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Alcoholism Center

Alcohol Abuse Diagnosis

Friends and family members of the alcoholic are usually the first ones to notice problems and seek out professional help. Often times, the alcoholic does not recognize or realize the severity of the problem. They will usually deny it as well as try to ignore it. Some signs cannot go unnoticed. Dependence is indicated by symptoms such as withdrawal, injuries from accidents, or blackouts.

Alcohol consumption, however, becomes a problem if it causes trouble in relationships, in school, in social activities, or in how a person may begin to think and feel. If you are concerned that either you or someone else it is having problems managing alcohol, consult a doctor as soon as possible. Health professionals who can diagnose and treat symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol and provide support during recovery include:

  • General practitioner
  • Internist
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Physician assistant
  • Psychiatrist

Medical exams
In some cases, alcohol abuse is diagnosed in individuals who recently began using alcohol. Over time, the alcohol abuse may progress to alcohol dependence. Some alcohol users abuse alcohol for long periods without developing alcohol dependence. Standardized screening instruments exist. They are specifically designed to identify alcohol use disorders.

Alcohol screening -
Alcohol screening will usually take place after an arrest has taken place for driving under the influence of alcohol or during a visit to an emergency department. Some people may be identified as have alcohol problems through routine medical screenings, such as during a visit to a primary care physician. Sometimes a person might also be identified during a hospital stay or medical appointment. This usually occurs when lab tests reveal a positive alcohol result and or when a person is admitted for an alcohol-related health problem (e.g., liver disease).  Some of the detection tests include:

Blood alcohol tests - detects the ethyl alcohol found in alcohol beverage and also other substances that have a similar molecular structure
Hair alcohol tests - detects alcohol use over a longer period of time than any other type of alcohol testing protocol
Saliva tests - detects use primarily within the past day or so.
Self assessment tests
Urine alcohol tests - detects alcohol ingestion mainly within the past week, or longer with regular drinking.

Alcohol abuse may be controlled by implementing a variety of treatments, singularly or in combination. To learn more about how to treat alcohol abuse, including different techniques for alcohol rehab, continue reading the next section on treating alcohol abuse here.

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