Alcohol use disorder (AUD) involves a pattern of alcohol use that causes problems that may include excess drinking and interference with relationships or work. Recognizing signs of AUD is the first step in getting treatment.
In the past, people referred to someone with an addiction to alcohol as an “alcoholic.” Healthcare professionals revised the term to avoid stigmatizing the condition, and the preferred term is now alcohol use disorder (AUD).
To determine whether a person has AUD, healthcare professionals
A person must meet
- Mild: A person meets two to three criteria.
- Moderate: A person meets four to five criteria.
- Severe: A person meets six or more criteria.
The article below discusses each of these criteria, treatment, and where to find support.
One of the signs of AUD is
A person with AUD may want to cut down on drinking alcohol or have tried to in the past but could not stop.
It may also lead to increased psychological distress among the partners and children of individuals with AUD. People with the disorder may recognize these issues are present but continue to drink alcohol.
Drinking more than intended
A person who misuses alcohol may think or say they will have one drink of alcohol but then go on to have several.
People with AUD
About 50% of people with AUD develop withdrawal symptoms after they stop drinking. However, not everyone has severe symptoms that require hospitalization.
Anyone who is considering stopping drinking alcohol should speak with a healthcare professional.
AUD and its effects
People may want a drink so much that it is all they think about. In other instances, they may spend time recovering from excess drinking.
People with AUD may have to drink increasingly larger amounts of alcohol to get the same effects as they used to with fewer drinks.
For example, possible employment-related issues
A person with AUD
For instance, someone who loved to exercise might suddenly stop. Alcohol use may take priority and replace activities that once brought fulfillment.
People with AUD
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which means it can slow down brain activity. This can affect a person’s mood, self-control, and behavior.
According to a
Another sign of AUD is someone drinking alcohol even though it may affect an existing health condition.
One sign of AUD is engaging in certain behaviors during or after drinking that may have harmful effects. For example, a person may engage in activities that risk unwanted or harmful consequences while drinking alcohol.
Activities could include:
- driving or operating machinery
- having sex without a condom or other barrier method
- walking in a dangerous area
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about
Treatment for AUD can help someone recover. Options
A person should speak with a healthcare professional if they are experiencing symptoms of AUD. Medical professionals can provide information about treatment, prescribe medication, and refer them to specialists.
We explore treatment options in further detail below.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three medications among the treatments for AUD. They include:
- Naltrexone (Vivitrol): An injection given once per month by a healthcare professional that blocks the craving for alcohol.
- Acamprosate (Campral): This medication can block alcohol cravings and may also help improve cognitive function in people with brain damage from alcohol misuse.
- Disulfiram (Antabuse): This medication aims to deter people from drinking alcohol by causing unpleasant side effects with even a small intake of alcohol, such as nausea and vomiting.
They may learn to manage cravings, deal with emotions, and develop skills to prevent a relapse.
Participation in support groups may help people develop strategies to deal with the urge to drink alcohol. Peer support may also help in coping with emotions that may have led to alcohol misuse.
There are several ways to find support to deal with AUD, including:
AUD involves the continued use of alcohol despite the adverse effects it may have on a person’s life.
Signs of AUD may include an increased tolerance to alcohol, loss of interest in hobbies, and interference with interpersonal relationships.
Treatment may involve medication, behavior therapy, and support groups.