Alcohol Addiction Treatment and Rehab
Alcohol doesn’t carry the same stigma as recreational drugs. Drinking alcohol is not only socially acceptable, it is even encouraged to fit in, so much so that many people feel pressured to drink at social gatherings. But whereas social drinking is harmless, it can quickly progress to alcohol abuse and addiction. Many people are under the wrong impression that alcoholism cannot affect them. In truth, alcohol addiction is highly prevalent globally. Millions of Americans have risky drinking patterns and alcohol use disorder. Addiction treatment at alcohol rehab centers can help alcoholics achieve and maintain sobriety.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol use disorder, it helps to learn more facts about alcoholism. It’s important to remember that alcoholism is a disease that affects people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities. It is not a moral failure or a lack of willpower.
Alcohol facts and statistics
The numbers of alcohol abuse and addiction are sobering.
- The National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2018 reported that more than 86 percent of adults in America have drunk alcohol during their lifetime, 70 percent within the past year, and 55 percent within the past month.
- Among alcohol drinkers, nearly 7 percent report heavy alcohol use and more than 26 percent are binge drinkers.
- 14 million Americans have alcohol use disorder but less than 8 percent receive treatment.
- Underage drinking is dangerous; people who first used alcohol before age 15 are 7 times more likely to develop alcoholism compared to people whose first drink was after age 21.
- Approximately 88,000 Americans die from alcohol-associated causes each year, which makes alcohol the third highest cause of preventable deaths in America.
- Alcohol misuse costs Americans $249 billion per year.
What is alcohol abuse? What is alcohol addiction?
Alcohol abuse is drinking too much or too often. It is a problematic pattern of drinking that leads to self-destruction. People who abuse alcohol put themselves and others in physical danger, for example, by driving under the influence. Alcohol abusers also neglect responsibilities and use alcohol to deal with life stressors and difficult situations. A person who abuses alcohol may not necessarily be addicted to alcohol, i.e., he or she may not be physically dependent on alcohol. There is no compulsion to drink, yet the person uses alcohol to mask emotions and escape reality. Alcohol abuse develops over an extended period. Towards the later stages of alcohol abuse, the affected person drinks despite a negative impact on their relationships, professional life, social life, financial status, and legal troubles.
Alcohol addiction is an inability to stop drinking. People who are addicted to alcohol develop a tolerance and need to drink more often and larger quantities of alcohol to get the same effects. When they are not drinking, alcohol addicts experience negative emotions and withdrawal symptoms. They are not in control of their drinking and often drink more and for longer than intended. There is a physical dependence on alcohol with severe cravings. People with alcohol addiction often make several unsuccessful attempts to quit.
Why does alcohol make you feel good?
Alcohol costs a fair bit of money. It makes it hard for you to talk, walk, and remember things. You feel awful the next day. Yet, you go back to drinking again and again. Why is that?
Drinking alcohol triggers the release of dopamine and endorphins in the human brain. These are feel-good chemicals that produce feelings of joy, pleasure, and even euphoria. That’s why drinking feels so good, at least initially. Also, alcohol (ethanol) is a depressant, which means it slows down brain activity. This helps people loosen up, relax, and feel less anxious. Combined with the social acceptance of alcohol consumption, these feel-good effects put millions at risk of developing alcohol abuse and addiction.
Drinking levels defined: How much alcohol is too much? What is considered one standard drink? What is binge drinking?
Different types of alcoholic beverages have different alcohol content. For example, a regular beer has 5% alcohol content while some light beers have 4.2% alcohol content. Malt liquors have 7% alcohol, wine has 12% alcohol, and proof liquors have 40% alcohol. It’s important to know what constitutes one standard drink so that you can keep track of how much you’re drinking.
In the U.S., one standard drink is defined as 14 grams of pure alcohol; this can be found in:
- 1.5 fl oz distilled spirit (whiskey, gin, vodka, rum, tequila)
- 5 fl oz wine
- 8-9 fl oz malt liquor
- 12 fl oz regular beer
In the United States, when your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) is 0.8 g/dL or more, you are considered legally impaired. Binge drinking is a dangerous pattern of drinking which brings the BAC to 0.8 or above. Binge drinking is defined as drinking 5 or more alcoholic beverages in men and 4 or more alcoholic beverages in women on the same occasion (within a few hours) on at least 1 day in the last month. Heavy drinking is defined as binge drinking 5 or more days in the last month. Binge drinking and heavy drinking increase a person’s risk of developing alcohol use disorder.
Social drinking vs problem drinking: What are the symptoms of alcohol use disorder?
Excessive alcohol consumption is harmful to a person’s physical, emotional, and economic wellbeing. Alcohol is physically and psychologically addicting and can cause numerous health complications. People who abuse alcohol put themselves and others at risk. Alcohol abuse develops gradually over time. It can start at any age and affects people from all walks of life. For this reason, it is not always easy to say whether a person is a social drinker or needs help for alcohol addiction. Here are some signs of problem drinking:
- Drinking until drunk
- Gulping down drinks
- Drinking first thing in the morning or immediately after getting home from work
- High tolerance for alcohol, never hungover
- Frequent and uncontrolled drinking sessions
- Avoiding social gatherings with no alcohol
- Hanging out with friends who drink heavily
- Drinking on the job or going to work drunk
- Drunk driving
- Risky behavior under the influence of alcohol
- Troubles with the law due to drinking
- Relationship problems or problems at work due to drinking
- Using alcohol to cope with stress, anxiety, or sadness
- Lying about drinking
- Drinking more and more to get the same effects
- Aggressive, resentful, grouchy demeanor
- Financial and legal troubles caused by drinking
- Health complications of excessive alcohol use
Health complications of alcoholism
The moment you take the first sip of an alcoholic drink, it starts to have an impact on your mind and body. An occasional drink isn’t a problem, of course, but the cumulative effects of heavy drinking for a long time can take a severe toll on the body. Some of the health effects of alcohol include:
- Shrinkage in brain size
- Reduced ability to make smart decisions
- Physical and psychological dependence with intense cravings
- Heart damage
- Liver damage
- Lung infections
- Cancer of the throat, mouth, esophagus, and breast
- Diarrhea and stomach distress
- Birth defects
- Sexual dysfunction
- Thinning of bones
- Slurred speech
- Impaired coordination
- Muscle cramps
- Numbness in the hands and feet
- Diabetes complications
Many of these serious health complications can be avoided by drinking in moderation and getting treatment for alcoholism at an alcohol rehab center. Why is it important to seek professional addiction treatment at an alcohol rehab facility? Why can’t heavy drinkers simply quit drinking at home?
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome
When a person who has been drinking heavily for a long time suddenly reduces or stops their alcohol intake, many symptoms occur, which together are called alcohol withdrawal syndrome. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are a combination of physical and psychological effects. They include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure, tremors, anxiety, sweating, irritability, insomnia, and nightmares. A severe type of alcohol withdrawal is called delirium tremens (DT). It is characterized by fever, extreme agitation, confusion, seizures, and hallucinations (feeling, seeing, and hearing things that don’t exist). This is a potentially life-threatening condition and requires professional medical care.
Treatment for alcoholism
Many alcoholics are in denial and do not believe a problem exists. The first step in getting treatment for alcohol abuse is accepting there’s a problem. Friends and family members cannot stop a person from drinking if they’re not ready to get sober. The success of alcohol rehab depends on a person’s desire to quit drinking.
Recovery from alcoholism is a lifelong commitment. For this reason, many people believe you can never really be “cured” of alcoholism. However, top alcohol rehab centers in America offer effective treatment plans to make lasting sobriety a reality for most alcoholics. Treatment for alcoholism typically begins with a medically supervised detoxification during which withdrawal symptoms are managed with the help of medications.
The real work of alcohol recovery begins after detox with an outpatient or inpatient rehab program. Counseling and behavioral therapies are very effective in teaching recovering alcoholics the skills to manage stress and prevent relapse. Treatment for co-occurring mental health problems like depression and anxiety is important to support long-term sobriety. Support groups and sober communities play an important role in maintaining sobriety in the long-term.
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism, get help now. Alcohol rehab and addiction treatment can help you get sober and stay sober.