Overview – Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction is a form of alcohol use that causes serious health and safety problems. If you are suffering from alcohol addiction, you cannot control your drinking. You continue to drink despite seeing the problems that alcohol abuse causes in your life. In time, you will develop a tolerance to the drug. You will have to drink more to experience the same intoxication. Moreover, if you drastically reduce or completely stop alcohol intake, you will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms.
The term “alcohol abuse” refers to situations that put your health and safety at risk. It also includes binge drinking. Binge drinking is when a male drink 5 or more drinks in 2 hours or a female drinks at least 4 drinks in 2 hours. It is one of the most dangerous forms of alcohol use.
If your drinking pattern is causing recurring problems and distress, you have lost control over alcohol. Also, there are levels of alcohol addiction. But no matter where you are on the spectrum, even a mild alcohol addiction is risky enough. It can seriously affect your life and loved ones or even people you have never met. So, early treatment can spare you great future regrets.
Alcohol dependence can be mild, moderate, or severe. It depends on the number of your symptoms.
Signs and symptoms are:
- Failing to limit the amount of alcohol
- Spending a lot of time drinking, and recovering from its effects
- A strong craving and urge to drink alcohol
- Failure to fulfill your responsibilities
- Continuing to drink knowing that it causes physical, social, or internal problems
- Quitting social or work activities
- Drinking alcohol in unsafe situations. For example, while driving or swimming.
- Developing a tolerance
- Showing withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, or tremors
It occurs when the amount of alcohol in your blood rises. While the level of alcohol increases, the more impaired you will become. Alcohol use causes behavioral problems and mood swings. You show inappropriate behavior, unstable mood, impaired judgment, slurred speech, problems with attention or memory, and poor coordination. Moreover, you may experience memory lapses called “blackouts”. Also, too much alcohol in the blood can cause you to fall into a coma or even death.
If you have been drinking heavily for a time and you reduce the amount or stop altogether, you experience withdrawal symptoms. They can start to manifest in a few hours or 4-5 days. You may experience problems such as sweating, rapid heartbeat, tremors, sleep problems, nausea, and vomiting. Also, hallucinations, restlessness and agitation, anxiety, and occasional seizures may occur. These symptoms can be so serious that they interfere with your ability to function at work or in social situations.
Getting Help or Arranging an Intervention
If you think you drink too much alcohol, or if your family is worried about your drinking, you should seek help. You can go to your doctor, get psychiatric help, or seek help from support groups. Such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
If you are worried about a loved one drinking too much, you can help by arranging an intervention. Also, denial is pretty common in people with alcohol problems. Through intervention, you can convince the person you care about to accept their problem and seek treatment. Moreover, you should learn how to approach him or her by getting professional help.
Genetic, psychological, and environmental factors influence the way alcohol affects your health and behavior. Over time, excessive drinking causes functional changes in certain areas of your brain. Also, these areas are related to your brain’s ability to experience pleasure, reasoning, and control over your behavior. As a result, you drink alcohol to feel good or to get rid of negative thoughts.
Alcohol addiction can begin at any age. But it happens more often in the 20s and 30s:
- Steady drinking over time
- Starting at an early age
- Family history of alcohol abuse
- Depression or other mental health problems
- History of trauma
- Social or cultural factors
In teens, early intervention can prevent a case of future alcohol addiction.
If your child is abusing alcohol, you may see these signs:
- Lack of interest in appearance, activities, and hobbies
- Red eyes, slurred speech, coordination, and memory problems
- Troubles or changes in friendships, such as joining a new circle
- Decrease in grades and problems at school
- Frequent mood swings and overprotective behaviors
To protect your adolescent child from alcohol addiction:
- Set an example for alcohol use.
- Talk openly with your child and take an active part in their life.
- Explain the behavior you expect and its potential consequences
Alcohol depresses the central nervous system. Some people may feel stimulated firstly. However, they also become sedated when they continue to drink. Thus, both safety and health problems arise.
Drinking too much alcohol impairs your judgment. It causes you to make bad decisions. Or, create dangerous situations:
- Vehicle accident or another type of accident, such as drowning
- Relationship issues with family or friends
- Poor performance at school or work
- Risk of committing a violent crime or being a victim of a crime
- Legal, financial, or unemployment problems
- Addiction to other drugs
- Experiencing risky, unprotected sex or sexual abuse, or rape
- Increased risk of suicide
Heavy alcohol use can lead to various diseases and health problems. Some of them may be treatable or manageable. Additionally, alcohol may cause dangerous or chronic health problems that damage your health permanently.
Alcohol addiction can cause increased liver fat, inflammation of your liver. Also, over time, you may have irreversible liver damage (cirrhosis).
Alcohol abuse can cause inflammation of you to have gastritis or ulcers. It can also impair the absorption of nutrients, especially vitamin B. Finally, it can damage your pancreas.
Drinking excessively raises your blood pressure. Thus, you risk heart enlargement, heart failure, or stroke. Even if you do a single binge, you may experience a serious heart arrhythmia.
Alcohol disrupts the release of glucose in your liver. Also, it increases the risk of low blood sugar. This situation becomes dangerous if you have diabetes.
Sexual Function and Menstruation Problems
Consuming excessive alcohol can cause sexual impotence in men. Also, it can disrupt menstruation in women.
Alcohol addiction can cause your eyes to move involuntarily. Also, it may weaken or paralyze your eye muscles. Because alcohol intake causes vitamin B-1 deficiency.
Drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause you to have a miscarriage or fetal alcohol syndrome. As a result, your child may have to struggle with physical and developmental problems for life.
Alcohol impairs the production of new bone. It increases the risk of bone thinning and fractures. Also, it can damage your bone marrow that produces blood cells. Thus, you may experience bleeding or injury due to low platelet count.
Heavy drinking cause pain or numbness in your hands and feet. Your may experience disorganized thinking, dementia, and short-term memory loss.
Weakening the Immune System
Alcohol use makes you become more open to many diseases, especially pneumonia.
Increased Risk of Cancer
A long-term alcohol addiction increases the risk of various cancer types. Such as mouth, throat, liver, esophagus, colon, and breast cancers. The risk of breast cancer increases even with a mild drinking problem.
Medication and Alcohol Interaction
Medication can be dangerous with alcohol. Alcohol can unleash the toxic effects of the drug or neutralize its effects.
Alcohol Addiction Treatments
Treatment for alcohol addiction depends on your personal needs and the level of your addiction. The main goal of treatment is to stop your drinking and improve your quality of life.
Alcohol addiction treatment may include:
Detox and Withdrawal
Your treatment may begin with detox. Generally, it takes 2-7 days. You may need sedation to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Your doctors apply detox in the hospital or inpatient treatment center.
Coping Skills and Creating a Treatment Plan
You learn goal setting or behavior-changing techniques. This includes self-help manual use and psychiatric counseling. Also, doctors plan follow-up treatment.
Personal or group therapies can help you better understand your alcohol problem. Thus, you can spend the healing process more comfortably. Also, you can also benefit from family or couples therapy.
Disulfiram will not cure your addiction or take away your urge to drink. However, it may prevent you from drinking. You should not drink alcohol with this medicine. Because, you experience nausea, vomiting, flushing, or headache.
Naltrexone blocks the good feelings of alcohol. It may prevent you from drinking too much or reduce your urge to drink.
Acamprosate suppresses your urge to drink alcohol when you stop drinking.
Naltrexone and acamprosate, unlike disulfiram, do not make you sick when you drink alcohol.
Your doctor injects Vivitrol once a month. This can be helpful if you have a phobia of swallowing. Also, this may be suitable for you if you forget to take your pills often.
In addition to stopping to drink, support groups can help you cope with relapse prevention. Also, you adjust to the necessary lifestyle changes more comfortably. Remember, alcohol addiction may bother you even if you have the necessary treatment. Getting support for relapse prevention is critical.
Alcohol addiction often occurs with other mental problems. If you have depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems, you may need psychotherapy or medication.
When you stop drinking, many diseases associated with alcohol dependence improve. However, some of your health problems may require follow-up treatment.
Residential Treatment Programs
It is applied for severe cases of alcohol addiction. Most residential treatment programs include personal and group therapy, support groups, educational classes, and family therapy. Moreover, you may find activities in these places such as art therapy, role-playing games, or Botanics.
Alcohol is the most common drug that disrupts the lives of people and their loved ones. Whether it is legal or the social icebreaker does not change anything. It can cause you serious health problems, public humiliation, and even life-threatening harm to your loved ones. Therefore, you should seek help as soon as possible.
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