The medical term for someone with a desire or physical need to consume alcohol despite its negative impact is alcohol use disorder or AUD. AUD includes the full spectrum of alcohol abuse from mild dependence through to chronic addiction. In the past, all problem drinkers were a tagged alcoholic which is a label that is unhelpful and negative and so it is now referred to as a disorder, which better reflects how it is a condition that can be treated in alcohol treatment centers.
In 2015, just over 15 million Americans adults were recorded as having an alcohol use problem according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).
To set things in perspective: globally, almost 3.5 million people die as a consequence of alcohol abuse every year.
When someone has AUD, they are no longer able to consciously decide when or how to stop drinking. Because of their body’s dependence on alcohol, they are likely to be preoccupied with getting the next drink, even though it may be wreaking havoc personally, emotionally and financially.
People who are moderate drinkers are unlikely to develop any health complications as a result of alcohol use. However, someone who starts to increase their alcohol consumption or regularly binge during social occasions is at greater risk of developing AUD than someone who has the occasional glass of wine, beer or liquor.
What Are The Symptoms of AUD?
One of the main characteristics of AUD is that the sufferer is unlikely to be aware they have a problem. For this reason, it is important to know the warning signs so that individuals or their loved ones can recognize a potential problem and then take the steps they need to reach out to an alcohol treatment center for help.
Some of the signs and symptoms of AUD include:
- Drinking secretively or alone
- An inability to limit alcohol consumption
- Experiencing blackouts and not being able to recall chunks of time
- Becoming disinterested in hobbies and activities they previously enjoyed
- Sensitivity on the subject of their drinking and irritation when challenged
- Uncontrollable urges to drink throughout waking hours
- Maintaining a drinking schedule, for example before, during and after meals and even before and after work
- Becoming anxious if “drinking time” is approaching and there is no alcohol available
- Using alcohol to calm themselves down or make them feel good
- Relationship problems as a result of financial or legal difficulties that stem from drinking
- Needing progressively more alcohol to achieve the desired effects
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as shaking or sweating when not consuming alcohol
It is important to note that some people may exhibit some of these signs and symptoms without being dependent on alcohol. Naturally, the more symptoms that apply, the more severe AUD is likely to be.
AUD is a progressive illness that has the potential to become more severe, even chronic, over time. The health complications of AUD are extensive and include physical, psychological and emotional effects that can take time to heal in specialist alcohol rehab centers.
What Are The Causes of AUD?
The causes of AUD vary although it is a much more complex form of dependence and addiction than drug abuse. This is because of the acceptable face of alcohol and the fact that it is commonly consumed and widely available. One of the principal causes of AUD is peer pressure, which coerces people to consume alcohol from a young age. There can also be a genetic predisposition for AUD, with previous generations also struggling with alcohol use in their lifetimes.
Another cause of AUD is a mental illness such as depression or anxiety, which drives a person to self-medicate uncomfortable symptoms with alcohol. When someone has developed AUD and also has a concurrent mental illness, they are known as dual diagnosis patients and they require specific alcohol abuse treatment to heal both conditions at the same time.
What Effects Can AUD Cause?
Alcohol use disorder is not a condition that develops overnight and can take anything from a few years to several decades for the symptoms to appear in an individual. However, even though people don’t necessarily develop AUD straight away, the more alcohol they consume on a regular basis, the more likely they are to disrupt brain function in the following ways:
- Increasing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which controls impulsive behavior
- Boosting glutamate activity which stimulates the central nervous system
- Flooding the brain with dopamine which makes consuming alcohol more gratifying
Whether or not a person has been diagnosed with AUD, medium- or long-term drinking has a significant effect on the brain, which can become permanent conditions unless they seek help from an alcohol rehab center.
How Is AUD Treated?
Elevate alcohol rehab centers deliver alcohol abuse treatment in four stages:
- Detox, lasting around 30 days
- Physical health and wellbeing, 30 days
- Emotional healing and renewal, 30 days
- Aftercare , which is available for as long as required
AUD is best treated with holistic therapies and practices supplementing traditional approaches. Because AUD takes a significant toll on a person’s physical, emotional and psychological state, holistic therapies are effective because they are specifically designed to treat individuals “as a whole”.
When someone is detoxing from alcohol after prolonged abuse, they can experience particularly uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Although Elevate’s main focus is on holistic approaches to alcoholism treatment programs, we also prescribe medications to help patients through the detox process more comfortably. Ultimately, we place an emphasis on healing from AUD naturally, rather than relying on chemical medications as a “quick fix”.
Individualized Alcohol Abuse Treatment
Every individual with AUD has their own unique treatment needs and so there is no cookie-cutter approach that effectively promotes recovery. People with AUD come from all backgrounds and ethnicities and it is not an illness that discriminates, which is why a personalized approach to alcohol abuse treatment is the best route to take.
Extensive assessment takes place in sessions between patient and therapist to identify the underlying issues driving their compulsion to consume alcohol. By working through each patient’s unique backstory, therapists in alcohol treatment centers are able to devise a personalized treatment program that provides healing and support for their specific needs during rehab and into recovery.