Alcohol abuse is a rising issue in the United States. Responsible for nearly 100,000 deaths in the US alone, Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a disease that can cause devastation in people's life if not properly managed.
Specifically, during the COVID-19 pandemic, people began to drink more frequently and in higher amounts, according to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. The anxiety and stress caused by this catastrophic event have led more people to lean on alcohol as a coping mechanism for both addicts and non-addicts alike.
With the world still fighting this pandemic and its stressors on our communities, it is imperative that we monitor ourselves and our loved ones for possible addiction issues as they can develop into a much more severe AUD.
Fortunately, there are tools and resources available that can help manage one’s alcohol consumption before their health becomes highly at risk and treatment for AUD becomes necessary. It is essential to be educated on the topic of AUD or alcoholism, the signs to look for, and the tools available to you to remain healthy and avoid alcohol abuse.
What is Alcohol Use Disorder?
Alcohol Use Disorder is the inherent dependence on alcohol to survive one’s everyday life, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA). It is considered a medical condition, specifically a chronic illness, and can be referred to as alcohol abuse, dependence, or addiction; it is more commonly known as “alcoholism.”
However, referring to it as Alcohol Use Disorder is the most appropriate because it is considered a chronic illness, and terms like “alcoholism” or “alcoholic” tend to have negative connotations associated with those terms. AUD is not a choice but a disease, and many people who suffer from it want to stop terribly but are unable to without the proper tools or long-term treatment.
As it is a disease, it is vital to understand it as one and the signs associated with AUD to navigate the chronic illness’ onset properly.
Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder
To help those around them manage AUD, it is crucial to understand the signs of suffering. If caught early enough, the issue can be stopped before dire prevention is necessary.
A person's behavior can be the first sign that they are slipping or already suffering from AUD. The following list can be potential behavioral actions to take note of in yourself or your friend or loved one if you fear AUD is possible:
- Avoiding or performing poorly at work, school, etc.
- Becoming anti-social or evading plans with friends or family.
- Drinking by yourself often or daily.
- Using alcohol in unsafe situations like driving.
- Reaching for alcohol to cope with bad news or a bad day.
- Drinking at non-socially “acceptable” times like first thing in the morning.
- Sneaking around or becoming defensive of your actions.
Sometimes one’s behavior is not forthcoming enough to suggest AUD, but the physicality of yourself or someone you're concerned about could be a sign of a drinking problem. Some physical symptoms to look out for if you fear a possible AUD:
- Experiencing signs of withdrawal like nausea and/or vomiting or sweating and shaking.
- Having dark circles under eyes and discoloration or bloating in the face.
- Quickly losing or gaining weight.
- Having a glazed or dazed look or red coloring in your eyes.
- Finding unexplainable injuries, marks, or bruises on your body.
- Experiencing little to no energy.
Who is at Risk for Alcohol Use Disorder?
Though anyone can fall victim to AUD, some situations put one more at risk for experiencing alcohol dependency. People who fall into any of the following categories need to be diligent in monitoring their alcohol use to help them avoid triggers associated with AUD, as they may have a higher risk and require a more serious treatment plan.
Genetics plays a significant role in AUD. Those who have alcoholism in their family are more likely to experience it themselves than someone whose family does not have a similar history.
Genetics alone are not responsible for AUD, but they do make up about 50-60 percent of the reasoning if there is a history of alcohol abuse in one’s family. However, genetics also need to be paired with other risks or situations to establish an alcohol dependency.
Past Trauma and/or Environmental Factors
Another instance that puts one at risk of AUD is past trauma, mental illness, or other emotional and psychological disorders. Some examples include physical or sexual abuse in childhood or adulthood, extreme poverty, depression and anxiety, and even peer pressure and a desire to feel seen or included.
Many of these factors are extremely difficult to manage, so often, people lean on alcohol as a coping mechanism to get through them. What starts as a way to numb the pain can turn into a severe medical disorder and dependency on alcohol.
Beginning Drinking Age
According to the NIAA, those who start drinking at a young age are more likely to experience AUD later in life. Specifically, those who began drinking in their early teens are five times more likely to abuse alcohol than those who wait until the legal age of 21 (in the United States).
Though this cannot be monitored or changed later in life, this is something to consider if you or someone you know are beginning to experience the early signs of AUD.
Extreme Level of Drinking
By indulging in high drinking levels, otherwise known as binge drinking, you put yourself at risk of developing AUD. Binge drinking is when you drink enough to get your blood alcohol level past the legal limit of 0.08 percent, and your inhibitions are compromised.
Though not everyone who binge drinks develops AUD or needs alcohol recovery treatment, indulging in this type of risky behavior may put you in jeopardy of becoming dependent on alcohol. Additionally, binge drinking can lead to blackouts, alcohol poisoning, or physical or emotional injury.
What Are the Effects of Alcohol Use Disorder?
There are many risks and therefore effects one may experience if they have AUD. Alcoholism can affect your life physically, emotionally, and mentally and have short and long-term risks associated like liver failure.
Those with AUD put their health at risk and may experience depression, alcohol poisoning, violence, mental decline, and even cancer.
How to Manage Alcohol Use Disorder
Though there are great risks associated with alcohol addiction, fortunately, many different tools out there can significantly improve an individual’s management of AUD. When used and implemented in one’s life, these tools can be lifesaving.
As many people who struggle with AUD do so because of past experiences, therapy can be an excellent treatment plan to work through past trauma to avoid using alcohol as a coping mechanism.
Understanding yourself and what triggers your desire to drink will help you heal the root of the problem instead of using a liquid band-aid to heal your wounds. Depending on your family history, a therapist may even be able to help break the hereditary cycle of AUD. Ultimately, talking with someone can equip you with other tools necessary to avoid falling into alcohol abuse.
Avoid Binge Drinking
Though you may think indulging in binge drinking once or twice a month is acceptable, if you are worried about AUD, it is important to know your limits regarding how much alcohol you can and should be consuming and limit your alcohol intake.
According to the NIAA, this means a maximum of 3 drinks per day and 7 drinks per week for women and a maximum of 4 drinks per day, and 14 drinks per week for men. To be safe and help yourself avoid alcohol abuse, it is beneficial to follow these guidelines.
Find a Strong Support System
If you are at risk, it is crucial to have a strong support system around you to help with alcohol abuse prevention. Having like-minded people who do not overindulge or binge drink around you can help you engage in activities other than drinking.
Additionally, having people you can talk to about your alcohol use or if you are worried you are exhibiting traits of AUD is crucial in helping you avoid it before it becomes too late. With people you love and trust around you, you are much less likely to struggle with addiction and need long-term treatment throughout your life.
This may look like friends and family, or even designated support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Whichever you choose, the most important thing is making sure there is trust and respect amongst one another.
One of the most helpful tools for managing AUD is a remote monitoring system. There is a misconception that those who monitor their alcohol must already suffer from alcohol addiction when, in reality, it can be a great tool to manage an alcohol disorder.
With systems like Soberlink’s remote breathalyzer revered by thousands of addiction treatment clinicians nationwide, remote monitoring has become one of the best and most efficient ways to treat AUD or curb excessive alcohol consumption.
Why is Remote Monitoring Great for Accountability?
There are a few main reasons why remote alcohol monitoring, specifically Soberlink’s comprehensive system and breathalyzer, is great for accountability:
It is Discreet
Soberlink's remote breathalyzer is discreet and can fit in a purse or even the pocket of your jeans. Its sleek all-black design makes it unrecognizable as a breathalyzer and easy to carry around without anyone detecting what tool you have on your person.
This discreteness makes it an excellent tool to take with you to work, school, or on the go to help keep track of patterns relating to your alcohol use.
It is Quality Technology
Not only is this alcohol monitoring system small and discreet, but Soberlink’s technology is also state-of-the-art, making it an excellent and efficient way to track your alcohol use.
To use the system, you simply blow into the device and receive results directly to your phone. The system is highly intuitive and allows those who use it to track their progress daily, weekly, or monthly using the system’s Advanced Reporting feature.
The Advanced Reporting feature uses color-coded dots to track when the device is used and elicit test results. Using the colors red, yellow, and green, each color corresponds to a test taken and whether the user has any alcohol in their system; red represents alcohol present (Non-Compliant Test,) yellow represents a late or missed test, and green represents an on-time and alcohol-free test (Compliant Test).
This information is then stored and monitored on an app on your mobile device (and is compatible with both Apple and Samsung products) for quick and easy access. With Soberlink, results are intended to be shared with friends, family, or those in your Recovery Circle, helping to strengthen accountability further.
Additionally, it includes facial recognition and tamper detection ensuring the integrity of each test and making it safe and reliable to use.
It is a Trusted System
Soberlink’s remote breathalyzer is considered top-notch amongst thousands of Addiction Treatment Professionals and is trusted and has been used by many across the country since 2011. Additionally, addiction experts have written about its success in the peer-reviewed journal, the Journal of Addiction Medicine.
Soberlink has FDA 510 (k) medical clearance and improves the lives of thousands of people. Clinicians use the technology to track client progress and improve outcomes. Clients prefer the voluntary system to help rebuild trust in relationships where AUD or alcohol misuse caused damage.
AUD Management with Soberlink
Though this tool can be used in recovery, Soberlink is also beneficial to those on the cusp of developing AUD or those in need of a management tool.
By monitoring your alcohol use and even possibly sharing the information with your support system before you develop AUD, you can start to see patterns of abuse and begin coming up with a plan to change your drinking habits.
Staying Healthy with the Proper Tools
While preventing AUD may not be possible, it can be managed with the right tools and mindset. Fortunately, there are many different ways to stay sober or drink moderately if developing AUD is of concern.
The most important thing for individuals with high alcohol consumption rates is to find specific tools that ensure their health and sobriety for years to come. With a bit of effort and support, sobriety is a possibility.