Recent research from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that nearly half of all adult Americans consumed alcohol regularly in the past year. Among those, close to 18 million reported experiencing what they considered to be alcohol addiction.
There are several risk factors that can cause a person to be more or less susceptible to alcohol addiction, including childhood trauma and family dynamics, genetics, socioeconomic status, and mental health disorders. Indeed, there are many extrinsic factors that can thrust a person into alcoholism, but it also the addictive characteristics of alcohol and our biological capacity for dependence that continues to drive the disease long after the pursuit for self-medication has ended.
Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
After a period of heavy use, a person may develop an alcohol dependence, which means their body has grown accustomed to operating while impaired and quitting is challenging due to distress and severe, possibly life-threatening withdrawal complications.
Contributing to dependence is tolerance, which is defined as the need for increasing amounts of alcohol to achieve the coveted effect. Once tolerance has developed, the person feels compelled to drink larger amounts and may end up drinking much more than others without becoming noticeably intoxicated.
Another hallmark sign of alcoholism is experiencing withdrawal symptoms upon waking the “day after” and possibly yielding to the temptation to have a “hair of the dog” (the hair of the dog that bit you.)
Persons dependent upon alcohol will eventually begin to deceive others close to them and offer justifications for their alcoholism as a form of damage control. They may also hide alcoholic beverages in covert places to avoid alerting others to the problem and are frequently concerned about the possibility of running out.
Other signs of alcohol addiction may include:
- Needing to consume alcohol to unwind
- Experiencing blackouts (lapses in memory)
- Drinking more than originally intended
- Displaying a lack of interest in activities once relished
- Missing work/school time as a result of being hungover
- Participating in risky behaviors such as driving drunk
- Experiencing legal problems (e.g., DUI, assault, public intoxication)
- Experiencing family conflict and interpersonal tension due to extreme drinking
The Dangers Of Alcohol Addiction
Negative consequences of prolonged alcohol abuse may result in the following:
- Increased risk of several cancers including those of the larynx, esophagus, colon, breast, and liver
- Damage to the brain, pancreas, liver, and other organs
- Birth defects or fetal alcohol syndrome
- Increased risk of unintentional death by car, injuries, and alcohol poisoning
- Increased risk of suicide and accidental/intentional homicide
Blackouts and Alcohol Poisoning because excessive alcohol consumption also impairs short-term memory, drinkers in the throes of addiction often encounter lapses in time while heavily intoxicated during which they cannot remember what they said or did. Blackouts are extremely dangerous and can lead to personal injury, drinking and driving, physical or sexual assault, and more.
An estimated 2,200 people die each year in the U.S. from alcohol poisoning. Depending on individual factors, a .40 blood alcohol concentration or higher can be life-threatening. Anyone who cannot be awoken after a bout of excessive drinking should receive medical care immediately.
Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
If you or someone you know is showing signs of alcoholism, please seek treatment promptly. The first step is admitting there is a problem, and the second is a locating a compatible, reputable facility from which one can receive treatment.
Treatment usually begins with a medical detox program. During this time – usually from 3-5 days – the patient will be observed by medical and mental health care professionals and monitored for signs of distress. In many cases, medication can be dispensed to lessen withdrawal symptoms and to assure that vital signs remain stable.
After detox, most people elect to participate in an inpatient or intensive outpatient program. As an inpatient, the individual will reside in a supervised facility, often for several weeks or months. These programs are effective because the patient is prevented from relapsing while receiving care and support and protected from former friends who drink or use drugs.
Outpatient programs, on the other hand, permit the patient to return home and attend to daily obligations and activities such as school, work, relationships, children, home life, etc.
These programs foster participation in both individual and group therapy. Individual therapy concentrates on identifying the reasons why the person became an alcoholic and teaches him or her coping skills and how to manage reactions to triggers and avoid relapse.
Group therapy, on the other hand, encourages socialization with others who are experiencing similar problems with addiction. Many of these meetings primarily serve as “process” or support groups and empower members to talk openly and in-depth about their lives, issues, and addiction. Others are more formal and include therapy-based activities designed to foster insight and change. Cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques are among the most common, effective, evidence-based practices used in both individual and group therapy formats.
Taking The First Steps To Sobriety
Taking the first steps to defeat your addiction can make a significant change in your life from active abuse to recovery. Though the steps you take may feel minor and insignificant at first, realize they are essential to achieving the end goal of sobriety. It is critical that to be patient with yourself and to not rush this process.
Choosing where to go for recovery is a critical step in sobriety. Recovery By The Sea inspires clients and provides them with the tools they need to defeat addiction, as well as an absolutely unforgettable experience. No one can force you to be ready, but when you are, we will be here for you!
If you’re ready for that day to be today, call us now:
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