Learn about the causes, symptoms, and effects of alcohol use disorder.
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is characterized by the uncontrollable use of alcohol despite physical, mental, and social consequences. The health consequences of alcohol abuse are severe, impacting the brain and body.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that between 2015 and 2019, excessive alcohol use led to more than 140,000 deaths and 3.6 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year in the United States. 1
Alcohol use disorder can also be referred to as alcohol abuse, alcohol dependency, and alcoholism.
The dangers of too much alcohol include increased risk for cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, impaired judgment, memory loss, difficulty walking straight, and other alcohol-induced disorders. In addition, binge drinkers have more significant risks of developing severe injuries such as traumatic brain injury and death due to traffic accidents or drowning while intoxicated.
The reasons for alcohol dependency vary from person to person, but certain factors can increase the risks of developing an addiction. These include genetics, environment, stress, and peer pressure.
Drinking too much can have a wide range of effects on the body and mind. The more alcohol is consumed, the more negative consequences are experienced. The most common alcohol-induced disorders include the following: 2
The following are some causes of alcohol substance use disorder:
Genetic predisposition is one of the causes of alcoholism. Specific genes are associated with a higher likelihood of substance abuse and addiction. For example, a child whose parents had alcohol use disorder is likely to develop it themselves due to their genes.
Early exposure to alcohol and drug use can increase the risk of developing alcohol use disorder later on. In addition, studies show that alcohol abuse is six to twelve times more common in individuals who experienced physical abuse during childhood compared to those who have not. 3
People who suffer from an alcohol disorder often attempt to relieve emotional pain by using alcohol. Getting drunk on alcohol can often reduce the feeling of negative emotions, which return once the alcohol wears off, leading them back to drinking more heavily. This creates a vicious cycle where the individual becomes psychologically dependent on alcohol.
Alcohol use disorder can be traced back to a history of trauma or abuse. This includes experiencing emotional or physical trauma, such as being in a car accident or losing a close relative or friend. Trauma can often lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues, contributing to alcohol addiction problems later on down the road.
If an individual’s parents or sibling abuses alcohol, they may be at greater risk of developing an alcohol use disorder diagnosis. This is due to observing and learning poor drinking habits and forming a warped perception about how they should use alcohol.
Certain individuals who use alcohol may have mental health conditions like depression or anxiety, making them more likely to develop severe alcoholism and vice versa. Individuals with mental health issues may turn to alcohol to cope with symptoms like stress and low moods.
While the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines a standard drink as containing 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol, the amount of alcohol that causes alcohol-related conditions and problems varies from person to person. The body processes alcohol differently depending on age, weight, gender, genetics, medical conditions, etc. 4
Too much alcohol is defined as more than a drink per day for women and two per day for men. However, contrary to popular belief, there’s no safe amount of alcohol. Even if alcohol is consumed only once or twice a week, there is a risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.
There are several alcoholism diagnosis criteria for alcohol use disorder based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). This is a guide published by the American Psychiatric Association to help doctors diagnose mental illnesses.
To be diagnosed with alcohol use disorder, a person must exhibit two or more of the following signs of alcohol dependence in twelve months:
These criteria and other tests can help spot alcohol-related disorders and speed up treatment.
Alcohol use disorder is often diagnosable and can be treated—but what are the symptoms of alcohol use disorder? The symptoms of alcohol-induced disorder vary from person to person, but they generally include:
Alcohol use disorder can range from mild to severe:
If you are struggling with an alcohol disorder, you are not alone. In 2019, a national survey found that 14.1 million adults eighteen years and older and 414,000 adolescents aged twelve to seventeen had alcohol use disorder. 5
At San Diego Detox, we specialize in helping patients struggling with alcohol misuse disorder recover, maintain sobriety, and regain their lives. We offer a variety of treatment options, including:
Behavioral therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and 12-Step facilitation. These therapies help patients understand the underlying causes of their alcohol addiction and learn how to change their behavior patterns to stay sober.
In addition to behavioral therapies, some patients may benefit from medications, such as naltrexone or topiramate, which help manage withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit alcohol usage.
Patients can participate in group therapy sessions with other recovering clients to share experiences, build relationships, and encourage one another on the road to recovery.
For more information on how to seek help for alcohol use disorder for yourself or a loved one, please reach out to us at San Diego Detox immediately.