Alcohol use disorder (AUD, usually referred to as alcoholism) is characterised by symptoms compromising the body, mind, and behaviour. A defining feature of the disorder is that the individual continues to drink despite the negative consequences of alcohol. While there is no absolute number of drinks consumed per day or amount of alcohol consumed that characterises an alcohol use disorder, there is a point at which the dangers associated with drinking considerably increase.
The following are some of the defining traits of alcoholism:
Consuming more alcohol than anticipated. Alcoholism is characterized by a loss of control over the amount consumed.
Desire to abstain from alcohol, yet incapacity to do so.
Excessive time spent acquiring, consuming, or recovering from the effects of alcohol.
Craving for or obsession with alcohol.
Alcohol-related difficulties; ignoring those problems; drinking in the face of clear dangers, including bodily harm.
Removing oneself from critical job, family, socialising and responsibilities.
Tolerance - The necessity to consume increasing amounts of alcohol in order to experience the same effects, or the ability to consume more alcohol than other people without becoming intoxicated.
Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, sweating, shaking, difficulty sleeping, nausea or vomiting, and, in severe cases, physical convulsions and hallucinations. The individual may drink in order to alleviate or prevent such symptoms.
A person with an alcohol use disorder has developed a physical, psychological, and/or emotional dependence on alcohol. The brain adapts and endures permanent alterations in the presence of alcohol. When alcohol consumption is abruptly ceased, the body becomes unaccustomed to being alcohol-free. The internal environment undergoes dramatic alterations, resulting in withdrawal symptoms.
Excessive alcohol use has been linked to a wide range of psychological, interpersonal, social, economic, and physical problems in the past. It may contribute to an increased risk of depression and suicide. It has been implicated in violent crimes such as homicide and domestic violence (abuse of a spouse or child). This can result in traffic accidents and even incidents involving inebriated pedestrians who choose to walk home following a night out. Additionally, AUD can result in hazardous sexual conduct, which can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.
Alcoholism raises the risk of liver disease (hepatitis and cirrhosis), heart disease, stomach ulcers, brain damage, stroke, and other health complications. There is also a risk that pregnant women who consume alcohol will have a child with foetal alcohol syndrome, a collection of health problems that include extremely low birth weight, facial abnormalities, heart defects, and learning challenges.
Alcohol use disorder is extremely prevalent.
In the United States, over 10% of males and nearly 5% of women over the age of 18 have significant drinking issues. Millions more indulge in dangerous drinking, as experts define it. Alcohol is responsible for around 88,000 deaths in the United States each year, making it the third most preventable cause of death. Approximately one-third of driving-related fatalities are caused by alcohol usage.
As the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, it is expected that senior persons (aged 65 and over) will outnumber children in the United States for the first time in history by 2034. As the population ages, healthcare demand will grow, and increased rates of alcohol consumption among older individuals may add to the pressure currently placed on an already overburdened healthcare system.
The consumption of alcohol by older individuals has been increasing in recent years.
The use of alcohol among older people have increased in recent year, particularly among women. Between 2001 and 2013, an epidemiologic survey found that the rate of alcohol use disorder among persons 65 and older grew by 107 percent in the United States. According to the University of Michigan's 2021 National Poll on Healthy Aging, while the majority of older individuals polled used alcohol at low to moderate levels, a subgroup of older adults exceeded recommended alcohol consumption guidelines. Twenty percent of respondents used alcohol four or more times per week; twenty-seven percent had six or more drinks on at least one occasion in the previous year; and seven percent experienced alcohol-related blackouts.
This research is still being monitored
Even moderate drinking may be detrimental to your brain, according to research published online by The BMJ on June 6, 2017. Researchers from the University of Oxford and University College London discovered that imbibers, even those who matched standards for moderate drinking, experienced a greater rate of cognitive loss and brain shrinkage than teetotalers.
The study tracked 550 men and women for 30 years, evaluating their brain structure and function to ascertain the long-term effects of alcohol usage on the mind. They discovered that the more people drank, the more atrophy happened in the hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped region in the brain involved in memory storage. Individuals who consumed 17 standard drinks or more of alcohol per week had the greatest risk. However, even moderate drinkers had an increased risk of cognitive impairments.