Problems with alcohol
Alcohol use disorders are among the most common mental health problems in the United States. They affect about 15 million adults each year and cost $249 billion annually in lost productivity and healthcare costs.
AUD affects men and women equally, although it tends to occur more often in people aged 18 to 25.
About half of those affected meet criteria for alcohol dependence; however, even one drink per day increases the risk of developing AUD.
Symptoms and Causes
Alcohol use disorders are complex conditions, and scientists are just beginning to understand how they develop.
There is no single cause of alcoholism; it is likely that several factors contribute to the development of alcohol use disorders. These include genetics, early childhood experiences, attempts to relieve emotional pain, and environmental influences such as stressors and life events.
The most common symptoms of alcohol use disorders are drinking too much, having difficulty controlling drinking, missing work or school because of drinking, being unable to remember things you did while drunk, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking.
Some people experience only some of these symptoms, while others experience all of them.
What are the symptoms of alcohol use disorder?
Alcoholism is a chronic disease that affects millions of people worldwide. If left untreated, it can lead to serious health problems like liver damage, heart attack, stroke, and cancer. But what exactly does alcoholism look like?
Here are some possible signs of alcohol abuse or dependence:
• You black out or forget important events that happened while you were drinking.
• You continue to drink even though you know it’s causing trouble.
• You feel irritable or angry when you aren’t drinking.
• Your friends and family notice that you don’t seem yourself when you’re sober.
• You keep having hangover headaches and stomachaches.
• You take more drinks than you plan to just because you want to get drunk.
What are the stages of alcoholism?
Alcohol use disorders develop over time. In fact, it takes several years for someone to progress from being at risk for developing an alcohol use disorder to having an early alcohol use disorder.
During this period, people often go through different stages where they experience some symptoms, but don’t meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder.
At-risk stage: This is when you drink socially, or drink to relax or to enjoy yourself. You might even drink to help cope with stressful situations or feelings.
Early alcohol use disorder: If you’re experiencing any of the following behaviors, you could be experiencing an early alcohol use disorder:
- Drinking alone or in secret
- Thinking about alcohol a lot
Is alcoholism a disease?
Alcohol use disorder is a medical illness. It affects how people think, feel, behave and interact with others. It causes problems with thinking, emotions, behavior and relationships.
People with alcohol use disorders are often unable to stop drinking despite negative consequences.
They experience withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, agitation and depression when they try to cut down or abstain from alcohol.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says there are three types of alcohol use disorders: Mild, Moderate and Severe.
Mild alcohol use disorder includes occasional social drinking. People with moderate alcohol use disorder drink heavily most days or every day. And those with severe alcohol use disorder drink daily.
How can drinking too much affect me?
Alcohol causes brain damage, which leads to depression, despair and suicide.
Alcohol also damages your heart and liver, increases your risk of cancer and affects children in the womb. If you’re pregnant, never drink alcohol.
How common is alcohol use disorder?
About 14.5 million Americans ages 12 and up have an alcohol use disorder, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
This includes people who abuse alcohol, misuse it, have symptoms of dependence, and/or experience problems because of drinking.
People with alcohol use disorders are more likely to suffer physical health problems, such as liver disease, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and injury.
They are also more likely to commit suicide, run into legal trouble, and die prematurely.
Find Out if You’re Misusing Alcohol
Alcohol use disorder isn’t just about drinking too much. People who misuse alcohol often feel like they have to drink, and don’t know how to stop themselves.
And some people who abuse alcohol don’t even realize what they’re doing. But there are ways to tell whether you’re abusing alcohol.
If you think you might have a problem, talk to someone. A professional can help you figure out if you’re misusing alcohol.
When Is It Time for Treatment?
Alcohol-related problems are among the most significant public heath issues in the United States, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). And many people struggle with controlling their consumption at some time in their life.
In fact, more than 14 million Americans suffer from alcohol use disorders, and one in every ten children live in a household where someone has a drinking problem.
But what exactly does it mean to have a drinking problem? What treatments work best? How do you know if treatment is needed?
If you suspect someone close to you has a drinking problem, there are several ways to help them seek treatment.
First, you can encourage them to speak with their doctor.
If they don’t want to see a physician, you can suggest they contact their local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
You can also ask them to call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hotline at 800-662-HELP (4357), which provides confidential referrals to substance abuse counseling centers and programs throughout the country.
Go to Detox
If you’re addicted to alcohol, it could be time to detoxify. A detoxification program involves giving up alcohol completely.
You’ll likely feel sick during the process, but don’t worry — you won’t die. In fact, you might even feel better afterward.
Detox isn’t a treatment alone. Your doctor will help decide what type of rehab you need and how long you’ll need to go.
If you’ve had a drink in the last 24 hours, you might still experience withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, restlessness, headaches, and nausea. But most people recover within a day or two.
The goal is to stop drinking, and give your body time and space to flush the alcohol out of your blood and organs.
That usually takes a few weeks. Afterward, you can start building a healthy lifestyle again.
Treatment of Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism: How To Stop Drinking
If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, there are many different types of treatments available to help you overcome your issues.
One of the most common forms of treatment is called medication assisted therapy. This type of treatment involves taking medications that can reduce cravings for alcohol and help you feel less anxious while quitting.
You may also want to consider talking to a doctor about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps people change negative thought patterns and behaviors that lead to drinking problems.
Other therapies include group counseling and 12-step programs.
Each of these approaches has pros and cons, and some work better for certain kinds of addictions than others.
The most common form of addiction treatment is outpatient therapy. This involves meeting with a therapist once per week, usually over the phone, via Skype, or in person.
In addition to counseling sessions, you might attend group meetings, participate in self help groups, or do activities like yoga or meditation.
Outpatient therapy is great because it doesn’t require you to spend weeks or months away from your family and friends. However, outpatient therapy isn’t always enough.
If you don’t make progress during regular therapy sessions, you could benefit from additional support.
Residential treatment offers 24/7 care, including meals, medical attention, and social events.
While residential treatment is often recommended for severe cases, it’s also ideal for those who have tried other approaches unsuccessfully.
Does Treatment Work?
AUD affects millions of Americans every day. But while many people know someone affected by AUD, few understand what it really looks like. And even fewer know whether there are effective treatments for AUD.
A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that nearly half of people diagnosed with AUD had no further symptoms within a year.
The researchers used data from a large national survey conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). They looked at responses from 2,943 adults aged 18 and older who reported having AUD. Of those, 1,848 had been diagnosed with AUD during the previous 12 months; 705 had never been told they had AUD.
Researchers asked participants questions about their drinking patterns over the course of the previous year and recorded information on how much money they spent on alcohol and related costs.
They found that among patients who had received a diagnosis of AUD, 36% reported “no further symptoms.” Another 28% reported moderate symptoms, such as trouble sleeping or missing work due to drinking.
Only 16% reported serious symptoms, including blackouts or needing medical attention because of excessive drinking.
Researchers also examined whether people who went into treatment for AUD experienced better outcomes compared to those who did not receive help.
Among people who had ever sought treatment for AUD, 44% reported no further symptoms, 30% reported moderate symptoms, and 26% reported serious symptoms.
This suggests that although AUD is a chronic disease, it does not always require long-term care. In fact, the majority of people who seek treatment experience improvement in their drinking and health.
This finding is consistent with research showing that AUD treatment improves mental health, physical health, and quality of life.
Options for Treatment
When it comes to treating alcoholism, there are many types of programs and treatments available, including outpatient counseling, residential rehabilitation, medication management, cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, family support groups, self-help groups, self-directed recovery, AA/NA meetings, and 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.
Some people prefer one type of program over another based on factors such as cost, location, insurance coverage, availability, stigma, or personal preference.
However, there are some commonalities among most of these approaches. They typically include education about addiction, coping skills training, relapse prevention strategies, peer support, group counseling, individual therapy, and follow-up care.
Types of Treatment
Behavioral treatments are aimed at changing alcohol use behavior through counseling. These include brief interventions, motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, and relapse prevention.
While there is no one type of treatment that works best, research suggests that behavioral treatments are effective, particularly for those who drink heavily. In addition, they are often less expensive than traditional approaches such as medication and residential rehabilitation programs.
Three medications are currently approved in America to help people stop or cut down on alcohol use and prevent relapse.
These drugs have been around since the 1990s and are prescribed by a primary-care doctor or another healthcare provider. They may be used alone or along with counseling.
The most commonly prescribed medication is naltrexone, which blocks the effects of alcohol. Naltrexone works best when taken daily over a period of months. Side effects include nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, and fatigue.
Other medications are acamprosate and disulfiram. Both work differently and can cause side effects such as drowsiness, dry mouth, constipation, blurred vision, and difficulty sleeping.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, etc., are peer-led self-help groups designed to help individuals overcome addiction.
These 12-Step fellowships are based on the belief that recovery is possible through faith, prayer, and fellowship.
Many AA members believe that the program offers a better chance of long-term sobriety than traditional treatments such as medical detoxification and individual therapy.
However, some experts argue that AA does not work because participants do not receive professional counseling or follow-up care.
The research literature on the effectiveness of mutual-support groups is limited. Some studies suggest that AA and similar 12-step fellowships improve outcomes among alcohol abusers, while others find no difference between patients receiving group sessions versus standard care. In addition, there is little evidence about whether mutual-support groups reduce relapse rates.