For the majority of people, having the occasional social drink is something that’s pleasurable but not necessary to have a good time. Others have a more difficult relationship with alcohol and there are around 18 million Americans with some degree of alcohol use disorder or AUD which can lead to alcohol dependence.
When someone has become dependent on alcohol, they are no longer able to control their need to drink and they generally start to experience the following:
- Strong cravings to drink
- A loss of self-control as the addictive compulsion to drink takes over
- Physical dependence on alcohol, characterized by withdrawal symptoms
- The need to drink more alcohol to achieve the desired effect due to a build-up of tolerance
When someone has AUD, they have not yet necessarily become physically dependent on alcohol. But they still have a serious problem nevertheless.
Alcohol abuse can cause people to withdraw into themselves, in part because they fear being judged or misunderstood and also because they don’t want to be confronted with their drinking. Because of this lack of communication, people with AUD are often unaccepting of the damage they are doing to themselves and those around them.
However, alcohol abuse is not the same as alcoholism although it does represent the early warning signs for many people if they remain untreated. When someone abuses alcohol they generally indulge in binge drinking which often spirals out of control and into alcoholism if unchecked.
The Signs and Symptoms of AUD
An individual is considered to have an AUD if in the past 12 months they have experienced the following:
- Found themselves drinking more alcohol for longer than planned
- Tried to reduce the amount of alcohol they consume but have been unable to
- Spent a big portion of their lives either drinking or recovering from drinking
- Progressively stronger cravings to consume alcohol
- Continued to drink in the face of problems in their personal lives or at work
- Exhibited mood swings and changes in sleep patterns
- Taken unnecessary risks through casual sexual encounters or criminal activity
- Felt compelled to drink more and more to achieve the desired state
- Become withdrawn or isolated from those closest to them
If someone is experiencing any of the above, their drinking has probably become a cause for concern and they should seek professional rehabilitation. If an AUD is not treated effectively, it can progress and develop into alcoholism, which is a much more serious and long-term problem. Essentially, there are a lot of treatment options and support for people with an AUD once they have taken the first step to reach out to an alcohol abuse rehab centers for help.