Alcohol Use Disorder (Alcoholism)
Alcohol use disorder is one of the most deadly and prolific addictions in the world. Its active substance, ethanol, is widely available and actively marketed to the population. Most people can cope with using alcohol in moderation. Some, however, have an extreme reaction to the substance, which leads to compulsive behaviour surrounding it. Alcohol use disorder should not be underestimated or trivialised because it is a legally available substance.
What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?
This illness is one of the leading causes of death and health problems in the United Kingdom. Problem drinking is common, especially binge drinking, which is characterised by consuming vast amounts on weekends. The guidelines for alcohol use limit each individual to 14 units of alcohol per week, the equivalent of seven pints of lager or seven medium-sized glasses of wine.
It is considered to be a disorder when the individual has a negative emotional state when they aren’t using, has lost control over their alcohol intake and uses the substance compulsively.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder
- Withdrawal symptoms when alcohol is wearing off such as shaking, sweating, anxiety, depression, restlessness, insomnia and nausea.
- Needing to drink more than before to get the same effect or noticing that an amount of alcohol that used to have an effect no longer does.
- Continuing to drink despite having negative feelings associated with alcohol intake.
- Continually getting into situations where drinking has put the individual at significant risk for harm, for example, swimming, driving or unsafe sex.
- Cutting back on activities that were once enjoyable, important or interesting.
- Continuing to drink despite it causing problems with relationships with friends and family.
- Drinking taking priority over and causing an individual not to deal with school, work or family life.
- Cravings or strong urges to drink.
- Often drinking more or for longer than originally intended.
- Trying to quit drinking but continuing.
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Stages of Alcoholism
- Pre-Alcoholic: Most of the behaviour displayed at this stage can look typical to a casual observer. While it is usually still social at this stage, drinking is increasingly used as a method for stress relief. It is during this stage that the person begins to develop a tolerance, meaning larger quantities of alcohol can be consumed without a significant impact on functioning. It can take vast quantities of the substance to become inebriated during this stage.
- Early Alcoholic: During this stage, people start to have regular blackouts and may begin hiding their use or lying about it to family and friends. Tolerance continues to build, and the individual may begin to get obsessive about drinking.
- Middle Alcoholic: It is at this stage that friends and family members start to become aware of the problem. The sufferer may have tried to quit drinking and failed. They may also begin to miss work, school or other essential social obligations. It is common for people to start getting irritable and argumentative at this stage. Their body may begin showing signs such as bloating and redness in the face.
- Late Alcoholic: The effects of long-term alcohol abuse will be apparent, and serious health problems may develop. If job loss has not already occurred, it usually does at this stage. People going through this may experience bouts of fear and helplessness. If they try to stop, they may experience hallucinations and tremors.
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