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Alcohol Use Disorder

994 words 4 page(s)

Alcohol use disorder is one of the most prevalent and dangerous forms of substance abuse in the world today. Alcohol use disorder is part of a wider subset of Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders as defined by the DSM-V, relating to the abuse of alcohol and related intoxicants. Alcohol use disorder is distinguished by constant and debilitating use of alcohol, from binge drinking to benders, to the point where the user develops a chemical dependence on alcohol. Beyond the physical and mental impairment that alcoholism causes, long-term alcohol abuse causes organ damage and is often the cause of heart attacks, strokes, hemorrhages, and other incidences of death. Alcoholism can also be the cause of ruined relationships and finances, as the alcoholic’s personal life is strained by their use of the drug. Fortunately, there are many means by which alcoholism can be combated or treated, allowing alcoholics to kick their addictions and restore their lives to normality. Treating alcoholism involves recognizing its symptoms and seeking help before the problem becomes too intractable to solve.

It’s important to distinguish alcohol use disorder from mere alcohol use. Many people use alcohol casually as a social lubricant or a way to unwind after the stressful events of their day. Casual drinking, while a possible gateway to alcoholism for some people, is not dangerous or indicative of alcoholism on its own. Indeed, binge drinking every so often is also not necessarily indicative of alcoholism. However, alcohol tolerance and dependence is often built up by frequent binge drinking, as the body becomes accustomed to having large amounts of alcohol in its system (Holden, 2010). Tolerance and dependence lead to a situation where an individual needs to drink larger quantities of alcohol on a more frequent basis in order to satisfy their cravings, which makes quitting drinking all the more difficult (O’Brien, 2011). Depression and mood swings are often associated with alcoholism, as individuals who experience them tend to be motivated to drink in order to quell their feelings of discontent. This often leads to a vicious cycle in which the alcohol makes the alcoholic feel worse, yet their chemical dependence keeps them from stopping their drinking. Alcoholics can be spotted through some characteristics, such as frequent blackouts, personality shifts, denial of their drinking problems, poor health, and a number of other tells.

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Chemically, long-term alcohol abuse causes permanent damage to the body’s internal organs. The DSM-V points out that short-term alcohol abuse is indistinguishable from normal drinking, and includes euphoria, motor skill impairment, and loosened inhibitions. Excessive amounts of drinking in a short period of time run the risk of inducing problems such as blacking out, vomiting, and severe motor function inhibition, making driving or other such activities an extremely risky proposition (Holden, 2010). Long-term effects of alcohol abuse include a heightened risk for heart disease, strokes, and other failures of the brain and heart. Excessive drinking is also associated with premature dementia, cirrhosis of the liver, stomach ulcers, pancreatitis, and a number of other major problems (O’Brien, Volkow, & Lee, 2006). Women in particular are more likely to develop alcohol-related problems, including early menopause, irregular menstruation, increased likelihood of breast cancer, and excessive damage to the liver, heart, and brain.

In addition to physical damage, alcohol use disorder also has a wide range of psychological and social effects. The DSM-V points out that alcoholism is one of the major causes of dementia due to the effect that excessive alcohol consumption has on cognitive function (O’Brien, 2011). Alcohol abuse is known to cause personality shifts in humans due to damage to the prefrontal cortex, leading to problems in understanding humor, facial emotions, and more. Alcoholism is also linked to a wide range of psychiatric and personality disorders, with anxiety and depression the most common disorders associated with the addiction. Alcoholism is also often associated with narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, and other personality disorders (Martin, Chung, Kirisci, & Langenbucker, 2006). Finally, alcoholism often results in repercussions in the alcoholic’s life, from relationship issues, child abuse, spousal abuse, crime, loss of employment, and drunk driving. In the case of alcoholics with children, the children can experience mental scarring due to their parents’ frequent mood shifts and their presumed inability to help them with their alcoholism, leading to long-term personality damage.

Curing alcoholism is possible but is fraught with danger due to the fact that attempting to do it rapidly may result in severe physical injury or death. Delirium tremens and other physical phenomena typically occur in an alcoholic who has been drinking for an extended period of time, phenomena which can be lethal or debilitating (O’Brien, 2011). Additionally, as the DSM-V points out, alcoholism requires an extensive series of lifestyle changes in order to be beat. In order to wean themselves off their dependence on alcohol, alcoholics need to practice self-restraint and learn how to keep their emotions in check (Holden, 2010). They also need to solve lingering problems in their personal lives instead of relying on substance abuse to numb the pain of existence.

Alcohol use disorder is a common and tragic disorder that tears lives apart and can even end them prematurely. However, alcoholism is something that can be fought, with the DSM-V providing accurate means of diagnosing alcoholism and ending it through medical procedures and therapy. With a combination of medical techniques and lifestyle changes, alcoholics can end their destructive lifestyles, halt the damage to their bodies, and rebuilt the devastation they have wreaked on not only their lives, but the lives of their loved ones.

  • Holden, C. (2010). Behavioral addictions debut in proposed DSM-V. Science, 327(5968), 935-935.
  • Martin, C. S., Chung, T., Kirisci, L., & Langenbucher, J. W. (2006). Item response theory analysis of diagnostic criteria for alcohol and cannabis use disorders in adolescents: implications for DSM-V. Journal of abnormal psychology, 115(4), 807.
  • O’brien, C. (2011). Addiction and dependence in DSM‐V. Addiction, 106(5), 866-867.
  • O’Brien, C. P., Volkow, N., & Li, T. K. (2006). What’s in a word? Addiction versus dependence in DSM-V.

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