What Is Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?

A recent report published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors establishes that assessing patients diagnosed with alcohol use disorder (AUD) based on the biological and psychological roots of their alcohol addiction could help predict more effective treatment outcomes.

So what exactly is Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?

Alcohol use disorder is a pattern of unhealthy alcohol use, preoccupation with alcohol, and impaired ability to control drinking, regardless of the consequences. This may include binge drinking, drinking more (volume or frequency) to reach the same desired effects, and increasingly rapidly occurring withdrawal symptoms, creating an urge to drink again.

AUD includes conditions referred to as alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, and alcoholism. The disorder cycles between periods of intoxication and periods of withdrawal.

AUD is a heterogeneous disorder, meaning individuals with AUD differ in their symptoms and the underlying biological and psychological causes contributing to their disorder. AUD can seriously impact one’s life, affecting health, relationships, career, finances, etc.

AUD Signs and Symptoms

  • Problems with limiting the amount of alcohol consumed – Drinking more than intended
  • Spending much time getting alcohol, drinking, and recovering from intoxication
  • Strong urges to drink alcohol
  • Unsuccessful attempts at cutting down on or quitting drinking
  • Disengagement from previously enjoyed social activities or pleasures due to alcohol
  • Problems or interference at work, school, or home caused by alcohol consumption and preoccupation
  • Engaging in unsafe activities (driving while under the influence, for example)
  • An increased tolerance for alcohol, requiring more to achieve the same effects as before
  • Withdrawal symptoms (including nausea, headache, restlessness, racing heart, sweating, and tremors) that lead to more drinking
  • Blacking out (not remembering events)

Those with alcohol use disorder can experience various symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. If you or a loved one is exhibiting one or more of these common signs or symptoms of AUD, help is available. And recent studies report compelling treatment outcome predictions to tailored rehabilitation programs based on biological and physiological distinctions contributing to an individual’s AUD and the disorder’s progression.

Characterizing Contributors to Alcohol Use Disorder

According to the National Library of Medicine National Center for Biotechnology Information, the biological and psychological roots from which AUD may derive include the three addiction cycle domains:

  • Reward drinking/incentive salience
  • Relief drinking/negative emotionality
  • Loss of control/executive functioning impairment

Using a 15-measure assessment of data, researchers found that people study participants with AUD who had higher incentive salience and negative emotionality before receiving AUD treatment were more likely to have a higher intensity/frequency of drinking alcohol at one and three years post-treatment.

People with AUD with a high level of negative emotionality before AUD treatment had the lowest overall functioning three years post-treatment.

People with AUD with more self-control and greater executive function were likelier to maintain a non-abstinent recovery where drinking is no longer problematic.

These addiction cycle domain factors help predict AUD and can inform treatment planning and outcomes. Such treatments for AUD may include medications, behavioral treatments (talk therapy or counseling), and peer group support programs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, making the recent findings related to AUD’s biological and physiological factors especially valuable for personalized, successful care.

Recovery Is Possible

There is hope and help for recovery from alcohol use disorder, and the first steps are acknowledgment and acceptance. If you have concerns for yourself or a loved one, contact your healthcare provider or experienced addiction specialist.

Your journey toward recovery and sobriety begins at Beachside Rehab in West Palm Beach, Florida. We offer holistic inpatient and outpatient detox and drug and alcohol rehab. Call 866-349-1770 to speak with one of our trained admissions counselors.


Psychology of Addictive Behavior, “Constructs derived from the addiction cycle predict alcohol use disorder treatment outcomes and recovery 3 years following treatment,” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35951419/

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “New Research Characterizes Alcohol Use Disorder Profiles To Predict Treatment Outcomes,” https://niaaa.scienceblog.com/435/new-research-characterizes-alcohol-use-disorder-profiles-to-predict-treatment-outcomes/



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