Alcohol Use Disorder
The oldest of all substances ever abused is alcohol. It has been around for centuries, and so has the disease of misuse/overuse commonly called alcoholism, now known as “alcohol use disorder”. Similar to other diseases of addiction, alcohol use disorder is rooted in the patient’s brain. It can exist on its own or in combination with other addictions (opioid, tobacco, sedative, stimulant, behavioral, etc.) Some common questions to ask to determine if you may have a problem with alcohol include, in the past year, have you:
- Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
- More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
- Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
- Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
- More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
- Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
- Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
- Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?
Fortunately there are medications to help patients with alcohol use disorder (AUD) The three currently FDA approved medications for the treatment of AUD are: Vivivtrol (Naltrexone monthly injectable depot); Disulfarim, and Acamprosate. Like other addictions, medications can only help control withdrawal/craving, and it is the behavioral aspects of treatment (counseling, 12-step facilitation, group therapy, etc.) that help a patient with alcohol use disorder achieve long lasting recovery.
The addiction medicine physicians at Pathfinder Health Services are trained to diagnose, treat, and evaluate patients with alcohol use disorder.