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How does alcohol use disorder develop?

The condition of alcohol use disorder is sometimes referred to as alcoholism. In addition to causing problems, emotional distress, or physical harm, it also involves heavy or frequent alcohol consumption. Recovery can be achieved with the combination of medications, behavioural therapy, and support.

The term alcohol use disorder refers to a medical condition in which alcohol is used frequently or heavily. Despite problems, emotional distress, or physical harm to themselves or others, people with alcohol use disorder can't stop drinking.

What is the status of alcohol use disorder?

A medical condition called alcohol use disorder exists. The disease affects the brain and requires medical and psychological treatment.

It is possible to have a mild, moderate, or severe alcohol use disorder. A person with it can develop it quickly or over a long period of time. The condition is also known as alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, or alcohol abuse.

How can drinking too much affect me?

Drinking too much alcohol can damage your health. It’s associated with:

  • Dementia and brain damage
  • Suicide, depression, and despair
  • Breast cancer, liver cancer, colon cancer, and mouth cancer
  • The foetal alcohol syndrome (if the foetus is exposed to alcohol before birth)
  • Injuries (such as fractures or drownings) and accidents (such as falls or burns)
  • Problems with the liver, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis, and fatty liver
  • Blackouts, assaults, DUIs and even homicide

 Frequent or heavy drinking can also lead to personal problems, such as trouble with:

  • Money
  • Personal relationships
  • Work

What are the symptoms of alcohol use disorder?

 Signs of alcohol use disorder include:

  • Blacking out or not remembering things that happened
  • Continuing to drink even if it causes distress or harm to you or others
  • Drinking more or longer than you planned
  • Feeling irritable or cranky when you’re not drinking
  • Frequent hangovers
  • Getting into dangerous situations when you’re drinking (for example, driving, having unsafe sex or falling)
  • Giving up activities so you can drink
  • Having cravings for alcohol
  • Having repeated problems with work, school, relationships or the law because of drinking
  • Needing to drink more and more to get the same effect
  • Not being able to stop drinking once you’ve started
  • Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from drinking
  • Wanting to cut back but not being able to
  • Obsessing over alcohol

A person who is alcohol dependent also might experience symptoms of withdrawal when they cut back or stop drinking, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Nausea, dry heaves
  • Racing heart
  • Restlessness
  • Shakiness
  • Sweating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Seizures
  • Seeing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
  • Delirium tremens
  • Coma and death

What are the stages of alcohol use disorder?

Alcohol use that turns into a use disorder develops in stages.

 At-risk stage: This is when you drink socially or drink to relieve stress or to feel better. You may start to develop a tolerance for alcohol.

Early alcohol use disorder: In this stage, you have progressed to blackouts, drinking alone or in secret and thinking about alcohol a lot.

Mid-stage alcohol use disorder: Your alcohol use is now out of control and causes problems with daily life (work, family, financial, physical and mental health). Organ damage can be seen on lab tests and scans.

End-stage alcohol use disorder: Drinking is now the main focus of your life, to the exclusion of food, intimacy, health and happiness. Despair, complications of organ damage and death are now close.

How is alcohol use disorder diagnosed?

There’s no single lab test for alcohol use disorder. Diagnosis is based on a conversation with your healthcare provider. The diagnosis is made when drinking interferes with your life or affects your health.

How is alcohol use disorder treated?

Treatment may include a combination of:

Behavioural therapies: Counselling, or talk therapy, with a healthcare provider like a psychologist or mental health counsellor can teach you ways to change your behaviour. Motivational, cognitive-behavioural, contingency and 12-step facilitation are the most commonly used techniques.

Medications: As per the suggestions by the Neurologists

Support groups: Group meetings with other alcoholics can help you stay sober. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings are usually free and are available in most communities. 

Your treatment setting will depend on your stage of recovery and the severity of your illness. You may need inpatient medical (hospital), residential rehabilitation (rehab), outpatient intensive therapy or outpatient maintenance.