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Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

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:

  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorientation
  • 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
  • Nausea, bloating, indigestion, and ulcers
  • Pancreatitis
  • 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
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Increased susceptibility to infections and cancer
Organs That Can Be Damaged by Alcoholism
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Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Medical complications include:

Revision Information

  • Alcohol use disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 25, 2015. Accessed April 9, 2015.

  • Alcohol withdrawal. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 19, 2014. Accessed April 9, 2015.

  • 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. HelpGuide 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's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: 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.