The more familiar term “alcoholism” may be used to describe a severe form of AUD, but physicians, researchers, and others in the medical community tend not to use the word.
Causes and Risk Factors of Alcohol Use Disorder
Other factors that may play a role in the development of AUD include:
- History of emotional or other trauma
- Mental illnesses and mood disorders, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia
- Social and cultural pressure, including having a partner who drinks regularly (or a parent who does, for adolescents)
- Starting to drink — especially to binge drink — at an early age
- Regularly drinking too much over a long period of time
- Personality disorders, including antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder
Duration of Alcohol Use Disorder
Excessive drinking or an alcohol use disorder can be successfully managed with treatments such as therapy and medication, to help you to modify your behaviors and help your brain adapt to the absence of alcohol.
Relapsing doesn’t mean that treatment has failed, though — it takes time to change behavior. You can work with a health professional to try new treatments that may work better for you.
Receiving treatment improves your chances of recovering from AUD.
Complications of Alcohol Use Disorder
Drinking heavily over long periods of time may lead to changes in how the brain functions, from memory slips to more debilitating conditions. The impact depends on when a person started drinking, how long they’ve been drinking, and how often and how much they drink.
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a degenerative brain disorder that causes mental confusion, vision problems, lack of coordination, and memory problems, among other symptoms.
- Cardiovascular problems, such as arrhythmias, stroke, high blood pressure, or cardiomyopathy (impaired function of the heart)
- Liver problems, including steatosis (fatty liver), hepatitis, and or cirrhosis (scarring of and permanent damage to the liver)
- Pancreatitis (pancreas inflammation)
- Cancer, including of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, breast, and colon
- Increased risk of infections, particularly pneumonia and tuberculosis
- Bone damage, including osteoporosis, as alcohol can interfere in new bone production
- Birth defects in your baby, if you drink while pregnant, due to fetal alcohol syndrome
- Reproductive problems, including erectile dysfunction in men and irregular or missed periods in women
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BIPOC and Alcohol Use Disorder
A number of studies have looked at alcohol use among specific racial and ethnic populations, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.
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Resources We Love
NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator
Learn more about AUD from the government organization in charge of studying alcohol use and abuse in Americans. The website offers in-depth information on the treatment for AUD, tips to find a treatment program, and a tool to find specialty programs, therapists, and doctors who are located near you or offer their services via telehealth.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
This peer-run, international fellowship is open to anyone who wants to address a drinking problem. Research has suggested that the program can be successful in helping some people cut back on or eliminate alcohol from their lives. Check out the website to learn more about how AA works, find a chapter near you, and download e-books to help with your journey.
Additional reporting by Joseph Bennington-Castro.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
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