Alcohol use disorder

Alcohol use disorder is the medical term for having a drinking problem. Find out the symptoms and where to get help.

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What is alcohol use disorder?

There is no safe level of drinking alcohol that does not have bad effects on your health.

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council’s guidelines to reduce the health risks from alcohol state that we should have no more than 10 standard drinks in a week and no more than four standard drinks on any one day, but even drinking at this level can have bad effects on your health.

How common is alcohol use disorder?

The prevalence of alcohol use disorder seems to be higher in Australia than in other countries and is three times higher for Australian men than women. Overall, on any given day about one in 10 Australian men have alcohol use disorder, and one in three have it at some point in their lives.

Symptoms of alcohol use disorder

Causes of alcohol use disorder

There are complex genetic, environmental, psychological and social causes of alcohol use disorder. Heavy drinking, even if it’s not all the time and your overall alcohol intake is low, seems to be a strong factor in the development of alcohol use disorder.

Diagnosis of alcohol use disorder

To diagnose alcohol use disorder, your doctor will ask you some questions about your drinking and might perform a physical examination.

There are no laboratory tests needed to diagnose alcohol use disorder, but your doctor might order tests to work out how much your health has been affected by your drinking, or to track progress during treatment.

Treatment of alcohol use disorder

Treatment for alcohol use disorder varies from person to person. Your doctor will work with you to identify the right treatment for you and track your progress.

Counselling and medication together can be more helpful than either type of treatment alone.

In addition to treatment for alcohol use disorder, many people also need treatment for diseases caused by alcohol. Treatment of physical or psychological health issues might be necessary.

Health effects of alcohol use disorder

Many people with alcohol use disorder successfully reduce their drinking or stop drinking altogether, but it can take a few attempts. There are very serious health consequences of alcohol use disorder, including death.

What to do about alcohol use disorder

If you have any concerns about your alcohol use, even if you drink within the alcohol guidelines, you should see your doctor. Tell them you want help to reduce your drinking. It is better to avoid problem drinking from the beginning, rather than treat it once it has begun. The earlier you reduce your drinking, the less harm it will do to you and the easier it will be to cut down or stop.

Questions to ask your doctor about alcohol use disorder
Alcohol use disorder

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