Defining Alcohol Use Disorder

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While many people understand “drinking too much,” “binge drinking,” and even “alcohol abuse,” the term “alcohol use disorder” may be less familiar. The definition of alcohol use disorder (AUD) refers to a brain condition that prevents a person from controlling or stopping the use of alcohol. Even when people with AUD experience problems with their health, relationships, and jobs, negative consequences do not prevent them from continuing to drink—even severe outcomes—the loss of a job, hospitalization, etc.

Quitting drinking can feel scary, lonely, and like an uphill battle. But, there is help and support for people diagnosed with AUD. In fact, the sooner someone with an alcohol use disorder seeks help, the better the chances of avoiding serious health complications.

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

As previously mentioned, the alcohol use disorder definition describes individuals with a chronic, relapsing brain disorder, impairing them from being able to control drinking alcohol. But, how does AUD develop?

One of the biggest misconceptions about AUD is that it occurs as a result of “failed willpower.” This is not the case. The cause of alcohol use disorder is a combination of a person’s genes and their environment. And, one study referenced by demonstrates that 77% of people with AUD have additional medical and psychiatric conditions. These include, but are not limited to, cancer, liver disease, pancreatitis, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.

Equal to understanding that AUD is not failed willpower is that the condition is common. Upwards of 15 million people in the United States struggle with alcohol use disorder.

What are the Symptoms of AUD?

While experts define alcohol use disorder as the inability to stop or control drinking alcohol, you may be wondering if there are other symptoms. There are several signs that you or a loved one could have AUD:

  • Drinking more or longer than you originally planned
  • Trying to reduce your alcohol consumption or quit repeatedly, unsuccessfully
  • Getting sick after long periods of drinking
  • Experiencing cravings and urges to drink
  • Drinking and becoming sick from alcohol has prevented you from appropriately tending to your family, job, school, and/or routine activities
  • Continuing to drink despite having problems with friends, family, and/or your work
  • Giving up on activities and interests that are important in favor of drinking
  • Increasing your chances of getting hurt because of drinking (driving, operating machinery, going to dangerous places, and having unsafe sex)
  • Blacking out, feeling depressed, or experiencing health problems, but will not stop drinking
  • Feeling that it takes more and more alcohol to achieve the desired effect (buzz)
  • Having withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, depression, nausea, and/or trouble sleeping when you try to cut back or stop drinking alcohol

If you have one or more of the symptoms above, it may indicate the presence of alcohol use disorder. If you have AUD, don’t worry—you are not alone. And, help is available to you. Reaching out for support is the first step to what can be a promising and fulfilling life journey.

At Pinnacle Treatment Centers, we realize how frustrating and despairing it can feel in the face of an alcohol-related disorder. But, you don’t have to do it on your own, our compassionate staff is here to support you every step of the way. If you think you or someone you love needs help for alcohol addiction or alcohol abuse, visit us online or call today at 1-800-782-1520.

Headquartered in New Jersey, Pinnacle Treatment Centers is a recognized leader in comprehensive drug and alcohol addiction treatment serving more than 35,000 patients daily in California, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. With more than 125 community-based locations, Pinnacle provides a full continuum of quality care for adult men and women which includes medically-monitored detoxification/withdrawal management, inpatient/residential treatment, partial hospitalization/care, sober living, intensive and general outpatient programming, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder.

The materials provided on the Pinnacle Blog are for information and educational purposes only. No behavioral health or any other professional services are provided through the Blog and the information obtained through the Blog is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified health professional. If you are in need of medical or behavioral health treatment, please contact a qualified health professional directly, and if you are in need of emergency help, please go to your nearest emergency room or dial 911.