Alcohol use disorder (often referred to as alcoholism) is a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect, or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking.
Although some people are able to moderate their alcohol use, the alcoholic is not capable of doing so. Many who suffer from alcoholism also partake in binge-drinking— a pattern of drinking where a person consumes five or more drinks within two hours. Binge drinking causes significant health and safety risks.
If your pattern of drinking has begun causing problems in your life, it may be time to seek professional help. Here at the Northern Arizona Center for Addiction we understand alcohol use disorder, and we know how to help.
Symptoms of Alcoholism
Alcohol use disorder can be mild, moderate, or severe based on the number of symptoms you experience. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink
- Wanting to cut down on how much you drink or making unsuccessful attempts to do so
- Spending a lot of time drinking, getting alcohol, or recovering from alcohol use
- Feeling a strong craving or urge to drink alcohol
- Failing to fulfill major obligations at work, school, or home due to repeated alcohol use
- Continuing to drink alcohol even though you know it’s causing physical, social, or interpersonal problems
- Giving up or reducing social and work activities and hobbies
- Using alcohol in situations where it’s not safe, such as when driving or swimming
- Developing a tolerance to alcohol so you need more to feel its effect or you have a reduced effect from the same amount
Causes Of Alcohol Use Disorder
Genetic, psychological, social and environmental factors can impact how drinking alcohol affects your body and behavior. Theories suggest that for certain people drinking has a different and stronger impact that can lead to alcohol use disorder.
Over time, drinking too much alcohol may change the normal function of the areas of your brain associated with the experience of pleasure, judgment, and the ability to exercise control over your behavior. This may result in craving alcohol to try to restore good feelings or reduce negative ones.
Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder
- Detoxification (detox): This may be needed immediately after discontinuing alcohol use and can be a medical emergency, as detox can result in withdrawal seizures, hallucinations, delirium tremens (DT), and in some cases may result in death.
- Rehabilitation: This involves counseling and medications to give the recovering alcoholic the skills needed for maintaining sobriety. This step in treatment can be done inpatient or outpatient. Both are equally effective.
- Maintenance of sobriety: This step’s success requires an alcoholic to be self-driven. The key to maintenance is support, which often includes regular Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and getting a sponsor.
Because detoxification does not stop the craving for alcohol, recovery is often difficult to maintain. For a person in an early stage of alcoholism, discontinuing alcohol use may result in some withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety and poor sleep. Withdrawal from long-term dependence may bring the uncontrollable shaking, spasms, panic, and hallucinations of DTs. If not treated professionally, people with DTs have a mortality rate of more than 10%, so detoxification from late-stage alcoholism should be attempted under the care of an experienced doctor and may require a brief inpatient stay at a hospital or treatment center.
Long-Term Recovery from Alcoholism
Long-term recovery from severe alcoholism is not a quick and easy process. It takes time, patience, willingness, and a desire for more from life. Many people have gotten sober and stayed sober thanks to a caring treatment staff and supportive peers. Here at the Northern Arizona Center for Addiction we are experienced in helping men and women get their lives back on track through a well-structured and effective treatment model. Recovering from alcohol addiction is much easier when you have people you can lean on for encouragement, comfort, and guidance. Without knowledge and support, it’s easy to fall back into old patterns when things get tough.
If you or someone you love is struggling with their drinking and needs help, contract us. We are here to guide you through the admissions process and help answer any questions you might have about our treatment center or our different treatment modalities.