If you are seeking recovery from alcohol use disorder (AUD), it is essential to understand that healing is possible. Becoming familiar with the wide range of effects that excessive alcohol use can have on your mental, physical, and emotional well-being is imperative to your recovery.
You may wonder how long you will experience symptoms of AUD. Unfortunately, some of your symptoms may be long-lasting because of how alcohol alters brain structure and functioning. However, by participating in treatment, practicing patience, and exercising self-compassion, you can learn how to appropriately manage your symptoms of AUD throughout long-term recovery.
What Is Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?
According to MedlinePlus, “[A]bout 18 million adult Americans have an alcohol use disorder (AUD).” AUD, also known as alcohol addiction, develops once compulsive alcohol use causes distress and harm. This condition can range in severity, from mild to severe. To understand the severity of your AUD, consider the following factors:
- Frequency of your alcohol use: Are you drinking every day? How often?
- Duration of your alcohol use: When you drink, do you drink until you fall asleep?
- Intensity of your alcohol use: Do you drink excessively? Do you engage in binge drinking?
- Presence of co-occurring mental health disorders: Do you have any diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health problems?
- Polysubstance use: Do you combine alcohol use with other drug use?
It can be challenging to determine the severity of your alcohol use on your own. Fortunately, staff members at treatment facilities are equipped with the knowledge and tools to give you a proper diagnosis. Consider reaching out to staff at an accredited treatment facility to provide you with a diagnosis and steps for entering treatment.
Health Risks and Effects of AUD
Unfortunately, because of the normalization of alcohol use in society, many people are not aware of the dangers that can result from it. Likewise, you may not have a proper understanding of warning signs to watch out for in yourself or loved ones that may indicate AUD.
Becoming familiar with the effects of alcohol use can help you better determine if your use is becoming problematic. It can also help you know what changes to expect throughout treatment and recovery.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drinking too much alcohol can harm your health. Under the influence of alcohol, some short-term health risks can include increased risk of injury, violence, alcohol poisoning, and risky sexual behaviors. Among pregnant people, there’s also an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs)
The CDC also highlights several long-term health risks and effects that can result from chronic alcohol use and AUD. These include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Digestive problems
- Various types of cancer
- Weakened immune system
- Learning and memory problems
- Mental health problems
- Increased conflict in interpersonal relationships
- Job-related problems, including unemployment
These examples only scratch the surface of the harms that can result from AUD. By ceasing alcohol use and participating in treatment, you can significantly reduce your risks of these consequences.
When Am I in Remission for AUD?
According to the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Addiction (NIAAA), remission from AUD (according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) is categorized by how long an individual has not met the criteria for AUD. As nearly all criteria for AUD can only be met when an individual is actively drinking, remission often begins when alcohol use is ceased. The categories are as follows:
- Initial remission: Up to three months
- Early remission: Three months to one year
- Sustained remission: One to five years
- Stable remission: Greater than five years
Additionally, the NIAA explains:
For those experiencing alcohol-related functional impairment and other adverse consequences, recovery is often marked by the fulfillment of basic needs, enhancements in social support and spirituality, and improvements in physical and mental health, quality of life, and other dimensions of well-being. Continued improvement in these domains may, in turn, promote sustained recovery.
Treatment and Recovery Timeline for AUD
All that said, there is no set timeline for how long you may experience symptoms of AUD. Withdrawal symptoms are often severe and can contribute to life-threatening complications. This is why medically-assisted detox services are encouraged for individuals attempting to cease alcohol use.
However, symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, anxiety, and more may last several weeks following your cessation of alcohol use. If your AUD is severe, you may be administered medications to help with initial withdrawal symptoms or to provide stabilization after detox.
Cravings often subside in the first few months of treatment. However, cravings can still surface from substance-use triggers well into long-term recovery. With persistence and professional treatment, you can combat your cravings and symptoms.
Alcohol use disorder can produce a host of lasting consequences and effects. If you are seeking recovery from alcohol abuse, you may wonder how long you will experience symptoms. While the timeline differs for everyone depending on their needs and goals for recovery, withdrawals often subside in the first few weeks to months of sobriety. Managing cravings is a long-term process. 12 South Recovery offers outpatient programs, partial hospitalization (PHP), and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) for clients seeking recovery from addiction and other mental health disorders. We offer a plethora of therapeutic services to individualize our client care. If you are seeking assistance and support, we can help. Call us today at 866-839-6876.