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Are You an Alcoholic?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), an AUD refers to the inability to control or cease the use of alcohol despite various social, occupational, and physical consequences.

Navigation: How Much Alcohol is Too Much Alcohol?, What Makes You an Alcoholic?, Signs and Symptoms of AUD, What Causes Alcoholism?, Who is Likely to Become an Alcoholic?, Diagnosis for Alcohol Use Disorder, Alcohol Abuse Effects and Complications, Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder, Rehab Is Your Best Chance


Some people like to drink after a long and stressful day. Others drink socially during special occasions. Drinking alcohol is normal, for the most part. But how much alcohol is considered excessive?

Because of how common it is to find alcohol in social events, it can be difficult to tell apart someone who is just having fun and someone who actually has a drinking problem.

Here we will talk about alcoholism and its definition, as well as the symptoms, causes, and complications associated with it. Understanding what alcohol use disorder (AUD) is can help you support a loved one who is struggling with this condition.

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction, is a medical condition in which the person has a physical and psychological desire to consume alcohol. It is a compulsive need to drink even when they are already struggling with its adverse effects.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) says that 15.1 million US adults had an alcohol use problem in 2015. That’s 6.2 percent of the population. According to a report from the World Health Organization (WHO), harmful use of alcohol results in around 3.3 million deaths every year around the globe.

Unfortunately, there is still some stigma surrounding alcoholism and rehab, which is why not many people receive the help that they need.

In the past, people who have an AUD were referred to as alcoholics. But it has been shown that this label is harmful and reinforces the stigma by dehumanizing those who have the condition. Instead, health professionals are now referring to them as people who have an alcohol use disorder, to place a greater emphasis on the condition rather than the person.


How Much Alcohol is Too Much Alcohol?

There is no straight answer when it comes to how much alcohol is dangerous to a person’s body because there are too many factors in play, including their age, gender, weight, and even what they ate earlier in the day. Besides, people don’t normally think of alcohol poisoning when relaxing and drinking with friends.

With that in mind, it’s important to know the body’s usual limitations so you can stay safe even when drinking.

Generally speaking, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) should not reach 0.40 percent and above because that is when it starts to get dangerous. At this level, you face the risk of coma or even death.

People with a BAC between 0.08 and 0.40 percent tend to experience adverse effects like confusion, nausea, and drowsiness. In most places, having a BAC of 0.08 percent means you are legally considered intoxicated.

In terms of how many drinks you can have in just one sitting, it depends on what you are drinking.

A standard “drink” contains around 14 grams of pure alcohol. This means one standard drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. Generally speaking, a drink will increase your BAC by 0.02 percent.


What Makes You an Alcoholic?

A person with an alcohol use disorder is someone who has a long-term addiction to alcohol.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), an AUD refers to the inability to control or cease the use of alcohol despite various social, occupational, and physical consequences. Either they don’t know when to stop drinking or they cannot control their drinking habits even if they want to.

People with an AUD tend to have financial problems, work problems, and problems with their family lives. On top of these effects, their physical and mental health will also deteriorate.

Alcohol use disorder is also called alcoholism or alcohol addiction. It is different from alcohol dependence, which is a completely separate condition. Alcohol dependence is when the person can no longer quit drinking without going through withdrawal. Their body has adapted to the constant presence of alcohol, and it creates chemical imbalances whenever the person reduces or stops their intake.

A person can be alcohol dependent without being addicted, but usually this means addiction is about to develop. People who drink alcohol excessively or participate in binge drinking are likely to develop alcoholism and dependence. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe. In the case of alcohol dependence, quitting cold turkey is often dangerous due to the possibility of life-threatening withdrawal.

There is also a term called psychological dependence in which the person craves for alcohol and feels like they cannot function normally without drinking.

Signs and Symptoms of AUD

Oftentimes, a person with an alcohol use disorder will fail to realize that they even have a problem in the first place. Friends and family members are often the first one to realize that there is a problem because they can see their loved one’s behavioral changes.

If you think someone you love is struggling with alcoholism, here are some signs and symptoms to watch out for. For starters, they may start drinking alone or in the middle of the day.

They may try to hide their drinking habits by isolating themselves or lying about their whereabouts. They may also start spending more time with new companions, particularly those who enable their behavior. If you try to call out their drinking habits, they may become irritated or annoyed. Some people with an AUD store alcohol in places people are unlikely to look.

An AUD is characterized by the inability to limit your alcohol consumption. They may drink to the point of blacking out. Some people even suffer from memory problems, becoming unable to remember chunks of time.

Addicted people begin to lose interest in things they used to enjoy such as their hobbies or their career. Most of their time will be spent thinking about alcohol, drinking alcohol, and then recovering from the effects of their alcohol abuse. They may neglect their responsibilities in the process.

An addicted individual may even get in trouble with the law as they engage in risky behaviors as a result of their drinking.

Other common signs of an AUD include: nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness, excessive sweating, and shaking.

What Causes Alcoholism?

There are many different factors that can cause alcoholism. Alcoholism isn’t a moral failure There are a lot of factors that play a role in its development. There are genetic factors as well as environmental factors that contribute to the likelihood of becoming addicted to alcohol.

Risk factors include peer pressure, drinking from a young age, and having mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc. The more risk factors a person is exposed to, the greater their risk of becoming addicted.

Alcohol dependence may take several years to develop, but for some people, it may take decades. However, for some people with plenty of risk factors, this can develop within the span of a few months.

Alcoholism develops when you drink alcohol excessively. Just like other substances, alcohol can interact with your brain’s reward center, making you feel relaxed, euphoric, and uninhibited. This encourages the brain to seek out the behavior that caused pleasure. This is how addiction begins to form.

Who is Likely to Become an Alcoholic?

Those who have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism are more likely to develop alcoholism at a later point in life. If you have a family member who has grappled with alcoholism, you may be at greater risk of developing an AUD.

People who drink alcohol at an early age are also at risk. Studies suggest that individuals who start drinking before the age of 15 are at greater risk of developing drinking problems later in life.

There’s also a connection between alcohol abuse and having easy access to alcohol. For example, those living in states where alcohol taxes have been raised are less likely to abuse alcohol. Individuals in wealthy families tend to have greater access to drugs and alcohol, which puts them at greater risk of developing AUD.

Stress is another significant risk factor. When exposed to high levels of anxiety and stress, people tend to turn to alcohol to cope. Those in highly stressful professions have a greater tendency to participate in excessive drinking.

Alcohol use disorder is influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Having low self-esteem, having friends who drink, having co-occurring mental health disorders, and having a positive reaction to alcohol can increase a person’s risk of becoming addicted to alcohol.

Diagnosis for Alcohol Use Disorder

In order to be diagnosed with an AUD, an individual has to meet certain criteria laid out by the American Psychiatric Association (APS) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

The person must have at least three of the following criteria for a duration of 12 months: alcohol tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, drinking beyond intentions, unsuccessful attempts to reduce intake, spending lots of time drinking, losing interest in activities they used to enjoy, and compulsive drinking despite consequences.

When a person has a high alcohol tolerance, it means they need to drink large quantities just to feel intoxicated. Therefore they will regularly drink more than the average social drinker.

They will repeatedly attempt to cut down on their alcohol intake, but this will only lead to withdrawal symptoms, intense cravings, and relapse. They may often find themselves drinking more than they intended to. Common withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, nausea, anxiety, and tremors.

Alcohol Abuse Effects and Complications

Abusing alcohol can cause various physical and mental health effects. Complications associated with alcohol misuse include memory loss, mood swings, and mental health problems. A person with an AUD may suffer from confusion, sedation, numbness, dementia, disorientation, and suicidal ideation.

Alcohol affects the body in different ways. It can cause fatigue, hypertension, thinning bones, liver diseases, gastrointestinal problems, diabetes, heart problems, and cancer. Heavy drinking can even lead to a coma.

Because alcohol depresses the nervous system, it can hinder a person’s ability to regulate their thoughts and emotions. This can even affect their general behavior. Long term abuse can even affect their ability to speak or coordinate their muscles.

For men, alcohol abuse can cause erectile dysfunction. As for women, it can disrupt or stop menstruation. Alcohol abuse is also dangerous for pregnant women. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, which may increase the risk of birth defects. This can give a newborn a small head, shortened eyelids, heart problems, and cognitive problems.

Some alcohol-related complications go beyond the medical level. For example, it can increase a person’s risk of getting into a fatal traffic accident or sustaining serious injuries.

Alcohol is also a major factor in child abuse, spouse-beating, conflicts with neighbors, and domestic abuse in general.

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

The good news is that treatment is available for those who need it. The first step in the long process of alcohol recovery is acknowledging the problem and accepting the fact that you need help. For some people, it may require an intervention before they can see the truth about their situation and realize that they need to go to rehab.

Once you’re ready to seek treatment, you’ll see that there are many different treatment options available out there. The key is to find a treatment program that suits the patient’s specific needs and condition. Some may thrive in an inpatient treatment environment where they can focus on their recovery, while others may succeed with an outpatient setup where they can balance their treatment with their responsibilities outside rehab. The best treatment programs are personalized to cater to the patient’s needs.

Treatment for an AUD usually uses a combination of medical detox and behavioral therapies. Medical detox will gradually lower your alcohol intake while health care providers manage your cravings and withdrawal symptoms using medications. Behavioral therapies teach you healthy coping mechanisms that will help you stay sober even after you are done with treatment.

Look for an addiction treatment center near you today that specializes in treating alcohol use disorder. Get started on the road to long-lasting sobriety today.

Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.


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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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