Signs & Symptoms


Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)


Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is no longer termed substance abuse or substance dependence. The current state of addiction science indicates that a substance use disorder can be mild, moderate or severe. (See The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The diagnosis of AUD can only be made by a qualified professional. The level of severity is determined by the number of specific diagnostic criteria met by an individual. Alcohol Use Disorder generally occurs when the recurrent use of alcohol causes clinically and functionally significant impairment, such as health problems, discord in personal and/or professional relationships, and failure to meet major responsibilities at home, work or school. The diagnostic criterial for AUD includes social impairment, risky use and other pharmacological criteria.
 
The current state of addiction science is clear that Alcohol Use Disorder is a disease with a clear path for recovery. Recovery can include:

Community Based Programs: Participation in 12 step programs such as AA, or other programs such as Smart Recovery;
Inpatient Rehabilitation: Round-the-clock medical and psychological care to start recovery safely and effectively;
Outpatient Treatment: Individual counseling with a licensed psychiatrist or licensed drug and alcohol counselor;
Medically Assisted Treatment: Medication prescribed by a licensed physician to ease both cravings and withdrawal symptoms which is tapered off with progressive recovery;
Sober Living: Group home setting which included shared meetings, responsibilities and support to sustain recovery.
 
The misuse of alcohol can be fatal. It is a progressive disease which always gets worse. Without recovery intervention, it never goes away and does not get better. There is no option to turn back the clock on alcohol misuse. There is no reset- once you start your body will always react as if you started right where you left off no matter how long it has been since the last use. There is no cure. It can only be treated and controlled. Relapse is a common aspect of recovery, even after a long period of abstinence. This is why continued; vigilant recovery includes long term counseling and support. This disease is no different than diabetes or heart disease. Ignoring it will kill you, eventually. Treating it can stabilize the chemical response in your body and you can go on leading a “normal,” active life.
 
Genetics play a significant role in alcohol misuse disorder. If you have one parent with AUD, the chances that you will develop AUD in your lifetime increase three-fold. If you have both parents with AUD, it is very likely that you will develop AUD. Genetics are only the indicator or probability, they are the marker of inevitability. Proactive prevention and active recovery can break the cycle.
 
Denial is the hallmark of this disease. If you deny that there is a problem with alcohol when others insist that there is, you can be certain you are not seeing the problem clearly. Working with a professional or getting support from someone in long term recovery can help you understand your denial and the current state of your misuse.
 
Possible symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder include:
 
Whole Body: Blackout, Dizziness, Shakiness, Cravings, Sweating, Lack of Coordination, Slurred Speech, Tremors, Physical Dependence, Numbness in Extremities
Appearance: Red Eyes, Puffy Face
Gastrointestinal: Nausea or Vomiting, Abdominal Pain
Behavioral: Aggression, Agitation, Compulsivity, Lack of Restraint, Self-Destructive Behavior
Phsychological: Delirium or Fear
 
Getting drunk at the exact wrong moment is one of the clearest signs of Alcohol Use Disorder that is often excused by loved ones who don’t wish to face the truth. Suffering from AUD usually means that the user is in denial and the family structure adapts and accepts the unhealthy behavior long enough that the abnormal becomes normal. This often progresses to outside of the privacy of the family home-taking a drink before work to ease the shakes, drinking too much at lunch or at happy hour starts occasionally then becomes routine. With increased alcohol intake, deadlines and obligations become harder and harder to meet until disciplinary action is inevitable.
 
Please don't wait. NHLAP is here to help.