Functional Consequences of Alcohol Use Disorder

The diagnostic features of alcohol use disorder highlight major areas of life functioning likely to be impaired. These include driving and operating machinery, school and work, interpersonal relationships and communication, and health. Alcohol-related disorders contribute to absenteeism from work, job-related accidents, and low employee productivity. Rates are elevated in homeless individuals, perhaps reflecting a downward spiral in social and occupational functioning, although most individuals with alcohol use disorder continue to live with their families and function within their jobs.

Alcohol use disorder is associated with a significant increase in the risk of accidents, violence, and suicide. It is estimated that one in five intensive care unit admissions in some urban hospitals is related to alcohol and that 40% of individuals in the United States experience an alcohol-related adverse event at some time in their lives, with alcohol accounting for up to 55% of fatal driving events. Severe alcohol use disorder, especially in individuals with antisocial personality disorder, is associated with the commission of criminal acts, including homicide. Severe problematic alcohol use also contributes to disinhibition and feelings of sadness and irritability, which contribute to suicide attempts and suicide.

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Unanticipated alcohol withdrawal in hospitalized individuals for whom a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder has been overlooked can add to the risks and costs of hospitalization and to time spent in the hospital.

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