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The Truth About Alcohol Use Disorder

The Truth About Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol Use Disorder is the technical term used to describe what is more commonly known as alcoholism. It is a significant public health issue. In 2014 a study conducted by the National Institute On Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), it was calculated that 16.4 million people in the U.S. suffer from the disorder.[1]

Causes

There are a number of factors that have been identified, which can potentially increase a persons likelihood of being diagnosed with the disorder.

For example, underage drinking has been identified as a potential risk factor that increases the likelihood of a positive diagnosis. It potentially normalizes the act of drinking alcohol at a young age, making the child less likely to understand the potential hazards overuse can cause.

Researchers have suggested[2] that there may be a genetic predisposition that increases the likelihood of being diagnosed. Studies have shown that people with parents or grandparents who are alcoholics are over 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with the condition compared to the general population.

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However, they have also concluded that genetics are just one part of a much larger picture. A commonly agreed upon theory is that social and environmental factors are likely to play a much more significant role than genetics. The act of living and growing up with someone abusing alcohol seems to be a higher risk factor than the genetics that have been passed on.

Despite this increased risk, the vast majority of people who grow up with parents that have the disorder do not go on to contract it themselves.

Symptoms

In order to diagnose someone with the condition, a doctor must be able to determine if a patient’s drinking patterns are detrimental to their health or wellbeing. This includes both physical harm and mental distress. Some of the symptoms are subtle, and may not be immediately obvious as harmful to a patient. But to a doctor they can be clear warning signs of a potentially escalating situation.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is usually performed by a doctor asking a series of targeted questions pertaining to a patient’s experiences in the past 12 months. Examples of the kinds of questions asked are:

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  • Have you ever tried more than once to stop drinking or cut down your drinking but found yourself unable to do it?
  • Have you (on several occasions) drank significantly more alcohol than you had intended without being able to control it?
  • Have you stopped doing other activities that you once enjoyed to spend more time or money on drinking alcohol?

Once the questions have been answered, diagnosis is usually straightforward. Results are provided in terms of severity and are not a binary pass/fail result.

    Treatment

    The recommended treatment depends on the severity of the condition that a patient has been diagnosed with.

    The patients with the mildest diagnoses are often advised to cut down on their alcohol intake.[3] Complete abstinence is not always required for successful treatment, and the condition can often be mitigated with a regulation of consumption.

    Patients with a more moderate or severe diagnosis are nearly always advised to avoid all alcohol intake. This is often a permanent recommendation, although in certain cases it can be presented as a temporary option; however, this is uncommon and is only considered in cases where patients are undergoing a non-alcohol related temporary traumatic experience.

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    Several self-help methods are often provided when a diagnosis is made. These are small life changes that can help a patient abstain. Some examples are:

    1. Avoiding Triggers: There are often events or times of day that are ingrained as a habitual time to drink alcohol. By avoiding situations that a patient associates with alcohol, or disrupting a daily routine that involved alcohol, a patient can reduce the chance of relapse.
    2. Inform Friends And Family: By informing friends and family of their intention to reduce or remove their alcohol intake they create accountability to the people they have told. This can help with willpower, encouraging them to resist drinking when an event triggers a withdrawal craving.
    3. Practice Saying No: One of the most difficult craving triggers to overcome is often being offered a drink during a social event by someone that does not know the patient is no longer drinking. Patients are encouraged to practice saying a phrase along the lines of “No thanks, I don’t drink,” in front of a mirror in preparation for a real-life experience. The sometimes automatic response of accepting a drink can be mitigated using this technique.

    For moderate and severe cases, group therapy is often an effective and suggested option. Free alcohol cessation classes are available around the world, the most well-known of which is Alcoholics Anonymous.

    Alcoholics Anonymous has a 12-step program that reduces the potentially daunting task of cessation into smaller, more manageable sections. The group therapy aspect of the program helps patients by adding accountability in a nonjudgmental atmosphere. Patients who are members of social cessation support groups report the desire to not let down other members of the group to be a significant factor in their continued sobriety.

    Online support groups such as Hellosundaymorning.com have attempted to use technology to help patients overcome the condition. They combine a version of the 12-step program with a social media platform that has been designed to create a global support group. The efficacy of online social cessation platforms is yet to be independently verified, but the initial anecdotal evidence seems to be positive.

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    People with moderate and severe symptoms of the condition are referred to alcohol rehab centers.[4] These facilities often offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment options (depending on the severity of a patient’s condition). Treatment inside the facilities involves psychological and physical evaluations, group support, and individual therapy while experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

    Health Risks

    There can be severe health consequences for patients who are unsuccessful in treating their condition and reducing their alcohol intake to acceptable levels. The severity of the conditions often depends on the amount of alcohol that is being consumed.

    Direct health consequences can include increased risk of contracting heart disease, liver disease, stroke, depression, and many types of cancer.

    Indirect health consequences are events that are a result of the patient often being inebriated more than the national average. Statistically, they are much more likely to be involved in serious car accidents, suicides, brain injuries, and other fatal accidental deaths. Annually, 88,000 people in the U.S. die from consequences indirectly linked to the condition.[5] Alcohol is the 4th most common preventable cause of death in the U.S., and over 30% of fatal car accidents involve a driver who was impaired due to alcohol.

    Research from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that globally, 3.3 million people (or 5.9% of all deaths) are directly related in some form to alcohol consumption. They do however state that over the past few decades consumption is declining, and the rate of diagnosis is lowering significantly.

    Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pexels.com

    Reference

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    Elise Bauer

    Freelance Writer, Lawyer & Blogger

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    Last Updated on December 2, 2019

    10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

    10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

    Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

    In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

    These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

    1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

    Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

    But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

    Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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    2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

    You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

    The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

    3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

    If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

    Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

    If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

    4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

    Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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    To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

    In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

    5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

    We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

    If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

    Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

    “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

    6. Give for the Joy of Giving

    When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

    One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

    So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

    7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

    Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

    Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

    8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

    When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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    So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

    9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

    Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

    It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

    It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

    10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

    There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

    But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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    Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

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    Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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