Across the United States, outside of tobacco, people abuse alcohol more than any other drug or intoxicant. Most often, individuals misconceive that it's completely safe because of its legality and regulations for those of age to consume. There is some truth to these assumptions, but that is not the entire story. Many side effects include short-term and long-term consequences that can lead to many problems if left untreated.
Alcohol Misuse: Severe Drinking
Severe or excessive drinking includes heavy alcohol consumption and binge drinking. Among women, four or more drinks in a single sitting are considered binge drinking, but five or more drinks constitute binge drinking among males.
Excessive drinking may also relate to one’s drinking and driving a vehicle, taking certain prescribed medications, or during a woman’s pregnancy.
Preventing more severe problems with alcohol may be as straightforward as first identifying and correcting problematic drinking habits.
Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence were terms once widely used to diagnose a person’s level of alcohol use. It used to be that alcohol abuse referred to the continued use of alcohol despite repeated harmful effects. Providers used the term alcohol dependence to indicate alcoholism or alcohol addiction, which described the chronic condition of a person who went through withdrawal when not drinking or had developed a tolerance for the amount they could consume.
Both terms have diagnostically been replaced in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) with alcohol use disorder (AUD). A doctor will diagnose a person with AUD based on a spectrum. Alcohol use disorder can be mild, moderate, or severe, with the most acute manifestations of the condition still colloquially referenced as “alcoholism” or “alcohol addiction” by some professionals.
AUD is a chronic condition with identifiable symptoms. A healthcare provider may ask the following questions, which by providing at least three affirmative responses, could indicate the development of AUD if they occurred within the last 12 months:
- Was there a moment when you drank more or longer than you planned?
- How often have you attempted to moderate or quit drinking but been unsuccessful?
- Have you spent a significant amount of time drinking? Or are you now ill or recovering from additional health consequences?
- How intense were your cravings for an alcoholic beverage?
- Did you often find yourself unable to take care of your house or family because of your drinking or aftereffects from alcohol? Or did it create issues at work? Or maybe you’re having problems at school?
- Do you continue to use alcohol even though it is now producing friction in your social circle?
- Have you given up or cut down on things that were meaningful to you or brought joy to you so you can drink more?
- While intoxicated, do you often engage in activities that enhance your risk of injury (i.e., driving, swimming, using equipment, wandering in a risky location, or engaging in unprotected sex)?
- Although you were experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety due to your drinking, did you persist in doing so? Or maybe after a lapse in consciousness?
- Do you have to drink more than you used to obtain the desired effect? Alternatively, have you noticed that your regular number of drinks is no longer as adequate as it used to be?
- After drinking, did you experience withdrawal symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, shakiness, a racing heart, or a seizure when the effects of the alcohol began to wear off? Did you see or hear things that weren’t there, or did you feel them?
It Does Not Matter How Slowly You Go As Long As You Do Not Stop.
Effects of Alcohol Use Disorder
Problematic alcohol usage may damage family and social connections and lead to psychological difficulties, violence, hostility, and legal troubles. The likelihood of accidents caused by automobiles falls, and fires increase when people drink.
Drinking alcohol increases one’s risk of harm, but it also starts to climb at very modest levels of alcohol intake, which is concerning. Alcohol abuse may also contribute to unsafe sex practices resulting in an increased prevalence of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and other sexually transmitted illnesses.
Among the most severe side effects of alcohol abuse are the following:
- Compromised immune system
- Inflammatory GI tract
- Coronary heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Liver cirrhosis
Factors That May Contribute to Alcohol Use Disorder
Both genetics and the environment have a role in developing alcohol use disorder Dependency tends to run in families. Therefore, people with a history of it are more likely to develop it themselves. In addition, researchers have found genes that increase people’s propensity to alcohol dependence; nevertheless, inherited effects alone do not indicate a future of AUD.
Environmental factors also have a significant influence. It is possible to effectively avoid alcohol use disorder in the child of a parent who has AUD by educating the child, self-monitoring their behavior, and providing them with a supportive social network. Even if a person has no genetic predisposition to addiction, neurochemical changes in the brain caused by chronic alcohol consumption may lead to neurological substance dependency.
People who begin drinking alcohol before age 15 are six times more likely to become dependent on alcohol than those who start drinking after 21. Several things may serve to deter or delay the use of alcohol. When it comes to drinking, a teen’s peers primarily influence their attitudes and habits, including whether their peers embrace or reject the activity.
Alcohol Addiction: Early Detection and Treatment
It is possible to minimize the adverse outcomes and associated social and economic costs of alcoholism by preventing its onset and implementing early intervention measures.
A screening process is used to identify those at risk for alcohol abuse and those who are showing signs of an alcohol use disorder. Simple self-administered questionnaires and in-depth interviews conducted by clinicians are only a few examples of screening methods. So that providers can craft an effective plan, it is also required to do a mental health screening for co-occurring disorders.
If You Feel That You or a Loved One Has a Problem with Alcohol, Contact us now!
Comprehensive assessments provide a detailed picture of a person's alcohol problem. Situational characteristics, capabilities, and personal limits all play a role in developing effective solutions. Patients with mild or moderate alcohol issues may benefit the most from short-term therapies that include counseling and education sessions to provide direction and reinforce natural strengths. Primary care physicians often offer brief treatments to reduce alcohol usage and the risk of developing alcohol use disorder.
Patients with AUD should not be treated with short-term therapy. Those who fall into this group need a more thorough approach to treating their addiction, which may include outpatient or inpatient medical and mental health services and behavioral and pharmaceutical interventions.
If you feel that you or a loved one has a problem with alcohol, contact us now. Our professionals are ready to answer any questions and can get you started on recovery. Wish Recovery can help you with your alcohol addiction treatment and rehabilitation needs, so don’t hesitate to call today.