What Is Alcohol Abuse Disorder and What Are The Symptoms?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a very common condition among adults in the United States, and it is not one that should be taken lightly. According to a national survey in 2019, over 14.1 million adults were officially diagnosed with alcohol use disorder, with medical professionals acknowledging the fact that there are likely millions more that go undiagnosed and untreated. 

Often referred to as alcoholism, alcohol use disorder is labeled as such when a person’s drinking habits escalate to a point where they have difficulty controlling their consumption, or they continue to consume alcohol as it causes problems with their health, safety, or daily life. In this article, we will discuss alcohol use disorder in detail along with many of the symptoms and difficulties that come with it.

Alcohol Is Addictive

One important factor to keep in mind when discussing alcohol consumption is the extent of its addictive attributes. Alcohol as a chemical substance alone is so highly addictive that a grown man only needs to consume 5-6 drinks in a week to develop a chemical dependence on the substance. Add this to the fact that alcohol is used as a vice in the majority of social situations, sporting events, and outdoor activities and you’ll find that the addiction also becomes habitual as a situational staple that adults have trouble avoiding, even when they put sincere effort into doing so. In other words, alcohol is everywhere, and western civilization has included it in almost everything we do. Therefore, when people are taking honest measures to avoid consumption, the neverending presence of the substance makes relapse all the more likely to occur. 

Alcohol Disorder Symptoms

When a person’s addiction to alcohol becomes severe, it can begin to interfere with their health and their lives in significant ways. However, alcohol use disorder involves more than just the physiological effects of excessive alcohol consumption, but also focuses on the behavioral aspect of the conditions. The symptoms are not strictly reserved for the severe cases either, and even mild or moderate cases of AUD can result in harsh symptoms and require medical treatment. The most common symptoms of AUD include: 

  • Strong cravings or the urge to drink
  • Being unable to control the amount or rate of consumption
  • Drinking when it isn’t safe, such as driving
  • Headaches, insomnia, and mood swings
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, shaking, and sweating
  • Failing to complete objectives at work, school, or daily life
  • Isolation from friends and family

Excessive alcohol consumption is also detrimental to your physical health, leading to higher chances of heart, liver, and kidney diseases as well as a strong direct link to 90% of other known diseases including multiple forms of cancer. Alcohol is a poison, and losing the ability to control the consumption of it completely compromises your body’s ability to survive in the natural world in every way conceivable. 

Dangerous When Sober

While we’ve discussed many of the dangers and risks of alcohol consumption, both moderate and severe, it is important to realize that alcohol use disorder also concerns itself with the struggles people go through while they’re sober, the time period where they are not consuming alcohol at all, and how those complications affect their lives. As you may well know, during alcohol intoxication, people lose a significant amount of their inhibitions, motor skills, and the ability to exercise good judgment, essentially turning them into walking insurance liabilities. However, the silent symptoms they experience when they are sober are also concerning. 

Hangovers are what we refer to as the immediate symptoms people experience following a period of alcohol consumption. These symptoms are the result of a combination of dehydration, excess salt and sugar in the blood, malnourishment, and of course high levels of alcohol in their system. Hangovers can last for only a couple hours, or even for a couple of days after a period of heavy drinking, and serve as a reminder to all about the importance of drinking in moderation. However, hangovers are not the only manifestation of withdrawals that people with AUD suffer from.

While alcohol is often used as a vice to combat the effects of a stressful day, and ends up becoming the preferred method of self-medicating for stress, the reality is that alcohol only numbs your body’s physical response to the cortisol (stress hormone) coursing through your body. Instead of combating cortisol, or offsetting it with positive hormones like serotonin, it actually increases cortisol production significantly, resulting in your body experiencing even greater consequences of stress. The toll this takes on your body does not fade away as you sober up, either, and only serves to intensify withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Hallucination
  • Hand tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Seizures
  • Unable to function at work or social situations

The intensity of these symptoms will vary based on the severity of the addiction, and consumption habits, but there is hardly a scenario where they are easy to cope with. Aside from the fact that alcohol is everywhere, and a part of everything adults do, these intense withdrawals can prove to be a larger obstacle to recovery than any other elements of the addiction.

American Treatment Network

Alcohol is arguably one of the most addictive substances in the world, and recovering from alcohol use disorder alone is never going to be an easy task. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, it may be time to consider professional help. American Treatment Network is an intervention and rehabilitation clinic that specializes in evidence-based Alcohol Addiction Treatment, and provides the necessary mental health services that follow to reduce the likelihood of a relapse or a return to old consumption habits. To schedule a tour for our clinic in Dover, DE or one of our other convenient locations, please visit our website today and get started down your path to recovery.


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