Millions of Americans suffer from Alcohol use disorder (AUD). But AUD can be prevented, and with effective treatment, people can and do recover.
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What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?
Alcohol use disorder is a chronic, progressive disease that is fatal if untreated. It is sometimes called alcoholism, alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, or alcohol addiction. People with alcohol use disorder have problems controlling their drinking. They may be preoccupied with alcohol or continue to use alcohol even when it causes problems.
Certain areas of your brain are associated with the experience of pleasure, judgment, and the ability to exercise control over your behavior. Over time, drinking too much alcohol may change the normal function of those areas of your brain. This may result in craving alcohol to try to restore good feelings or reduce negative feelings. Lasting changes in the brain caused by alcohol misuse can prolong AUD and make people who are in recovery vulnerable to relapse.
Alcohol use disorder can range from mild to severe, and even a mild disorder can lead to serious problems. Drinking too much can harm your health. Every year, excessive alcohol use is responsible for more than 140,000 deaths in the U.S. and caused 1 in every 5 deaths of U.S. adults aged 20-49 years.
Signs and Symptoms
Unhealthy alcohol use includes any alcohol use that puts your health or safety at risk or causes other problems. If your drinking repeatedly creates distress and problems in your daily life, you likely have alcohol use disorder. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Being unable to limit how much alcohol you drink
- Wanting to cut down on how much you drink
- Spending a lot of time drinking, getting alcohol, or recovering from alcohol use
- Feeling a strong craving or urge to drink alcohol
- Failing to fulfill major obligations at work, school, or home due to alcohol use
- Continuing to drink alcohol even though you know it’s causing you problems
- Giving up or reducing social and work activities and hobbies to use alcohol
- Using alcohol in situations where it’s not safe, such as when driving or swimming
- Developing a tolerance to alcohol so you need more to feel its effect or you have a reduced effect from using the same amount
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating and shaking, problems sleeping, hallucinations, and agitation when you don’t drink, or drinking to avoid these symptoms
A person’s risk for developing AUD depends, in part, on how much, how often, and how quickly they consume alcohol. Other factors that increase the risk of AUD are:
- Alcohol use that begins in the teens
- Genes. The likeliness of developing AUD may be partially hereditary.
- Family history. The risk of AUD is higher for people who have a parent or other close relative who has problems with alcohol.
- Having friends or a close partner who drinks regularly
- Depression and other mental health problems
- History of trauma
- Bariatric surgery. Some studies indicate that having bariatric surgery may increase the risk of developing AUD or relapsing after recovering from AUD.
- Drinking too much on a regular basis
If you feel that you sometimes drink too much alcohol, your drinking is causing problems, or if your family is concerned about your drinking, talk with your healthcare provider. Early treatment is important. Behavioral therapies, mutual-support groups, and/or medications can help people with AUD achieve and maintain recovery.
Alcohol use disorder is preventable. Parents can play an important role in giving kids a better understanding of the impact that alcohol can have on their lives. You can help prevent teenage alcohol use by setting a good example with your own alcohol use.
Call Community Health Net to schedule an appointment with a provider today: (814) 455-7222.
Our health information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Please be advised that this information is made available to assist the public to learn more about their health. Community Health Net providers may not see and/or treat all topics found herein.
Health Facts is a public service announcement of Community Health Net.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022, April 14). Alcohol Use and Your Health. CDC.gov. Retrieved March 13, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022, December 7). Preventing Excessive Alcohol Use. CDC.gov. Retrieved March 13, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/prevention.htm
Gerchalk, R. (2022). Alcohol Awareness Month. Retrieved March 13, 2023, from https://alcoholawareness.org/alcohol-awareness-month/
Mayo Clinic (2022, May 18). Alcohol Use Disorder. MayoClinic.org. Retrieved March 13, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20369243
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (2021, November 7). April is Alcohol Awareness Month. NCADD.org. Retrieved February 21, 2023, from https://ncadd.us/about-ncadd/events-awards/alcohol-awareness-month