Alcohol Abuse: Causes, Effects, and Treatment

The strong connection between alcohol and social activities has posed challenges for individuals in balancing moderate and harmful drinking patterns. Whether people are engaging in social gatherings with cocktails, enjoying a glass of wine with a partner, or unwinding with a beer after a demanding day, alcohol often plays a significant role in our social interactions. 

Nevertheless, when alcohol consumption continues despite adverse outcomes, it could signal an issue with alcohol abuse, including alcohol use disorder (AUD). In this article, we will explore the causes, effects, and treatment choices for alcohol abuse.

The Prevalence of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol use disorder is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. In 2019 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated nearly 14.5 million individuals in the United States alone suffered from alcohol use disorder. Shockingly, excessive alcohol consumption leads to over 95,000 deaths annually in the U.S. This highlights the urgent need for effective treatment and support for those struggling with alcohol abuse.

Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcoholism is a chronic brain condition that can enter remission but is not curable. Alcohol use disorder involves an overpowering compulsion to consume alcohol, regardless of its potential harm to a person’s well-being. Individuals with alcohol use disorder often struggle with reducing control over their drinking habits.

Excessive alcohol consumption poses numerous health risks. These risks extend beyond the immediate social and legal consequences and can have severe long-term effects. Alcohol abuse can lead to liver damage, cardiovascular problems, neurological disorders, and an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer. Furthermore, alcohol abuse can have a detrimental impact on mental health, contributing to depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms

Identifying the signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse can be crucial in seeking appropriate help and intervention. While the severity of symptoms may vary, common indicators of alcohol abuse include:

  • Increased tolerance: Individuals may find that they need to consume larger amounts of alcohol to achieve the desired effect.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: Individuals may experience withdrawal symptoms when alcohol consumption is abruptly reduced or stopped. Such as tremors, anxiety, sweating, and insomnia.
  • Neglected responsibilities: Alcohol abuse can lead to neglecting important obligations at work, school, or home.
  • Relationship problems: Alcohol abuse often strains relationships due to erratic behavior, emotional instability, and impaired judgment.
  • Loss of interest: Individuals may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, preferring to prioritize alcohol consumption instead.
  • Continued use despite negative consequences: This is a hallmark symptom of alcohol abuse, where individuals persist in drinking despite experiencing negative social, health, or legal consequences.

Treating Alcohol Use Disorder

The good news is that alcohol use disorder is a treatable condition. With a comprehensive approach that combines medication and behavioral therapies, individuals can achieve recovery and regain control over their lives. Treatments for alcohol use disorder are frequently not utilized to their full extent.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a widely recognized approach for managing alcohol use disorder. It involves the use of medications that help individuals reduce their alcohol consumption and alleviate withdrawal symptoms. One such medication is Naltrexone, an FDA-approved medication that blocks the pleasurable effects of alcohol and reduces cravings. Naltrexone is a valuable tool in an individual’s recovery journey, which can be taken orally or administered as a monthly injection. 

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies play a crucial role in addressing the psychological and behavioral aspects of alcohol use disorder. Therapists utilize various evidence-based approaches to help individuals modify their thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors related to alcohol consumption. Some common behavioral therapies used in the treatment of alcohol use disorder include:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapy helps people find and change ways of thinking and actions that lead to alcohol problems. By challenging bad thoughts and learning better ways to cope, people can have more control over how much they drink.
  •  Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET): MET helps people want to change their drinking habits. It gives them personal feedback, helps them set goals, and looks at the good and bad sides of drinking. This therapy encourages them to make positive changes in their life. 
  • Contingency Management: This uses rewards to make good behaviors like not drinking or drinking less more likely. The goal is to give people a reason from the outside to help them on their journey to recover.

How can I prevent Alcohol Abuse Disorder?

To prevent alcohol use disorder, take steps to avoid high-risk drinking:

  • Women and individuals assigned female at birth should not exceed four drinks in a day or eight drinks per week. 
  • Men and individuals assigned male at birth should not exceed five drinks in a day or 15 drinks per week. 

If you find yourself drinking more than these limits, it’s a good idea to reduce or stop. Speak with your healthcare provider about effective methods to achieve this.

Seeking treatment at Agape Behavioral Healthcare

Excessive alcohol consumption and alcohol use disorder are significant issues that can cause severe impacts on individuals and their close relationships. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse is crucial in seeking appropriate help and intervention. 

Treatment options, including medication-assisted treatment and behavioral therapies, offer hope for recovery and regaining control over one’s life. When seeking help and support, remember it is a sign of strength. There are resources available to guide you on your journey towards a healthier, alcohol-free life.

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