Alcohol Use Disorders
Facts to Know:
- Approximately 30% of adults in the United States drink alcohol in an unhealthy way.
- Alcohol use in excess of 4 drinks per day can be described as risky or unhealthy and could lead to the development of an alcohol use disorder.
- Alcohol use disorders are treatable with therapy and/or medications.
What are alcohol use disorders?
Alcohol use disorder is characterized by an alcohol use pattern which causes significant distress or impairment. It can impact all aspects of a person’s life, ranging from their behavior and relationships to their job and family. Alcohol use disorders range in severity from mild to moderate to severe.
The exact cause is not clear, but research shows that genetics, environmental factors, personality traits, and co-occurring mood or anxiety disorders all play some role in the development of alcohol use disorder.
Many people experience the urge to keep drinking despite recurring negative physical, psychological, or social consequences. Over time, individuals may develop cravings, require larger amounts of alcohol to get the same effect, and drink more or for longer periods than intended. They may be at risk for alcohol withdrawal if they stop drinking suddenly, which can result in tremors, sweating, increased anxiety, seizures, and even death. Individuals may have made many attempts to either stop or reduce their drinking without being able to do so.
Symptoms of alcohol use disorder can differ from person to person, as well as differ in severity.
Symptoms may include:
- Drinking prevents individuals from fulfilling roles
- Drinking occurs despite risky situations
- Continued alcohol use even after it has caused interpersonal conflicts
- Tolerance or dependence on alcohol
- Needing to drink more over longer periods to get the same effect
- Physical or psychological cravings for alcohol
- Alcohol withdrawal symptoms if drinking stops
- Much time and energy is spent trying to stop drinking
- Unable to do important tasks or activities related to drinking
The diagnosis of alcohol use disorder is best made by a healthcare professional. An initial consultation with one of our providers can help to determine the severity of alcohol use as well as the presence of co-occurring conditions. To meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder, an individual would experience many of the symptoms listed above, and the alcohol use would be causing significant impairment in functioning.
Alcohol use disorder is a very treatable condition. The Smithers Center is a specialized service from ColumbiaDoctors that offers treatment for those who are looking to change their substance use and have co-occurring mental health conditions. Individuals may require assistance to either address their alcohol use for the first time, or obtain support for continued sobriety. We believe treatment approaches must be tailored to address each person’s individual needs and goals. Search our providers for a therapist or psychiatrist who might be a good fit.
Psychotherapy is an effective treatment option for alcohol use disorder. Our providers are trained in the latest therapies, and can help you determine which approach is best for you. Psychotherapy can be effective alone in treating alcohol use disorder, or may be used in conjunction with medications.
Medications can be an important component of treatment. Medications can be used to manage physical symptoms, prevent relapse, and treat co-occurring conditions, such as depression or anxiety. Here at ColumbiaDoctors, our psychiatrists combine a thorough evaluation of each individual’s problems with the latest research to design a customized treatment plan.