Alcohol Use Disorder
The availability of booze in the US is hard to overlook. Beer sections at the supermarket are a cornucopia of brews. Same with wine. There’s a liquor store walking distance from almost every residence. There are alcohol wholesale markets as big and plentiful as Costco (who stock their own selection of tipples). To many who shop at these stores and drink in moderation, abstaining from alcohol is simple.
Sadly, that is not the case for the roughly 16 million Americans with alcohol use disorder (AUD).
One might ask, “whats the deal with this terminology? Isn’t it actually called alcoholism?” There’s some back and forth about what AUD is versus “alcoholism” as most people would call it. For some it has to do with severity. Wikipedia seems to imply they are one and the same. Semantics aside, they share the theme of drinking too much. In this post we’ll refer to it as the medically accepted “AUD.”
Sufferers of AUD can not control the frequency or amount they drink even in the face of health repercussions. They are, for all intents and purposes, alcohol addicts. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) provides a list of 11 symptoms pointing towards AUD. If two are met within the same year, a doctor would give a positive diagnosis.
Examples of items on the list include the queries:
“Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than intended?”
“Continued to drink even though it was causing problems with your family and friends?”
“Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having a memory blackout?”
When alcohol is consumed in excess one experiences impaired judgment, lack of motor control, slurred speech, nausea, and other troublesome effects – not to mention the well known consequences of drunk driving.
If consumed in severe excess it can result in blackouts (forgetting what one did while drunk), potential injuries from falling down or passing out, and even coma or death from alcohol poisoning. Prolonged periods of alcohol abuse can have detrimental effects on the liver, kidneys, and other vital organs.
A physical dependance on alcohol can be developed later resulting in withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the severity of withdrawals one might experience things like anxiety, tremors, hallucinations, nausea and vomiting, or even seizures.
People should get help as soon as possible once the symptoms of AUD are recognized in themselves or a loved one. Many respond well to treatment but only 10% of sufferers receive it.
Meeting with a mental health professional is imperative since AUD is a mental disorder. As with other kinds of substance abuse, it often comes as part of a dual diagnosis with another psychological disorder like anxiety or depression. Medical management and various psychotherapies are often employed to treat AUD.
Mayo Clinic. (2018, July). Alcohol use disorder. Retrieved May 17, 2019, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20369243
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol Use Disorder. Retrieved May 20, 2019 from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders
Wikipedia contributors. (2019, May 11). Alcoholism. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 02:55, May 24, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Alcoholism&oldid=896550160