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Table of Contents

Alcohol Use Disorder: What is it, 3 Common Risks & Best Treatments

  • Risk increases for AUD?
  • Symptoms of AUD
  • Types of Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder
  • Medications 
  • Behavioral Treatments
  • Mutual-Support Groups
  • Can Those With Alcohol Use Disorder Recover?
  • Need Help?

What used to be called alcohol abuse or dependence, alcohol addiction, is now called alcohol use disorder (AUD). It is considered a brain disorder which is a medical condition that can be mild, moderate, or severe. It is characterized by the inability to quit alcohol or control the amount of alcohol consumed despite many reasons. Those reasons include adverse social, health and even occupational consequences. 

Relapse has a potential to occur because with the changes in the brain due to alcohol use disorder it makes a person more susceptible. Although, the good news is no matter the severity there’s been proven therapies and treatments which are evidence based that can help. Some of those treatments are mutual-support groups, behavioral therapies and/or medications. All these therapies can help people who struggled with AUD succeed and maintain sobriety and long-term recovery. 

14.1 million adults ages 18 and older, according to a national survey, had AUD in 2019. It was estimated that 414,000 adolescents aged 12-17 had AUD during this time as well in 2019.

Risk increases for AUD?

Ddepending on how much, how quickly, and even how often you drink alcohol will determine your risk for developing AUD. Binge drinking, and heavy alcohol use, is alcohol misue and in time it will increase the risk of developing AUD. There are also other factors that increases the risk of AUD, being:

  • Consuming alcohol at a young age. People amoung the ages of 26 and older, and who began drinking prior to the age of 15 were 5 times greater to report of having AUD in the previous year. This was compared to those who waited until they reached the age of 21 or later to start drinking. For females in the risk was higher in the group compared to males.
  • Alcohol problems are also connected to genetics and family history. When it comes to genetics, hereditability makes up approximately 60%. Though AUD risk is influenced between an individual’s genes and their enviroment which is like other chronic health conditions. Even parents’ alochol drinking patters could also increase the likelihood that a child could potentially develop AUD.
  • A history of trauma and mental health conditions can increase AUD risks. Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and attention deficit disorder are some of the psychiatric condtions that can increase the risks. They are often comorbid with AUD. Those who have a history of childhood trauma especially are very susceptible to AUD.

Symptoms of AUD

To diagnose AUD properly and professionally, healthcare professionals use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). They use it to evaluate whether a individual meets the criteria for an alcohol use disorder diagnosis. It also breaks it down further into the severity of the AUD disorder that is present. The severity is based on several criteria a individual has to meet based on their symptoms. These are the alcohol use disorder severity criteria of symptoms, mild (2-3 symptoms of criteria), moderate (4-5 symptoms of criteria), or severe (6 or more symptoms of criteria). 

You will be asked many questions by a health care provider. However, you may be asked the following specific questions to help determine a person’s symptoms. For an example, in the prior year, have you:

  • Did you have moments where you ended up drinking longer, or drinking more than you intended?
  • Have you wanted to reduce your alcohol driking or even wanted to stop, and found out you couldn’t?
  • Found yourself spending a whole lot of time drinking? Then finding yourself sick the next day or getting over the afterefects of drinking, like a hangover?
  • Had your mind so caught up with drinking and feeling the need to drink so badly, that you found yourself unable to think of practically anything else?
  • Routinely found that when you did drink, or got sick from drinking, it seemed to always interfere with tending to your responsibilities of your home or family? Or even caused employment issues? Perhaps even school problems at times?
  • Decided to continue to drink even though it was making things difficult with your family or friends?
  • In order to continue to drink, you have given up or completely cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you? Even things that gave you pleasure?
  • Found yourself in situations while drinking or afterwards that increased your chances of getting hurt or compromising your safety? (Such as swimming, using machinery, driving, walking in a dangerous area, or having unprotected sex)?
  • Even though you were depressed and drinking was making you more depressed or anxious you continued to drink? Perhaps even if drinking was adding to another health problem? Even continuing to drink after having a memory blackout?
  • Noticing that you had to drink significantly much more than you used to in order to get the effect you wanted? Finding out the usual normal amount of drinks you used to drink had much less effect than before?
  • Having withdrawal symptoms once the effects of alohol were wearing off. Symptoms such as restlessness, trouble sleeping, shakiness, nausea, racing heart, sweating, or a seizure? Possibly even started sensing things that were not there?

The more symptoms experienced, it is more cause of a more urgent need for a change. However, any of these symptoms, even one, may be a cause for a concern.

alcohol use disorder

Types of Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

There are many and several types of treatment for alcohol use disorder. Not everyone responds the same to one type of treatment option. Luckily, there are many evidence based treatment options available. Which means there should be some kind of treatment option that would be suitable for everyone. For starters, there are treatment options for those who need to be inpatient, and an option for those who can utilize an outpatient option when it comes to a treatment facility. Both can be provided specialty programs that includes therapists and doctors, even case managers.


acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone (oral and long-acting injectable) are the three medications that are currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administation to help individuals to reduce or stop their drinking of alochol. It also helps prevent relapse. These medications are non-addictive, they can be used alone or they can be used with mutual-support groups and behvorial treatments as well.

Behavioral Treatments

“Talk Therapy,” which are also known as behavorial treatments, further known as alcohol counseling. It is guided by a licensed therapist and it is helpful at changing drinking behavior. It is brief interventions and reinforcements. It’s treatments are supposed to build motivation and teach many skills for coping in order to prevent relapse from occuring. It also teaches mindfulness-based therapy pratices as well.

Mutual-Support Groups

In communities there are typically mutual-support groups that are available to attend that have group meetings. They are typically free but some have a low cost fee. They are usually ran at convenient times so most people can attent along with easy to get to locations. Some even have a presence online as well. This type of community can be very beneficial in helping someone to relapse with receiving this kind of support from the community. Medications and behavorial treatment provided by healthcare professionals in addition to can offer a increased layer of support that’s invaluable.

It’s important to note that there are people with severe alcohol use disorder and they may need medical help when detoxing. They need help to avoid the alcohol withdrawal when they do decide to stop drinking. When detoxing, it is a potentially life-threating process! If someone has been drinking heavily for a long period of time suddenly stops drinking alcohol it can be dangerous and life-threating. That in itself cannot be stressed enough!

Doctors can prescribe medications to help ensure their safety and symptoms. This will ultimately make the process much safer and less distressing to them and everyone involved. Which is why it is highly recommended that anyone who is gong to quit drinking it is best for them to go to a treatment facility for medical detox. It is much safer that way. There you can get the medical intervention needed as your body goes through these stressful and potentially life-threatening and dangerous withdrawals. 

Can Those With Alcohol Use Disorder Recover?

Yes, those with alcohol use disorder do recover! However, it is challenging and it is possible for setback to occur. It is common for setbacks to happen with those who are in treatment. That is why it is very important to receive professional help and assistance early for alcohol use disorder treatment, because it can  help relapse in the long term. Evidence based therapies offered can help people develop solid skills to avoid and successfully deal with triggers. Medications can even help deter drinking during times when people may be at a greater risk of relapse (ex. death of family member, divorce, finances) 

Need Help?

If you or someone you know is concerned about alcohol use and would like more information about alcohol use disorder, cost of treatment or related insurance providers please contact us today. We would be more than happy to discuss and answer any questions you may have.