Alcohol misuse and dependence are primarily diagnosed through the use of clinical screening surveys. Several hundred such surveys exist, and they vary in the number and nature of questions they ask. Some of the more common scientifically-validated questionnaires include the Michigan Alcohol Screening Test (MAST), a shorter version called the Brief MAST, the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), and a commonly employed, quick survey called the CAGE questionnaire. These surveys ask a range of questions about frequency of drinking, problems that result, and ability to stop.
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While both alcohol abuse and alcoholism are included in the alcohol use disorder diagnosis and involve engaging in maladaptive behaviors in the use of alcohol, abuse of this substance does not include the person having withdrawal symptoms or needing more and more amounts to achieve intoxication (tolerance) unless the person has developed alcoholism.
Despite the criticisms and controversies, Alcoholics Anonymous remains a cultural force for treatment, rehabilitation, personal growth, and sobriety. The programs claims it has more than 2 million members globally, and reports that 33 percent of the 8,000 members in North America retained their sobriety for at least 10 years. It’s not for everyone, agrees Psych Central, but for many, it has made a life-changing difference.
Short-term effects of alcohol abuse can be just as dangerous as long-term effects. For instance, drinking can impact your reaction time, causing you to have slow reflexes and coordination. That’s why drinking and driving is extremely dangerous. Getting behind the wheel of a car can alter your perception of speed and distance, putting yourself and others at risk.

Alcoholism can also lead to impotence in men, damage to the fetus in pregnant women, and an elevated risk of cancer of the larynx, esophagus, liver, breast, stomach, pancreas, and upper gastrointestinal tract. Because heavy drinkers seldom have adequate diets, they may have nutritional deficiencies. Heavy drinkers typically have impaired liver function, and up to one in five develops cirrhosis.
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Jump up ^ Morse, RM; Flavin, DK (August 1992). "The definition of alcoholism. The Joint Committee of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the American Society of Addiction Medicine to Study the Definition and Criteria for the Diagnosis of Alcoholism". JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association. 268 (8): 1012–4. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03490080086030. ISSN 0098-7484. PMID 1501306.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a global organization that was created, and is designed, to help former alcoholics through the process of learning to live their lives without the crutch of alcohol abuse. People who attend AA groups have made the decision to stop drinking and stay sober. Some of them join voluntarily; some attend as a continuation of their therapy; some are required to be there because of a court order. Whatever brings them there, the other members of the group act as a support network, explains the American Journal of Public Health; they share success stories and honest accounts of setbacks, and use this emotional connectedness to inspire and encourage each other to keep going.
Over 6% of the Australian population meet the criteria for having alcohol consumption disorders, either alcohol dependence or intoxication disorder. Alcohol dependence is the most common disorder, occurring in about 4.1% of Australians. A greater proportion of men (6.1%) suffer from alcohol dependence than women (2.3%). 18–24 years olds (of whom 9.3% meet the criteria for alcohol dependence) are the age group most likely to be alcohol dependent in Australia. There is a higher rate of alcohol consumption disorders amongst Indigenous Australians, compared to non-Indigenous Australians.

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The effects of alcoholism are far reaching. Alcohol affects every body system, causing a wide range of health problems. Problems include poor nutrition, memory disorders, difficulty with balance and walking, liver disease (including cirrhosis and hepatitis), high blood pressure, muscle weakness (including the heart), heart rhythm disturbances, anemia, clotting disorders, decreased immunity to infections, gastrointestinal inflammation and irritation, acute and chronic problems with the pancreas, low blood sugar, high blood fat content, interference with reproductive fertility, increased risk of cancer of the liver, esophagus, and breast, weakened bones, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and depression. About 20% of adults admitted to the hospital (for any reason) are alcohol dependent. Men are more than twice as likely to be alcohol dependent than women, and smokers who are alcohol dependent are much more likely to develop serious or fatal health problems associated with alcoholism.
Research and population surveys have shown that persons under stress , particularly chronic stress, tend to exhibit more unhealthy behaviors than less-stressed persons. Stressed people drink more alcohol, smoke more, and eat less nutritious foods than non-stressed individuals. Many people report drinking alcohol in response to various types of stress, and the amount of drinking in response to stress is related to the severity of the life stressors and the individuals' lack of social support networks.
When it comes to maintaining long-term sobriety outside of a rehabilitation treatment program, the oldest and probably most well-known organization is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Founded in 1935, AA and its 12-Step Program has been the go-to for treating alcoholism for decades, with many addiction treatment centers incorporating at least some version of the 12 Steps in their own treatment therapies.
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There are numerous individual psychotherapeutic treatments for alcohol addiction. Relapse prevention uses methods for recognizing and amending problem behaviors. Individualized drug counseling specifically emphasizes short-term behavioral goals in an attempt to help the individual reduce or stop the use of alcohol altogether. Cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques, like helping the individual with alcohol use disorder recognize what tends to precede and follow their episodes of alcohol use, are often used to address alcohol abuse. Some treatment programs include drug testing. Twelve-step recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous are individualized drug-counseling methods. Motivational enhancement therapy encourages the person suffering from alcohol use disorder to increase their desire to participate in therapy. Stimulus control refers to an intervention that teaches the alcohol-use disordered person to stay away from situations that are associated with alcohol use and to replace those situations with activities that are alcohol-free and otherwise contrary to using alcohol. Urge control is an approach to changing patterns that lead to drug or alcohol use.
During alcoholism treatment, therapy teams provide lessons on relapse prevention. These lessons are designed to help people spot the people, places, and things that can drive them to return to drinking. With the help of these lessons, people can learn to both avoid and/or handle their triggers so they won’t pick up an alcoholic beverage when they’re under stress.
Alcoholics Anonymous publishes several books, reports, pamphlets, and other media, including a periodical known as the AA Grapevine.[97] Two books are used primarily: Alcoholics Anonymous (the "Big Book") and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, the latter explaining AA's fundamental principles in depth. The full text of each of these two books is available on the AA website at no charge.
Fact: Alcoholism is NOT defined by what you drink, when you drink it, or even how much you drink. It’s the EFFECTS of your drinking that define a problem. If your drinking is causing problems in your home or work life, you have a drinking problem—whether you drink daily or only on the weekends, down shots of tequila or stick to wine, drink three bottles of beers a day or three bottles of whiskey.
Alcoholism is appropriately considered a disease rather than a weakness of character or chosen pattern of bad behavior. It is the third most common mental illness, affecting more than 14 million people in the United States. Other facts and statistics about alcohol dependence include its pattern of afflicting about 4% of women and 10% of men. It costs more than $200 billion per year in lower productivity, early death, and costs for treatment. Worldwide, alcohol is thought to contribute to more than 200 illnesses and injuries, like liver disease, heart disease, and neurological problems. Alcohol-related deaths number more than 3 million per year, nearly 6% of all deaths worldwide. For adults between 20-40 years of age, that percentage rises to about 25% of deaths due to alcohol.
Auxiliary groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, for friends and family members of alcoholics and addicts, respectively, are part of a response to treating addiction as a disease that is enabled by family systems.[4] Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA or ACOA) addresses the effects of growing up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional family. Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) addresses compulsions related to relationships, referred to as codependency.
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