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ALCOHOL USE

DISORDER

Alcohol use disorders sometimes called alcoholism) is a problem of controlling your drinking habit, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect, or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking. Unhealthy alcohol use includes any alcohol use that puts your health or safety at risk or causes other alcohol-related problems. This includes binge drinking as well. Alcohol use disorder can be mild, moderate or severe, based on the number of symptoms you experience.

 
  • Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink

  • Wanting to cut down on how much you drink or making unsuccessful attempts to do so

  • Spending a lot of time drinking, getting alcohol or recovering from alcohol use

  • Feeling a strong craving or urge to drink alcohol

  • Failing to fulfil major obligations at work, school or home due to repeated alcohol use

  • Continuing to drink alcohol even though you know it's causing physical, social or interpersonal problems

  • Giving up or reducing social and work activities and hobbies

  • Using alcohol in situations where it's not safe, such as when driving or swimming

  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol so you need more to feel its effect or you have a reduced effect from the same amount

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms — such as nausea, sweating and shaking — when you don't drink, or drinking to avoid these symptoms

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS INCLUDE

Alcohol use disorder can include periods of alcohol intoxication and symptoms of withdrawal.

Alcohol intoxication results as the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream increases. The higher the blood alcohol concentration is, the more impaired you become. Alcohol intoxication causes behaviour problems and mental changes. These may include inappropriate behaviour, unstable moods, impaired judgment, slurred speech, impaired attention or memory, and poor coordination. You can also have periods called "blackouts," where you don't remember events. Very high blood alcohol levels can lead to coma or even death.​

Alcohol withdrawal can occur when alcohol use has been heavy and prolonged and is then stopped or greatly reduced. It can occur within several hours to four or five days later. Signs and symptoms include sweating, rapid heartbeat, hand tremors, problems sleeping, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, restlessness and agitation, anxiety, and occasionally seizures. Symptoms can be severe enough to impair your ability to function at work or in social situations.

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Impact on your Health

Drinking too much alcohol on a single occasion or over time can cause health problems, including:

  • Liver disease. Heavy drinking can cause increased fat in the liver (hepatic steatosis), inflammation of the liver (alcoholic hepatitis), and over time, irreversible destruction and scarring of liver tissue (cirrhosis).

  • Digestive problems. Heavy drinking can result in inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis), as well as stomach and oesophageal ulcers. It can also interfere with absorption of B vitamins and other nutrients. Heavy drinking can damage your pancreas or lead to inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).

  • Heart problems. Excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure and increases your risk of an enlarged heart, heart failure or stroke. Even a single binge can cause a serious heart arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation.

  • Diabetes complications. Alcohol interferes with the release of glucose from your liver and can increase the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia). This is dangerous if you have diabetes and are already taking insulin to lower your blood sugar level.

  • Sexual function and menstruation issues. Excessive drinking can cause erectile dysfunction in men. In women, it can interrupt menstruation. 

  • Eye problems. Over time, heavy drinking can cause involuntary rapid eye movement (nystagmus) as well as weakness and paralysis of your eye muscles due to a deficiency of vitamin B-1 (thiamine). A thiamine deficiency can also be associated with other brain changes, such as irreversible dementia, if not promptly treated.

  • Birth defects. Alcohol use during pregnancy may cause miscarriage. It may also cause foetal alcohol syndrome, resulting in giving birth to a child who has physical and developmental problems that last a lifetime.

  • Bone damage. Alcohol may interfere with the production of new bone. This bone loss can lead to thinning bones (osteoporosis) and an increased risk of fractures. Alcohol can also damage bone marrow, which makes blood cells. This can cause a low platelet count, which may result in bruising and bleeding.

  • Neurological complications. Excessive drinking can affect your nervous system, causing numbness and pain in your hands and feet, disordered thinking, dementia, and short-term memory loss.

  • Weakened immune system. Excessive alcohol use can make it harder for your body to resist disease, increasing your risk of various illnesses, especially pneumonia.

  • Increased risk of cancer. Long-term, excessive alcohol use has been linked to a higher risk of many cancers, including mouth, throat, liver, oesophagus, colon and breast cancers. Even moderate drinking can increase the risk of breast cancer.

  • Medication and alcohol interactions. Some medications interact with alcohol, increasing its toxic effects. Drinking while taking these medications can either increase or decrease their effectiveness, or make them dangerous.

We are here to help

Individuals with addiction challenges often struggle with their addictive behaviors, often in denial or unwilling to seek treatment. To certain extent, they may not recognize the negative effects their behavior has on themselves and others. That is why it is important to seek intervention as part of pathway to recovery.

 

The first step to getting help and pathway to recovery, is to acknowledge this condition and to be able to recognize the physical, mental, and emotional signs, like abrupt weight or personality changes in the individual.

Our caring medical team is always ready to provide confidential advice, treatment, referral and further information for related health concerns. Everyone is welcome to call us on (03) 9544-1555 or email us info@mediclinicclayton.com.au

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