Warning Signs of Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol is one of the most commonly used substances in the United States. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains, “According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, more than half of U.S. adults report drinking alcohol in the past 30 days.” Despite alcohol use being normalized and celebrated, many of those who engage in alcohol use are subject to developing alcohol addiction. It is important to understand that alcohol addiction is progressive, triggering long-lasting consequences for an individual’s health and wellness. For those who drink alcohol or have loved ones that do, it is imperative to become familiar with the warning signs of alcohol addiction and to encourage treatment for those who may be struggling.

12 South Recovery understands how challenging it can be to maintain a moderate drinking lifestyle. Although avoiding alcohol use altogether is safest, we recognize that the current drinking culture can cause individuals to engage in use without understanding the consequences of doing so. Thus, we provide education along with specialized treatment for addiction and mental health disorders to help individuals better understand the destructive effects of substance addictions and to nurture individuals back to long-lasting health and wellness.

Understanding Alcohol Addiction

The National Insitute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) explains, “Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.” Like substance use disorder (SUD), AUD exists on a spectrum from mild to severe, with severe symptoms indicating addiction. In other words, alcohol addiction is recognized as the most severe form of AUD.

Further, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as “a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences.” Addiction is considered a brain disorder as it involves ”changes to circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control.” One of the main ways that mild or moderate AUD differs from alcohol addiction is that those with an addiction are prone to relapse, greatly complicating the treatment and recovery process.

Still, NIDA confirms that addiction is treatable. Treatments are aimed at helping individuals effectively cease their substance use and prevent relapse. Moreover, those who commit to lifelong sobriety will remain in recovery their entire lives, as they are vulnerable to relapse even years after achieving and maintaining abstinence.

Signs That Indicate AUD and Alcohol Addiction

It is important to understand that AUD and alcohol addiction can only be diagnosed by health care professionals. Professionals use criteria provided by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) for proper diagnosis. Of the following criteria, the presence of two or more symptoms indicates AUD. Furthermore, the severity of AUD is defined as mild: 2-3 symptoms, moderate: 4-5 symptoms, and severe (alcohol addiction): six or more symptoms. The criteria are as follows:

  • Experiencing episodes of drinking more or longer than intended
  • Considering cutting down or stopping drinking, or attempting to, but are unsuccessful
  • Spending a considerable amount of time under the influence of alcohol or healing from the aftereffects
  • Noticing that alcohol cravings override all other thoughts
  • Discovering that drinking, or hangovers, are interfering with other personal responsibilities
  • Continuing to drink despite alcohol use causing issues with friends or family
  • Cutting back on activities a person once enjoyed to engage in alcohol use
  • Finding oneself in situations where alcohol use significantly increased the risk of harm
  • Continuing to drink despite alcohol use trigging feelings of depression or anxiety
  • Developing increased tolerance to alcohol, with more needed to achieve desired effects
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking alcohol

Consequences of Alcohol Use

The CDC lists both short-term and long-term health risks of alcohol use. Short-term health risks include:

  • Accidental injuries while under the influence
  • Violence
  • Alcohol poisoning (considered a medical emergency)
  • Risky sexual behaviors, which increase the risk of unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases
  • Miscarriage, stillbirth, and fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) for women who are pregnant

In addition, long-term health risks of alcohol use, AUD, and alcohol addiction include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart and liver disease
  • Stroke
  • Digestive problems
  • Various types of cancers
  • Weakening of the immune system
  • Learning and memory problems
  • Mental health problems and the development of mental health disorders
  • Social problems

Treatment Options for Alcohol Addiction

According to a brochure by the NIAAA, in 2015, nearly 15.1 million adults had AUD. Of these individuals, an estimated six.7% received treatment. Since that year, the prevalence of adults with AUD has significantly increased as a result of events such as the COVID-19 pandemic. That being said, it can be assumed that the majority of adults with AUD are not seeking the treatment they need to function well in their daily life.

Fortunately, there are treatment centers across the United States that are dedicated to guiding and supporting individuals back to wellness following the development of AUD and alcohol addiction. For instance, at 12 South Recovery, we offer several outpatient treatment options including general outpatient, partial hospitalization programs (PHP), and intensive outpatient programs (IOP).

We work to provide customized, individualized treatment plans for clients that cater to their unique needs and goals for recovery. If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, we can help you acquire the relapse-prevention skills you need to maintain lasting sobriety and manage your addiction.

Alcohol addiction is a devastating brain disease that often wreaks havoc not only on the life of the person but also on the lives of their loved ones. It is common for individuals with alcohol addiction and alcohol use disorder (AUD) to struggle in silence, thinking that they do not need professional help. However, avoiding treatment and continuing to use alcohol can lead to catastrophic effects. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, we at 12 South Recovery are here to help. We offer a wide range of therapeutic modalities alongside our many outpatient treatment options. To learn more, give us a call today at (888) 830-8374.

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