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 effectsInability to stop or limit drinking despite associated problemsSignificant amount of time doing activities to obtain or use alcoholCraving or urge to use alcoholRepeated home, school, or work problems Difficulty in relationships with family members, friends, and coworkersMissing previously favored activities in order to drink alcohol or recover from alcoholAlcohol use even if it creates physically unsafe situations or leads to legal troubleAlcohol 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: ShakingSweatingNausea or vomitingLack of appetiteAnxietyHallucinationsDisorientation
Seizures that may result from delirium tremens (DTs)
Complications of AUD cover a wide range of personal, family, social, and health problems, such as: Accidents and injury—including motor vehicle accidents and fallsViolence, murder, and suicideDomestic violenceFamily problemsFailed relationshipsLost jobsProblems with the law, including drunk driving arrests and jail time
Some common physical problems associated with AUD include: Red palms, flushed faceSpidery veins showing through the skin around the umbilicus and on the faceRapid heart rate
Yellowing of the whites of the eyes and/or skin—jaundice, which indicates liver problems
Enlarged liver and/or spleen
ulcersPancreatitisEasy bruising and/or bleedingPeripheral neuropathy or nerve damage, which can cause muscle weakness, numbness, or tinglingImpaired memory and cognitive functionInfertility in both men and women
Sexual dysfunctionIncreased susceptibility to infections and cancer
Organs That Can Be Damaged by Alcoholism
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Medical complications include: Nutritional deficiencies
cancers, especially of the
Acute and chronic pancreatitis
Liver damage, which can occur with hepatitis
Gastrointestinal problems, such as bleeding,
ulcers, and inflammation of the esophagusHeart and circulatory problems, including arrhythmiasMental health problems, including
depressionHigh blood pressure, which can lead to a hemorrhagic strokeObesityDiabetesPneumonia
acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
OsteoporosisNeurological problems and brain damage (with long-term use)Postoperative complications, including infections, bleeding, and delayed healingFetal alcohol syndrome
(in the babies of women who drank during pregnancy)
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.
Last reviewed February 2014 by Peter J. Lucas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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