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What to know about alcohol abuse

Alcohol abuse, or alcohol use disorder (AUD,) is a medical condition in which a person continues to consume alcohol despite the adverse consequences. AUD can be mild, moderate, or severe.
Other names for AUD include alcohol misuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, and alcoholism. Risk factors for developing alcohol misuse disorder include a family history of alcohol misuse, mental health conditions, and starting alcohol use at a young age.
Alcohol misuse can lead to various illnesses such as heart disease. People experiencing alcohol misuse disorder should seek medical attention.
Keep reading to learn more about AUD, including who is at risk, common symptoms, treatment, and more.

What is alcohol use disorder?

Alcohol misuse is the excessive consumption of alcohol. It is the inability to control drinking, even when it negatively affects a person’s life. The person consuming alcohol may develop tolerance and experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to cut back.

A national survey published in 2019 reported that 14.1 million adults (5.6%) and 414,000 adolescents aged 12-17 years (1.7%) were experiencing AUD in 2019 in the United States.

Common definitions for alcohol misuse are below:

Drinking in moderation For women: 1 drink or less per day
For men: 2 drinks or less per day
Alcohol misuse For women: 3 drinks or more per day OR more than 7 drinks per week
For men: 4 drinks or more per day OR more than 14 drinks per week
Binge drinking For women: More than 4 drinks over 2 hours
For men: More than 5 drinks over 2 hours

Effects of Alcohol Misuse

Alcohol misuse can adversely affect a person’s health, quality of life, and relationships.
Some negative consequencesTrusted Source of alcohol misuse include:
  • injuries (e.g. falls, workplace accidents, motor vehicle accidents)
  • violence
  • chronic diseases (e.g. liver cirrhosis, stroke, dementia, heart disease)
  • cancers (e.g. breast, rectal, liver)
  • risky sexual behaviors
  • absenteeism from work or school
  • adverse pregnancy outcomes (e.g. fetal alcohol syndrome).

Symptoms and diagnosis of alcohol misuse

Alcohol intoxication causes slowed speech and reflexes, difficulty in concentration and memory, and poor decision-making. A pattern of excessive use may signal alcohol misuse.
Common signs of alcohol abuse include:
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