What is Alcohol Use Disorder? What are Alcoholism Treatment Programs?
Alcoholism is known by a variety of terms, including alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. Today, it’s referred to as alcohol use disorder. It occurs when you drink so much that your body eventually becomes dependent on or addicted to alcohol. When this happens, alcohol becomes the most important thing in your life. Alcoholism Treatment for alcohol use disorder varies, but each method is meant to help you stop drinking altogether.
Alcohol use disorder which includes a level that’s sometimes called alcoholism is a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect, or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking.
Unhealthy alcohol use includes any alcohol use that puts your health or safety at risk or causes other alcohol-related problems. It also includes binge drinking a pattern of drinking where a male consumes five or more drinks within two hours or a female downs at least four drinks within two hours. Binge drinking causes significant health and safety risks. Some people may drink alcohol to the point that it causes problems, but they’re not physically dependent on alcohol. This used to be referred to as alcohol abuse.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism
Symptoms of alcohol use disorder are based on the behaviors and physical outcomes that occur as a result of alcohol addiction.
People with alcohol use disorder may engage in the following behaviors:
- Not eating or eating poorly
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Missing work or school because of drinking
- continuing to drink even when legal, social, or economic problems develop
- Drinking alone
- Drinking more to feel the effects of alcohol (having a high tolerance)
- Becoming violent or angry when asked about their drinking habits
- Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of alcohol use
- Being unable to control alcohol intake
- Making excuses to drink
People with alcohol use disorder may also experience the following physical symptoms:
- Lapses in memory blacking out after a night of drinking
- Alcohol cravings
- Withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, including shaking, nausea, and vomiting
- Illnesses, such as alcoholic ketoacidosis includes dehydration-type symptoms or cirrhosis
- Tremors involuntary shaking the morning after drinking
Causes of Alcoholism
Genetic, psychological, social, and environmental factors can impact how drinking alcohol affects your body and behavior. For example, theories suggest that for certain people drinking has a different and stronger impact that can lead to alcohol use disorder. Too much alcohol may change the normal function of the areas of your brain associated with the experience of pleasure, judgment, and the ability to exercise control over your behavior. This may result in craving alcohol to try to restore good feelings or reduce negative ones.
The cause of alcohol use disorder is still unknown. Alcohol use disorder develops when you drink so much that chemical changes in the brain occur. Alcohol use disorder typically develops gradually over time. It’s also known to run in families. Eventually, the pleasurable feelings associated with alcohol use go away and the person with alcohol use disorder will engage in drinking to prevent withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms can be quite unpleasant and even dangerous.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism  defines one standard drink as any one of these:
- 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of regular beer about 5 percent alcohol
- 8 to 9 ounces (237 to 266 milliliters) of malt liquor about 7 percent alcohol
- 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of unfortified wine about 12 percent alcohol
- 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) of 80-proof hard liquor about 40 percent alcohol
Risk Factors of Alcoholism
Although the exact cause of alcohol use disorder is unknown, there are certain factors that may increase your risk of developing this disease. However, alcohol use disorder occurs more frequently in the 20s and 30s, though it can start at any age. Drinking too much on a regular basis for an extended period or binge drinking on a regular basis can lead to alcohol-related problems or alcohol use disorder. Known risk factors include having:
- More than 5 drinks per day at least once a week binge drinking
- More than 15 drinks per week if you’re male
- A mental health problem, such as depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia
- M ore than 12 drinks per week if you’re female
- A parent with alcohol use disorder
You may also be at a greater risk for alcohol use disorder if you are a young adult experiencing, peer pressure, experience a high level of stress, have low self-esteem, have a close relative with alcohol use disorder, live in a family or culture where alcohol use is common and accepted. Other Factors include:
- Starting at an early age – People who begin drinking.
- Family history – This may be influenced by genetic factors.
- Depression and other mental health problems. It’s common for people with a mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia or bipolar disorder to have problems with alcohol or other substances.
- History of trauma – People with a history of emotional or other trauma are at increased risk of alcohol use disorder.
- Having bariatric surgery – Some research studies indicate that having bariatric surgery may increase the risk of developing alcohol use disorder.
- Social and cultural factors – Having friends or a close partner who drinks regularly could increase your risk of alcohol use disorder.
Complications from Alcoholism
In some people, the initial reaction may be stimulation. But as you continue to drink, you become sedated. Too much alcohol affects your speech, muscle coordination, and vital centers of your brain. A heavy drinking binge may even cause a life-threatening coma or death. In short, alcohol depresses your central nervous system. This is of particular concern when you’re taking certain medications that also depress the brain’s function.
About your Safety
Excessive drinking can reduce your judgment skills and lower inhibitions, leading to poor choices and dangerous situations or behaviors, including:
- Motor vehicle accidents and other types of accidental injury, such as drowning
- Relationship problems
- Poor performance at work or school
- Increased likelihood of committing violent crimes or being the victim of a crime
- Legal problems or problems with employment or finances
- Problems with other substance use
- Engaging in risky, unprotected sex, or experiencing sexual abuse or date rape
- Increased risk of attempted or completed suicide
About your Health
Drinking too much alcohol on a single occasion or over time can cause health problems, including:
- Liver disease. Heavy drinking can cause increased fat in the liver as known as hepatic steatosis, inflammation of the liver as known as alcoholic hepatitis, and over time, irreversible destruction and scarring of liver tissue as known as cirrhosis.
- Digestive problems. It can interfere with absorption of B vitamins and other nutrients. Heavy drinking can damage your pancreas or lead to inflammation of the pancreas as known as pancreatitis.
- Heart problems. Excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure and increases your risk of an enlarged heart, heart failure or stroke.
- Diabetes complications. This is dangerous if you have diabetes and are already taking insulin to lower your blood sugar level.
- Sexual function and menstruation issues. Excessive drinking can cause erectile dysfunction in men. In women, it can interrupt menstruation.
- Eye problems. Over time, heavy drinking can cause involuntary rapid eye movement known as nystagmus as well as weakness and paralysis of your eye muscles due to a deficiency of vitamin B-1 thiamin.
- Birth defects. It may also cause fetal alcohol syndrome, resulting in giving birth to a child who has physical and developmental problems that last a lifetime.
- Bone damage. This bone loss can lead to thinning bones (osteoporosis) and an increased risk of fractures. Alcohol can also damage bone marrow, which makes blood cells.
- Neurological complications. Excessive drinking can affect your nervous system, causing numbness and pain in your hands and feet, disordered thinking, dementia, and short-term memory loss.
- Weakened immune system. Excessive alcohol use can make it harder for your body to resist disease, increasing your risk of various illnesses, especially pneumonia.
- Increased risk of cancer. Long-term excessive alcohol use has been linked to a higher risk of many cancers, including mouth, throat, liver, esophagus, colon, and breast cancers.
- Medication and alcohol interactions. Drinking while taking these medications can either increase or decrease their effectiveness, or make them dangerous.
Early intervention can prevent alcohol-related problems in teens. Be alert to signs and symptoms that may indicate a problem with alcohol:
- Loss of interest in activities and hobbies and in personal appearance
- Red eyes, slurred speech, problems with coordination and memory lapses
- Difficulties or changes in relationships with friends, such as joining a new crowd
- Declining grades and problems in school
- Frequent mood changes and defensive behavior
How to Prevent?
- Set a good example with your own alcohol use.
- Talk openly with your friends, spend quality time together and become actively involved with your family.
- Let yourself know what behavior you expect.
You can prevent alcohol use disorder by limiting your alcohol intake. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, women shouldn’t drink more than one drink per day, and men shouldn’t drink more than two drinks per day. See your doctor if you begin to engage in behaviors that are signs of an alcohol use disorder, or if you think that you may have a problem with alcohol.
Doctors or healthcare providers can diagnose alcohol use disorder. They’ll do a physical exam and ask you questions about your drinking habits. Your doctor may ask if you:
- Drive when you’re drunk
- Have missed work or have lost a job as a result of your drinking
- Need more alcohol to feel drunk when you drink
- Have experienced blackouts as a result of your drinking
- Have tried to cut back on your drinking but couldn’t
Your doctor may also use a questionnaire to assess alcohol use disorder to help diagnose your condition. Typically, a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder doesn’t require any other type of diagnostic test. There’s a chance your doctor may order blood work to check your liver function if you show signs or symptoms of liver disease. Alcohol use disorder can cause serious and lasting damage to your liver. Your liver is responsible for removing toxins from your blood. When you drink too much, your liver has a harder time filtering the alcohol and other toxins from your bloodstream. This can lead to liver disease and other complications.
Treatment for alcohol use disorder varies, but each method is meant to help you stop drinking altogether. This is called abstinence. Treatment may occur in stages and can include the following:
- Detoxification or withdrawal to rid your body of alcohol.
- Rehabilitation to learn new coping skills and behaviors.
- Counseling to address emotional problems that may cause you to drink.
- Support groups, such as 12-step programs.
- Medical treatment for health problems associated with alcohol use disorder.
- Medications to help control addiction.
There are a couple of different medications that may help with alcohol use disorder and may include:
First. Naltrexone ReVia is used only after someone has detoxed from alcohol. This type of drug works by blocking certain receptors in the brain that are associated with the high alcoholic high. This is a combination with counseling, which may help decrease a person’s craving for alcohol.
Second. Acamprosate is a medication that can help reestablish the brain’s original chemical state before alcohol dependence. This drug should also be combined with therapy.
Lastly. Disulfiram Antabuse is a drug that causes physical discomfort such as nausea, vomiting, and headaches any time the person consumes alcohol.
At We Level Up Treatment Center, we provide world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. We work as an integrated team providing Alcoholism Treatment for successful recovery. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.
Your call is private and confidential and there is never any obligation.
 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (nih.gov)