Alcohol Use Disorder
Addiction to alcohol can be difficult to face—and it can be easier to reframe your drinking as simply something you do socially or that you happen to enjoy rather than as a problem. But alcoholism, which is known in the medical community as an alcohol use disorder (AUD), is not about good times with friends or personal enjoyment.
AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease identified by loss of control over alcohol intake, compulsive alcohol use, and a negative emotional state when one is unable to drink. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that an estimated 9.8 million men and 5.3 million women—more than 15 million people all told—meet the diagnostic criteria for this condition.
Are You at Risk for Developing an Alcohol Use Disorder?
While any number of things may contribute to the development of an alcohol addiction, several common risk factors have been identified:
- Close relative(s) who suffers from alcoholism
- Multiple alcohol abusers in your social circle
- High levels of stress, especially related to finances or relationships
- Low self-esteem
- Anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders
Again, this is not a comprehensive list, but it may provide a gauge for measuring your risk and evaluating your drinking habits. That evaluation should also consider a variety of behaviors that may signal addiction.
What Are the Signs of Alcoholism?
Risk factors are one thing and may indicate a propensity for addition, but the true warning signs are found in a range of behaviors and mental states that should be taken extremely seriously. For example:
- Experiencing strong cravings for or an inability to control your consumption of alcohol
- Engaging in risky behavior like driving under the influence or mixing alcohol with prescription medication
- Attempting to use alcohol to control stress or loosen up in social situation
- Abandoning hobbies, activities, work, or personal obligations in favor of drinking
- Hiding your drinking or lying about it when others express concern
- Becoming violent or emotionally unstable when drinking
- Binge drinking (consuming enough alcohol in a two-hour period to raise your blood alcohol content above .08)
What Are the Consequences of Prolonged Alcohol Abuse?
Those suffering from an AUD may not be in a position to truly consider the long-term consequences of their drinking. Nevertheless, those consequences are very real and include:
- Liver disease including cirrhosis of the liver
- Digestive problems including stomach and esophageal ulcers
- Heart problems including high blood pressure and stroke
- Osteoporosis and an increased risk of bone fracture
- Weakening of the immune system
- Sexual dysfunction
- Impaired cognitive ability ranging from short term memory loss to dementia
- Increased risk of cancer
- For diabetics: increased risk of hypoglycemia
- For pregnant women: increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, birth defects, and stillbirth
- For those suffering from depression: worsening symptoms
- For the obese: significant increases in caloric intake
- Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, injury, legal issues, and relationship difficulties
Given these potential issues, seeking treatment for AUD is essential.
What Are the Treatment Options for AUD?
First, the bad news: willpower usually isn’t enough to overcome an addiction to alcohol. And there is no “cure.”
But there’s plenty of good news. Comprehensive treated is available and begins with a medically-managed detoxification—with 24/7 supervision to avoid problems during the withdrawal process–to rid the body of the abused substance. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can help manage cravings and lessen the likelihood of relapse. The most commonly used medications include disulfiram, acamprosate, and naltrexone. MAT is carefully monitored and generally lasts from six months to a year.
In addition to medical intervention, treatment should include group and individual therapy. These therapy sessions provide a strong foundation for lasting sobriety by helping individuals learn how to cope with cravings, manage stress, and practice self-care in the absence of alcohol. Yoga, meditation, music or art therapy, acupuncture, and other holistic treatments may also be helpful.
Perhaps the best known interventions for AUDs are 12-Step programs including Alcoholics Anonymous or self-help groups like SMART Recovery. These groups and others like them offer the support individuals need to adjust to long-term abstinence from alcohol.
How Can Bel Aire Recovery Center Help?
Bel Aire Recovery Center in Kansas provides residential treatment for those with AUD in a safe and structured environment. Treatment is personalized, taking into account factors such as co-occurring mental health disorders and history of trauma.
Following the completion of residential treatment, Bel Aire Recovery Center’s continuum of care includes referrals to outpatient care, sober living homes, and other relevant community-based resources. Advice concerning nutrition, exercise, spiritual practice, stress management, family support, and education or career goals is also part of the center’s commitment to each individual.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recognizes addiction as a disability. As a result, people who are in treatment for AUD are entitled to the full range of legal protections provided by the law. The ADA prevents you from being terminated, involuntarily reassigned, or denied a promotion because of your disability. Your employer must make reasonable work accommodations such as allowing you to leave work for recovery-related appointments.
Those seeking treatment for AUD may also be entitled to unpaid, job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Those who work for a covered employer and who meet the employment-related eligibility requirements can use FMLA leave to seek residential treatment at a facility like Bel Aire Recovery Center.