Alcohol use disorder, often referred to as alcoholism or alcohol abuse, ranges from mild dependence to severe addiction. While any form of alcohol use disorder can impact the quality of your life, the mild cases can contribute to high-functioning alcoholism, which makes it harder to pinpoint.
Because it’s not always easy to tell if you have alcohol use disorder, you might wonder if you meet the criteria. Regardless, even mild alcohol use disorder is an addiction that can affect your physical health, mental wellness, social relationships, and home life.
If you think you exhibit any of the signs of alcohol use disorder, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Addiction 一 whether that’s illicit drugs, smoking, or alcohol 一 is hard to overcome on your own, but you don’t have to go on this journey alone.
Board certified in both addiction psychiatry and general psychiatry, Dr. Hadi Estakhri is a trusted expert when it comes to helping treat addictions.
Here are the warning signs of alcohol use disorder and what you can do if you recognize any of them, courtesy of the team here at Allied Psychiatry & Mental Health in Newport Beach, California.
Learning to recognize the signs of alcoholism
It’s a common misconception that identifying the number of alcoholic beverages consumed is the only way to confirm alcohol use disorder. That being said, heavy drinking 一 more than three drinks a day for women and more than four drinks per day for men 一 can increase your risk of developing alcohol use disorder, but there are other warning signs.
If you’re concerned about alcoholism, reflect on the following questions. Do you:
- Have frequent and uncontrollable cravings to drink?
- Use alcohol to block other thoughts?
- Need alcohol to relax?
- Drink in the morning, when you’re alone, or at work?
- Continue to drink despite negative consequences?
- Deny drinking or try to hide it?
- Fight with your family about it?
- Try to stop but struggle to stay sober?
Know that sobriety is possible with the right help, and asking for help is a true testament to your strength.
I want to stop drinking: what type of help is available?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 14 million adults struggle with alcohol use disorder, but thankfully there are many different types of help available.
Support groups and programs
Support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, guide participants with a 12-step program to overcome cravings for alcohol.
Behavior therapy and treatment for co-occurring disorders
Other types of treatment include behavior therapy and mental health care, which is especially beneficial if you use alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with untreated anxiety or depression. Therapy, for instance, can teach you healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress, anxiety, and depression.
In addition to support groups and behavior therapy, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can help you overcome the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that may come when you cease drinking. Dr. Estakhri may recommend MAT with Suboxone®.
Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone — two drugs that work to decrease the severity of your alcohol withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. This medication helps you overcome addiction by blocking certain receptors, or areas of your brain that feel pleasure from alcohol.
Buprenorphine, one of the two ingredients in Suboxone, is a partial agonist and a long-acting opioid. The second drug in Suboxone, naloxone, is the opposite. It’s an opioid antagonist. This leads to reduced cravings, reduced symptoms of withdrawal, and, most importantly, helps you transition out of the cycle of craving and withdrawal.
How we can help you overcome addiction
Suboxone isn’t right for everyone, and it should only be used for alcohol addiction if you’re not currently drinking. But remember that addiction is a chronic (but treatable) medical disease, so even if MAT isn’t right for you, you’re not out of options.
When you’re struggling to overcome any addiction, whether that’s alcohol or opioids, Dr. Estakhri can help you get on the path to recovery with:
- Evidence-based treatments for any co-occurring disorders, including PTSD
- Lifestyle changes, including stress management techniques
- MAT with Suboxone
- Support groups
- Recovery coaching
If you’re looking for freedom from alcohol use disorder, book an appointment with Dr. Estakhri today by calling our office at 949-258-7135 or using our online scheduler.