Alcohol Addiction is regarded as persistent and long-term abuse of alcohol accompanied by certain symptoms. This type of addiction is a common problem in many households across America and is the source of public brawls, domestic arguments, and violence. It is linked to auto accidents and fatalities, suicides, and homicides, and is a common precursor to drug abuse.
The habit of abusing alcohol is prevalent among adults and teenagers. According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 60 percent of young people admitted to consuming the beverage at least once before age 18. People between ages 12-20 account for 10% of all the alcohol consumed in the US. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which also reports that about 4000 deaths are attributed to alcohol each year.
Due to being a serious public health concern and the risks posed to your personal health and quality of life, alcohol abuse should be nipped in the bud. Otherwise, it can become a lifelong problem for you or a loved one. Treatment is available at an inpatient or outpatient rehab which has specially designed programs to help you sober up.
What is Alcohol?
Alcohol is a legal but controlled beverage made from fermented grains or fruits. The active ingredient is a psychoactive substance called ethanol. Alcoholic beverages are sold in many varieties. They include hard liquor (distilled spirits), beers, and wines containing various percentages of alcohol per serving. For example, hard liquors, such as Vodka, have the highest Alcohol by Volume (ABV) percentages ranging from 40-90%.
Alcohol drinking is a common recreational habit among teenagers and adults, although it is illegal for anyone under 21 to consume alcohol. Some drink socially and occasionally in small quantities, others drink more frequently and in larger amounts. The drink produces a sedating and pleasurable effect depending on how much is consumed. These effects can make drinkers more social or momentarily lower their inhibitions. But drinking does not make a person an alcoholic, even if they become intoxicated or drunk.
Addiction to Alcohol
Alcohol use disorder (AUD), also called alcohol addiction, affects about 18 million Americans, according to the NIAAA. The disorder is considered a disease of the brain. It can be mild, moderate, or severe and is diagnosed based on the number of symptoms you manifest.
Those who are addicted experience strong cravings for the beverage and will continue to seek and use it in spite of the harm to physical and mental health. Chronic addiction is marked by excessive drinking, e.g., a few drinks a day, and prolonged intoxication. Being unable to control cravings and alcohol use happens due to neurochemical changes that cause the brain to adapt to the effects of alcohol.
How Alcohol Affects the Brain and Body
Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. It produces pleasure while slowing down or inhibiting brain activities. The main inhibitory neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is responsible for reduced brain activities. Long-term alcoholism causes health complications, especially these:
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Brain damage
- Permanent memory loss
- Sexual dysfunction
- Vision problems
- Diabetes complications
- Birth defects
- Suppressed immune system
Signs of Alcohol Addiction
Because alcohol is a legal social drink, it can difficult to decipher between someone who is an active social drinker and an alcoholic. You may be addicted to alcohol if you notice the following signs or symptoms:
- An irresistible urge to drink
- Unable to control how much you drink
- Morning hangovers or drinking to start your day
- Needing larger amounts to feel good
- Alcohol is like your “escape” from life stressors
- Drinking in risky situations, e..g, when driving
- Disruption in family life, social life, or career
- Continuing to drink in spite of the negative effects
- Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
- Drinking is constantly on your mind
- Failed attempts to quit alcohol
- Legal or financial problems caused by alcohol drinking or drunkenness
- Mixing alcohol with medication or taking it with other drugs
- Drinking during pregnancy although you’re aware of the risks
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if you take too long to get the next drink, e.g., nausea or shakiness
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms may begin around 6-8 hours after the last drink. Severe symptoms could appear within 2-3 days. The length of time to go through withdrawal from beginning to end depends on how chronic the addiction is but can last for weeks or months. Common symptoms are listed below and some can be life-threatening:
- Mood swings
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tachycardia (rapid heart rate)
Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Alcoholism does not go away on its own and when the disorder is severe or chronic professional treatment is usually necessary to help you get sober. Your desire to quit and commitment to recovering can make the process a lot easier.
Treatment is typically done at an addiction center. Outpatient programs may be suitable for those with mild addiction and whose circumstances require them to continue living at home. If you’re struggling with severe addiction, you can receive 24-hour supervision while going through medically-assisted detox at a residential facility. Detox should be followed by therapy and other programs aimed at treating addiction from various angles.
Detoxification for Addiction to Alcohol
A medically supervised detox for alcohol abuse involves purging alcohol toxins from the body. Medications are used to help prevent or reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms. Detox is done in a safe environment removed from alcohol use triggers and provides a better chance of recovery.
A CNS depressant such as benzodiazepine may be used to stop severe symptoms from developing while carbamazepine can prevent seizures. High blood pressure may be treated with beta blockers. Acamprosate may be administered to help restore balance in the brain’s neurotransmitters. The medication disulfiram may be used to block the effects of alcohol on the brain thereby reducing the risk of future addiction.
Therapy for Addiction to Alcohol
Treatment duration from intake to the end of therapy can last between 30-90 days. It could be longer depending on your recovery needs. Therapy is done by a therapist in a one-on-one or group setting. It seeks to address underlying disorders or mental health problems that drive you to abuse alcohol. For example, chronic stress, depression, or anxiety. You will uncover why you turn to alcohol to cope and develop healthy coping skills to manage cravings.
What Happens After Rehab?
The journey to sobriety does not end after detox or when formal treatment is complete. Maintaining your sobriety requires a lifetime commitment to managing alcohol use triggers and resisting the urge to drink. Therapy will give you the tools you need to combat alcohol use and prevent addiction from happening again.
Some rehabs offer additional programs such as 12-steps to recovery. If not, you may get referred to sober groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Sober communities provide a supportive environment for recovering alcoholics who can share and learn from their peers. You can continue to receive therapy in a group setting to reinforce healthy coping mechanisms. NIDA emphasizes that the chance of staying sober increases the longer you remain in treatment.
Overcoming Addiction To Alcohol At The Detox Center of L.A.
The Detox Center of L.A. can provide effective treatment which gives you the tools to sober up. Our treatment programs include alcohol detox, psychotherapy, and counseling and are designed to comprehensively treat alcohol use disorder. Our highly trained doctors, nurses, and mental health professionals deliver individualized treatment with care and compassion and will do their best to meet your needs. We give family and loved ones a chance to get involved so they can provide additional support to you when you return home. Call us today for more information on our programs and admissions.
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