Alcohol use disorder (AUD) and alcohol misuse are often used interchangeably, but they refer to distinct concepts. While both terms describe problematic alcohol use, there are significant differences between the two. Let’s examine how they differ and learn more about these two terms.
Alcohol misuse refers to any use of alcohol that can lead to negative health and social consequences. It can include binge drinking and heavy drinking to the point of blacking out. While alcohol misuse can be harmful, it does not necessarily indicate that a person has an alcohol use disorder.
Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcohol use disorder is a chronic condition characterized by compulsive alcohol use, despite the negative consequences. This may involve physical and psychological reliance on alcohol, an inability to manage drinking, and a strong desire for alcohol.
AUD is considered a medical condition that requires treatment, as it can lead to serious health problems and negatively impact a person’s relationships, work, and daily life.
Differences Between Alcohol Misuse and Alcohol Use Disorder
One of the key differences between alcohol misuse and AUD is the severity and persistence of the behavior. While alcohol misuse can occasionally occur, an individual with AUD will struggle with ongoing and severe alcohol abuse, with the behavior continuing even when negative consequences become apparent.
Another difference between the two is the impact that alcohol use has on an individual’s life. While alcohol misuse can lead to negative consequences and are typically less severe and less frequent than those associated with AUD. People with AUD may experience significant impairment in their daily life, relationships, and ability to work or study.
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Signs of AUD
Some of the signs associated with an alcohol use disorder include:
- A strong desire or urge to consume alcohol that often leads to compulsive drinking.
- Inability to limit the amount of alcohol consumed once drinking has started.
- Tolerance to alcohol and withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, sweating, and nausea when alcohol is not consumed.
- Drinking alcohol interferes with your ability to perform daily tasks and meet work, school, or home obligations.
- Drinking alcohol in risky situations such as driving under the influence, unsafe sex, and violence.
- Continuing to drink despite experiencing negative consequences such as blackouts, legal problems, or relationship issues.
Signs of Alcohol Misuse
Alcohol abusers may not fit the criteria for alcohol use disorder. However, they may exhibit some or all of the signs of alcohol abuse. These signs include:
- Frequent binge drinking
- Getting so drunk that you lose consciousness
- Making excuses for how much you drink
- Saying they need alcohol to have pleasure or relax
- Purposely drinking a lot of alcohol to get drunk
Treatment for AUD
AUD is a legitimate medical condition that requires treatment to help those with it to stop drinking. Treatment usually starts with a detox program. This detox program involves assistance and medications. Medications are typically used to manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings for alcohol, and prevent relapse.
When a person completes a detox program, they move on to an inpatient or outpatient recovery program. Inpatient rehab is more intensive and requires people to live at a treatment center while getting better. Outpatient therapy occurs in the community, so people can stay home and work.