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Alcohol Use Disorder

What is an Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol Use Disorder is defined as a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress. Simply put, that means that someone has moved past moderate alcohol consumption into a pattern of behavior that allows drinking to take over their life.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines excessive drinking as binge drinking (4 or more drinks at a time for women, 5+ for men) and heavy drinking (for women, 8+ drinks per week, and 15+ for men). Continued heavy drinking eventually builds tolerance, which creates a need for even more alcohol to achieve the same buzz. With this comes withdrawal – uncomfortable symptoms from letting alcohol levels fall below one’s new baseline. The looming threat of withdrawal symptoms, along with psychological drivers, cause people to spiral quickly into problematic drinking habits.

It’s hard to see yourself or your loved one grow more and more dependent on alcohol to get through the day. What used to be an after-work drink with coworkers turns into consuming increasing amounts of alcohol alone and at inappropriate times, trying to hide your drinking, growing more and more secretive, and drinking in unsafe situations (such as when driving your kids to school). Eventually, alcohol becomes more important than anything else.

Signs of Alcoholism

It can be difficult to distinguish heavy drinking from alcoholism. Because alcoholic beverages are such a staple in popular culture, it’s also hard to tell someone that you believe their drinking has gotten out of control. However, there is a definitive set of signs that someone may have an alcohol use disorder. If you or a loved one struggle with alcohol addiction, we encourage you to reach out to Calming Goat for treatment immediately.

These signs are taken directly from the DSM-5 and should only be considered a guideline. Many people with drinking problems may fulfill more or fewer requirements than are listed below, and are notoriously secretive about their substance use. Only evaluation by a clinical professional can determine whether or not someone truly has an alcohol use disorder.

  • Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
  • There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.
  • A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol, or recover from its effects.
  • Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use alcohol.
  • Recurrent alcohol use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
  • Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol.
  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use.
  • Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
  • Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by alcohol.

Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:

  • A need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect.
  • A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol.

Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:

  • The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol
  • Alcohol (or a closely related substance, such as a benzodiazepine) is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Who Needs Treatment for AUD?

In addition, excessive alcohol use carries a risk of illnesses and health conditions. In the short term, these health risks include injuries (car crashes, falls, drownings), violence (homicide, assault, sexual assault, and domestic violence), alcohol poisoning, risky sexual behaviors, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in pregnant women. In the long term, the concerns are even more grave. Chronic problems develop, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, gastrointestinal issues, cancers of various types, dementia and other memory problems, depression, anxiety, and loss of employment.

FDA-Approved Medication for Alcohol Use Disorder

Our treatment for alcoholism relies on fully-researched, proven methods and medications. In addition to recommending psychological treatment (specifically individual therapy and group support systems), Calming Goat has a wide array of medical options for resolving even the most complex cases of alcohol use disorder. Disulfiram, acamprosate, and naltrexone are the most common drugs used to treat AUD. None of these drugs provide a cure for the disorder, but they are most effective in people who participate in a MAT program.

Note: We do not use baclofen for alcohol detox. This highly addictive drug just worsens detox from alcohol in the long run.

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