to identify when a friend or loved one may have a problem with alcohol.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder

The symptoms of alcoholism, as well as the concept of “too much alcohol,” can vary from person to person, and not everyone who engages in heavy drinking or binge drinking will develop alcohol use disorder. A single instance of alcohol misuse isn’t necessarily the same thing as a measurable pattern, either.

However, some common signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder include:

  1. Cravings for alcohol, which can be intense and difficult to resist.
  2. Continued alcohol use despite negative consequences, such as problems at work or with relationships.
  3. Developing a tolerance to alcohol, which means needing to drink more to feel the same effects.
  4. Withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, such as tremors, sweating, or nausea.
  5. Spending a significant amount of time drinking alcohol or recovering from drinking.
  6. Neglecting responsibilities, such as work or family obligations, due to alcohol use.
  7. Drinking in risky situations, such as while driving or operating heavy machinery.
  8. Continuing to drink despite health problems caused or worsened by alcohol use.

Tolerance, Dependence, and Addiction

Tolerance, dependence, and addiction are closely related concepts that are often used interchangeably, but have distinct meanings. Tolerance refers to the body’s adaptation to the effects of alcohol, meaning that over time, more alcohol is needed to achieve the same effect.

Dependence, on the other hand, refers to the physical and psychological reliance on alcohol to feel “normal.” Alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur when alcohol is stopped suddenly in a person who is dependent– the person may experience physical discomfort and psychological distress.

Addiction is a complex condition characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences.

Acute Alcohol Intoxication vs. Long-Term Alcohol Use

Acute alcohol intoxication refers to the short-term effects of consuming large amounts of alcohol, which can include impaired judgment, slurred speech, and loss of coordination. These effects can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening, such as in cases of alcohol poisoning.

Long-term alcohol use, on the other hand, can cause chronic health problems, such as liver disease, pancreatitis, and cancer. It can also lead to mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment. Long-term alcohol use can also damage relationships,as well as cause financial and even legal problems.

Identifying Alcohol Abuse in a Friend or Loved One

Identifying alcohol or substance abuse in a friend or loved one can be challenging, as many individuals with alcohol use disorder try to hide their drinking or deny that they have a problem.

However, some signs that may indicate alcohol abuse include:

  1. Increased alcohol tolerance.
  2. Drinking alone or in secret.
  3. Neglecting responsibilities, such as work or family obligations, due to alcohol use.
  4. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking.
  5. Drinking in the morning or at unusual times.
  6. Continuing to drink despite negative consequences.
  7. Lying about the amount or frequency of alcohol use.

Sometimes, but not always, a person’s family history may play a role in their increased risk of developing alcohol problems. Underlying mental disorders may also contribute to excessive drinking.

If you are concerned that a friend or loved one may have a problem with alcohol, it is essential to approach the situation with empathy and concern.

Avoid being judgmental or confrontational, this may cause the individual to become defensive or deny that they have a problem. Instead, express your concern and offer to support them in seeking treatment.

Effective Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

It is unlikely that someone can simply “stop drinking” once their alcohol use has reached the point where it has become a problem. Fortunately, effective alcohol use disorder treatment exists.

Behavioral therapies can be effective, and support groups can help people with alcohol use disorder understand that they are not alone. Medications are available to help alcohol withdrawal and detox. Equally important, medications exist to help people with alcohol use disorder maintain sobriety over the long-haul. Relapse is common, and effective treatment of alcohol use disorder is a long-term effort.

Understanding alcohol abuse and alcoholism can be challenging, but that’s why we’re here for you.

Helping End Alcohol Abuse

We are an outpatient treatment program, which means that we work with people to maintain recovery and minimize alcohol abuse over time. If we sense the need, we are more than willing to refer you to other mental health services. Your recovery is our primary concern.

If you or a loved one has a problem with alcohol abuse, please sign up for care with us. We’ll go through an initial assessment with you to better understand the role alcohol is playing in your life and how we can start you on the road to recovery – to live a healthy, meaningful life.

At Sequoia MD, our direct primary care facility, we provide an alcohol rehab in Sacramento.