Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a disease in which a person is dependent on a drug—alcohol. It's also called alcoholism. The disease can harm the person’s physical and mental health. It can also affect his or her behavior. AUD is not a character flaw. It's not a moral failure. It's a disease that gets worse over time. Untreated, it can lead to brain damage and death. Recovery is possible if drinking is stopped.
Effects of AUD
Drinking is the main behavior of people with alcohol use disorder. They develop a private relationship with drinking. They guard it. They give it their time, money, and attention. This may happen at the expense of family and friends. They lie for it and think about it all the time. They may risk losing their families for it. They may risk their lives for it. Despite the harm it causes, they can’t control the drinking.
People with alcohol use disorder are at high risk for health problems. These include heart disease and cancer. They also include mental illness. People with the disease may not heal from illness normally. Unless drinking is stopped, it can cause death. Death may result from organ failure, cancer, or common viruses. Death may also result from accidents or suicide.
Alcohol can be like a poison to the body. It kills cells. Heavy drinking over a long time can greatly harm the body’s organs. These can include the brain, heart, liver, and pancreas. Chronic drinking also harms the digestive tract. It can make the blood "thin" and unable to clot. This causes bruising and even fatal bleeding. It harms the immune system as well. This leaves the body at risk for serious disease.
Alcohol use disorder can lead to a type of distorted thinking known as “alcohol-think.” One of the most common forms of this is denial. This is when the person denies that drinking is a problem. He or she may deny that any of the problems in his or her life are caused by drinking.