The holiday season is a festive time of year. Office parties and celebrations with family and friends ensure that there’s no shortage of opportunities to celebrate. Because December is among the most social times of year, the pressure to drink may be overwhelming, particularly for individuals with an alcohol use disorder (AUD). This season is a great time for individuals to assess their alcohol consumption. Those who suspect they may have a problem can take the steps necessary to avoid the pressure to drink in the coming weeks.
What is an AUD? According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, an AUD is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. AUD encompasses conditions people often refer to as alcohol abuse, alcohol addiction, alcohol dependence, and even alcoholism. AUD is a brain disorder, and the lasting effects of alcohol misuse on the brain make individuals with an AUD vulnerable to relapse.
Are certain individuals at greater risk for AUD than others? The NIAAA reports that the risk for an AUD depends on the quantity of alcohol an individual consumes, the frequency of that consumption, and the speed at which the alcohol is consumed. In addition, researchers have linked consuming alcohol prior to age 15 with a heightened risk for AUD compared to individuals who waited until 21 or later to begin drinking. Genetics, a family history of alcohol problems, and a wide range of psychiatric conditions also have been linked to a higher risk for AUD. Individuals need not have any of these risk factors to develop an AUD, but those who do should be especially mindful of their alcohol consumption.
Do individuals recover from AUD? The good news is that millions of people from all walks of life have recovered from AUD. Individuals who suspect they have an issue with alcohol should keep this in mind as the holiday season approaches. The road to overcoming AUD is different for everyone, and there are various treatments that individuals can try. One such treatment utilizes mutual-support groups, which the NIAAA reports can be especially helpful to individuals who feel they may be at risk of relapsing. That’s a fear for millions of people as the holiday season begins, and such individuals can seek out local support groups in their communities to help them get through the season and beyond. Individuals with severe AUD may need medical assistance to avoid alcohol withdrawal, which can be life-threatening, if they decide to stop drinking. In such instances, contact a physician or a local substance and mental health provider to ensure the process is as safe as possible.
The holiday season can be challenging for individuals with AUD. Individuals can visit the NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator at https://alcoholtreatment.niaaa.nih.gov to learn more about their treatment options and how to find local help. One such resource is Horizon Health Services, which provides extensive support to individuals struggling with alcohol and substance use disorders. With 20 locations throughout Western New York and virtual appointments available, visit www.horizon-health.org, or call 716-831-1800 for help.