Alcohol Use Disorder: Find Healing and Hope at Vista Taos

Learn more about the symptoms of alcohol use disorder and how to find a treatment center near you.


Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a severe medical condition that can cause significant problems in one’s life. Addressing this concern can help you take the first step towards a healthy and fulfilling life.
In this article, we’ll address:
  • What alcohol use disorder is
  • Symptoms of alcohol use disorder
  • How alcohol use disorder is diagnosed
  • Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal
  • Risk factors for AUD
  • The dangers of AUD
  • How common is alcohol use disorder?
  • Treatment options
alprazolam addiction

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition characterized by the inability to stop or control alcohol use.1
People with AUD use it despite the negative consequences it causes to one’s health, relationships, and other important areas of life. Alcohol use disorder is considered a brain disorder. It can range from mild to severe.

Alcohol Use Disorder: an Overview

Consequences of AUD

AUD can have severe consequences on all areas of an individual’s life. It can even lead to life-threatening conditions such as:
  • Liver disease
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Other physical and mental health conditions
With the right treatment and support, it is possible to manage AUD and improve your well-being. You can find treatment for alcohol use disorder with Vista Taos.

Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder

The symptoms of alcohol use disorder can vary in severity. Not all individuals who experience AUD will experience the same symptoms.
The common symptoms often include:2
  • Cravings or a strong urge to drink alcohol
  • Difficulty controlling the amount of alcohol consumed
  • Continuing to drink despite negative consequences, such as relationship problems or health problems
  • Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from the effects of alcohol
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol and needing to drink more to achieve the desired effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop drinking or cutting back
  • Drinking to cope with stress or to avoid withdrawal symptoms
  • Neglecting responsibilities or activities due to alcohol use
  • Continuing to drink despite knowing it causes physical or mental health problems
  • Giving up social or recreational activities in favor of drinking

How is Alcohol Use Disorder Diagnosed?

AUD is diagnosed through an assessment that involves a healthcare professional gathering information about:
  • Drinking habits
  • Medical history
  • Symptoms
Here are some steps that are often involved in the diagnosis of AUD:

Medical Evaluation

A healthcare professional may perform a physical exam and run blood tests. This helps to check your physical health and assess for any alcohol-related medical conditions.

Psychological Evaluation

A healthcare professional may also perform a psychological evaluation. This assesses your mental health and checks for any co-occurring mental health disorders.

Screening Tests

A healthcare professional may use a screening tool to assess your level of alcohol consumption.
These tools can also assess the presence of alcohol-related problems. An example is the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT).

Criteria for Diagnosis

A healthcare professional will assess your symptoms. Then, they use the diagnostic criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) to determine whether you meet the criteria for a diagnosis.

Diagnostic Criteria

The DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for AUD include experiencing at least two of the following within a 12-month period:3
  • Drinking more alcohol or for longer periods than intended
  • Difficulty controlling or cutting down on alcohol use
  • Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from alcohol use
  • Cravings or strong urges to drink
  • Continuing to drink despite negative consequences, such as relationship problems or health issues
  • Giving up important activities or social events to drink
  • Developing tolerance to alcohol
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop or reduce alcohol use
The severity of AUD can vary. Individuals may meet the criteria for mild, moderate, or severe AUD. This depends on the number of symptoms experienced.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

The withdrawal symptoms of alcohol can vary in severity and can be uncomfortable. In severe cases, they can even be life-threatening.
Withdrawal symptoms often occur in individuals who have been drinking heavily and/or frequently for an extended period.
If they then suddenly stop or reduce their alcohol intake they may experience:4
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Anxiety or agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

Delirium Tremens (DTs)

DTs are a severe form of alcohol withdrawal. DTs can occur in individuals who have been drinking heavily for years. They can cause:5
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • High fever
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
DTs are considered a medical emergency and need immediate medical attention.

Withdrawal Symptoms Vary by Individual

Withdrawal symptoms vary depending on the individual, duration of use, and severity.
But, it is important to seek medical attention if you are experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Especially if there are severe or concerning symptoms.

Risk Factors for Alcohol Use Disorder

There is no specific cause for alcohol use disorder. It can occur in anyone. But there are several factors that can increase the risk of developing alcohol use disorder. These include:


There is a genetic component to AUD. Having a family history of the disorder may increase the risk of developing it.


Starting to drink at an early age may increase the risk of developing AUD.


Growing up in an environment where alcohol is prevalent. This could include having parents or peers who drink a lot.

Mental Health

People with mental health conditions like depression or PTSD are at a higher risk of developing AUD.

Social and Cultural Factors

Certain social and cultural factors can increase the likelihood of developing AUD. This may include peer pressure, stress, and availability of alcohol.


Men are more likely than women to develop AUD. Although the gap between men and women is narrowing.6

Physical Health

People with medical conditions such as liver disease or chronic pain may be more likely to develop AUD.
Having one or more of these risk factors does not mean that you will develop AUD. But, being aware of these factors can help you take steps to reduce your risk.

How is AUD Dangerous?

Alcohol use disorder can be dangerous. It can have significant negative impacts on an individual’s health and well-being. These impacts be:
  • Social
  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Mental
  • Financial
Here are some ways in which AUD can be harmful to these aspects of life.

Social Impact

Alcohol use can lead to strained relationships and social withdrawal. People with AUD may have difficulties maintaining healthy relationships. This can lead to social isolation and loneliness.

Physical Impact

Alcohol use disorder can cause a wide range of physical health problems, including:
  • Liver disease
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Neurological disorders
Chronic alcohol use can also lead to malnutrition, which can also impact the immune system.

Emotional Impact

AUD can lead to:
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger and irritability
This can affect an individual’s ability to function in their daily life. It can also worsen existing mental health conditions.

Mental Impact

AUD can affect cognitive functions such as:
  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Decision-making abilities
It can also increase the risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

Financial Impact

AUD can lead to financial difficulties, including:
  • The loss of income
  • Increased healthcare costs
  • Legal problems, such as DUI charges

Severity of These Impacts Varies

The severity of these impacts can vary from person to person. It may depend on several factors, like:
  • The amount and frequency of alcohol consumed
  • The presence of co-occurring disorders
  • Individual vulnerability.
It is clear that AUD can impact an individual’s quality of life and health. This is why it is important to seek help and support to manage the disorder.

Is Alcohol Use Disorder Common?

Alcohol use disorder is a significant public health concern. Its prevalence varies depending on the population and geographic region.
Alcohol abuse, alcoholism, and alcohol use disorder kill over 3 million people each year. This accounts for up to 6% of global deaths. Alcohol affects people worldwide. It is an extremely common disorder.7
Below are some ways alcohol affects people all over the world.

AUD in the U.S.

In the United States, an estimated 14.1 million adults (5.8% of the population) had AUD in 2019. The NIAAA also reports that more than 95,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year in the US.8

AUD in Europe

In Europe, the prevalence of AUD varies widely between countries, with the highest rates reported in Central and Eastern Europe.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol is responsible for 5.3% of all deaths and 9.2% of the total burden of disease in Europe.9

AUD in Australia

In Australia, approximately 14% of adults meet the criteria for AUD, according to a survey conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.10

AUD in Canada

In Canada, an estimated 4.4% of adults meet the criteria for AUD, according to a survey conducted by Statistics Canada.11

AUD is a Global Issue

These statistics show that AUD is a prevalent and significant public health concern worldwide. It highlights the importance of prevention and treatment efforts to address this issue.
Not only does this show how widespread this disorder is, but it also highlights that those who are struggling are not alone. If you are someone who experiences alcohol-related issues, it is crucial to seek help.
There are many treatment options available. The program at Vista Taos can help provide hope to those struggling.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Use Disorder

There are many different treatment options for alcohol use disorder that can help you overcome your dependence on alcohol.
Below are some of the treatment options available.


Several medications can be used, for alcohol use, to help reduce cravings and prevent relapse. The most common of these medications include:
  • Acamprosate
  • Naltrexone
  • Disulfiram

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies are an effective way to treat AUD. These therapies may include:
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT, both in individual and group settings, can help individuals identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors related to alcohol use
  • Motivational interviewing (MI): MI can help motivate individuals to make positive changes in their behavior
  • Contingency management: Contingency management involves providing rewards or incentives for positive behavior changes

"In a group setting, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) provides a unique dynamic where patients can share experiences, receive support, and learn from one another's perspectives. Group therapy fosters a sense of camaraderie and reduces feelings of isolation commonly experienced in addiction. Additionally, patients can practice interpersonal skills and receive immediate feedback, enhancing their social functioning. Conversely, individual therapy offers a more personalized approach, allowing for deeper exploration of individual challenges and tailored interventions. While group therapy emphasizes peer support and social learning, individual therapy provides focused attention on specific issues and promotes self-awareness. Both modalities complement each other in addiction treatment, offering a comprehensive framework."

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Support Groups

Support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), can be a helpful component of treatment for AUD. These groups provide peer support and encouragement.
They also provide a safe and confidential space to discuss experiences and challenges related to alcohol use.

Residential Treatment Programs

For those with severe AUD, a residential treatment program may be necessary. Residential programs provide intensive, round-the-clock care.
They include medical and psychiatric support and may include a combination of medication and behavioral therapies.

Self-Help Strategies

There are several self-help strategies that those with AUD can use to manage their condition. These include:
  • Avoiding triggers
  • Practicing stress-reduction techniques
  • Developing a support network of family and friends
The most effective treatment approach for AUD will vary depending on your circumstances and needs. Programs like Vista Taos can help you find individualized care that meets your needs.

Available Treatment Options for Alcohol Use Disorder

There are various factors that can influence the effectiveness of treatment. These factors may include:
  • The severity of the condition
  • Medical and psychiatric history
  • Personal preferences
Understanding your unique situation and how treatment may vary depending on your circumstances and preferences is crucial.
Here are some examples of which treatment options may be best for you or your loved one, depending on your specific needs and circumstances:

Mild to Moderate AUD

For those with mild to moderate AUD, a combination of medication and behavioral therapy can be effective. Medications such as acamprosate or naltrexone can help reduce cravings and prevent relapse.
Combining these medications with behavioral therapies can help individuals learn new coping strategies and change negative thought patterns related to alcohol use.

Severe AUD

For individuals with severe AUD, residential treatment programs are often recommended. These programs provide 24/7 support and intensive therapy.
Residential treatment programs are also helpful for individuals who have experienced multiple relapses or have co-occurring mental health conditions.

Co-Occurring Disorders

For individuals with co-occurring disorders, such as depression or anxiety, integrated treatment is recommended. This is a treatment that addresses both conditions.
This may involve a combination of medication and therapy that addresses AUD and the co-occurring disorder.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

For individuals who are not yet ready to stop drinking or are resistant to treatment, motivational interviewing is effective.
MI is an approach that helps individuals identify their own reasons for wanting to change and increases their motivation to do so.

Self-Help Strategies

For those with a strong support network of family and friends, self-help strategies are often helpful.
Practicing stress reduction and attending support groups are great ways to maintain sobriety. But these strategies are often difficult without a strong support system.

Treatment is Specific to the Individual

The best treatment option will be determined by your needs. Many of the most effective treatments for alcohol use disorder are a combination of many different strategies and therapies.
A healthcare professional can help you determine the best treatment plan based on a comprehensive assessment.
alcohol use disorder

How Can Vista Taos Help with Alcohol Use Disorder?

Vista Taos is a residential treatment center located in New Mexico. Our program provides a balanced and integrated approach for individuals struggling with chemical dependency and co-occurring disorders.
Here are some ways in which Vista Taos can help with AUD.

Lead the Life You Were Made For

Comprehensive Assessment

Vista Taos provides a thorough assessment to evaluate your medical and psychiatric history, level of alcohol consumption, and any co-occurring disorders.

Individualized Treatment Plan

Based on the assessment, we work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan tailored to meet your unique needs and circumstances.

Medical Detoxification

At Vista Taos, we provide medical detox to help you manage withdrawal symptoms. This treatment is a 6 to 10-day healing program that ensures a safe and comfortable detox process.

Behavioral Therapies

Vista Taos provides a range of evidence-based behavioral therapies. Our therapies combine the psychological with the spiritual approaches.
Some examples of the approaches we offer include:
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Motivational interviewing (MI)
  • Motivational enhancement therapy (MET)
  • Trauma-informed care
  • Grief and loss therapy
  • Mindfulness-based relapse prevention
  • Yoga
  • Family systems approach
  • Recreational therapy

"Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) provides a person-centered, empathetic approach that explores and resolves ambivalence towards change. Through collaborative conversations and techniques like reflective listening and feedback, MET aims to increase intrinsic motivation, self-efficacy, and commitment to change. By focusing on strengths, setting realistic goals, and addressing discrepancies between current behavior and personal values, MET empowers individuals to make positive changes in their lives."

What is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?

How Do These Therapies Help?

Our therapies are aimed at helping you develop coping strategies, learn new skills, and address underlying issues that may contribute to chemical dependency.

Support Groups

Vista Taos offers support groups to provide peer support and encourage ongoing recovery. We offer a 12-Step curriculum and an alumni program to continue to receive support and accountability.

Aftercare Support

After completing treatment at Vista Taos, individuals receive ongoing support and resources to help maintain sobriety and prevent relapse.

Support Tailored to Your Needs

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol use or dependency, Vista Taos Renewal Center can help.
Our programs provide a holistic approach to treating AUD. By addressing both the physical and psychological aspects of the disorder.
The individualized treatment plans and range of therapies offered can help you develop the skills and strategies you need to achieve and maintain long-term sobriety.

Contact Vista Taos Today

To start living your best life, contact Vista Taos at 575.758.5858 or
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Ready to Renew Your Life and Well-Being?

Reach out to Vista Taos Renewal Center today and let us guide you toward sustainable recovery. We will help you heal from the addictions and substance use challenges that hinder you from leading your most fulfilled life through personalized, whole-person treatment.