Alcohol abuse diseases : Causes-Symptoms-Diagnosis-Treatment


  What is Alcohol use disorder?

Alcohol use disorder (sometimes called alcoholism) is a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking preoccupation with the effects of alcohol and continuing to drink even when it causes problems To get the same effect you may have to drink more you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking

Unhealthy alcohol use includes any drinking that puts your health or safety at risk or causes other alcohol-related problems It also includes binge drinking — a pattern of drinking where a man consumes five or more drinks within two hours or a woman consumes four drinks within two hours Binge drinking can cause serious health and safety risks.

If your drinking results in significant distress and problems functioning in daily life you may have an alcohol use disorder It can range from mild to severe However even if you have a mild disorder it could escalate to serious problems Treatment is important early on.

Medical terms 

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a chronic relapsing brain disorder characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. It is a condition that ranges from mild to severe, and it can manifest in various ways.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), which is a widely used manual for diagnosing mental health disorders, outlines criteria for diagnosing alcohol use disorder.

Disease Definition Question and Answer American Hospitals Alternative Medicine

Symptoms Alcohol abuse diseases 

Anyone who has been around an alcoholic person will be able to tell you that the alcoholics in his or her life suffered from a variety of different symptoms. The type(s) of symptoms that an alcoholic displays depend upon the extent of his or her problem with alcohol, and the length of time he or she has been suffering from it. With this in mind, here are some symptoms you might expect to see if someone is suffering from alcoholism:

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are dangerous, but some people may not realize how dangerous they can be to the health of an unborn child. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a condition that affects approximately 1 in 350 children who were exposed to alcohol during pregnancy. It is one of the leading preventable causes of birth defects in the United States.

Alcoholism is a disease that can lead to many problems in a person's life. It can affect every aspect of your life, from your health and your personal relationships to your career and finances. If you're concerned that you or someone you love may be an alcoholic, there are some warning signs to look for.

Alcohol use disorder can be mild moderate or severe based on the number of symptoms you experience Signs and symptoms may include:

  • It's hard to limit alcohol intake

  • Wanting to cut down on your drinking or making unsuccessful attempts to do so

  • Spending a lot of time drinking alcohol or recovering from alcohol use

  • Feeling a strong craving to drink alcohol


  • Drinking alcohol even when you know it is causing physical social or interpersonal problems

  • Giving up or reducing social and work activities and hobbies

  • Alcohol should not be used in situations when it is unsafe such as driving or swimming

  • Develop a tolerance to alcohol so that you need more to experience its effects or have a reduced effect from the same amount

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as nausea sweating and shaking when you don't drink or drinking to avoid these symptoms

Alcohol use disorder may include periods of alcohol intoxication as well as symptoms of withdrawal

  • Alcohol intoxication As the amount of alcohol in your blood increases you become more impaired The behavior problems and changes that occur depend on how much alcohol is present These may include inappropriate behavior mood swings poor judgment and slurred speech You may experience impaired attention or memory and poor coordination You could have periods of time when you do not remember events so high blood alcohol levels can lead to comas or even death

  • Alcohol withdrawal Alcohol withdrawal can occur when heavy prolonged alcohol use is stopped or greatly reduced Signs and symptoms may appear within several hours to four or five days later and may include sweating; rapid heartbeat; hand tremors; problems sleeping; nausea vomiting hallucinations (seeing things that aren't there) restlessness agitation and anxiety Symptoms can be severe enough to impair your ability to function at work or in social situations and may include agitation anxiety and occasional seizures

Considered 1 drink

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines one standard drink as any of these:

  • Regular beer with about 5% alcohol content

  • 8 to 9 ounces (237 to 266 milliliters) of malt liquor (7% alcohol)

  • 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of unfortified wine (12 percent alcohol)

  • 1.5 ounces (about 44 milliliters) of hard liquor with a 40% alcohol content

When to see a doctor

If you feel that you sometimes drink too much alcohol or your drinking is causing problems talk to your doctor You can also talk with a mental health professional or seek help from a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous or a type of self-help group that is similar

Because denial is common you might not feel like you have a problem with drinking You might not recognize how much you drink or how many problems in your life are related to alcohol use Listen to relatives friends or co-workers when they ask you to examine your drinking habits or seek help for alcohol abuse If you are having a problem with drinking it may help to talk with someone who has had a similar problem and stopped

If your loved one needs help

Many people with alcohol use disorder do not seek treatment because they do not recognize they have a problem Intervention from loved ones can help some people realize that they need professional help If you're concerned about someone who drinks too much ask them to get treatment Ask a professional experienced in alcohol treatment for advice on how to approach that person

Causes Alcohol abuse diseases

Genetic psychological social and environmental factors can influence how alcohol affects the body and behavior Theories indicate that for some people drinking has a greater impact than it has on others and can lead to an alcoholic drinking disorder

Drinking too much alcohol over time may change normal brain function which affects your ability to experience pleasure and exercise judgment in your behavior This may result in craving alcohol to try to restore good feelings or reduce negative ones

Scientists are still trying to understand what causes alcoholism. It may be caused by a combination of things, such as:

  • Genetics.

  • Early childhood events.

  • Attempts to relieve emotional pain.

If someone is predisposed to becoming an alcoholic, they are more likely to do so if they:

  • Drink alcohol often or start drinking young.

  • Trauma such as physical or sexual abuse can happen to someone who is experienced.

  • If you have a family history of alcohol problems, you may be at an increased risk for developing them yourself.

  • People who have mental health issues such as grief anxiety, depression , eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder often have them.

  • Having stomach bypass surgery (Roux-en-y) can help you lose weight.

Risk factors Alcohol abuse diseases

Alcohol use may begin in the teens but it is more common for alcohol use disorder to occur in adults aged 20s and 30s

  • Steady drinking over time.Drinking too much on a regular basis for an extended period or binge drinking on a regular basis can lead to alcohol-related problems

  • Starting at an early age.People who begin drinking at an early age are at a higher risk of developing alcohol use disorder

  • Family history.People who have a parent or other close relative with problems related to alcohol have a greater risk of developing problems with alcohol themselves This may be influenced by genetic factors

  • Depression and other mental health problemsPeople with mental health disorders such as anxiety depression schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may have trouble with alcohol or other substances

  • History of trauma.People who have had emotional or other trauma are at increased risk of developing an alcohol use disorder

  • Having bariatric surgery.Some studies indicate that having bariatric surgery may increase the risk of developing alcohol use disorder or of relapsing after recovering from alcohol use disorder

  • Social and cultural factors. Having friends or a partner that drinks regularly could increase your risk of alcohol use disorder The glamorous way drinking is sometimes portrayed in the media also may send the message that it's OK to drink too much For young people the influence of parents peers and other role models may encourage them to drink too much Models can influence risk

Complications Alcohol abuse diseases

Alcohol depresses your central nervous system It can cause different reactions in different people In some people the initial reaction may be stimulation but those who continue to drink become sedated

Drinking alcohol excessively can affect the ability of your speech muscle coordination and vital centers of your brain A heavy drinking binge may even cause a life-threatening coma or death This is especially important when you are taking certain medications that also depress the brain's function

Impact on your safety

Excessive drinking reduces your judgment and lowers inhibitions leading to poor choices and dangerous situations These include:

  • Accidents such as those caused by motor vehicles and drowning

  • Relationship problems

  • Poor performance at work or school

  • The likelihood of committing violent crimes or being victims of crime is increased

  • Legal problems or financial problems could be a cause of depression

  • Problems with other substance use

  • Engaging in risky unprotected sex or experiencing sexual abuse date rape or partner violence can lead to sexually transmitted infections

  • A person may attempt or complete suicide

Impact on your health

Too much alcohol can cause health problems including:

  • Liver disease.Heavy drinking may lead to increased fat in the liver (hepatic steatosis) inflammation of the liver (alcoholic hepatitis) and over time irreversibly destroy and scar liver tissue (cirrhosis)

  • Digestive problems.Heavy drinking can cause stomach and esophageal ulcers as well as inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis) It can also interfere with absorption of B vitamins and other nutrients or it can damage your pancreas or lead to inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)

  • Heart problems.Excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure and enlarged heart Alcohol abuse may cause an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation Even a single binge can cause this serious arrhythmia

  • Diabetes complications.Alcohol can interfere with the release of glucose from your liver If you have diabetes alcohol can increase the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) which is dangerous if you are already taking insulin to lower your blood sugar level

  • Sexual function and menstruation issues.Excessive drinking can cause erectile dysfunction in men while in women it can disrupt menstruation

  • Eye problems. Heavy drinking can cause involuntary eye movement as well as weakness and paralysis of the muscles in your eyes due to a deficiency of vitamin B-1 A thiamin deficiency may also be associated with other brain changes such as irreversible dementia if not treated promptly treated

  • Birth defects.Alcohol use during pregnancy can result in miscarriage It also can cause fetal alcohol syndrome which results in a child born with physical and lifelong developmental problems

  • Bone damage.Alcohol can interfere with the production of new bone causing thinning bones (osteoporosis) and an increased risk of fractures Alcohol also damages bone marrow which makes blood cells This can cause a low platelet count (thrombocytopenia) that may result in bruising and bleeding

  • Neurological complications.Excessive drinking can affect your nervous system causing numbness and pain in your hands and feet disordered thinking dementia and short-term memory loss

  • Weakened immune system.Excessive alcohol use can make it harder for your body to resist disease, increasing your risk of various illnesses, especially pneumonia.

  • Increased risk of cancer.Excessive long-term alcohol use has been linked to a higher risk of many cancers including mouth throat liver esophagus colon and breast cancers Even moderate drinking can increase the risk of breast cancer

  • Medication and alcohol interactions.Some medications interact with alcohol causing increased toxic effects Drinking while taking these medications may increase or decrease their effectiveness or make them dangerous

Prevention Alcohol abuse diseases

Early intervention can help prevent alcohol-related problems in teens If you have a teenager and notice any of these signs and symptoms it may be a sign that he or she has an alcohol problem:

  • A loss of interest in hobbies and activities and a change in personal appearance

  • Red eyes slurred speech coordination problems and memory lapses are symptoms of alcohol poisoning

  • Difficulties or changes in relationships with friends, such as joining a new crowd

  • Declining grades and problems in school

  • Frequent mood changes and defensive behavior

The following tips can help prevent teenage alcohol use:

  • Set a good example with your own alcohol use.

  • Talk openly with your child, spend quality time together and become actively involved in your child's life.

  • Tell your child what behavior you expect and what the consequences are if he or she doesn't follow the rules

Diagnosis Alcohol abuse diseases

If you suspect that you have a problem with alcohol your health care provider may refer you to a mental health professional

To get a clearer picture of your alcohol problem your doctor will likely:

  • Ask you several questions about your drinking habitsIn some cases the doctor may ask for permission to speak with family members or friends However confidentiality laws prevent your doctor from giving out any information about you without your consent

  • Perform a physical exam.Your doctor may do a physical exam and ask questions about your health The presence of certain symptoms indicate the presence of complications related to alcohol use

  • Lab tests and imaging tests.While there are no specific tests to diagnose alcohol use disorder certain lab test results may strongly suggest it You may also need tests to identify health problems that may be linked to your alcohol use Damage to your organs may be seen on tests

  • Complete a psychological evaluation.This evaluation will include questions about thoughts feelings and behavior patterns You may be asked to complete a questionnaire to help answer these questions

  • Use the DSM-5 criteria.The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is often used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental health disorders

Treatment Alcohol abuse diseases

The treatment for alcohol use disorder can vary depending on your needs Some treatment options include a brief intervention individual or group counseling outpatient programs or residential inpatient stays The main goal of the treatment is to help you stop using alcohol to improve quality of life

Treatments for alcohol use disorder may include:

  • Detox and withdrawal. Treatment may start with a program of detoxification or detox which is medically managed and generally takes two to seven days You may need to take sedating medications to prevent withdrawal symptoms Detox is usually done at an inpatient treatment center or a hospital

  • Learning skills and developing a treatment planAlcohol treatment specialists usually use goal setting behavior change techniques manuals to help people help themselves Counseling is also a part of the treatment at the center

  • Psychological counseling.Individual or group counseling and therapy help you better understand your problem with alcohol and support recovery from the psychological aspects of alcohol use You may benefit from couples or family therapy — family support can be an important part of the recovery process

  • Oral medications. A drug called disulfiram (Antabuse) may prevent some people from drinking although it won't cure alcohol use disorder or remove the compulsion to drink If you drink alcohol the drug produces a physical reaction that may include flushing nausea vomiting and headaches Naltrexone is a drug that blocks the effects of opioids in your brain and prevents you from getting high if you abuse opioids good feelings caused by alcohol may reduce the urge to drink Acamprosate can help you resist alcohol cravings once you have stopped drinking Unlike naltrexone acamprosate does not make you feel sick after taking a drink

  • Injected medication.Vivitrol is a form of the drug naltrexone that is injected once a month by a health care professional Another type of medication similar to Vivitrol can be taken in pill form However; the injectable version may be easier for people recovering from alcohol use disorder to adhere consistently with their treatment

  • Continuing support.Aftercare programs and support groups help people recovering from alcoholism to stop using alcohol manage relapses and cope with necessary lifestyle changes This may include medical or psychological treatment or attending a support group

  • Treatment for psychological problems.When you have depression anxiety or another mental health condition you may need talk therapy (psychotherapy) medications or other treatment

  • Medical treatment for health conditions.Drinking alcohol may cause a variety of health problems but you can improve most of them once you stop However some health conditions may require continued treatment and follow-up

  • Spiritual practice.People who are involved with some type of regular spiritual practice may find it easier to maintain recovery from alcohol use disorder or other addictions For many people gaining greater insight into their spiritual side is a key element in recovery

Residential treatment programs

If you have a serious alcohol use disorder you may need to stay at a residential treatment facility Most residential treatment programs include individual and group therapy support groups educational lectures family involvement and activity therapy

Residential treatment programs typically include licensed alcohol and drug counselors social workers nurses doctors and others with expertise and experience in treating alcohol use disorder

Lifestyle and home remedies

To recover you will need to change your habits and make different lifestyle choices These tips may help

  • Consider your social situation.Explain to your friends and family that you are not drinking alcohol Develop a support system of friends and family who can support your recovery if you need it You may need to distance yourself from friends and social situations that impair your recovery

  • Develop healthy habits.For example good sleep regular physical activity managing stress better and eating well all can make it easier for you to overcome alcohol use disorder

  • Do things without alcoholYou may find that many of your activities involve drinking alcohol Replace these with hobbies or other activities that don't center around alcohol

Alternative medicine

Do not replace conventional medical treatment or psychotherapy with alternative medicine However when recovering from alcohol use disorder these techniques may be helpful:

  • Yoga.Yoga's series of postures and breathing exercises may help you relax and manage stress

  • Meditation.During meditation you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind

  • Acupuncture.Small needles are inserted into the skin Acupuncture may help reduce anxiety and depression

Coping and support

A support group can be essential for those with alcohol problems and their families Your doctor or counselor can suggest a support group and they are often listed in the phone book It is sometimes in the phone book and on the Internet

Here are a few examples:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous.Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a self-help group for people recovering from alcoholism AA offers a sober peer group and is based on 12 steps as an effective model for achieving total abstinence

  • Women for Sobriety.This is an organization that offers a self-help group program for women who want to overcome alcoholism and other addictions It focuses on developing coping skills related to emotional and spiritual growth self-esteem and healthy lifestyle choices

  • Al-Anon and Alateen.Al-Anon is a program for people who are affected by the drinking habits of others Alateen groups are available for teenagers whose parents have problems with alcohol abuse By sharing their stories family members learn to understand how the disease affects them all in different ways

Preparing for your appointment

Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment and what to expect from your doctor or mental health professional

Consider your drinking habits by looking honestly at how often and how much you drink Prepare to discuss any problems that alcohol may be causing You may want to take someone along with you if possible

Before your appointment, make a list of:

  • Any symptoms you've had,including those that may seem unrelated to your drinking

  • Key personal information,including any major life changes or stresses

  • All medications,Let your doctor know about vitamins herbs or other supplements you're taking and their dosages

  • Questions to ask your doctor

Some questions to ask include:

  • Do you think I drink too much or am I showing signs of problem drinking?

  • Do you believe I should cut back or stop drinking?

  • Could alcohol be causing or worsening my other health problems?

  • What's the best course of action?

  • What are some other ways to do what you suggest?

  • What medical tests do I need to determine any underlying physical problems?

  • Could I get any brochures or other printed material? Which websites do you recommend?

  • Would it be helpful for me to meet with a professional experienced in alcohol treatment?

Do not hesitate to ask any other questions

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor may ask you questions such as:

  • How often and how much do you drink?

  • Have you ever had problems with any of your family members?

  • Have you ever drunk more than you intended?

  • Have your relatives, friends or co-workers ever suggested that you should cut back or quit drinking?

  • Have you tried to stop drinking? If so, was it difficult and did you have any withdrawal symptoms?

  • Have you ever behaved in a dangerous, harmful or violent way when you were drinking?

  • Do you have any serious physical health problems? For example, are you in the early stages of liver disease or diabetes?

  • Do you have any mental health problems such as depression or anxiety?

  • Do you use recreational drugs?

Your doctor or mental health professional will ask additional questions based on your responses and the symptoms you described You can prepare for these questions by anticipating them ahead of time making the most of your appointment time

General summary

The severity of AUD is classified as mild, moderate, or severe based on the number of symptoms present. It's important to note that not everyone who consumes alcohol will develop AUD, and the disorder can affect individuals from all walks of life.

Treatment for alcohol use disorder may involve a combination of behavioral therapies, counseling, medications, and support groups. Seeking professional help is crucial for managing and overcoming alcohol use disorder. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol-related issues, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or addiction specialist for guidance and support.

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