What is Alcoholism?
The Definition of Alcoholism
Alcoholism is the most severe form of alcohol abuse and involves the inability to manage drinking habits. It is also commonly referred to as alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder is organized into three categories: mild, moderate and severe. Each category has various symptoms and can cause harmful side effects. If left untreated, any type of alcohol abuse can spiral out of control.
Individuals struggling with alcoholism often feel as though they cannot function normally without alcohol. This can lead to a wide range of issues and impact professional goals, personal matters, relationships and overall health. Over time, the serious side effects of consistent alcohol abuse can worsen and produce damaging complications.
You don’t have to suffer from alcohol addiction in silence. There are many treatment options available to help you overcome alcohol abuse and achieve long-term sobriety. We can help you find the right alcohol rehab facility that fits your needs. Contact us today to get started on your road to recovery.
Warning Signs of Alcoholism
Sometimes the warning signs of alcohol abuse are very noticeable. Other times, they can take longer to surface. When alcohol addiction is discovered in its early stages, the chance for a successful recovery increases significantly.
Common signs of alcoholism include:
- Being unable to control alcohol consumption
- Craving alcohol when you’re not drinking
- Putting alcohol above personal responsibilities
- Feeling the need to keep drinking more
- Spending a substantial amount of money on alcohol
- Behaving differently after drinking
If you feel as though your alcohol consumption is taking a toll on your life, it’s important to find treatment options that will help you kick you alcohol addiction to the curb. Your doctor will be able to offer professional medical assistance if you are concerned about your drinking. Seeking help for alcoholism sooner rather than later gets you back on track to living a healthy, fulfilling life.
Reasons Why People Drink
Many factors can increase the risk of alcohol abuse. People may turn to alcohol for one reason and gradually develop a dependency on drinking. For example, drinking during difficult times – a death in the family or job loss – can potentially trigger long-term alcohol abuse.
While there are various reasons as to why people start drinking, some of the most common are to:
Relying on alcohol to reduce daily life stressors can impact the likelihood of developing alcoholism. Since alcohol is a depressant and a sedative, drinking produces feelings of pleasure. However, frequent drinking builds tolerance, requiring you to consume more alcohol in order to achieve the same effects.
Consuming alcohol can provide some people a break from reality. It offers a sense of relief from underlying issues your mind may be trying to escape from. However, continual alcohol use to get through the day or week can turn into a serious drinking problem.
Cope with loss
Losing a family member or friend can take a toll on you emotionally, physically and mentally. Alcohol can ease the grief you are feeling and is used to get through difficult times. Depending on alcohol, even temporarily, can spiral into a drinking problem.
Some people are naturally anxious, causing them to perpetually worry. Drinking lowers an individual’s inhibitions and makes them more comfortable in social situations. Over time though, this can lead to addictive behaviors.
Lack of Connection
Many people drink because they don’t feel adequately connected to others. They believe that alcohol will either feel the void or possibly make it easier for them to forge new bonds. However, the opposite typically ends up being true.
Shame is one of the most difficult emotions for many to cope with, and it is also one of the most traumatic. While alcohol can temporarily mask shame with false feelings, it also causes many individuals to engage in reckless or foolish behaviors that can later cause them to feel even greater shame, which can cause a downward spiral.
Alcoholism treatment professionals are seeing some type of trauma in virtually every patient that they treat. There are many forms of trauma, but they all painful events where the victim didn’t have an empathetic witness. For many, treating unresolved trauma is the key to their recovery.
Health Complications From Alcohol Abuse
Drinking too much – on a single occasion or long-term – can take a serious toll on your health. Some effects of alcohol may have a minor effect on your health, while others can be severe or life-threatening.
Short-term effects of alcohol abuse can be just as dangerous as long-term effects. For instance, drinking can impact your reaction time, causing you to have slow reflexes and coordination. That’s why drinking and driving is extremely dangerous. Getting behind the wheel of a car can alter your perception of speed and distance, putting yourself and others at risk.
Several short-term effects of alcohol abuse may produce:
- Slow reaction time
- Poor reflexes
- Reduce brain activity
- Lowered inhibitions
- Blurry vision
- Difficulty breathing
Additionally, consuming too much alcohol can affect your long-term health. Some side effects may lay dormant for years before they surface. Because of this, professional medical care is required for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Here are some of the long-term health conditions caused by alcohol:
- Brain defects
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome ( a neurobiological disease)
- Liver disease
- Diabetes complications
- Heart problems
- Increased risk of cancer
- Vision damage
- Bone loss
In 2013, 45.8 percent of liver disease deaths among Americans ages 12 and older involved alcohol. Alcohol abuse increases the risk of developing cancers of the mouth, esophagus, liver and breast. Excessive drinking negatively impacts heart health. Heart disease is currently one of the leading causes of death for alcoholics. An estimated 88,000 people die each year from alcohol-related causes. It is the fourth leading preventable cause of death in America. Alcohol abuse is treatable. An increasing number of rehab facilities are specializing in alcohol addiction programs and therapies.
Treatment for Alcoholism
Choosing to seek help for an alcohol addiction is one of the biggest decisions you will face. There are different forms of treatment available based on frequency and severity of alcohol abuse. Recovering from alcohol addiction is a process that continues long after rehab. It takes commitment to practice and apply the techniques you learn in rehab, counseling, support groups and other types of therapy.
Although every individual will have their own recovery plan that’s tailored to their specific needs, treatment generally follows a structure.
Alcohol treatment is broken into three sections, consisting of:
The first stage in alcohol addiction recovery is detoxification. This phase should be completed with the help of medical professionals due to the potential for serious, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Many times, individuals are given a medication to help alleviate the painful side effects of a withdrawal.
There are two types of rehabilitation that help treat alcoholism: inpatient rehab and outpatient rehab. Inpatient rehabs are intensive treatment programs that require you to check into a facility for a certain period of time, usually 30, 60 or 90 days. Outpatient rehab allows individuals to participate in a recovery program while continuing with their daily life. Talk with your doctor about treatment options to choose the best form of recovery for you.
The recovery process doesn’t end with the completion of rehab. Long-term sobriety requires ongoing therapy and may entail support groups, counseling and other recovery resources. These will make sure you maintain sobriety and continue on a happy, healthy path for months and years to come.
If you or a loved one is ready to overcome an alcohol addiction, it’s time to get the help you deserve. We will find top-rated treatment programs that help you get and stay sober.
Take the first step to recovery by contacting us today.
Clinical Reviewer — Last Reveiwed: March 21, 2019
Mayo Clinic. (2015). Alcohol Use Disorder. October 2016. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/basics/definition/con-20020866
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol’s Effects on the Body. October 2016. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2015). Alcohol Withdrawal. October 2016. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000764.htm
Mental Health America. Alcohol, Substance Use and Depression. October 2016. http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/alcohol-substance-abuse-and-depression
Distance Learning Center for Addiction Studies. Chronic Physical Effects of Alcoholism. November 2016. http://www.dlcas.com/MAAP/Chronic_Alcoholism.pdf
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 2016. Alcohol Facts and Statistics. November 2016. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
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