Alcohol Use Disorder

(AUD; Alcohol Dependence; Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism)

Definition

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a spectrum of issues involving problem drinking. The drinking continues even though it is clearly associated with physical, mental, and social health problems.

Causes

The specific cause of AUD is unknown. It is often a complex combination of factors, including genetics and environment.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of AUD include:
  • Genetic makeup that affects how your body uses alcohol
  • Family members with a history of alcohol misuse
  • Use of alcohol at an early age
  • Use of illicit drugs or non-medical use of prescription drugs
  • Easy access to alcoholic beverages
  • Situations with high peer pressure and/or emotional stress
  • Psychiatric disorders, such as depression or anxiety
  • Smoking

Symptoms

Symptoms can vary between people. The most common signs and symptoms of AUD include:
  • Increasing amounts of alcohol that is being consumed
  • Inability to stop or limit drinking despite associated problems
  • Significant amounts of time doing activities to obtain or use alcohol
  • Craving or urge to use alcohol
  • Repeated home, school, or work problems
  • Difficulty in relationships with family members, friends, and coworkers
  • Missing previously favored activities in order to drink alcohol or recover from alcohol
  • Alcohol use even if it creates physically unsafe situations or leads to legal trouble
  • Alcohol use that continues even when it causes or worsens health problems
Problematic alcohol use can lead to tolerance. As a result, greater amounts of alcohol are needed to reach intoxication. A sudden withdrawal of alcohol can also cause physical symptoms in people who have developed a physical dependence. Withdrawal symptoms may include:AUD is linked to the development of serious health complications and early death.

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