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Alcoholism is also referred to by its clinical term, alcohol use disorder (AUD). It is described as a medical condition characterized by an inability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.
Alcohol use disorder is broken up into 3 main categories: mild, moderate, and severe. Each category has many different symptoms which can cause negative side effects. All three categories could most likely also benefit from a treatment program.
There are many risk factors that can increase alcohol abuse. Dependency can be developed over time, regardless of the reason for the first drink. Alcohol abuse can be triggered by using drinking as a coping mechanism for a difficult life event, for example.
While people may drink for many different reasons, there are a few common reasons:
Trauma can manifest in many ways in our mental and physical health. This is why unresolved trauma is one of the most common reasons people use drinking alcohol as a coping mechanism.
Not having the proper tools to handle a difficult life event, such as a divorce, a death, or even a job loss, can be a reason many people turn to alcohol. Drinking away the feelings can become a form of escapism to ease the grief they are feeling.
Drinking socially is widely accepted throughout our country as a group pastime. Some people feel they have a lack of connection with other people, so they drink to relieve the pressure they feel to engage in a social situation. Other times, in a social setting drinking, could be used more for fun and to join in with peers.
Whether it is diagnosed or undiagnosed, mental illnesses such as depression, for example, can make drinking alcohol very tempting. The euphoria from the first couple of drinks can be enough to make the person forget they are depressed.
Dealing with negative emotions such as guilt or shame can lead a person to drink with the belief that once they are drunk, those feelings will go away. However, because alcohol is a depressant, it typically has rebound effects which make those feelings worse once they are sober again.
Not only are there different levels of an alcohol use disorder, but there are also different types of drinking and drinking patterns. It’s important to know these patterns so someone can tell when a pattern becomes a drinking habit.
Social drinkers are the most common type of drinkers. They are able to control their drinking with no issues. Social drinkers may drink at gatherings, parties, or other social situations, but not in excess. They may even drink at home alone, but not regularly. Social drinkers are also considered to be partaking in moderate drinking.
Binge drinkers are people who partake in excessive drinking. This means consuming 5 or more drinks on an occasion for men or 4 or more drinks on an occasion for women. Most people who binge drink do not have a severe alcohol use disorder but may show signs of one.
Heavy drinking for men is considered consuming more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks per week. For women, consuming more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 drinks per week. Heavy drinkers may have an alcohol use disorder and may show signs of alcohol dependence.
Alcohol addiction includes a strong need or urges to use alcohol. People suffering from alcohol addiction may have problems controlling their drinking, continue to drink even when it causes problems, or have withdrawal symptoms when they rapidly decrease or stop drinking.
Alcohol abuse and Alcoholism are very similar, but the difference can be found in the physical dependence on alcohol, and other criteria laid out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5).
Some examples of the criteria that differentiate alcohol abuse and alcoholism (AUD) are:
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Several things can increase a person’s risk of becoming addicted to a substance, even if their initial intent is only social or recreational use. There are 5 main risk factors for developing an alcohol use disorder. They are the duration of use, age of first use, environmental and social factors, heredity, and mental health.
Duration of use refers to the length of time someone has been consistently drinking. The longer the duration, the higher the risk.
Age may play a large role in forming an addiction. If the brain is exposed to alcohol at an early age, while crucial development is still taking place, it is easier for the alcohol to reroute the brain’s functioning. This makes them much more likely to depend on the substance, even if it doesn’t occur until later in life.
Environmental factors like stress and exposure to violence can also increase the risk of developing an addiction, especially if the exposure happened in the developmental years of someone’s life. If someone lives in a violent or unpredictable environment, they may have a high risk of developing unhealthy coping mechanisms that could lead to an addiction.
Social factors such as peer pressure and social isolation can also contribute to addiction. If someone feels like they don’t fit in or are feeling lonely, they may be more likely to try drugs or alcohol.
A family history, or heredity, is one of the most common risk factors for developing an addiction. This is because of the inherited genetics involving how the brain reacts to a substance. When someone’s parents enjoy the feeling of being high, their brain may interpret alcohol in the same way their parents did.
Pre-existing mental health conditions can also increase someone’s risk of addiction. If someone suffers from depression, anxiety, or even PTSD, they are more likely to try alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with their feelings.
There are many signs that could be a warning someone is suffering from an alcohol use disorder. Because AUD is a very personal disease, the signs will be different for everyone, but there are a few commonalities to look for.
Getting help for an addiction is the only way to truly start the road to recovery. There are many different types of treatment that have been proven successful for many types of alcohol use disorders. Typically, starting a detox program, followed by inpatient treatment and then an aftercare plan will set someone on the right path to a long-lasting recovery from alcohol addiction.
Starting treatment for alcoholism can be done by calling us at Agape Detox Center. We have admissions coordinators waiting to answer any questions you may have, and help you to develop a plan to become the healthiest you can be.