How is Alcohol Dependence Diagnosed?

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One of the most prominent causes of addiction worldwide is alcohol. Alcohol use and misuse lead to 3.3 million deaths every year. Alcohol addiction leads to acute problems in developing countries, such as India, due to socio-cultural factors.

Problems such as health issues, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency are unfortunate by-products of alcohol misuse and alcohol addiction. Alcoholic beverages have been a part of many cultures for a long time.

How is Alcohol Dependence Diagnosed

However, it has become a bane for many. There are many causes of alcoholism, such as biological (genetics and physiology), environmental (social drinking), social factors, and psychological factors. Alcoholism is a grave problem.

The first step to solving this problem is identifying (diagnosis of alcohol dependence) that such a problem exists and then the vital process, alcohol addiction treatment.

What is alcohol?

Alcohol is a chemical compound named ‘ethyl alcohol’. It is consumed as beverages (beer, wine, rum, whiskey, vodka, gin, etc.) in diluted concentrations of pure ethyl alcohol. Alcohol consumption becomes a problem when one indulges in excessive and continuous drinking patterns.

This behavior eventually leads to health risks. Globally, alcohol-related disease and injury are responsible for an estimated 4% of mortality and 4 to 5% of disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs).

What is alcohol dependence?

Alcohol dependence is a chronic medical condition. It is correlated with excessive drinking in the past or the present. Alcohol dependence is characterized by a craving for alcohol and an inability to control alcohol consumption.

Alcoholism (“Alcohol use disorder”) and alcohol dependence are both terms that are often used interchangeably, but there is a slight difference. Concerning alcohol dependence, there is still an element of choice involved.

Whereas, for alcoholism, the person has no choice when it comes to alcohol use. Both are serious issues that lead to grave consequences. Alcohol addiction treatment thus needs to be an integral part of primary health care in India.

There are many causes for alcohol dependence, such as advertising, social media, family practices, social circle, etc.

Diagnosis of alcohol dependence

Alcohol dependence is treatable and manageable with the right help. For this, one has to first recognize that there is a problem. Sometimes the diagnosis can be relatively easy. For example, excessive drinking every day is a clear symptom. Let’s discuss some of the methods of diagnosis.

1. Self-diagnosis: One can introspect and diagnose whether he is alcohol dependent. Some questions to ask oneself are:

  • Is alcohol the only thing on one’s mind?
  • Is one in a continuous state of drunkenness?
  • Are there withdrawal symptoms, such as restlessness, sweating, nausea, etc.?

2. Investigation: A doctor or a health professional can investigate a person’s behavior and drinking pattern with help from his family and friends.

3. Physical exam: There are many signs which can indicate complications of alcohol use. So, a doctor may perform a physical exam and ask questions about personal health.

4. Technical: Laboratory tests and imaging tests help diagnose the patient. These tests provide scientific evidence for alcohol dependence. They also give insights into how serious the issue at hand is.

5. Psychological: Comprehensive psychological analysis by expert psychiatrists can help understand the mental state of the patient. For example, DSM-5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) published by the American Psychiatric Association can be used. Psychological tests comprehended with other methods will give the whole picture. It tells how deep the addiction problem is and helps in alcohol addiction treatment.

Next step?

Once alcohol dependence is diagnosed and the severity of the addiction is assessed, the next step is the treatment of alcoholism. Treatment for alcohol dependence may include:

1. Detoxification: This is a difficult stage as one has to fight the withdrawal symptoms. However, success in this first step is a boost to the whole rehabilitation program. Detoxification is nothing but withdrawal that is managed medically.

2. Behavioral conditioning: After detoxification, there is a need for behavioral change to avoid recurring alcohol dependence. Learning skills such as goal setting, behavioral change techniques, and counseling can help in this stage of the treatment.

3. Psychological treatment: Counselling and support groups can help connect with others and fight the problem with solidarity.

4. Medications: Oral and injectable medicines are given appropriately by medical experts.

5. Others: Treatment for psychological problems, spiritual practice, and exercise.

6. A residential treatment program is recommended for a severe case of alcohol dependence and alcohol addiction.

Conclusion

Alcohol dependence leads to many unpleasant consequences. It can lead to medical complications (gastritis, cancer, genitourinary complications, general muscle weakness, etc.), socio-cultural impediments (parenting, abuse, family economy, etc.), road traffic accidents, and other illicit crimes.

Hence, it causes a problem in many spheres of life. Therefore, alcohol dependence diagnosis and alcohol addiction treatment is immensely crucial.

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