Alcohol Use Disorder: Signs, Effects, and Treatment Options
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is the umbrella term for those who have trouble with drinking. It includes two conditions, alcohol use/abuse and alcohol dependence or alcoholism. Alcohol use disorder is an unhealthy pattern of drinking that results in negative consequences for the individual continuously. Alcohol dependence is when someone continues to drink despite negative consequences as well as efforts to reduce or stop drinking; it’s also known as alcoholism.
AUD is a serious condition that can have devastating effects if left untreated. It can also be managed with support from friends and family members, treatment programs, self-help groups, and other interventions such as medications or alternative therapies, including alcohol detox in Richmond VA. Recovery begins with recognizing that you have a problem and seeking help. We’ve put together this guide for Alcohol Use Disorder so you can recognize it in yourself or others and seek help sooner rather than later.
Signs, and Effects
Alcoholism and AUD can have similar signs and symptoms. However, alcohol dependence produces more immediate consequences, whereas those related to AUD are more long-term.
People who abuse alcohol may not see or feel the signs, but it can cause many physical health issues. Some of the most common physical signs and symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder include:
- Liver damage – The liver is one of the most common organs that suffer negative consequences from alcohol abuse. It also happens to be one of the few organs that can regenerate, but the process can take years. The more you damage your liver now, the more you increase your risk of developing liver disease in the future.
- Premature aging – The effects of alcohol on the skin are very noticeable, as it can cause dehydration, redness, and wrinkles.
- Cardiovascular problems – Whether or not you have high blood pressure, excessive drinking can lead to problems with your heart, including irregular heart rhythms, high blood pressure, and cardiac arrest.
- Gastrointestinal problems – Excessive alcohol use can cause digestive issues like nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
- Pancreatitis – This condition occurs when your pancreas becomes inflamed.
- Weight gain or weight loss – Many people who abuse alcohol may exhibit significant weight changes, either gaining weight (usually because of the calories in alcohol) or losing weight (because of a reduction in eating and general bodily functions).
- Infectious diseases – Because you are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors when you are drunk, you are also more likely to get or transmit infectious diseases.
Alcohol Use Disorder can cause psychological issues such as:
- Mood swings – Drinking regularly can change the way your brain releases dopamine, a chemical involved in mood regulation. Abruptly stopping drinking can cause painful mood swings as your brain re-regulates itself.
- Anxiety – Excessive drinking can worsen anxiety, and stopping can cause anxiety to flare up.
- Sleep disorders – Drinking disrupts your sleep patterns and can lead to insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and other sleep disorders.
- Suicidal thoughts – Drinking raises your risk of suicidal thoughts, and stopping can lower your risk.
Alcohol Use Disorder can cause behavioral issues such as:
- Increased risk of injury – Excessive drinking increases your risk of injury because you are less able to react quickly or follow through with good judgment.
- Risky sexual behaviors – Alcohol impairs your judgment and impulse control, which can lead to risky sexual behaviors.
- Legal problems – Excessive drinking increases the likelihood that you will get into legal trouble, such as being charged with a DUI or violating a restraining order.
- Financial problems – Excessive drinking can cause you to lose your job or make bad financial decisions, such as mismanaging your finances or running up credit card debt.
- Social isolation – Alcohol abuse can cause you to withdraw from family and friends, which can exacerbate existing issues and lead to additional problems.
There are a variety of treatment options available for people who experience AUD. Treatments are generally tailored to the individual, considering the severity of their condition and other factors such as age and co-occurring disorders. The following are some common treatment options:
Residential treatment or Inpatient Programs: These programs require a person stays at a recovery house or treatment facility for a specified period. It is recommended for those who have alcohol use disorder and related disorders such as anxiety, depression, or other substance abuse.
Intensive outpatient treatment: Intensive outpatient treatment occurs over a long period but in a less structured setting than a residential or inpatient facility. It is usually recommended for people who do not require a higher level of care but who might have other issues to work through, such as depression or anxiety.
Support groups: Support groups provide people with a safe space in which to discuss their experiences and receive support from others who have dealt with the same challenges.
Medication: A few medications are useful in the treatment of alcohol use disorder, although they are not generally the first-line treatment.
Alternative therapies: These might include acupuncture, guided meditation, yoga, and other modalities.
What to Expect
The initial step in treating alcoholism is detoxification, and it can also be the most difficult. Withdrawal symptoms may be severe within the first few days after quitting drinking. Because of this, the alcohol detox phase should only be carried out with professional medical care. Depending on the severity, dosage, and length of the alcohol use medications may be prescribed by an addictionologist doctor. After detoxification, you’ll be able to move forward with other types of therapy and treatment. This allows you to focus on getting and stay sober.
When To Seek Help
In case you’re living with alcohol abuse or alcoholism, you’re likely already experiencing some negative consequences in your life. If you’re not, it may be a sign that you’re in denial about the severity of your condition. If you notice signs of Alcohol Use Disorder in yourself or someone you love, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.
If you have been abusing alcohol, you can seek help from The McShin Foundation. Many people who have struggled with alcohol use, abuse, and dependence in the past are now thriving in recovery thanks to the support and tools they have gained through our programs. There is hope for you and your loved ones. With our help and support, you can recover from alcohol use disorder and live a healthier and happier life. Don’t wait, give us a call at 804-249-1845 and get help today.