The Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

substance abuse counseling

Alcoholism is a serious illness affecting millions of Americans. Whereas most people are able to have an occasional social drink, others find themselves trapped in a cycle of alcohol abuse that can spiral into alcohol use disorder or AUD. Alcoholism is characterized by certain behaviors such as continuing to drink despite the damage it is doing the individual’s health and wellbeing.

The physical signs and symptoms of alcoholism and intoxication are recognizable to most adults:

  • Incoherent or slurred speech
  • Unstable movement and clumsiness
  • Sluggish reflexes
  • Nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain
  • Blacking out or temporarily losing consciousness
  • A red complexion while consuming or shortly afterward

It is very possible for an individual to get to such a level of intoxication that it poses a serious threat to their lives. Alcohol poisoning is possible from one incident over overindulgence and can cause respiratory arrest or even death.

The Symptoms of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse

When individuals progressively increase the frequency and volume of alcohol they consume, it can start to create more serious symptoms of AUD. The main problem is that people develop a quick tolerance to alcohol.  This leads to them drinking more and more in order to get the desired results. The more a person continues to drink, the more at risk they are of experiencing intense cravings if they continue to progress through the stages of alcoholism.

AUD is marked by a person’s complete preoccupation for obtaining and consuming alcohol. It will become apparent to those close to them that they always seem to introduce alcohol into social activities or at unusual times of the day. When someone becomes completely focused on using alcohol, they lose sight of everything that is more important in their lives. Relationships and children are neglected, work performance declines and their health shows physical signs of deterioration and yet they will continue to drink.

The warning signs a person is abusing alcohol include the following:

  • They lose control of their alcohol intake once they start drinking
  • Family and professional obligations are regularly neglected
  • Risk-taking behaviors that have a high risk of legal or financial problems
  • An increase in aggressive or explosive behavior
  • Confrontation on their drinking usually results in their denial or apportioning blame elsewhere
  • Regularly suffering the physical effects of excessive drinking (hangovers, etc)

When someone has progressed from alcohol abuse to dependence and have not reached out to an AUD treatment center, they are less likely to be able to stop without specialist help. Once an alcoholic starts drinking, they no longer have control over when enough is enough. They will also have built a significant tolerance to alcohol so they may feel they are drinking less because they don’t feel as intoxicated.  In fact, they have still consumed a dangerous amount.

The signs that a person has developed AUD include:

  • Hangovers that last for longer than before, with more time needed to recover after using alcohol
  • Increased alcohol intake due to more tolerance to its effects
  • Further neglect of work or family responsibilities
  • A noticeable decline in physical health which the individual has recognized
  • Repeated and unsuccessful attempts to reduce alcohol intake or quit altogether
  • Withdrawal symptoms emerge when not consuming alcohol

Withdrawal Symptoms of Alcoholism and AUD

The longer a person abuses alcohol, the higher at risk they are of serious medical consequences if they choose to detox on their own. There are around 15,000 alcohol abuse treatment centers across the country.  These centers offer rehab and aftercare treatment programs that include supervised detox. Because some of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be severe, it is always advisable to have detox specialists on hand to treat them.

A person experiencing the following withdrawal symptoms is more likely to be at the advanced stages of alcoholism:

  • Uncontrollable shaking of the hands and sometimes the whole body
  • Tremors, seizures, and convulsions
  • Extreme sweating even if in a cold room
  • Restlessness, agitation, and anxiety
  • Chronic insomnia
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Delirium tremens or DTs

How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?

It is a well-known fact that alcohol is a depressant that negatively affects the central nervous system. Alcohol works in a complex way to affect several systems in the brain, particularly the GABA receptors which inhibit the activity of neurons or nerve cells.

Alcohol is metabolized by the liver and although this is the only organ capable of regenerating after damage, individuals who have consumed excessive alcohol over the long-term can damage the liver beyond repair.

AUD is a significant illness that causes more than 100,000 deaths every year in the US. It is also the leading cause of the death of children as a result of being involved in alcohol-related traffic accidents.