An alcohol use disorder can be difficult to spot. Most people who drink alcohol don’t have a problem and may never have a problem. However, those who abuse alcohol may not recognize the need for help. To begin leading a better lifestyle, you first must have a better understanding of the disorder. Alcoholism is one of the leading preventable causes of death, so it’s important to recognize the risks and problem signs.
Here are some concerning statistics about alcohol use disorder:
- In the United States, about 17 million people have alcohol use disorder
- It is the most commonly used substance of abuse in the United States
- Alcohol use disorder is a disease that affects people of all ages and backgrounds
- May lead to serious health problems, including liver damage, heart disease, and stroke
- Can also lead to problems with family, friends, and work
Why is an Alcohol Use Disorder Difficult to Spot?
Most of the people who drink alcohol can do so without a problem, and some can do this weekly or daily. Alcohol has been around for thousands of years, and it’s often used to celebrate different occasions like holidays. Some people like to have drinks as a way to unwind after a long day or week after work. Drinking can also be a way to help loosen up and socialize with others, but it can begin to become a problem.
There are misconceptions about what an alcohol use disorder is, which prevents many people from getting help. When a person develops an alcohol addiction, the brain tells him or her that they’re drinking for the above reasons. It takes self-awareness and honesty to take a look at your drinking habits and realize when they’ve changed. Someone with alcoholism eventually gets to a point where he or she loses the power of choice with drinking.
The Hard Drinker and Someone with an Alcohol Use Disorder
There are many people who can drink every single day, get drunk and they wouldn’t be considered to have an addiction. If this is the case, then you may be wondering how it’s possible to understand the difference between alcoholism and hard drinking. Someone with full-blown alcoholism continues drinking despite all of the negative consequences in his or her life. In the following scenarios that result from drinking, a hard drinker is about to stop, while someone with alcoholism often can’t:
- Health issues
- Legal troubles
- Job loss
- Relationship issues
What separates someone with alcoholism from the hard drinker? Specifically, the hard drinker is able to stop. When faced with these different scenarios, the hard drinker is able to completely stop drinking or begin moderating. Someone with alcoholism is going to continue drinking, no matter the consequences. Worst of all, someone with alcoholism doesn’t adhere to the warning of qualified doctors.
The Brain of Someone with an Alcohol Use Disorder
Thanks to years of scientific research, we now know what’s different about the brain of someone with alcoholism. There’s a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, and one of its primary responsibilities is dopamine regulation. This part of the brain knows that alcohol is pleasurable, but it lets a person make logical decisions about this pleasure. A person with alcoholism lacks the ability to understand the consequences of his or her drinking.
Parts of the brain that are involved in impulse control and judgment, such as the frontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex, also show abnormal activity in people with alcoholism. These parts of the brain help a person to understand the consequences of his or her actions, make good decisions, and resist impulses. In people with alcoholism, these areas are much less active. This may explain why someone with alcoholism is more likely to make bad decisions about drinking, such as continuing to drink even when it’s causing problems in their life.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Portland
Luckily, through substance abuse treatments at Crestview Recovery, your brain can begin to heal so you can stay sober. The other issues with the prefrontal cortex explain why your behavior is so much different than it should be. While you’re in treatment, we’ll use evidence-based treatment methods to change your old behaviors to new ones. This will allow you to not only stay sober but give you the opportunity to live a happier life.
Call us today at 866.262.0531, so we can begin helping you on the path toward sobriety.
Since 2016, Dr. Merle Williamson, a graduate of Oregon Health Sciences University, has been the Medical Director at Crestview Recovery, bringing a rich background in addiction medicine from his time at Hazelden Treatment Center. He oversees outpatient drug and alcohol treatments, providing medical care, setting policies, detox protocols, and quality assurance measures. Before specializing in addiction medicine, he spent 25 years in anesthesiology, serving as Chair of Hospital Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee and Chief of Anesthesia at Kaiser Permanente. This experience gives him a unique perspective on treating prescription drug addiction.