Alcohol Addiction also known Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) Signs, Symptoms & Treatment
Cycle of Alcohol Use
For people with AUD, the cycle includes periods of being intoxicated (drunk) followed by periods of withdrawal.
Alcohol intoxication happens when the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream increases. The higher the concentration, the more likely you are to experience drunkenness or other ill effects. Intoxicated people may display slurred speech, poor judgment, unstable moods, problems with memory or focus, poor coordination, and inappropriate behavior.
If the intoxication is severe, you may experience blackouts, or periods you can’t remember the events. Once blood alcohol concentration reaches excessively high levels, it can lead to coma, permanent brain damage, or death.
Alcohol withdrawal follows intoxication and can occur within several hours to several days later. The symptoms may include hand tremors, rapid heartbeat, sweating, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, restlessness, and anxiety. Seizures may occur in severe cases.
Because there’s some overlap between a hangover – the ill feeling people may have after drinking – and withdrawal, it’s assumed that a hangover is withdrawal. However, hangovers can occur after a single time using alcohol, whereas withdrawal occurs after multiple times using alcohol.
How Is AUD Treated?
Alcohol is a normalized substance. Many people consume alcohol occasionally without dependency, binge drinking, or ill effects, so those who do have AUD may be in denial about the severity of their alcohol use.
There’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for AUD. Though treatment for alcoholism may immediately conjure thoughts of 12-step programs or a 28-day hospitalization, there are a variety of effective treatment options for varying degrees of AUD.
AUD may be treated with a combination of behavioral treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and 12-step programs, and traditional approaches like psychotherapy.
With severe cases of AUD, a medically supervised detox or medication support can be used to help with the recovery process. Some of these medications include disulfiram, which blocks the breakdown of alcohol in the body and causes unpleasant symptoms like nausea.