New Insights into Alcohol Use Disorder

New Insights into Alcohol Use Disorder

March 20, 2022 0 By bestcbdadmin

A family history of alcohol use disorder is the most important risk factor. A top addiction doctor details the latest research.

By Chris Adams, National Press Foundation

Genetics are a key driver of alcohol use disorders. As with other addictions, the four major contributing components of alcohol use disorder are: genetics; personality and other psychiatric illness; early life traumas; and environment and access. Dr. Paul Earley, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, said “the biggest contributor we think comes from genetics” – perhaps 50% of the driver for addiction.

There’s a broad spectrum of alcohol use leading up to misuse. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines heavy alcohol use as more than four standard drinks on any day for men or more than three for women. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – a separate federal health agency – defines heavy alcohol use as binge drinking on five or more days in the previous month. Earley said that some drinkers can remain casual users their entire lives. Some are mostly casual users but slip into misuse, often in their early 20s. A third group of people engage in heavy use that causes life problems – perhaps missing work more often – but they still don’t slip into addiction. And then there’s a fourth group “where their use crosses over a wall,” Earley said. “… There’s a switch that turns on in the brain that prohibits the individual from being able to have control over their drinking once there’s a certain amount of alcohol that’s within their system.”

Most people don’t slip into alcohol addiction. For those who begin using alcohol, a little over 20% develop an alcohol use disorder. That’s about the same as for cocaine users. Marijuana users developing a use disorder is much lower – about 6% – while the rate for nicotine users is about 60%.

Physiological dependence is different than addiction. Dependence occurs in all people, while addiction to alcohol or another substance occurs in 10% of the population. Those with dependence crave a substance during withdrawal. For those with addiction, the craving is tied to many emotional and cognitive triggers and occurs long past withdrawal. “Physiological dependence is a characteristic of certain drugs such as opioids and alcohol, and addiction is a characteristic of certain people with certain drugs,” said Earley.

Alcohol use varies wide around the globe. The worldwide average of alcohol consumption in 2016 was 6.4 liters of grain alcohol per person – one standard drink per person per day. That goes from more than 15 liters in Moldova to less than 10 in the United States and less than five in many Muslim countries. It means that two-thirds of all Moldovans over age 15 are heavy drinkers.

Dr. Paul Earley, Medical Director, Georgia Professionals Health Program Inc.; President, American Society of Addiction Medicine

This program is sponsored by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, with support from Arnold Ventures. NPF retains sole responsibility for programming and content.

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