Alcohol Use Disorders

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Alcohol use disorder is an umbrella term that includes several conditions that people may refer to as alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction and alcoholism. Alcohol is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the World. Alcohol is the most abused drug in Botswana amongst teenagers and above.

People with alcohol use disorder often have heavy and frequent alcohol consumption. They often can’t stop drinking even if alcohol cause them social, physical and mental problems. This can develop slowly over time or quiet abruptly in some individuals. The severity of the problem also differs amongst individual, from mild to severe.

Recognising and diagnosing alcohol use disorders can be challenging as often the individuals are in denial about the problem. Some of the signs that may suggest that some has a problem include; continuing to drink alcohol despite it causing problems, frequent black outs, feeling irritable when not drinking, giving up other activities to drink and having problems at work, school or at home due to alcohol consumption. 

There are several screening tools used to screen for alcohol use disorder. The most common being the CAGE questionnaire which consists of four “yes or no” questions. The questions in the CAGE questionnaire asks an individual; do you want to cut down on your alcohol consumption, do you get annoyed when people comment on your drinking, do you ever feel guilty about you drinking and lastly do you need a drink in the morning as an eye opener or to steady your nerves? A positive answer to one of the questions suggests a possible alcohol abuse problem. Further evaluation and assessment are then needed to confirm that there is a problem.

The management of alcohol use disorders is very challenging and often requires multiple disciplines. This includes behavioral therapies which is done by a counsellor or a therapist. This focuses on teaching ways to change behaviour that can eventually lead to cutting down on alcohol. Motivational and behavioral therapy are the cornerstones of managing alcohol use disorders.

Support groups such as alcohol anonymous and church group are also helpful in helping to quit alcohol as people with alcohol use disorder meet and offer support to each other to help quit and continue being alcohol free. There are certain medications which can also be used to help to decrease the obsession with alcohol drinking and can be helpful when used in conjunction with other therapies. Managing this condition can be difficult and, in some instances, may require institutionalisation. It is important to recognise it early before it becomes severe.

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