Alcohol Addiction

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol Use Disorder or AUD, formerly called alcohol addiction, is a disease in which one cannot control their use of or stop drinking alcohol despite negative consequences.

Alcohol addiction or alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a disease in which the individual is unable to cut down on or stop their use of alcohol. This brain disorder can be mild, moderate, or severe and can cause changes in the brain which contribute to relapse and make it more difficult to stop drinking alcohol. The drinking habits continue despite the negative and detrimental effects the person drinking faces. These negative impacts can include problems in any or all of the following areas:

  • Social situations

  • Family

  • Loved ones

  • Relationships

  • Work

  • School

  • Health

  • Financial

  • Legal

Alcohol addiction not only has adverse effects on the individual with the issue, but it also has negative impacts on family, children, loved ones, and the community as a whole. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol addiction costs the United States government and taxpayers about 249 billion dollars each year.

Addiction to alcohol is on the rise in the United States and killing more people each year. It’s vital to spread awareness about the dangers of this disease and help those in need. Alcohol addiction is known by numerous terms such as alcohol use disorder, alcoholism, alcohol abuse, alcohol misuse, and more. While these terms are often used interchangeably, it’s important to note some of the differences between each.

Alcohol Use Disorder

In 2013 the American Psychiatric Association released the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V). In this latest manual, there were changes in the terminology and the criteria for alcohol addiction, or as it’s now called, alcohol use disorder or AUD.

In earlier editions of the DSM, alcohol addiction had two distinct classifications each with different criteria. These were alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. These two formerly different disorders were merged into one group now called alcohol use disorder. Within this AUD group, there are three subclassifications; mild, moderate, and severe. There are 11 criteria for AUD. The number of these criteria an individual meets determines the subclassification into which they fall.

For example, an individual who meets two of the 11 criteria would be diagnosed as having mild AUD. Someone who meets all 11 criteria would be diagnosed as having severe AUD. Two criteria have changed from the DSM-IV to the DSM-V. These are the elimination of legal problems as a criterion and the addition of cravings as a criterium.

No matter which type of alcohol abuse disorder an individual has it is never too soon or too late to get help. Millions have recovered from drinking problems of all levels and gone on to live happy, productive, fulfilling lives.

Risk Factors for Alcohol Use Disorder

When it comes to alcohol dependency, many people want to know what makes one person develop alcohol dependence and not the next. While alcohol addiction (now properly called alcohol use disorder) can happen to anyone, there are some risk factors considered to increase the likelihood of developing alcohol addiction (now known as alcohol use disorder). Some of these risk factors making someone higher risk for developing a drinking problem are:

  • Amounts of alcohol consumed (heavy drinking increases risk)

  • Frequency in drinking habits

  • The rate at which alcohol is consumed

  • Starting age of drinking alcohol

  • Family member's history of alcohol problems

  • Gender and age

  • Overall health

  • Co-occurring mental health issues

  • History of trauma

In addition, one's drinking habits including binge drinking, excessive drinking, and high-intensity heavy drinking, over time, also make for a higher risk of developing alcohol addiction. However, there are individuals who don’t have these higher risk factors who also go on to develop alcohol problems. Anyone can develop alcohol addiction regardless of their family history or any other risk factors. And, unfortunately, uncontrolled alcohol use, just as any substance use disorder, can result in health problems such as cirrhosis, other liver diseases, memory problems, relationship problems, and mental health issues. Health problems may be short-term or long-term with longer-term drinking problems having a more severe impact on one's physical health.

The good news is that evidence-based alcohol treatment, along with support groups and sometimes medications can help anyone stop drinking, detox, and recover from an addiction, no matter how severe it is. Treatment for alcohol addiction isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach but needs to be a comprehensive and unique treatment program tailored to an individual’s unique recovery needs. At Caron, we offer individualized and comprehensive addiction treatment for individuals with an alcohol use disorder, whether it’s a mild, moderate, or severe drinking problem. Help and recovery are just one call away. Contact us today to learn more about treatment options and how we can help you or a loved one recover from alcohol addiction. Call 844-260-1324.

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