What is alcohol use disorder?
Alcoholism is now called alcohol use disorder (AUD). The new term more accurately describes a condition that goes through various stages, from alcohol tolerance to dependence and addiction. Alcoholism carries the social stigma of “heavy drinking,” while AUD (alcohol addiction) encompasses the biological side effects of long-term alcohol consumption.
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines alcohol use disorder (AUD) as a “medical condition characterised by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences”.
Alcohol use disorder – alcohol addiction – is a brain disorder that can be mild, moderate or severe. People develop a tolerance to alcohol which progresses to dependence and addiction. Long-term alcohol use changes your brain’s structure and function and damages neural pathways, resulting in brain chemistry changes that affect your physical and mental well-being.
Alcohol is toxic to neurotransmitters, chemical signals and electrical impulses in your brain that carry messages to the rest of your body. Prolonged alcohol use causes cerebellum atrophy (brain shrinkage), resulting in ataxia, an irreversible degenerative disease of your central nervous system.
A combination of medical detox, medication, psychotherapy and group support therapy is used to successfully treat alcohol addiction as part of an integrated addiction treatment programme at an inpatient or outpatient centre.
Did you know?
Scientists and clinicians no longer use alcoholism, alcoholic and alcohol abuse. The addiction community has moved away from these terms because they carry a lot of stigmas and cultural biases. The appropriate words to use are “someone with an alcohol use disorder.”