Everyone has a different opinion about alcohol; some think of it as a part of their lifestyles while others find that abstinence is best for them. Nevertheless, although it may appear like a part of normal human life, there are those that have a problem with their alcohol intake. Figuring out if someone does have a problem with alcohol can be tricky, though, due to its widespread acceptance. So, how do you know when someone has alcohol issues and in need of a treatment?
A report by the University of Michigan Addiction Treatment Services stated that there are multiple factors that need to be identified in order to rule out if someone has a drinking problem, commonly referred to as alcohol use disorder (AUD). If you feel that you, or someone you know, may have issues with alcohol, then there are a few things you should know.
What is Alcohol Use Disorder?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), an AUD is described as someone who has a negative emotional state when not using alcohol and a loss of control over their alcohol intake. In the U.S., it’s estimated that about 16 million people struggle with AUD.
If you believe you or a loved one may be suffering from AUD, there are a few questions you can ask, a simple alcohol use disorder identification test, such as:
- Were there times where you ended up drinking more than you initially planned?
- Have you experienced any form of strong cravings to drink alcohol?
- Have you been in a situation where you increased the chances of injury such as while using machinery, driving, swimming, unsafe sex or walking in a dangerous area?
- Have you cut connection with your loved ones just to be around people who drink alcohol?
- Have you given up on activities that you were once interested in?
- Have you found that when you aren’t drinking, you feel uncomfortable and sick?
- Have you tried to stop drinking but failed to do so?
If two or three questions are answered as yes, the patient will be diagnosed with mild AUD. If they answer four to five, they will be labeled as a moderate case. Those who answer yes to six or more will be labeled as having severe alcohol use disorder.
What is Alcohol Withdrawal?
Alcohol withdrawal is when a person suffering from AUD abstains from drinking alcohol for a period of time. Essentially, their body has become so used to having alcohol in its system, that it needs alcohol now just to function normally.
Alcohol use disorder symptoms can range from mild to severe. In order to rule out if someone has mild, moderate or severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, you need to look at how severe their reactions are when they’re not exposed to alcohol. Some symptoms include:
- High blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
- Trouble sleeping
Once an individual begins withdrawals, they need to be taken to a medical professional. Alcohol withdrawals, even mild alcohol withdrawals, can be incredibly dangerous and fatal. This is why AUD is so dangerous, as it perpetuates a cycle of abuse.
How to Treat Alcohol Use Disorder
When it comes to alcohol, even a small amount can affect the brain in a negative way. For those that develop an AUD, the disorder can permanently damage their brain.
Despite the fact that there are millions of people in the U.S. who struggle with AUD, only less than 10 percent would receive any treatment. However, it’s very important for people to understand that alcohol addiction treatment can improve the chances of overcoming AUD.
AUD can develop due to a number of factors, and depending on these factors, the severity of the disorder can differ from person to person. This is why individuals who decide to enter treatment are assigned specialized care programs that fit their specific needs and requirements.
For those with severe cases, they’ll need to go through a medically-supervised detox. Typically, detox will take place in a treatment center for a couple of days where medication is given to manage withdrawal symptoms while vital signs are monitored.
Ideally, the next step after detox is to have an appropriate alcohol use disorder treatment plan. This can include an intensive outpatient program where the individual will be required to attend counseling sessions and report to the medical professional on a weekly basis. Mental health professionals will also typically step in to assess and manage any psychological and emotional effects of alcohol withdrawal throughout the whole treatment program.
Depending on the individual, it may take several months before their body recovers and their mindsets are shifted toward new lifestyles. Although we may hope for the best, relapse is very common. Strong emotional support from family and friends is very important for people in recovery and can actually aid in the recovery process.
No Judgments and Accusations
It’s important for those who struggle with AUD to have a very open and compassionate conversation about their addiction. Even mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be telling of something very serious, so it’s important to discuss things in an open and caring way. You should know, however, that it’s completely acceptable to walk away for your own safety; you’re allowed to set limits around what you’re willing to tolerate. No matter what though, understand that AUD is serious and life-threatening and can affect anyone from all walks of life.