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Alcohol Addiction (AUD)
Alcohol Addiction or Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is referred to by many names. The intensity of the disorder dictates the name of the disorder with which the patient is diagnosed. When diagnosing severity it is important to understand the following terms:
Heavy drinking is defined as routine drinking in excess of 1 drink per day for women and more than 2 drinks a day for men. Binge drinking is 4 drinks or more per day for women and 5 drinks or more for men. These drinks are consumed one after another, or within a short period of time. Alcohol abuse is characterized by an inability to fulfill work, school, and family tasks, and an inability to function in social situations, sometimes accompanied by legal problems and drinking in risky situations (while driving or in other focused activities) Alcohol dependence, also known as alcoholism, is the most severe form of this disorder. It is characterized by compulsive drinking, and the absence of control over one’s drinking, a preoccupation with and increased tolerance to alcohol, and possibly symptoms of withdrawal.
Long-term effects include stomach and heart problems cancer, brain damage, memory loss, and liver cirrhosis. Men are more likely to develop alcoholism than women, but women suffer more health problems, even with lower consumption patterns. Alcohol addiction significantly affects families. 50% of Americans have at least one relative suffering from alcohol addiction. Families of AUD patients are more likely to experience violence and abuse, and children are more likely to suffer physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect and typically develop psychological problems.
Pregnant women who drink can seriously damage the fetus. Social, genetic, physiological and psychological factors can all predispose a patient to Alcoholism. Some patients suffering from alcohol abuse exhibit psychological traits like impulsiveness, and low self-esteem.
Some people drink to cope with emotional problems, some because of peer pressure. Poverty, physical and sexual abuse all increase the odds of developing alcohol dependence. Genetic factors make a person vulnerable to alcohol dependence. Inherited alcoholism is between 40-60%. But family history doesn't guarantee alcohol problems nor does the absence of drinking problems in your family prevent you from developing a problem. Often others do not understand why alcoholics can’t just use will power to stop drinking. But, alcoholism has little to do with will. Alcoholics feel an uncontrollable need or craving to drink. This need can be as strong as the need for food or water.
What are the symptoms?
The primary symptoms of Alcohol Dependence or Alcoholism are:
Secondary symptoms can include:
How is it diagnosed and treated?Alcohol addiction is a lifelong disease with alternating relapses and remission. Because of the seriousness of this disorder, a careful diagnostic assessment should be completed. Patients often hide their drinking, so it can be hard to diagnose alcoholism until the later stages when behaviors become hard to ignore.
Doctors perform blood work and use a screening instrument to identify the problem. Screening instruments include AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test) considered the most accurate, the Quantity and Frequency Questionnaire, the CAGE questionnaire, 10-question Brief Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (BMAST) and TWEAK (Tolerance, Worry about drinking, Eye-opener drinks, Amnesia, Cut down on drinking) consisting of 5 questions.
The type of treatment a patient receives depends on the severity of the condition. Treatment(s) can include:
Treatment protocols vary, depending upon the addiction, but in general, medical, educational and social therapeutic modalities are required to address the addiction and the associated and secondary conditions that may exist. Treatments may include one or some of the following therapies:
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