Alcohol Use Disorder, or AUD, is a mental disorder and medical condition that presents as an inability to control alcohol usage, even when it causes negative health consequences or affects social and occupational life. Whether you want to call it alcohol abuse, addiction, dependency, or alcoholism, AUD encompasses all of these terms.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism teaches us that alcohol abuse causes lasting changes to the brain that make it difficult to stop compulsive behavior and obsessive thoughts about alcohol. These changes make relapse likely without the use of evidence-based treatments like medications, behavioral therapies, and peer support.
This brain disorder can be mild, moderate, or severe. Mild and moderate alcoholism can quickly spiral out of control without treatment. It’s best to get medical care in the early stages to make maintaining recovery easier. If you’re battling seemingly uncontrollable compulsive drinking, know that you’re not alone. One in twenty adults battles AUD.
Because of its prevalence, this addiction has been studied in-depth, and scientists continue to develop effective therapies for this medical problem. Part of what makes alcoholism so difficult is the social acceptance of alcohol use. Alcohol is legal and its use is very widespread. When your peers do it and nobody cares, it’s easy to fall into the trap that acceptance sets.
Identifying Alcohol Use Disorders
The fifth iteration of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) outlines eleven identifying factors to diagnose Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). If you’ve experienced two or more of these symptoms in the last 12 months, it’s time to seek help.
- You drank for a longer period of time or exceeded the intended amount you planned to drink in one session within the last year.
- You’ve attempted to decrease the amount you drink or quit altogether but couldn’t.
- Much of your time is dedicated to drinking and/or recovering from the after-effects of drinking.
- When you’re sober, you’ve experienced obsessive thoughts about drinking.
- Drinking and/or hangovers have caused a disruption in your relationships, occupation, or ability to perform in school.
- You keep consuming alcohol even after it’s caused a negative consequence.
- You avoid activities where alcohol isn’t welcomed.
- You’ve exposed yourself to physical danger while drunk or hungover.
- You’re worried about how your drinking will damage your health, even though you keep doing it.
- Your tolerance to alcohol has increased, causing you to drink more to get drunk.
- You’ve ever had withdrawal symptoms like tremors, feeling physically ill, pain, intense urges, etc.
Statistics Concerning Alcohol and AUD
According to the NIAAA, People who drink for the first time before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop alcoholism later in life. Alcohol is very detrimental to developing brains. Drinking in college is also very common, and many recovering AUD sufferers report that their problems stemmed from that time in their lives.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that over 67 million Americans age 12 and over binge drink. The same survey tells us that one in 200 young people admits to heavy binge drinking over five times per month.
Shame is one of the factors preventing people from admitting that they have a problem or speaking about how much or how often they drink. People who don’t realize how often they drink or that the amount of alcohol they consume is a problem don’t feel shameful about admitting their drinking. Some peer groups glorify harmful drinking and get a sense of pride from it, making it doubly difficult to see when AUD has developed.
Though only 6.1% of American adults admit to heavy binge drinking or alcoholism, adults between 18 and 25 years of age have less shame or self-awareness of it. One in 11 purport binge drinking more than 5 days per month.
The high numbers of American adults caught for DUIs, arrested for committing crimes while under the influence, or seeking medical care for illnesses caused by chronic drinking tell a different story. AUD is obviously a much more prevalent problem than many sufferers are willing to admit. If you have a drinking problem, put your shame aside and save yourself.
The WHO reports that harmful drinking causes one out of every 20 deaths worldwide, which equates to more than three times the number of people who admit to having a problem with alcohol. Staying true to this statistic, The WHO also reports that 5% of the disease burden is caused by heavy drinking. They estimate that 237 million men and 46 million women globally have AUD.
Facing Down Shame, Admitting the Problem, and Reaching Out for Help
If you or someone you love is suffering, keep in mind that shame factors into how long it takes them to admit they have a problem and get help. After getting sober, lingering shame can be an indication of relapse. When you’re suffering, it can be difficult to get out of your own obsessive thought cycles.
Getting help is imperative to healing. Peer support is vital, and so is getting real medical treatment. When you realize you have AUD, tell your support system what’s happening and contact us as soon as possible for help. When you don’t have a support system to lean on, it’s even more urgent that you get into treatment as quickly as possible.
If you are a resident of Andover, Massachusetts, we want you to know that you can come to us for help. We’re proud of the steps you’re taking, we accept you with your flaws, and we know how much courage it took you to get to this point. You’re going to get better, and we’re going to help.
We understand that fighting a life-long battle with AUD is exhausting, and you can’t do it alone. Topsail Addiction Treatment is here to pick you up and support you until you’re able to stand on your own. Call us today to start treatment.