It’s important to realize that an alcohol addiction is not simple to quit. Using treatment to overcome alcohol addiction can make the process safer and easier.
Last Post Update: July 23, 2020
“Alcohol is an allergy of the body and an obsession of the mind.” — Rita Mae Brown
The consumption of alcohol is common, as more than 86 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime. More than 55 percent reported that they drank in the last month, and sadly, nearly 6 percent of this age group lives with alcohol use disorders. Impacting 14.4 million adults directly, as well as their loved ones, alcohol addiction is a serious public health issue.
This comprehensive guide offers everything you need to know about alcoholism.
Depending on the severity of one’s addiction, as well as their personal circumstances, some cases of alcoholism are more obvious than others. There tends to be a stereotype attached to the word “alcoholic” — often showcasing someone who has hit rock bottom. However, there are many alcoholics that are high-functioning. This means that they often appear normal and sober and in some cases, even manage to achieve high levels of success in terms of their career.
Even if you are a “high-functioning” alcoholic, there are always signs. It is up to you to notice them and take control. These include but are not limited to:
Sadly, denial and tolerance are two key variables that often stop these high-functioning individuals to seek the help that they need. They may be able to hide their addiction from loved ones. However, their health and life remain in grave danger as their addiction continues to progress. As an alcoholic, the longer you pretend to be okay, the worse your situation will likely become.
In other cases, someone’s struggle with alcohol is much more obvious. In addition to the warning signs above, knowing the following symptoms of alcohol addiction could help save your life:
Read more: Alcoholism: Effects, Signs, and Symptoms
Why does someone become addicted to alcohol in the first place — and how does an alcohol addiction develop?
This is a complex question, as researchers believe that alcoholism is caused by both genetic and environmental variables.
Most experts agree that approximately 50 percent of the risk is genetic. In that sense, one of the best predictors is family history. This link has been reported in numerous studies. However, it is important to note that there isn’t a “gene for alcoholism,” as alcohol addiction is likely related to variations in hundreds of genes. Genetic variables are believed to impact variables such as alcohol dependence, alcohol metabolism, and your risk of developing alcohol-associated diseases.
Your risk of developing a mental health disorder is also strongly addicted to alcohol risk. Approximately one-third of individuals struggling with alcohol also suffer from a mental illness, such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, or schizophrenia. This relationship is complex, as many mental illnesses also have an environmental component in terms of development.
When you consume alcohol for a prolonged period of time, you can actually alter your brain chemistry. While alcohol affects a range of neurotransmitters, including GABA, glutamate, and serotonin, it is its effect on dopamine that many researchers are interested in while studying alcoholics.
When dopamine levels rise, you feel good. Alcohol has a way of tricking the mind, causing people to continue to drink in order to achieve that feeling — even though alcohol is a depressant. Over time, “the dopamine effect” diminishes. However, at this stage, an individual will become addicted to the feeling of dopamine release, even if they are no longer getting it.
When it comes to your environment, there is a long list of risk factors that can trigger an alcohol addiction — especially among those who showcase a genetic predisposition. For example, some of the most common risk factors include:
While drinking and drug use is often associated with low-income areas, family wealth has also been shown to play a role in developing alcohol use disorders. As reported in a Gallup poll, in the United States, 78% of individuals with an annual household income of $75,000/year drink, compared to only 45% of individuals with an annual household income less than $30,000 drink.
Much like the causes of alcoholism, the effects of heavy drinking are also incredibly complex, as one consequence may significantly impact another. For example, the financial burden of alcohol abuse or one’s diminishing health may lead to poor mental health, creating a cycle of interconnected variables that worsen one another.
One of the most obvious implications of alcoholism is its impact on your mental and physical health. In the United States alone, approximately 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year. This makes alcohol use the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
The health effects of alcohol abuse range from short-term effects, such as alcohol poisoning and memory loss to long-term effects, such as depression, brain damage, and poor liver function. Impacting nearly every internal system, alcohol addiction significantly impacts heart health, digestive health, reproductive health, and overall immune function. For example, alcohol directly contributes to a 1.4 fold increase in experiencing a heart attack.
From family problems to loss of employment, alcoholism contributes to a number of negative social outcomes, impacting your life and the lives of those you love in the following ways:
Seeking and getting help for your alcohol addiction starts with you. You need to be open to the idea of treatment so that you can truly benefit from your program. In contrast, if your goal is to help a loved one who is an alcoholic, the best thing you can do is educate yourself on what alcohol use disorder is, offer your support, and then intervene. However, you cannot encourage codependency.
If you are the one struggling with alcohol, it’s important to remember that sudden withdrawal is incredibly dangerous. Whether you have been drinking heavily for weeks, months, or years, when you attempt to withdrawal from alcohol, symptoms can range from mild to severe. This is because, over time, your central nervous system adjusts to having alcohol (a depressant) all of the time. Once you discontinue use, your brain remains in a more awake state so that your nerves can continue to communicate. This leads to symptoms of withdrawal.
Mild symptoms range from anxiety to sweating, vomiting to shaking. However, 12 to 24 hours later, you may experience hallucinations and within the first two days, seizures may result. While only a small percentage of alcoholics will develop life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, other complications can arise due to high blood pressure, a racing heart, and rising fever. This is why medically supervised detoxification is so important — it also makes this process much more comfortable.
As discussed above, detoxification is the first step. Once you have successfully completed this portion of treatment, you’ll begin to plan for the next steps. Your road to recovery will be a unique and personalized experience, customized to significantly increase your chances of success. When you seek support in an accredited facility, you will work alongside a team of professionals in order to set goals and prepare for change.
There are numerous treatment options available, which is why you’ll want to invest in a program that is tailored to meet your needs. In addition to individual and group therapy sessions, facilities such as Transformations Treatment Center also offer a wide range of specialized, evidence-based programs that will further support your personal journey. These include but are not limited to:
Admitting that you need help is an incredibly brave and potentially life-changing step. You have the power to start again — to begin a new life. If you’re ready to take back control, we’re here to assist you every step of the way. At Transformations Treatment Center, we’re helping people restore hope, create purpose, and change their lives. Contact us today!