Of all addictions, alcohol dependence tends to be the most underestimated.
After all, don't we all drink alcohol to socialize? Many people can't imagine finishing the day without a glass of wine or beer. Does that make them alcoholics?
Not necessarily, but there's a thin line between casual drinking and alcohol abuse. And once you or your loved one crosses that line, turning back won't be easy.
If you suspect you or a person close to you is in a pattern of substance abuse, acting now is the best way to prevent the disease from fully developing.
Untreated alcohol use disorder (AUD) can lead to severe health problems. It will also have a disastrous impact on one's family, social, and work life. However, if you believe you or your loved one might need help, you must first know as much as possible about this devastating disease.
This article will answer what alcohol use disorder is and its symptoms. We'll also discuss the effects this disease might have on one's life, as well as the unhealthy drinking patterns and risk factors to look at.
Finally, we'll explain how to treat AUD and how Miracles Asia can help you stop drinking and get your life back.
What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?
Alcohol use disorder, also referred to as alcoholism or alcohol addiction, is a chronic disease that causes an intense craving to drink alcohol and not being able to stop drinking.
The condition even alters brain function, causing people with alcohol addiction not to control their actions. People with AUD often continue drinking even if they are aware of its disastrous impact on their social and family life, physical and mental health, and work.
What's important to note is that numerous factors can cause alcohol problems. Multiple factors can contribute to alcohol dependence, whether they are psychological, genetic, or behavioral.
Symptoms can also vary from one person and another. In most cases, alcohol addiction is reflected in a person binge drinking and not being able to stay sober.
People with AUD also experience heavy alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Unhealthy Drinking Patterns
Heavy drinking can but doesn't have to develop into full alcohol dependence. However, people who drink excessively are at higher risk of developing numerous health conditions, including liver disease, specific types of cancer, and heart problems.
Excessive drinking can also damage the brain, often leading to severe mental health consequences, such as depression or sleep disorders.
The key is understanding where moderate drinking ends and develops into an unhealthy drinking pattern. To answer that, we must first answer what too much alcohol means.
In essence, if excessive alcohol consumption starts to affect one's social life, health, and mental well-being, it means the person might be suffering from substance abuse.
Alcohol drinking patterns include:
- Moderate Drinking
Moderate alcohol drinking is considered to be one standard drink a day for women and two standard drinks a day for men.
- Heavy Drinking
If excessive alcohol use starts to interfere with one's health, it's called at-risk drinking or heavy drinking. People who drink heavily consume more than three drinks a day for women and four drinks a day for men.
- Binge Drinking
Binge drinking is defined by the amount of alcohol a person drinks over 2-3 hours. For women, this limit four or more drinks every 2-3 hours, whereas for men, it's five or more drinks every 2-3 hours. Binge drinking is often followed by violent or reckless behavior and an increased risk of developing health and mental disorders.
As said, heavy or binge drink patterns don't always develop into alcohol use disorder. People who follow such drinking habits are, however, at much higher risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.
Another pattern that can can lead to increased health risks is if the individual begins mixing drugs and alcohol without understanding how doing so can accelerate their negative behaviors & further mask the underlying effects of their drinking problems.
What Is Considered a Standard Drink?
We said that drinking patterns are defined by the number of standard alcoholic beverages men or women drink during a specified period. But what is a standard drink?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines a standard drink as either:
12 ounces (355 milliliters) of regular 5% beer;
8-9 ounces (237 to 266 milliliters) of malt liquor;
5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine;
1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) of distilled spirits or hard liquor (over 40%).
Alcohol Use Disorder Symptoms
Alcohol addiction can be very difficult to diagnose. The exact symptoms can vary between one person or another, and given how widely used alcohol is, it's an integral part of many people's lives.
How to recognize whether a person has an alcohol use disorder?
The typical signs of alcohol addiction include:
Drinking alcohol in greater quantities and more frequently;
Not being able to stop or reduce alcohol use;
Increased alcohol tolerance and lack of common hangover symptoms;
Feeling the constant urge to consume alcohol;
Continuing to drink even if it starts affecting one's health, relationship, social life, work, and family relations;
Giving up or reducing social and family activities, hobbies, or work duties to use alcohol;
Experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shaking, etc.;
Using alcohol in potentially dangerous situations, for example, driving, swimming, riding a bike, hiking, etc.
The more symptoms one shows, the more severe their alcohol problem is. If a person shows 2-3 symptoms of AUD, their condition is considered mild. 4-5 signs indicate a moderate AUD, whereas six or more symptoms mean the disease is severe.
Alcohol Abuse Health Risks & Effects
Alcohol use disorder can cause numerous short and long-term health risks. Indeed, the substance has been linked to over 200 health conditions and disorders. Among the most severe health effects associated with alcohol abuse and alcoholism we can include:
Liver disease, such as liver cirrhosis;
Increased risk of cancer;
Decreased functionality of the immune system;
What's worse, alcohol use disorder doesn't only negatively affect the person abusing, but their close ones as well. Heavy drinking often leads to abuse and violence. It's also associated with an increased risk of suicide and homicide.
Also, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drunk drivers take 28 lives each year in the US alone.
What's also vital to note here is that the effects of alcohol use disorder only become more severe as the disease progresses. Therefore, it's crucial to react as fast as possible when you suspect your loved one or yourself is overusing alcohol
Alcohol Addiction Risk Factors
Multiple factors often cause alcoholism. And while scientists continue to monitor whether there's a pattern involved, the reality is that anyone can develop alcoholism, with all psychological, behavioral, and genetic factors playing their part. Common risk factors associated with alcohol use disorder include:
A family history of alcohol and substance abuse;
Heavy alcohol use and binge drink patterns;
History of childhood abuse;
The availability of alcohol;
Social pressure from friends and the need for approval (e.g., drinking at parties or getaways);
Having mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder;
Drinking before reaching the legal drinking age.
How to Treat Alcohol Use Disorder?
Treating alcohol use disorder can be a very challenging process. However, the sooner it begins, the higher the chances of curing the disease.
For that, the person must stop drinking and get sober. That can't be pushed, though.
For example, if you believe your close friend or a family member abuses alcohol, you can't make them stop using it. It has to be their decision to start the treatment.
Your job is to show your loved one how abusing alcohol affects their lives and the lives of those around them.
Another vital thing to understand is that treating alcoholism is not a one-time thing. It requires a lifetime commitment. In fact, many claims that alcohol use disorder is never fully cured, even going as far as referring to themselves as non-drinking alcoholics.
Withdrawal and Detoxication
The first step toward sobriety is acknowledging the problem and stopping drinking.
On paper, this seems like the easy part, but alcohol withdrawal for a person with AUD can be the most challenging step. That's because it can often bring unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, which, in many cases, can become quite severe.
During the stay at our facility, you or your loved one will be provided with all the tools, resources, and help needed to achieve your withdrawal goals.
These can include heart palpitations, seizures, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, and even hallucinations. The most severe form of alcohol withdrawal is called delirium tremens, which can be fatal without proper treatment and monitoring.
That is why it's recommended to undergo alcohol use disorder treatment in a skilled rehabilitation facility, such as our Miracles Asia residential rehab facility in Thailand.
Counseling and Support Groups
Alcohol use disorder treatment doesn't end with withdrawal. As mentioned, it's a lifetime battle requiring a recovering alcoholic to devote a lot of strength and will toward remaining sober.
That is why many people join support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), where participants help and support each other in their battle with addiction and receive the emotional support they need to deal with their new, sober reality.
Drug Therapy and Nutritional Changes
Treating alcohol addiction is often supported with specific medications. They work by reducing the craving and urge toward drinking, helping the addicted person stay sober.
The three medications approved by the FDA when treating alcohol addiction are:
It works by blocking alcohol from interacting with specific brain receptors, reducing the pleasurable feelings previously associated with alcohol use and decreasing the craving for alcohol.
This drug helps re-balance the brain chemicals disturbed by alcohol, lessening alcohol cravings.
Taking Disulfiram triggers unpleasant symptoms, such as nausea or diarrhea, whenever a person consumes alcohol and, as a result, discourages using it.
Alcohol use disorder treatment will also involve changes to one's dietary guidelines. Maintaining a healthy diet is crucial when recovering from the damage caused by alcohol abuse, such as weight loss or gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, or liver issues.
Get Your Life Back on Track with Miracles Asia
If you suspect you or your loved one might be overusing alcohol, it's vital to start the treatment as soon as possible. Alcohol use disorder is a progressive disease, and its symptoms only become more severe with time. Here's where Miracles Asia
We specialize in alcohol addiction treatment, providing our patients with all the help and support they need during their withdrawal and treatment process.
Our professional and high-end recovery facility is located in Thailand, combining top-drawer rehab services with the luxury of a five-star hotel.
During the alcohol rehab program, you or your loved one will receive top-quality treatment provided by skilled professionals.
Our alcohol abuse treatment program includes drug therapy, counseling sessions, as well as medical and emotional support to help during the safe transition to sobriety.
Get in touch with us today, book your stay, and make the first step to your new, addiction-free life.