Alcohol addiction is not the currently preferred term by the science community as it is commonly confused with alcohol dependence. These days they refer to it as Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). This term combines alcohol dependence and alcohol addiction. Most people usually use the term alcohol dependence when a person manifests physical symptoms like alcohol is needed for them to function. Just imagine that dependence is the need for alcohol, while addiction is the want for alcohol.
AUD, as defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences that range from mild to severe.
College students encompass nearly 2,000 alcohol-related deaths annually in the United States.
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How Does Someone Develop AUD
Drinking one glass of alcohol doesn’t always lead to addiction or AUD. However, things always start with one. Alcohol affects the chemical composition of the body. It can enter the brain in less than a minute (depending on genetics) and trigger neurotransmitters that can then cause the release or increase the release of happy hormones/chemicals. These give off the feeling of euphoric and a sense of feeling light or pleasant.
However, these are temporary feelings and are mostly false or a surface sense of happiness. It is a force release of happy chemicals, so once you stop drinking or once alcohol is out of your system, it will go back to normal, and there will be a sudden drop of happy chemicals.
Some studies suggest that the younger you start to drink, the more likely you are prone to develop AUD.
What are Different Factors that Increase the Risk of Developing AUD
One that could have a significant effect is the environment in which a person lives. If you naturally encounter alcoholics, may it be family, friends, or if alcoholism is prevalent in your community, then there is a greater chance that you too will become alcoholic.
Our genes can also affect the development of AUD. There are genes related to alcoholism that are transferable from one generation to another, but having an alcoholic gene doesn’t necessarily mean that you will automatically become one. It just might increase your tendency to be one.
3. Trauma/ Stress
Some people develop AUD because of trauma or emotional stress in the present or the past. Alcohol is quite famous for having the ability to numb pain (may it be physical or mental). Some even believe that it can induce temporary memory loss and allow someone an escape from reality. So, it is not surprising that some people use it as a tool to cope with life or as a coping mechanism.
However, constant consumption can increase alcohol tolerance, meaning a person does not feel the same high when they drink the same amount of alcohol. These will make them feel the need to increase their alcohol consumption, which will then lead to the development of AUD.
This choice of coping mechanism is not ideal as it can eventually be the cause of another problem that a person needs to overcome.
Different Stages of AUD
This stage is also known as the Pre-Alcoholic stage. Alcoholism can be unrecognizable in the initial part. It can be because there is no recognizable consequence yet to drinking.
An example is someone who drinks but is still able to maintain or balance their academic or personal responsibilities. These are common to students who binge drink after a stressful day or after exam week (sometimes referred to as Hell Week).
If you are drinking manageable amounts because there are situations that demand it as a social responsibility, then you don’t need to be worried. But if you drink as a pain reliever or as a stress reducer or to forget bad memories, then you need to be a bit cautious, because you might be in the pre-alcoholic stage.
This stage can also be called the Early Alcoholic stage. This stage is where some negative consequences start to show. It can manifest as a change in weight, health problems, class skipping, a sudden drop in grades, and some other withdrawal symptoms like nausea, irritation, etc.
In this stage, you would start to feel that your alcohol tolerance is slowly increasing. Alcohol will be harder to resist, and thoughts of it would be more frequent.
This stage can also be called the Middle Alcoholic stage. In this stage, the signs and symptoms of alcoholism will be so evident that even your friends and family will start to recognize them.
Consuming alcohol will continuously preoccupy your mind, and you will feel the need to involve it in all areas of your life. It will affect your physical state and also your mind or thought process. You might notice that you would get irritated more easily or get more involved in arguments more than you usually do.
This stage is usually where a person begins to get alarmed and attempts to stop or control drinking. However, this can be challenging to overcome. The development of alcoholism takes time, so recovery from it can sometimes take even more. Professionals and support groups can be of great help.
This stage is crucial. If not addressed right away, the chances of being alcoholic and developing AUD would be inevitable.
This stage can also be called the Late Alcoholic stage. Serious health consequences will start to appear and develop (Liver cirrhosis and dementia are common examples).
In this stage, the alcohol will have more control over the person’s life more than they do. They would start to feel the need to drink alcohol for their everyday life. Their mind would think that they would not be able to function without it, and their body will follow in showing signs of intense discomfort when they try to stop.
In this stage, the alcoholic will start to have a life in a complete mess. Alcohol will come before education, jobs, and even family and friends. A person has a higher tendency to experience extreme withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop drinking in this stage.
One drink of alcohol does not necessarily mean that you would automatically develop Alcohol Use Disorder. However, it is smart to keep in mind that all things start with one.
Stated above are four stages of alcoholism. However, depending on the person involved, this can be the last stage or just the second to that. A fifth stage exists. The fifth stage is the recovery stage. Because there is always hope for recovery if a person believes that there is.
Alcoholism triggers can be different from each person. The same goes for the treatment and recovery from it. Keep in mind that it would be wise to ask professionals for help when it comes to these kinds of situations.