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Alcohol Use Disorder

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

What is alcohol use disorder (AUD)?

AUD is problem drinking. AUD includes alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. Alcohol can damage your brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and liver. Your risk of stroke is greater if you have 5 or more drinks each day. If you are pregnant, you and your baby are at risk for serious health problems. No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of AUD?

Your healthcare provider will ask you about your alcohol use. Mild AUD means you had 2 to 3 of the following over the last 12 months. Moderate means you have 4 to 5. Severe means you have 6 or more.

  • You have tried to decrease or stop drinking more than one time. You are not able to control your drinking habits. You keep going back to drinking even after you quit. You have had more to drink than you planned, or you drank for a longer time than you wanted.
  • You crave alcohol. You have a desire to drink more often or to drink larger amounts of alcohol. You have a hard time thinking about anything other than alcohol.
  • You put extra effort and time into drinking alcohol. You often go to events or activities that will include drinking. You spend much of your time drinking alcohol or being with people who also drink.
  • You spend less time doing more important things. You have trouble taking part in social or daily activities at school, work, or home.
  • You have given up activities that you like. You would rather drink. You also spend a lot of time recovering from the effects of drinking.
  • You continue to drink even when it causes health or relationship problems. You may have problems with your family, friends, or coworkers but still want to drink. Health problems include liver problems, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, or a stroke.
  • You develop alcohol tolerance. Tolerance means the amount of alcohol you usually drink no longer causes the effects you desire. You need to drink even more alcohol to get the same effects.
  • You have withdrawal (physical or mental) symptoms after not drinking for a short period. Alcohol is needed to relieve or prevent withdrawal symptoms such as tremors (shakes). You may also have to drink to stop withdrawal symptoms or to cure a hangover.
  • You put yourself in physically dangerous settings while drinking. Examples include driving a car or having unprotected sex after drinking.

How is AUD treated?

Your healthcare provider may admit you to the hospital to help you withdraw from alcohol safely. Then you may need any of the following:

  • Medicines to decrease your craving for alcohol
  • Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Therapy services from a psychiatrist or psychologist
  • Admission to an inpatient facility for treatment for severe dependence

Further information

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
    PO Box 2345
    Rockville , MD 20847-2345
    Web Address: http://www.samhsa.gov
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
    Web Address: http://www.aa.org

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have seizures.

When should I call my doctor?

  • Your heart is beating faster than usual.
  • You have hallucinations.
  • You cannot remember what happens while you are drinking.
  • You are anxious and have nausea.
  • Your hands are shaky and you are sweating heavily.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.