Learn More About Alcohol Abuse Disorder

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) 14.5 million people (aged 12 and over) dealt with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in 2019 alone. Alcohol misuse can look different for everyone, so it’s important to learn more about the disorder and know when it’s time to get help.

Disclaimer: This page provides information on alcohol-related problems and should not be considered medical advice. Call a health professional trained in substance abuse treatment if you believe you or a loved one needs help overcoming alcohol addiction.

What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a brain disorder that impairs a person’s ability to stop drinking alcohol despite the negative consequences to their health, work, or relationships. Depending on the person’s drinking habits, AUD is classified as mild, moderate, or severe. 

There is no age limit to Alcohol Use Disorder; it can affect anyone, from college students to older adults. It can also look different from person to person. One person may regularly binge drink (excessive drinking in a short period of time) until they blackout; another may drink a little bit each day in order to participate in daily activities. In both cases, the person has an alcohol dependency.

Support group for alcohol abuse.

Where To Find Help

Meridian HealthCare has been helping people find their hope for recovery for 50 years. To find hope for yourself or a loved one, call today to schedule an appointment or make a referral.

Risk Factors for Alcohol Abuse

The most important risk factor for alcohol use disorder is the person’s drinking habits: how often, how quickly, and how much they consume alcohol. Continually abusing alcohol will lead to a disorder. However, other factors increase your risk level, too. 

Drinking alcohol at an early age increases the likelihood of developing a disorder. As reported by the NIAAA (niaaa.nih.gov), a national study concluded that adults who started drinking before they were 15 years old were five times more likely to have Alcohol Use Disorder than those who waited until they were 21 or older.

Since Alcohol Use Disorder is a disease, genetics are a risk factor, as well. If alcohol problems are present in a person’s family history, they are more likely to develop a disorder. These genetic factors are also connected to a person’s environment. For example, children who grow up seeing family members abuse alcohol are more likely to have a drinking problem when they are older.

Other factors include mental health, especially if the person has experienced trauma. Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are commonly associated with alcohol and substance use disorders. Because of this, any treatment program for AUD should also address any co-occurring mental illness.

Physical Effects of Alcohol Consumption

Continued or excessive alcohol consumption is likely to cause health problems. Learn more about the potential health conditions from sustained or heavy drinking.

  • Liver disease: any condition that bars the liver from functioning fully. Alcohol consumption heightens the risk for these types of diseases.
  • Cirrhosis of the liver: scarring of the liver that prevents it from properly functioning, potentially life-threatening, and caused by excessive drinking.
  • Alcohol poisoning: causes breathing, heart rate, body temperature, and gag reflex to stop functioning correctly. Caused by drinking large amounts of alcohol quickly.
  • Alcohol-related brain damage: years of heavy drinking can cause permanent brain damage.
  • High blood pressure: alcohol affects blood pressure and can be extremely harmful to those predisposed to high blood pressure.
  • Pancreatitis: causes severe abdominal pain, among other symptoms. Heavy drinking is the most common risk factor.

Treatment Options

When it comes to Alcohol Use Disorder, there are a few treatment options depending on each person’s experiences and the severity of the disease.


Like other addictions, the first step in recovery is to detox from the substance. This can be extremely hard, especially if the person has alcohol dependence. Once alcohol is no longer in their system, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, shakiness, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, sweating, headaches, hallucinations, high blood pressure, and racing heart rate.

Inpatient detox centers allow a person to go through alcohol withdrawal with 24/7 medical staff helping them through their symptoms.

Support Groups

Those recovering from an alcohol addiction benefit greatly from attending support group meetings (ex: Alcoholics Anonymous). These groups allow the members to regularly meet with each other and support one another’s journey through recovery. This gives them the ability to share both their successes and advice on overcoming struggles, coming from people who have similar experiences and know what they are going through.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication can be part of a treatment for alcohol use disorder. As the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains, Naltrexone is a drug used in the Medication-Assisted Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder. It works to block the euphoric effects of drugs and suppresses cravings, ultimately aiding in preventing relapse. Another option that Meridian uses to treat Alcohol Use Disorder is Vivitrol. Vivitrol is a shot that helps reduce cravings and is not addicting. However, the patient needs to be opioid and alcohol-free prior to receiving the injection. Vivitrol can last between 28-30 days.

MAT is an outpatient program but is still closely monitored by healthcare professionals. When there is a higher risk of relapse, those in MAT programs must undergo periodic urine tests as part of the treatment.

Everyone’s Path to Recovery is Different

There are many terms you may hear throughout the course of your treatment from Alcohol Abuse Disorder. This guide will help you better understand common terms used along the road to recovery.

Hope For Recovery Is At Meridian

Millions of people struggle with Alcohol Use Disorder; there’s no shame in getting help when you need it. For 50 years, Meridian HealthCare has been helping people with substance and alcohol abuse disorders. If you or a loved one is struggling, call us today and schedule an appointment with one of our compassionate team members.

Whenever you’re ready, Meridian is here to help.

Get Help Now: 330-797-0070