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Alcohol abuse may be a sign of a medical condition called alcohol use disorder (AUD). It’s a chronic disease that affects your brain. About 16 million adults in the U.S. have it. Sometimes it’s because of genes passed down to you from your parents. Other times, your environment or psychological makeup are what put you at risk.

The signals that someone may have AUD include:

  • An uncontrollable urge to drink
  • Lack of control over how much you drink
  • Negative thoughts when you’re not drinking alcohol

There are mild, moderate, and severe forms of AUD. Which one you may have depended on your behaviours and patterns with alcohol. You’re more likely to have AUD if one or more of the following is true:

  • You can’t relax or fall asleep without drinking.
  • You need a drink in the morning to get going.
  • To be social, you have to drink.
  • Alcohol serves as your escape from feelings.
  • After drinking, you drive.
  • You mix alcohol and medications.
  • You drink when you’re pregnant or caring for small children.
  • When loved ones ask how much you drink, you don’t tell the truth.
  • You hurt people or become angry when you drink.
  • It’s tough for you to remember what you did when you were drinking.
  • Your responsibilities suffer because of your drinking.
  • Drinking has caused you legal problems.
  • You tried to stop drinking but failed.
  • You can’t stop thinking about drinking.
  • To feel the effects of alcohol, you have to drink more and more.
  • You have withdrawal symptoms after you drink, like shakiness, nausea, trouble sleeping, or seizures.

The more of these that describe you, the more severe your AUD is likely to be.

Effects of Alcohol

Even if your case is mild, it can have a serious impact on your physical and mental health. Often, AUD causes other problems that you try to avoid by drinking. That creates a negative cycle.

In the short-term, AUD can cause:

  • Memory loss
  • Hangovers
  • Blackouts

Long-term effects include:

  • Stomach problems
  • Heart problems
  • Cancer
  • Brain damage
  • Permanent memory loss
  • Pancreatitis
  • High blood pressure
  • Cirrhosis, a disease that causes scarring on your liver, leading to a buildup of waste and toxins in your blood

You’re also more likely to take dangerous risks. That raises your chances of being injured or dying from:

  • Car accidents
  • Homicide
  • Suicide
  • Drowning

AUD affects those around you, too. Your behaviour may damage relationships with loved ones because of anger problems, violence, neglect, and abuse. Women who are pregnant and abuse alcohol risk having a miscarriage and fetal alcohol syndrome. Their baby also has a higher chance of dying from SIDS after birth.