People consume alcohol for many different reasons.
The motivational model of alcohol use was developed to help treat alcohol dependence and suggests people drink because they expect a change in how they feel after drinking.
There are four types of drinkers, each with different motivations:
- These people drink to celebrate
- It is the most common reason why young people drink alcohol
- Social drinking is a social pastime that can make time spent with friends more fun
- Social drinking is usually associated with moderate alcohol use
- People drink to fit in, not necessarily because they would normally drink in the situation
- An example is a person who might sip champagne for a toast or someone who keeps a glass of beer in their hand so they feel like the people around them who are drinking
- These people usually drink less than others
- These people drink because it’s exciting
- They are more likely to be male, extroverted, impulsive, and aggressive
- They are also likely to actively seek to get drunk and have a risk-taking personality
- These people drink to forget about their worries
- They may use alcohol to cope with problems in their life, especially anxiety and depression
- They may have higher levels of neuroticism, low levels of agreeableness, and a negative self-perception
- This usually leads to worse long-term consequences because the problems they use alcohol to cope with are not being addressed
- They are more likely to be female, drink more heavily, and experience more alcohol-related problems than people who are motivated to drink for other reasons
What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?
- Alcohol use disorder is a condition in which a person compulsively uses alcohol despite harmful consequences.
- Alcohol abuse disorder involves intense focus on using alcohol to the point where a person can no longer perform daily functions, and they continue to use alcohol despite knowing it causes or will cause problems.
What Are Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder?
Symptoms of alcohol use disorder involve distorted thinking and behaviors that fall under four categories:
- Impaired control
- Intense craving or strong urge to use alcohol
- Desire or failed attempts to cut down or control use of alcohol
- Social problems
- Interpersonal problems with others
- Failure to complete major tasks at work, school, or home
- Personality changes
- Social, work, or leisure activities are given up or cut back because of alcohol use
- Risky use
- Alcohol is used in risky settings
- Continued use despite known problems
- Drug effects
- Abnormal movements
- Tolerance (needing larger amounts of alcohol to get the same effect)
- Withdrawal symptoms
Continual alcohol use can cause changes in brain function that can last long after the immediate effects of the alcohol wear off.
Other psychiatric disorders often accompany alcohol use disorder.
How Is Alcohol Use Disorder Diagnosed?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) defines substance abuse disorders such as alcohol use disorder as mild, moderate, or severe based on the number of diagnostic criteria met by an individual.
Diagnostic criteria for substance use disorders such as alcohol use disorder includes evidence of:
- Impaired control
- Social impairment
- Risky use
- Pharmacological criteria
What Is the Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder?
Treatment for alcohol use disorder first involves recognizing there is a problem. If a person does not perceive a problem with their alcohol abuse, it may be difficult for them to recover.
Alcohol abuse disorder often requires multiple types of treatment, and a combination of medication and individual or group therapy tends to be most effective.
Recovery plans are tailored to a person’s specific needs and may include:
- Residential treatment (“rehab”)
- Support groups helpful (Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery)
- Self-help groups for family members (Al-Anon Family Groups)
- Hospitalization for medical withdrawal management (detoxification)
- Therapeutic communities (highly controlled, drug- and alcohol-free environments) or sober houses
- Outpatient medication management and psychotherapy
- Intensive outpatient programs
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