AUD can affect people of all ages including adolescents. Symptoms are different for everyone, though common threads exist. These include:
- Increase in amount of alcohol that is being consumed to try to reach same effects
- Inability to stop or limit drinking despite associated problems
- Significant amount of time doing activities to obtain or use alcohol
- Craving or urge to use alcohol
- Repeated home, school, or work problems
- Difficulty in relationships with family members, friends, and coworkers
- Missing previously favored activities in order to drink alcohol or recover from alcohol
- Alcohol use even if it creates physically unsafe situations or leads to legal trouble
- Alcohol use that continues even when it causes or worsens health problems
Dependence may also cause physical symptoms (withdrawal) when alcohol is stopped. Withdrawal may cause:
- Rapid pulse
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lack of appetite
Anxiety and agitation
Seizures that may result from delirium tremens (DTs)
Complications Associated with AUD
Complications of AUD cover a wide range of personal, family, social, and health problems, such as:
- Accidents and injury—including motor vehicle accidents and falls
- Violence, murder, and suicide
- Domestic violence
- Family problems
- Failed relationships
- Lost jobs
- Problems with the law, including drunk driving arrests and jail time
Some common physical problems associated with AUD include:
- Red palms, flushed face
- Spidery veins showing through the skin around the umbilicus and on the face
- Rapid heart rate
Yellowing of the whites of the eyes and/or skin—jaundice, which indicates liver problems
- Enlarged liver and/or spleen
- Easy bruising and/or bleeding
Peripheral neuropathy or nerve damage, which can cause muscle weakness, numbness, or tingling
- Impaired memory and cognitive function
- Infertility in both men and women
- Increased susceptibility to infections and cancer
Organs That Can Be Damaged by Alcoholism
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Medical complications include:
- Nutritional deficiencies
cancers, especially of the
esophagus, mouth, throat,
Acute and chronic pancreatitis
Liver damage, which can occur with hepatitis
Gastrointestinal problems, such as bleeding,
ulcers, and inflammation of the esophagus
- Heart and circulatory problems, including arrhythmias
- Mental health problems, including
High blood pressure, which can lead to a hemorrhagic stroke
acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
- Neurological problems and brain damage (with long-term use)
- Postoperative complications, including infections, bleeding, and delayed healing
Fetal alcohol syndrome
(in the babies of women who drank during pregnancy)
- Early death
Alcohol use disorder. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115540/Alcohol-use-disorder. Updated October 23, 2015. Accessed September 30, 2016.
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114807/Alcohol-withdrawal-syndrome. Updated April 29, 2016. Accessed September 30, 2016.
Alcohol's effects on the body. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. Available at: http://niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body. Accessed April 9, 2015.
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse. Help Guide website. Available at: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/addiction/alcoholism-and-alcohol-abuse.htm. Updated February 2015. Accessed April 9, 2015.
American Psychiatric Association.
Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-5. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
3/5/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115540/Alcohol-use-disorder: Tramacere I, Scotti L, et al. Alcohol drinking and pancreatic cancer risk: A meta-analysis of the dose-risk relation. Int J Cancer. 2010;126(6):1474-1486.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Adrian Preda, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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