What Is Alcohol Abuse? Understanding Alcoholism

Learn what alcohol addiction is and how to find treatment for yourself or a loved one.

Alcohol Use Disorder

Learn more about alcohol misuse and how to find effective treatment for alcohol addiction.

Alcohol Misuse Overview

In 2020, 138.5 million Americans aged 12 or older reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days.  In the same study it was estimated that, over 14.8 million individuals 12 years old and up in the last year had an alcohol use disorder.1

Some people may think drinking can make them feel good, relax, feel less stress, and be more sociable.2,3 However, several adverse health effects are associated with alcohol misuse.4

Although drinking alcohol is widely accepted and legal in the U.S. for those older than the legal drinking age, alcohol use disorder can be a scary diagnosis to receive. With treatment, however, a person can recover and live a full life in sobriety.

Did you know most health insurance plans cover alcohol addiction treatment?
man in bed sipping water with hangover

Different Types of Drinking

Underage drinking, heavy drinking, binge drinking, or drinking while pregnant are types of problematic drinking. Indicators of a problem with drinking include it causing school problems, relationship issues, trouble with social activities, or difficulty with one’s thoughts and emotions.4

Below you’ll find a quick summary on different categories of consuming alcohol.

man with head in hands being consoled by a circle of concerned people

What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a chronic and relapsing condition, diagnosed by professionals using a set of 11 criteria (shown below).

These criteria come from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Meeting 2 or more of the criteria in a 12-month period indicates the presence of an alcohol use disorder. The more criteria met, the more severe the disorder.2,3

doctor writing notes with alcohol addiction criteria

Potential Health Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system.There are several potential adverse health effects associated with alcohol misuse. These can be both short- and long-term.

Sick young woman wrapped in a blanket and sitting on her couch.

Alcohol Poisoning, Overdose, and Withdrawal

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning & Overdose

Alcohol overdoses can be fatal. If you think you or someone else may have overdosed on alcohol, call 911 at once.15

Possible symptoms of alcohol poisoning or overdose include:15

  • Vomiting.
  • Marked confusion.
  • Trouble staying conscious.
  • Not waking up.
  • Reduced responses (e.g. lack of gag reflex).
  • Decreased heart rate.
  • Less than 8 breaths in a minute.
  • 10 seconds or longer in between breaths.
  • Low body temperature.
  • Bluish or pale skin.
  • Skin that feels clammy.
  • Seizures.
  • Coma.
  • Death.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

In cases of significant physical alcohol dependence, suddenly stopping alcohol use or markedly decreasing the amount you use may result in withdrawal.17 Withdrawal from alcohol can be uncomfortable and, in some cases, dangerous or deadly.12,17

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Possible alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:7, 12

  • Headache.
  • Anxiety.
  • Irritability.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Intense nightmares or dreams.
  • Alterations in consciousness.
  • Delusions.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Becoming disoriented.
  • Sensitivity to light, touch, and noise.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Delirium.
  • Shaking, such as tremors in hand.
  • Raised blood pressure.
  • Reduced appetite.
  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Restlessness.
  • Psychomotor agitation.
  • Seizures.
  • Sweating.

Should You Get Help for Alcohol Withdrawal?

Yes, individuals who may be experiencing withdrawal from alcohol should right away see a medical provider experienced in managing this condition.12 Call 911 in an emergency—remember alcohol withdrawal may be deadly.

Hospitalization or admission to another treatment setting able to provide some form of round-the-clock medical care may be necessary for the adequate management of alcohol withdrawal.12

How to Treat Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder rehabs, such as Oxford Treatment Center, may provide various levels of addiction treatment, such as the following:18

flower bushes in front of Oxford rehab center

Behavioral Therapies Used in Addiction Treatment

Behavioral therapies for addiction that may help an individual include:9

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This approach teaches you to identify what triggers your cravings, how to cope, and how to avoid situations that put you at risk for relapse.9
  • Contingency management. This strategy rewards positive behaviors (like abstinence) with tangible rewards.14
  • Community reinforcement approach plus vouchers. This technique uses family, social, vocational, and fun reinforcers and incentives to make sobriety more appealing than drinking while teaching sober life skills.18
  • Motivational enhancement therapy. This technique helps people become more motivated to engage in treatment and maintain sobriety at their own pace.9
Group of people sitting in a circle in therapy

Oxford Treatment Center Is Ready for You

If you are ready to make a change with your life and are considering treatment, our alcohol rehab on 110 acres in beautiful Etta, Mississippi could be the place for you.

We create individualized treatment plans that include evidence-based treatments and therapies for every patient that comes through our doors. Oxford Treatment Center, American Addiction Centers’ alcohol rehab center in Mississippi, is ready to help you get the treatment you need today.

Learn more about the starting the admissions process or instantly check your health insurance coverage for rehab.


chairs by the lake to help patients take part in holistic treatment

Read More About Alcohol Misuse

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