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Getting Help for Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) can have serious impacts on your health, quality of life, and loved ones. In this chat with our medical director, Dr. Lindsay Carter, we discuss how to know when alcohol is a problem and how to get the help you need.

illustration of a doctor

Q&A with Dr. Carter

What is AUD?
Most people probably know it by other names, like alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, or alcoholism. Put simply, it’s a medical condition where you can’t control your drinking. Even when it hurts your social life, work life, or your health, you just can’t stop it. 

How can you tell if you have an alcohol problem?
You see it in how alcohol impacts your behavior and decisions. With AUD, you might:

  • Drink more and more to feel the same effect
  • Get withdrawal symptoms — like nausea, sweating, and shaking — when you don’t drink regularly
  • Find that you can’t stop or limit your drinking
  • Keep drinking even when it harms you and the people around you
  • Drink when it’s risky, like while driving or swimming
  • Crave a drink to the point where you can’t think of anything else

If you see these issues in yourself, call your doctor to talk about it. Remember, AUD is a medical problem, so it makes sense to seek medical help for it. 

Let’s say I’m not ready to talk to my doctor. How else can I tell if I have a problem?
There are different quizzes you can take. We like the AUDIT. It’s just 10 questions and was developed by the World Health Organization. Just remember, a quiz isn’t a diagnosis and you should always follow up with your doctor. 

How does too much alcohol affect the body?
Over time, you can develop problems ranging from memory loss to cancer. It can affect just about every part of your body, including your heart, brain, and liver. Plus, you’re more likely to be involved in things like car accidents or drowning. 

Can AUD be treated?
Yes, definitely. Treatment and recovery look different for everyone, but you have options like:

  • Medications to help stop or reduce drinking
  • Counseling or talk therapy to help you change behavior
  • Residential treatment where you live in a facility with specialists trained to treat AUD 

What’s a safe amount of alcohol to drink?
Like a lot of things, it depends on your health conditions. So it’s always a good idea to ask your doctor. In general, people ages 65 and older can have 1 standard drink a day. If you’re under 65, women can have a drink a day and men can have 2 drinks a day.

A standard drink is:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer (5 percent alcohol)
  • 5 ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol)
  • 1.5 ounces of hard liquor (40 percent alcohol)

What else should people know about AUD?
The main thing is that you can get help. And your Devoted Health plan covers a lot of options, including:

  • Individual and group counseling 
  • Medications to treat AUD
  • Visits with your provider to manage medications
  • Inpatient hospital stays

We’re happy to walk you through your benefits and get you the care you need. Just call us at 1-800-338-6833, TTY 711.

If you’d feel more comfortable, you can talk directly to our behavioral health partner Magellan at 1-800-776-8684 — they can explain your benefits and connect you to the right care.

The Takeaway

If you struggle with AUD, you can get help. Here’s what to to remember:

  1. AUD is a medical condition that has serious impacts on your health and your life
  2. You have proven treatment options to choose from
  3. We can help — don’t hesitate to call us or our behavioral health partner for your area

This article is for general reference only (learn more). Always talk to your doctor or other health professional for medical advice.