How To Recognize The Warning Signs Of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) includes chronic alcohol abuse, alcohol addiction, and alcohol dependence. Its severity can vary from person to person, but most warning signs of AUD center around the inability to control the amount of alcohol you drink.
Signs of alcohol use disorder may include consistent heavy drinking, constantly thinking about alcohol, and drinking taking a higher priority than other parts of your life.
It can be difficult to hide an AUD once symptoms set in. Recognizing signs in a family member or loved one can be crucial in getting them the help they need.
Warning Signs Of AUD
If someone close to you is struggling with a drinking problem, they may attempt to hide it. They may not even be aware that they have a problem themselves. The following signs can tell you of a potential AUD in a loved one:
- negative consequences in other parts of their life (work issues, relationship troubles, and legal problems)
- an inability to stop drinking once they start
- spending a lot of time talking or thinking about alcohol
- needing more drinks to get the same effects of alcohol
- trying and failing to quit drinking
- experiencing unpleasant symptoms when they try to quit
Moderate Vs. Heavy Drinking
For people who drink, health professionals recommend moderate drinking to minimize health risks. Moderate drinking is consuming 2 standard drinks per day for men, or 1 standard drink per day for women, which translates to about 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
Moderate drinking becomes heavy drinking if more than 15 drinks are consumed per week for men, or more than 8 drinks per week for women. Heavy drinking has more health risks than moderate drinking, most notably a higher risk of an alcohol use disorder.
Recognize The Types Of AUDs
Many forms of alcohol abuse are also types of AUDs. Not all forms of AUDs are severe, but some have serious signs that can be spotted.
The line between excessive drinking and an addictive alcohol problem likely occurs when the negative effects of alcohol outweigh the positives.
People with an addiction keep drinking despite the damage drinking alcohol causes, likely because they feel like they have to.
Alcohol addiction is a mental health disorder, while alcohol dependence is a physical health problem. People with an alcohol addiction may have a hard time hiding chronic drinking habits from others.
If you need alcohol for your body to function properly, you are likely physically dependent on alcohol. Alcohol dependence means you need a drink just to get through the day.
The amount of time it takes for someone to form an alcohol dependence depends on many factors. Consistent heavy drinking is one way to put yourself at risk for dependency.
Dependence on alcohol can involve the daily use of alcohol and drinking large amounts to get drunk.
Alcohol dependence is also linked to visible long-term health effects, such as:
- high blood pressure
- liver cirrhosis
- higher risk for various cancers
- a weakened immune system
- alcohol-induced pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas)
Alcohol withdrawal happens after you already have an alcohol dependence. Once a person is dependent on alcohol, they will likely experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit all at once.
Alcohol withdrawal can potentially be life-threatening, especially if it is not monitored properly. Symptoms that you can spot in a loved one include:
- increased heart rate
- increased pain sensitivity
People who go through alcohol treatment programs to manage their withdrawal may end up relapsing. Effective addiction treatment may involve teaching long-term skills to prevent a future relapse.
Is Binge Drinking A Type Of AUD?
Binge drinking is defined as consuming 4 or 5 drinks in one sitting. Binge drinking can cause many dangerous side effects, such as alcohol poisoning, violent behavior, blackouts, and car crashes.
It is a potentially life-threatening form of alcohol consumption but is not a form of AUD on its own. About 90% of people who binge drink do not meet the requirements for an alcohol use disorder.
Binge drinking may be paired with other poor drinking habits to earn an AUD diagnosis, but is usually recognized and treated as a separate health issue.
Treatment Options For Alcohol Use Disorder
Once you recognize the signs of an AUD, finding treatment may be the next step. Mild AUDs may not always need treatment, but severe AUDs can benefit from a dedicated alcohol treatment program.
Treating an alcohol use disorder can restore your loved ones’ health and relationships. To find the best treatment plans and treatment facilities available, talk to your healthcare provider or contact us today.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Excessive Alcohol Use | CDC
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Drinking too much alcohol can harm your health.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder
PubMed Central - Alcohol Dependence, Withdrawal, and Relapse - NCBI - NIH
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