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When you are clinically diagnosed with alcoholism, it means that you have a severe drinking problem that you are unable to manage. Also known as an alcohol use disorder, alcoholism can be severe, moderate, or mild - with each of these categories bringing about harmful side effects and specific symptoms. Irrespective of how bad your drinking is getting, however, failure to treat alcoholism can cause serious consequences in the long run.
If you have been struggling with alcoholism, you might feel that you are unable to function and operate normally unless you drink alcohol. As a direct result, your behavior might start changing and you may experience a wide variety of problems. Your drinking might also negate your professional goals, relationships, personal matters, and overall health and wellness. With time, the serious side effects arising from your constant alcohol abuse might also worsen and lead to damaging complications.
However, you don't need to continue suffering from your addiction to alcohol. Today, there are so many detox, treatment, and rehabilitation options available that you should be able to find a facility to help you stop abusing alcohol and achieve sobriety and abstinence in the long term.
Your alcohol use disorder only means that you have been drinking excessively and - as a result - causing harm to your relationships, happiness, and health. By undergoing rehabilitation, you can effectively and successfully manage and control your alcoholism and overcome it in the long run.
The most serious of all types of problem drinking, alcoholism can be described as a strong, intense, and typically uncontrollable desire to consume alcohol. While suffering from this condition, therefore, you might choose to place alcohol above all your other responsibilities and obligations - including your family, work, and social life.
Additionally, it might cause you to start building physical tolerance to alcohol as well as suffering adverse withdrawal symptoms when you reduce the amount of alcohol you normally take or stop drinking altogether.
Also referred to as alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, or alcohol use disorder, alcoholism is somewhat different from harmful drinking - which often refers to occasionally serious drinking that might damage your health.
A good illustration of harmful drinking would be consuming too much alcohol when you attend parties or go out with your friends, which could raise your risk of falling, or getting into arguments and fights. These patterns of drinking might eventually evolve and turn into alcoholism when you turn your harmful drinking into a habit that occurs on a regular basis.
For some people, a single drink in the evening after work can be plenty. If this describes you, it means that you only take a few sips of your preferred alcoholic beverage before stopping. However, other people might not be able to stop once they get started - particularly because they have a serious alcohol use disorder.
According to NIAAA (the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), close to 7% of all American adults can be classified as being alcoholics. Among these are people who have made alcohol a priority and an obsession in their life - which means that they might have some difficulties focusing on the pleasures and distractions of everyday life.
The only way to overcome this condition and ensure that you control your alcoholism is by undergoing treatment through a certified alcohol rehabilitation program. The ongoing support and medical assistance you will receive may be able to address even the deepest set cases of this form of substance use disorder, resolve it, and amend it once and for all.
Signs And Symptoms Of Alcoholism
In many parts of the globe - particularly in the United States - adults can buy and drink alcohol. As a direct result, alcoholic beverages are widely available just about anywhere you go especially because drinking is more of a norm than it is an exception for most adults.
However, since drinking is so common, you might assume that it is difficult to ascertain who drinks alcohol in the most appropriate manner and who drinks too much that they have already developed alcoholism and alcohol abuse.
One of the main signs that you can use to determine whether you are an alcoholic is by counting the number of times you engage in binge drinking. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), this behavior involves drinking alcohol with the main goal of getting drunk. This could mean that you drink 5 or more alcohol beverages in a span of about two hours (for men) or 4 or more drinks in the same time frame.
However, there are many other signs and symptoms of alcoholism and alcohol abuse - most of which are quite noticeable. Still, these symptoms might take a bit longer to make themselves manifest.
That said, it may be difficult for you to see these signs and symptoms in a member of your family or a friend, especially because they might be secretive about their drinking and/or get agitated when you confront them.
This is why you may want to use the following signs and symptoms to determine whether you are (or a loved one is) suffering from alcohol abuse, binge drinking, and alcoholism:
- Appearing intoxicated on a regular basis
- Appearing irritable, unwell, or tired
- Becoming increasingly dishonest and secretive
- Being unable to refuse alcohol
- Craving alcohol any time you go for a couple of hours without it
- Experiencing mental health problems like depression and anxiety
- Feeling that you need to continue drinking more alcohol
- Finding that you can't control your drinking
- Having to drink more alcohol to achieve the pleasurable effects that you are looking for
- Lack of interest in activities and events you were once interested in
- Prioritizing drinking and alcohol over and above your professional and personal responsibilities
- Showing different behavior after you drink
- Spending a significant amount of your money and time to purchase and consume alcohol
In case you have been feeling that your drinking is taking a serious toll on your performance, behavior, health, and life, it is vital that you seek treatment to ensure that you kick your addiction.
One way you can do this is by talking to a doctor to see if they are able to provide professional medical assistance. Alternatively, you could also check into an alcohol abuse and alcoholism treatment program to ensure that you manage your condition before it gets out of hand. This is the only way you can be sure that your life will once again be fulfilling and satisfactory.
Common Reasons For Drinking Alcohol
There are certain factors that might increase your risk of suffering alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Today, many people turn to drinking for a variety of reasons even though they run the risk of potentially becoming dependent on alcohol.
For instance, if you drink during difficult times - such as when you lose your job or a loved one passes on - you might trigger alcohol abuse that will be difficult to manage in the long term.
Although there are many other reasons why you might start drinking, the most common include:
a) Stress Relief
If you have been consuming alcohol to try and reduce the daily stresses and hardships you encounter on a daily basis, it is more likely that you will eventually sink down the road towards full-blown alcoholism.
This is because alcohol is both a sedative and a depressant. This means that when you drink, it will produce intense feelings of relaxation and pleasure. Over time, however, drinking frequently will cause you to develop tolerance.
At this point, you will have to start increasing your normal dose of alcohol to achieve the pleasurable effects that you are looking for. Instead of drinking, it would be more effective to deal with stress straight on - such as through exercise, meditation, or relaxation.
b) To Feel Good
You might also find that you have started drinking to get a break from your daily reality. This is because alcohol tends to provide a great deal of relief from any underlying issues that you are trying to run away from.
However, continuous alcohol consumption to ensure that you are able to get through tough days and weeks might eventually culminate into serious drinking - which could later on lead to a case of alcoholism.
c) To Cope with Loss
Loss - whether it is a loved one, a friend, a member of your family, or even a job - can take a serious toll on you psychologically, physiologically, and emotionally. When you experience it, therefore, you may turn to alcohol to ease your grief and pain as well as get yourself through the difficult time.
However, learning how to depend on alcohol - irrespective of how temporary or brief such dependence seems to you - can eventually spiral into a serious drinking problem that you will find hard and expensive to manage and control.
d) To Overcome Anxiety
You might be naturally anxious, meaning that you are highly likely to worry on a perpetual basis. When this happens, you may choose to turn to alcohol because it lowers your inhibitions and makes you feel more comfortable - particularly in social situations.
However, this could eventually lead to serious addictive behavior and problems in the long run. This is why it's highly recommended that you find alternative routes on beating your anxiety instead of turning to chemically produced substances like alcohol.
Health Complications Arising From Alcohol Abuse
When you choose to drink too much - whether on occasion or in the long term - you can seriously damage your health. It might cause you either minor or life-threatening and severe effects on your health and wellness.
In particular, the short term effects of alcoholism and alcohol abuse might prove to be just as grueling and as dangerous as the long term effects. For example, drinking might negatively affect your reaction time. This means that your coordination and reflexes will slow down. At this point, trying to drive or to operate machinery might be dangerous because the alcohol you consumed with have altered your perception of distance and speed. As a direct result, you might put yourself (and anyone else around you) in serious risk of being involved in an accident, getting injured, or even losing your life.
That said, the following are some of the short term effects of drinking alcohol and suffering alcoholism:
- Blurry vision
- Difficulty breathing
- Lowered inhibitions
- Poor reflexes
- Reduced brain activity
- Slow reaction time
In the same way, drinking alcohol excessively can negatively affect your health and wellness in the short term. Although some of the arising side effects of alcoholism and alcohol abuse might lay dormant for several months or years, they are highly likely to surface eventually.
This is why it is highly recommended that you only try to overcome your alcoholism by undergoing professional medical care and treatment to ensure that you receive the right diagnosis and that your condition is treated before it gets out of hand even further.
That said, the most common long term effects and conditions arising from the excessive consumption of alcohol include but are not always limited to:
- Vision damage
- Liver disease
- Higher risk of developing cancer
- Heart problems
- Health complications related to the develop of Diabetes
- Brain defects, such as the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
- Bone loss
Dangers Of Harmful Alcohol Drinking
Binge drinking is relatively easy to spot and identify. This is because it normally involves people who try to down the greatest volume of alcoholic beverages at a go. When it happens, therefore, it might be difficult to conceal.
However, there are many other types and instances of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. In fact, anyone could be said to be abusing alcohol if they:
- Feel a constant and intense need (urges and cravings) to drink alcohol on a daily basis
- Drive and operate heavy machinery after drinking alcoholic beverages
- Drink alcohol with the main goal of feeling pleasure and a buzz
- Drink alcohol during the day
- Drink a copious volume of alcohol even in social situations
All these patterns of alcohol consumption are very different. However, they are similar in the sense that when you display these patterns it means that you may have lost control over your drinking.
At this point, therefore, alcohol might start driving your decisions, thought processes, and actions, and behaviors. Although it might seem like this is a subtle distinction, it is important that you understand it and try to amend it before it culminates into alcoholism and the negative symptoms, effects, and consequences attached to it.
Additionally, serious patterns of alcohol use and abuse may change the electrical activity in your brain. When this happens, you will have little (to no) control over your drinking.
When your alcohol consumption moves from being troublesome to being compulsive, it means that you might have developed an addiction. According to NCADD (the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), some of the signs that you are an alcoholic might include but are not always limited to:
- Continuing to consume alcohol on a regular basis and in serious patterns, even in those instances where you realize that it is causing problems in your personal and professional life
- Developing tolerance to the effects and impact of alcohol, meaning that you need to drink more alcohol to achieve the same pleasurable effects that you are looking for
- Experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms in between your bouts of binge drinking, when you reduce the volume of alcohol you consume, or when you stop drinking altogether
- Focusing heavily and abnormally on alcohol, which might cause you to neglect your hobbies, activities, friends, work, and/or school
- Losing control over how often or how much alcohol you drink
- Wishing that you could stop drinking but finding that you are unable to actualize this wish
Common Types Of Alcoholics
There are several types of alcoholics - typically classified according to age, socio-economic background, and patterns of alcohol abuse and binge drinking. Consider the following:
a) Young Adult Subtype
This is the first type of an alcoholic. This subtype usually includes and involves young adults who drink regularly and have a problem with alcohol even though they do not have any family or genetic history of alcohol abuse, alcoholism, or any co-occurring mental health conditions.
b) Young Antisocial Subtype
In this category, you will find young adults who drink alcohol on a regular and - sometimes - problematic basis. Most of the people falling into this subtype of alcoholism have family and/or genetic histories of alcohol consumption and alcoholism. They might also have co-occurring mental health conditions and may be addicted and chemically dependent on other mind altering and intoxicating substances.
c) The Functional Subtype
Most functional alcoholics are middle aged and relatively to highly successful. This means that they have families (which might be supportive) and stable jobs. Most of the people in this category also have family and genetic history of alcohol abuse and alcoholism while about 25% of all of them have a history of co-occurring mental health conditions like depression.
d) The Intermediate Familial Subtype
The intermediate family subtype typically includes people in their middle age who have suffering a depressive episode in the past (co-occurring mental health condition) and who also have a family and/or genetic history of alcoholism.
e) The Chronic Severe Subtype
This subtype includes everyone with a serious case of alcoholism. It often includes people in their middle ages who have a family and/or genetic history of alcoholism and co-occurring mental health conditions. They might also have a chemical dependence relating to another mind altering and intoxicating substance.
Causes Of Alcoholism
Only on the rarest of occasions do people who engage in problem drinking strive to be diagnosed with alcoholism. This is because few people want to be told that they have been struggling with their drinking patterns.
However, the truth of the matter is that alcohol is quite sneaky. As such, it can creep into your life and start causing serious damage in ways that are somewhat subtle and which you might ignore or fail to notice in the first place.
For most people, the road to full blown alcoholism often starts with peer pressure. This means that you might not want to drink or even see what is so good about it. However, your peers, colleagues, age mates, and close friends - or even members of your own family - might prompt you to start drinking. Over time and as you continue complying with these requests, you may lose your ability to control when and how you drink.
Alternatively, your alcoholism might arise as a direct result of the mental health condition you are suffering. This means that you may choose to start using alcohol to self-medicate mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
At the beginning of this new DIY remedy, you may think that drinking has been helping you keep the signs and symptoms of your illness under control. In time, however, your drinking can augment the effects arising from your illness.
In the findings from a recent research by the NIAAA, your alcoholism might be as a result of your genetic makeup. Although the specific gene that is linked to alcoholism and alcohol abuse is yet to be identified and explained, there are certain well known genes that could boost the pull of alcohol and - consequently - reduce the effects of a hangover.
If you have these genetic combinations, therefore, you might experience more significant intoxicating effects when you drink even the smallest amount of alcohol and not have to feel sick or ill even after drinking for several hours on end. This is because your body might have been primed for drinking and alcohol abuse. It also means that you might eventually run the risk of developing alcoholism.
Last but not least, your parents, family home, and environment might all contribute inadvertently to your problems with alcohol - particularly if you start copying you're the members of your family who have bad drinking behaviors.
In particular, research shows that children who grow up and are raised in homes where people drink constantly and frequently might start viewing such behavior as more of a norm than an exception.
For instance, if parents start drinking whenever they need to cope with anxiety and stress, their children might start doing the same. In these cases, your genes will not be at the root of your alcoholism. Rather, the start of your problem drinking might have emerged as a result of you choosing to model your behavior after your parents and other adults who are close to you.
Seeking Help For Alcoholism
One of the main symptoms of an alcohol use disorder or alcoholism involves your inability to control, amend, or curb your drinking behavior. This means that you might want to change but feel that you are quite unable to achieve this goal. At times, you may also feel that you will never overcome your chemical dependence on and tolerance to alcohol simply because it is no longer a possibility for you.
If a loved one thinks along these lines, an effective way to get them the help they need is by hosting an intervention. Alcohol abuse interventions, in particular, can help the loved one see that their substance abuse has become a problem. You can also try motivating them to seek treatment so that they are finally able to overcome their dependence on alcohol. This is because interventions shed light and give hope to people with alcoholism.
Where possible, you should hold an intervention at any time - such as immediately after a terrible consequence of alcohol abuse occurs. Finding these openings should not be too difficult.
For instance, a recent study published in the Addiction journal showed that people who start drinking before they go out on the party and rave scene are 2.5 times as likely as those who don't to drink alcohol get into fights and arguments.
Therefore, if a loved one comes back home with cuts and bruises as a result of their alcoholism, you might want to host an intervention at this point because there will be a higher likelihood that they will listen to you and receive the message better.
Other episodes and instances that might give you cause to host an intervention include but are not limited to:
- Child-custody concerns
- Domestic disputes
- Job losses
Once you wind up the intervention, you should start setting the stage to ensure that the addict enters into a treatment facility. Luckily, there are so many different programs out there that you should not have a difficult time finding the right one.
In the case of extremely severe alcoholism, you might want to consider long term inpatient addiction treatment. This is because such a program will allow you (or the loved one who is suffering from their alcohol abuse) to move away from the cares and concerns of daily life and focus more on tacking the addiction every day of their stay at the facility. The tight focus provided through inpatient addiction treatment might prove ideal to ensure that you heal faster.
Alternatively, you might also consider outpatient treatment for alcoholism. These outpatient centers work better for alcoholics who would still like to remain at home (or who have to because of a variety of reasons) surrounded by their family, friends, and loved ones even as they continue working on controlling their condition.
Consider the following additional treatment options for alcoholism:
Treatment For Alcoholism
One of the best decisions you will ever have to make is deciding to go for treatment for your addiction to alcohol. Luckily, there are so many different types of programs available that you should be able to find the right one for you. The differences between these programs is often based on the severity and frequency of drinking and alcohol abuse.
In most cases, you will find that recovering from your alcoholism will involve processes that will continue long after you leave the rehabilitation program you choose. It will also require your stellar commitment to continue practicing and applying all the techniques and lessons you learned while undergoing rehabilitation, attending counseling and therapy sessions (as well as other forms of therapy) and meeting with support groups.
After you decide to get help for your addiction to alcohol, you should realize that what might have worked for your friend or acquaintance might not necessarily also work for you.
This is why you need to talk to a highly trained and experienced professional who is an expert on the treatment of alcoholism and alcohol abuse. They will analyze your particular case and situation and advise you on the best treatment facility, center, and/or program for you.
You should also realize that alcoholism is not a condition that you can fix quickly or in a short period of time. In most cases, it will involve that you make a conscious decision in your every waking minute to keep away from all alcoholic beverages, irrespective of how intense your cravings might be or how much others might try to convince you otherwise.
That said, although everyone follows an unique path to recovery that is highly tailored and customized to their particular needs and preferences, treatment for alcohol abuse and alcoholism will usually follow the structure outlined below:
- Assessment and testing
- Individual behavior therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Discharge and aftercare
Since you might suffer intense withdrawal, it is imperative that you ensure that you do not try to quit alcohol on your own but instead choose to detox under the care and management of a medical team. Some of the withdrawal symptoms you are likely to experience include:
- Rapid heart beat
Last but not least, as you continue trying to fight your alcoholism, you will have to choose between inpatient/residential rehabilitation and outpatient rehabilitation. Both forms of alcoholism treatment programs are unique and come with their own benefits and drawbacks. Therefore, you need to choose the one that best matches your needs, requirements, and preferences.
Overall, the most important thing about alcoholism is that you should try and overcome it as soon as you can - if only to avoid most of the severe and adverse consequences and problems it might cause if left untreated.