Alcohol Addiction & Abuse - Understanding Alcoholism

What Makes a Person an Alcoholic?

Alcoholism is the excessive consumption of alcohol which leads to alcohol use disorder. There is both a mental and physical aspect to alcohol addiction. You may be an alcoholic if you have:

  • Intense cravings for alcohol
  • Drink alone
  • Become defensive when others confront you about your drinking habits
  • Are unable to control how much alcohol you consume
  • Become angry or irritable when you consume alcohol
  • Miss important family events or work due to your alcohol consumption
  • Feel guilty about your drinking
  • Need to drink more and more to feel the effects of alcohol

Who Struggles With Alcohol Addiction?

Anyone can develop an alcohol addiction. Some may be more genetically prone to alcohol abuse than others, but ultimately the disease does not discriminate.

According to the Substance Abuse and Health Services Association, in 2017, 14.5 million Americans over the age of 12 had alcohol use disorder. 10.6 million of them being 26 years of age or older. This translates to 1 in 19 Americans. These are massive statistics, and clearly indicate that it is more than genetics that can contribute to alcohol abuse.

Some factors that can contribute to alcohol abuse are:

  • Mental illness such as depression or anxiety
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Binge drinking (5 or more drinks at a time)
  • Drinking too much per week (7 for women, 14 for men)
  • Stress
  • Peer pressure

How Much Alcohol Makes You an Alcoholic?

The effect that alcohol has on an individual all boils down to how much a person drinks.

According to the NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), men should not have more than 4 drinks a day, and no more than 14 a week. Women should not have more than 3 drinks a day, and no more than 7 within a week.

These would be standard drinks, 12 oz beer (4% alcohol), 5 oz wine (12% alcohol), 8 oz malt liquor(5-8% alcohol), 1.5 oz liquor (80 proof).

Research has shown recently that there is no amount of alcohol that is healthy for you, but one drink a day would only slightly put you at risk for health related problems.

What Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Do

Many people do not understand the full health implications that alcohol can have on the body, both in the long-term and the short-term.

Short-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse:

  • Changes in cognition
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of coordination
  • Rambling
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Glassy eyes
  • Very emotional
  • Nausea & vomiting

Excessive intake of alcohol in one sitting can cause alcohol poisoning which is concerning as it can be fatal. Symptoms include:

  • Unconsciousness
  • Vomiting, slurred
  • Speech
  • Amnesia
  • Confusion
  • Dehydration
  • Irregular pulse and breathing
  • Clammy skin
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Long-term alcohol abuse can cause chronic illness and eventually lead to death. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, long-term use of alcohol can cause damage to the following areas:

  • Brain: By affecting it's pathways of communication. It can also change the way the brain works which causes changes to a person’s behaviors, effectively changing their personality characteristics.
  • Heart: Damage through alcohol by causing cardiomyopathy (the stretching and drooping of the heart muscle), arrhythmias (an irregular heart beat), stroke, and high blood pressure.
  • Pancreas: Causing pancreatitis. This is the swelling of the pancreas that is dangerous and can cause problems in the digestive tract.
  • Liver: Damages to the liver can be extensive and include:
    • Steatosis, or fatty liver
    • Cirrhosis
    • Alcoholic Hepatitis
    • Jaundice
    • Fibrosis
    • Cancer

Treatment For Alcohol Addiction

There are many different types of treatment approaches available that a person with an addiction can involved in. Depending on the severity of the person’s dependence, they may need different levels of care to get through the detox and withdrawal process.

Alcohol Detox

Alcohol dependency occurs over a prolonged amount of time of heavy alcohol use. The brain becomes accustomed to the effects of alcohol, and when the alcohol consumption is stopped, the body goes into withdrawals.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawals:

  • Shaking
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation

In more serious cases, the withdrawal symptoms can include tremors, seizures, hallucinations, and disorientation. These symptoms can last anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks.

It is important that a patient with alcohol use disorder detox under medical supervision. Doctors and nurses can ensure that the patient stays safe, and that any emergencies  that arise are met with immediate medical intervention.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

There are many great treatment options for those who suffer from alcohol use disorder. The three general treatment options are inpatient treatment, a partial hospitalization program (PHP) or Day Treatment, and an intensive outpatient program (IOP).

At Northeast Addictions Treatment Center, our patients participate in group therapy sessions with others who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction.

Our treatment staff create a safe space for recovering addicts to share their feelings and emotions without judgment. IOPs’ are a good solution for those who are less acute, and who do not need a higher level of medical care.

During this treatment process, our patients will begin to understand and confront their underlying triggers that lead to drinking. Once these emotions are excavated, our treatment staff are able to provide techniques that patients can take into their daily life which will help them avoid falling into old habits.

Take the first step toward recovery today by calling our treatment specialists and discussing options that are right for you!