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What is alcohol use disorder?
Alcohol use disorder is also known as alcoholism. It refers to alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. It can also be defined as a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect, or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking. This occurs when you drink too much that your body eventually becomes dependent on or addicted to alcohol. When this happens, alcohol becomes the most important thing in your life. People who have alcohol use disorder abuse alcohol even when there are negative consequences like losing a job or destroying relationships with the people they love.
Unhealthy alcohol use can put your health or safety at risk. This includes binge drinking ( a pattern of drinking more than 5 drinks for males and at least four drinks for females) which causes health and safety risks.
What are the symptoms of alcohol use disorder?
Alcohol use disorder can be mild, moderate, or severe. This is based on the symptoms that you experience. There are several signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder and they include:
- Often you are unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
- Wanting to cut down on how much you drink or making unsuccessful attempts to do so.
- Often spends a lot of time drinking, getting alcohol, or recovering from alcohol use
- Often you feel a strong craving or urge to drink alcohol.
- Failing to fulfill major obligations at work, school, or home due to repeated alcohol abuse.
- Continuing to drink even though you know it is causing physical, social, and interpersonal problems.
- Giving up or reducing social and work activities and hobbies.
- Using alcohol in situations where it is not safe such as when driving or swimming.
- Developing a tolerance to alcohol so you need more to feel its effect or you have a reduced effect from the same amount.
- Often you experience withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, and shaking.
Alcohol use disorder can include periods of alcohol intoxication and symptoms of withdrawal.
Alcohol intoxication – It results as the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream increases. This causes behavior problems and mental changes. These include:
- Inappropriate behavior.
- Unstable moods.
- Impaired judgment.
- Slurred speech.
- Impaired attention or memory.
- Poor coordination.
- Sometimes “blackouts” (this is when you don’t remember events).
Alcohol withdrawal – This occurs when alcohol use has been heavy and prolonged and is then stopped or greatly reduced. These are some signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal:
- Rapid heartbeat.
- Hand tremors.
- Problems sleeping.
- Occasional seizures.
What are the causes of alcohol use disorder?
- Genetic, psychological, social, and environmental factors can impact how drinking alcohol affects your body and behavior.
- Drinking too much alcohol may change the normal function of the areas of your brain associated with the experience of pleasure, judgment, and the ability to exercise control over your behavior.
What are the risk factors of alcohol use disorder?
There are several risk factors associated with alcohol use disorder. They include:
- Steady drinking over time.
- Starting at an early age.
- Family history.
- Depression and other mental health problems.
- History of trauma.
- Having bariatric surgery.
- Social and cultural factors.
What are the complications of alcohol use disorder?
- Alcohol depresses your central nervous system.
- Too much alcohol affects speech, muscle coordination, and vital centers of your brain.
- Heavy drinking binge may cause coma or death.
What is the impact of alcohol use disorder on your health?
Drinking too much alcohol on a single occasion or over time may cause severe health problems like:
- Liver disease.
- Digestive problems.
- Heart problems.
- Diabetes problems.
- Sexual function and menstruation issues.
- Eye problems.
- Birth defects.
- Bone damage.
- Neurological complications.
- Weakened immune system.
- Increased risk of cancer.
- Medication and alcohol interactions.