Is It Casual Drinking, or an Alcohol Use Disorder?

Some days, nothing sounds better than unwinding with a glass of wine or a cold beer.  Alcohol is a part of many people’s lives and, when used responsibly, isn’t cause for concern. Unfortunately, alcohol use disorders are becoming more prevalent in America, and the growth in “deaths of despair” implicates drinking as a major public health problem.

Seeing a loved one spiral into addiction is emotionally difficult, especially if they refuse your offers to talk about it.  Sometimes, those who are closest to us try to hide their use because they don’t want to face the stigma of being an “alcoholic.”  You may not be able to force someone to talk to you about their struggles, but their behaviors and your interactions can help you figure out if they need support.    

These Behaviors Often Signal an Alcohol Use Disorder

There’s a difference between having a wild night and developing an addiction to alcohol.  Regular alcohol use isn’t necessarily a sign of trouble.  The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) considers drinkers at “low risk” for alcohol use disorder if they:

  • Drink 3 or fewer drinks in one day, and 7 or fewer in one week (women)
  • Drink 4 or fewer drinks in one day, and 14 or fewer in one week (men)

A nightly glass of wine typically isn’t a precursor to dangerous levels of drinking.  Alcohol use disorder has much more serious indicators, such as:

  • Inability to limit alcohol consumption despite stated goals/commitments to do so
  • Frequent intoxication and/or hangovers
  • Missed/skipped obligations due to alcohol use or its aftereffects
  • Continued use of alcohol despite arguments about drinking with family and friends
  • Loss of enjoyment/interest in hobbies and entertainments
  • Repeated engagement in dangerous activities while intoxicated
  • Increased tolerance to alcohol

Frequent users may develop an addiction, characterized by these symptoms of withdrawal:

  • Trouble sleeping or restlessness
  • Shakiness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sensory hallucinations
  • Seizure

Alcohol Addiction Treatment May Be Necessary

Alcohol use disorder can range from mild to severe, but even if things don’t seem too bad, it’s a good idea for anyone struggling to get help.  Like other substances, when used too much, alcohol can have an effect on brain function.  Drinking also has many ill health effects that can result in serious complications down the line.  Like any addictive substance, alcohol can lead to problems in one’s personal and work lives and may cause someone with a drinking problem to make poor choices. 

Whether it’s you or a loved one making the decision to cut back, we applaud the bravery and strength this takes.  However, quitting alcohol is dangerous—and doing so without proper medical supervision may result in death.  Among drinkers with serious withdrawal symptoms, 1 in 25 do not make it through withdrawal alive.  Don’t risk a detox alone.  For someone who’s serious about turning their life around, a medically-supervised detox and a personalized inpatient recovery plan can help maintain or regain health during this time of change.   

Who’s at Risk for Alcohol Use Disorders?

Anyone can develop an addiction, but certain groups are more likely to use alcohol irresponsibly.  An alcohol use disorder doesn’t usually start out of the blue.  A habit of heavy drinking or regular binge drinking may signal an impending addiction.  Other risk factors include:

  • Drinking at a young age, especially binge-drinking
  • Family history of alcohol use disorder
  • Co-occurrence of mental illness such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder
  • Past or current trauma (emotional or physical)
  • Social ties to heavy or regular drinkers, whether parents or peers
  • Buying in to media that glamorizes or normalizes heavy and/or binge drinking
  • Undergoing bariatric surgery

Holistic Support for Alcohol Addiction

Decision Point Center, in Prescott, AZ, combines traditional recovery with new, evidence-based treatments to give residents a path to lasting recovery.  Our clinicians evaluate each patient, not only on their substance use, but also on mental and physical health and cultural factors that may affect their addiction.  Then, we put together a customized plan. 

At Decision Point Center, there is no shame attached to addiction.  Many struggle with alcohol or other substances at some time in their life.  We respect and celebrate those who are taking the initiative to make positive change in their lives.  Along with traditional 12-step-based treatment, we offer a variety of services including therapy, enrichment activities, life skills training, career and academic counseling, and an adventure program.  By helping our residents build the tools and habits they need to stick with their recovery, we give them the chance to get their lives back.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol use, don’t wait to ask for help.  Get in touch with our admissions team online or by phone at (844) 292-5010

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