Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Symptoms and Treatment Options

Alcohol is a psychoactive drink that has been enjoyed by many cultures for years. It has its positives when taken in moderation, and plenty of negatives when consumed without limits. Excessive consumption of alcohol is known as alcohol abuse, and it significantly increases the social, economic and health burden in many societies.

Besides hurting the user, alcohol abuse can harm other individuals, including family members, co-workers, or even strangers.

Globally, alcohol abuse accounts for about 3 million deaths yearly. It also results in millions of cases of poor health and disabilities. About 5.1% of the global disease burden is due to alcohol abuse.

What is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction is a health condition that can simply be described as over-dependence on alcohol for normal function. It leads to negative emotions, cravings, impulsive behaviors and withdrawal symptoms. It’s characterized by an uncontrolled craving for alcohol and compulsive behavior that’s harmful and difficult to control.

In the initial period, consuming alcohol is a willful decision, but when addiction sets in, you lose voluntary control. You can’t resist the urge to drink. It’s the effect of alcohol on the brain that causes addiction.

What is Alcohol Abuse?

Many phrases are used to refer to alcohol abuse. For example, you must have heard of “substance abuse, alcohol dependence, and addiction.” Although most individuals use these terms interchangeably, they have different meanings.

Substance abuse refers to the uncontrolled use of drugs or alcohol despite their health, social, legal, and financial repercussions. It’s different from addiction since, in the former case, it’s a deliberate choice, while in the latter, you’ve entirely lost self-control.

In the case of dependence, you’re physically reliant on the substance. Your body develops a tolerance to alcohol, and you need more quantities to get to your original high. At this stage, if you opt to stop taking alcohol, the likelihood of suffering withdrawal symptoms is high.

Health Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Excessive consumption of alcohol is linked to over 200 diseases. It leads to an increased risk of developing health conditions such as behavioral and mental disorders, non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular illnesses, various forms of cancer, liver cirrhosis, and injuries resulting from collisions, violence and road accidents.

In recent years, alcoholism has been linked to the rise of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. It can also lead to pre-term births and fetal alcohol syndrome in expectant mothers.

Binge Drinking

According to the CDC, binge drinking is one of the most popular forms of excessive drinking. Binge drinking is taking five drinks or more for men on a single occasion and four or more drinks in about 2 hours for women.

A majority of binge drinkers may not be alcohol dependent. Unfortunately, if you’re a binge drinker, your risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, cancer, memory loss, and alcohol poisoning is higher.

What Makes Alcohol Addictive?

Research has established that alcohol interacts with gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. The receptors further stimulate opioid receptors in the brain leading to the release of chemicals known as endorphins.

Endorphins are what cause the euphoria and pleasure associated with alcohol. This feeling fuels the demand for the substance and continuous craving, resulting in addiction.

How to Diagnose Alcohol Abuse

Health providers use several diagnostic criteria to establish if one is an alcohol addict. They usually avoid direct questions to prevent denial.

For example, a doctor will not ask you how many bottles you consume in a day. Instead, they will ask you questions related to your drinking habits. A doctor can conclude you’re addicted to alcohol:

  • If your drinking habit affects your duties at home, school or work
  • If you have constant conflicts with family members
  • If the addiction causes you to have legal issues
  • If you can’t stop drinking willfully
  • If you’re ever in need of more alcohol to gratify your desire
  • If alcohol consumption can expose you to accident risks
  • You get annoyed if anyone criticizes your drinking habits
  • If the habit is interfering with your relationships
  • If your hands are continually shaking
  • If you experience memory lapses or blackouts after drinking alcohol

Alcohol Addiction Treatment & Recovery

Most individuals with a drinking problem are put on rehab. This is an outpatient or inpatient program to help you deal with the addiction. An inpatient program can take 30 days to 12 months, depending on the severity of your problem.

During the rehabilitation process, the therapists will assist you in coping with emotional challenges and withdrawal symptoms. With outpatient programs, you receive support while living in your home.

Treating alcohol addiction can be challenging, and the therapist mainly relies on your willingness to overcome the problem. You must have a strong desire to get better, and the treatment plan typically involves several specialists.

The method a doctor or therapist may apply to treat alcohol addiction varies. It mostly depends on your needs. For example, they may opt for group or individual counseling, a brief intervention, a residential inpatient program, or an outpatient program.

The primary goal of the treatment plan is to end alcohol use and improve your quality of life. If you want the best outcome from the selected program, you must recognize you have a problem, and you require help.

Detoxification and Other Treatments

Although the therapist can choose any method to treat your condition, detoxification is usually mandatory for all individuals struggling with alcoholism.

Detoxification involves flushing all traces of alcohol from your body and ensuring you can survive without the substance. This process may be accompanied by alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol addiction treatment may also involve psychological and psychosocial interventions. Typically, this requires counseling to help you comprehend you have a problem and assist you in changing your approach to alcohol.

The doctor can also opt for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy helps you to overcome any negative thoughts that can cause you to drink. They may also consider mutual help. In this case, they’ll link advice you to join a support group to help you overcome the addiction problem.

If your addiction problem is severe, the doctor may prescribe some medications. This is mostly done to limit the probability of relapse or to help you minimize your drinking.

Other therapies that the doctor can choose include:

  • Nutritional changes
  • Spiritual intervention
  • Treating other underlying health problems

Alcohol Addiction Recovery

The recovery process for alcohol addiction is a lifetime obligation. There’s no shortcut. You must work hard daily to overcome addiction.

Although alcoholism is believed to be an incurable condition, you can quit drinking. Your therapists, family members, and friends can be of significant value in helping you overcome this problem.

Although most individuals with alcohol addiction problems follow through rehabilitation programs successfully, they must remain committed to maintaining sobriety even after the rehabilitation process. It’s recommended that you join support groups to minimize the chances of relapse.

Do You Need Help to Overcome Alcohol Addiction?

If you feel you require help to overcome your alcohol addiction problem, speak to us today, and we’ll be delighted to help you. We have qualified and experienced therapists to take you through the treatment and recovery process. Our facility is also registered and certified by the relevant authorities. Call our 24/7 hotline now!

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