All About Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a type of addiction that continues to be a very prevalent problem in the U.S. with about 1.5 million adults receiving treatment for alcohol use disorder a year. Because alcohol is such a common and socially acceptable drug it can become difficult for people to distinguish between normal levels of drinking and problematic drinking habits. Understanding alcohol abuse and what qualifies a person’s behavior as that of an alcoholic can help people to better recognize the symptoms of alcoholism in themselves or in loved ones and learn more from this guide that is all about alcoholism.
There are different forms of alcohol misuse including binge drinking, heavy drinking and alcohol dependence which is most commonly associated with alcoholism. People may move from different levels of drinking until they ultimately become completely dependent on alcohol to function. Wherever someone may be within the spectrum of alcohol use disorder, they will always benefit from receiving professional treatment.
Alcohol use disorder is defined as a pattern of consuming alcohol that involves problems with controlling the amount and frequency of use, being preoccupied with drinking, continuing to drink in spite of negative consequences, developing a tolerance for alcohol or experiencing withdrawal symptoms. The disorder also includes binge drinking which is characterized by an individual consuming 5 or more drinks within two hours.
Whenever drinking patterns cause health and safety risks or begin to interfere with daily functioning then it is considered an alcohol use disorder. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, with alcoholism being one of the most severe because it means that a person is completely dependent on alcohol to get through the day. In the case of alcoholism, withdrawal symptoms can make it difficult to nearly impossible to function without taking a drink. Only with the help of alcoholism detox will they be able to return to a normal life without the need to drink every day.
Different Types of Alcohol Problems
As adults in the U.S. people have to make choices about their drinking habits including how many they have in one night and how often they drink. Because drinking habits can vary greatly from person to person, not everyone who abuses alcohol has the same issues. The three main types of drinking problems are binge drinking, alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. Binge drinking can often be the beginning of an alcohol problem because it is very common especially in college and among young people in general.
Having more than 5 drinks in one sitting is considered binging because consuming alcohol at that level is very harmful to your health. Even if you don’t binge drink often, it is considered an alcohol problem because of the damage it can do to your body. In many cases though, binge drinking can become more frequent over time and people begin to struggle with controlling how much they drink in one sitting. They may have no intention of binging on a particular occasion but find that they are unable to stop themselves from drinking too much. In this case they are dealing with a form of alcohol use disorder that is affecting their lives negatively.
Alcohol Abuse and Dependence
As drinking continues it may develop into a category known as alcohol abuse. This is the stage at which alcohol begins to cause real and significant problems in a person’s life and yet they are unable to moderate or reduce their drinking habits. If someone continues to drink in spite of it affecting their performance at work or school, their relationships or their ability to fulfill important obligations then they are struggling with alcohol abuse.
Alcoholism signs often begin with these very serious problems that affect a person’s life and alcohol consumption is the main cause. As these issues occur the individual may not even be able to see that their drinking is the reason because they develop a sense of denial that can become very strong over time. Alcohol consumption becomes abusive when social, legal, financial and personal problems start to grow and an individual either refuses to stop drinking or physically cannot quit.
As problem drinking continues to progress a person may eventually develop a dependence on alcohol which is the most severe form of alcohol misuse. Abuse can quickly turn to dependence because alcohol is an addictive substance that leads to physical changes in the body making it harder and harder to quit as time passes. When someone is dependent on alcohol to function they will experience physical symptoms such as intense cravings for alcohol when they don’t drink.
They may also develop a tolerance meaning that it will take more and more alcohol to experience the same effects that they once did. The most serious physical signs of dependence are withdrawal symptoms that occur after going for a certain period of time without drinking alcohol. In the early stages of dependence their withdrawal symptoms may be mild anxiety, depression or shakiness that will eventually lead to more serious symptoms including delirium tremens and seizures.
Even though a person may experience these different stages of alcoholism, it may take some time for them to truly understand that they have a problem and for them to willingly seek alcoholic treatment. Denial can be a very powerful issue that can prevent people from realizing that alcohol is at the root of all the negative things that are happening in their life. An alcoholic may be convinced that their drinking is under control and that they don’t have a problem.
They may compare themselves to others and believe that their own drinking is not as bad as other examples. They may believe that they are justified in their drinking habits because of their situation in life or the stress that they deal with on a regular basis. At the core denial however, is actually a deep sense of shame. Alcoholics may go to great lengths to cover up how much they drink and the problems that it has caused because they feel ashamed but do not want to quit.
Unfortunately many alcoholics are not able to let go of their denial until they go through a common phenomenon known as “hitting rock bottom.” This is the point at which an alcoholic experiences such overwhelming negative consequences for their drinking that they finally begin to understand the extent of their addiction.
Rock bottom may mean different things to each individual such as losing their job, getting in trouble with the law, going through a divorce or hurting themselves or someone else. It is the lowest point in their life as an alcoholic and in many cases it is the only way they can finally admit that they need help. When a person who has been abusing alcohol makes the decision to quit they have to begin the process of becoming sober by entering alcoholism rehab.
The Importance of Detox
The first step for someone who is entering alcohol treatment is for them to go through detox. Getting through detox is the foundation of rehab because it eliminates physical dependency before the person can begin to focus on their psychological addiction. Detox is a way of resetting an alcoholic’s system so that they no longer have the drug in their body and it will make it easier for them to abstain from drinking during rehab treatment. It is important for people to go through detox in a facility that specializes in treating alcohol addiction because it can be a very dangerous process for someone to quit drinking cold turkey on their own.
Especially when someone has been drinking consistently for years, they will have some very severe withdrawal symptoms and serious side effects that must take place under medical supervision. Detoxing alcoholism can be one of the most painful and stressful things a person can go through and that is why it’s so important to have medical staff available to keep people safe and provide medication when necessary. Certain medications can help to prevent seizures, reduce cravings and treat any co-occurring disorders such as anxiety or depression. As long as an alcoholic is receiving medical assistance and has access to the medication they need, they will be able to get through detox safely without any serious harm.
Treating the Alcoholic in Rehab
Once detox is completed the next step is to enter rehab and begin to analyze and repair some of the problems that have caused the alcoholism. While a certain component of alcohol abuse is caused by physical dependency, there are many underlying reasons why a person’s drinking habits become out of control. In many cases, alcoholism can be inherited through genetics because addiction in any form can be hereditary. If a person grows up in a household where there is addiction or has close relatives that drink excessively it can impact their attitudes about alcohol.
Heavy drinking can be cultural or a part of their environment making them less likely to recognize the symptoms of alcoholism. A person’s upbringing can have a lot to do with their relationship to alcohol and whether they are wired genetically to become addicted to certain substances. Mental health issues can also play a big role in why a person becomes addicted to alcohol. Issues like anxiety and depression can often lead to substance abuse as people with these disorders tend to self-medicate. In cases where a person has a co-occurring disorder it is very important for them to get treatment for both their addiction and their mental illness.
Throughout rehab, alcoholics must learn to change many of their habits in order to feel comfortable and secure in their sobriety. This means they must consider the circumstances, situations and emotions that tend to drive them to drink. They must figure out what makes them drink so that they can prevent it from happening again in the future. Do they drink when they feel nervous about socializing, feel angry or upset, or drink because they are bored? There can be a number of triggers that take place which can cause an addict to reach for a drink.
In rehab each individual must learn to identify their unique triggers and find solutions which can act as more effective coping strategies than drinking. Rehab offers people the opportunity to learn better ways to deal with their emotions instead of relying on alcohol as a temporary escape from their problems. It gives people a chance to learn how to communicate more effectively with others, connect on a deeply personal level, engage in more fulfilling social activities and create a support system that will keep them sober even after they leave treatment.
Therapy and Support in Sobriety
Alcoholism is a disease with symptoms that people can manage when they are equipped with the right tools. In rehab, each patient will spend plenty of time in individual and group therapy which are excellent ways to learn better communication skills, talk about personal issues in a safe and supportive environment and heal from past traumas that still affect them.
People with addictions sometimes have had difficult childhoods, problematic relationships with family members or painful experiences that have contributed to their addiction. Talking with a therapist is a way for patients to heal, improve their self-esteem and promote emotional well-being. As they work through their problems with a therapist they will also learn how to cope with their addiction more effectively and deal with stress in productive ways.
The most important part of treating alcoholism is making sure that each rehab patient will be able to continue to live sober once they return home. Many treatment facilities offer aftercare so that former patients will still have some support to keep them on track and prevent relapse. Unfortunately for many people with addictions, relapse is a reality that they must face even after spending months or years as a sober person.
Staying connected with programs like alcoholics anonymous and maintaining a support network is crucial in preventing relapse. Former addicts must be vigilant about having a sober routine and being aware when they are experiencing triggers or cravings. Staying sober requires a lot of commitment and dedication but with the right treatment and support it is possible for every person who has struggled with alcoholism to be sober for the rest of their lives.