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Alcoholism: Symptoms, Causes, Effects, and Treatments

According to peer-reviewed studies, alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States: 17.6 million Americans, one in every 12 people, have an alcoholic diagnosis, and millions more engage in dangerous and unhealthy behaviors such as binge drinking, which can lead to an alcohol use disorder.

Unfortunately, alcohol abuse negatively affects not only the person who is abusing alcohol but also their friends, family, and even children. The mainstream media typically downplays the risks associated with alcohol abuse and instead promotes it as socially acceptable behavior, which can skew the definition of alcoholism.

Although there is a clear line between having a drinking problem and an alcohol addiction, both are unhealthy behaviors that cause problems in personal relationships and emotional well-being, work, finances, family, and other aspects of an individual’s life.

Treatment Services

Are you looking for alcoholism treatment for yourself or a loved one who is battling alcoholism? Do you suspect that your spouse, child, relative, or close friend is an alcoholic? People who are ready to address their substance use disorder might benefit from alcohol treatment.

When researching the many alcoholism treatment options, you’ll discover that there are multiple levels of care available. A medical doctor, substance abuse therapist, or counselor should assist you and your loved one to choose the right treatment for you.

An alcohol addiction treatment facility usually offers the following alcoholism treatment services:

  • Partial hospitalization program
  • Intensive outpatient program
  • Outpatient treatment
  • Inpatient treatment
  • Medical detox
  • Therapies
The five stages of alcohol addiction

Symptoms of Alcoholism

If you think that you or any of your family members are abusing alcohol, keep an eye out for warning signs. Some symptoms of alcoholism are obvious, while others are subtle. Take a look at common signs and consider whether any of those signs relate to your loved one. If that’s the case, it may be a time to have a conversation about alcohol addiction treatment options.

Physical Symptoms

It’s easy to detect whether someone has been drinking, but if they have a serious alcohol dependence, they’ll require higher amounts of alcohol before showing the obvious signs of alcoholism. Those with long-standing alcohol addiction may be able to consume several alcoholic drinks before becoming intoxicated.

  • Hangovers
  • Weakened immune system
  • Blurry vision
  • Liver damage, including cirrhosis of the liver
  • Slow reaction times
  • Brain damage, particularly among adolescents
  • Poor coordination or inability to walk properly
  • Increased risk of cancers
  • Dementia
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of heart attack or stroke
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Slurred speech
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Seizures

Behavioral Symptoms

Those who are addicted to alcohol exhibit particular behaviors while intoxicated. Alcohol addicts behave differently as they attempt to hide their drinking from loved ones.

  • Not engaging in activities they once enjoyed
  • Legal problems
  • Secretiveness
  • Risk-taking
  • Belligerent or aggressive behavior
  • Drinking before socializing
  • Drinking at unusual times, such as in the morning
  • Denying they have a problem with alcohol
  • Driving recklessly
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Problems in relationships, work, or school
  • Having risky sex

Mental and Emotional Symptoms

Various parts of the brain are changed and damaged by alcohol abuse, including the dopamine receptors (or feel-good chemicals). It can inflict damage to such an extent that children of alcohol addicts are more likely to develop alcoholism. This shows just how damaging alcohol addiction’s long-term effects are.

  • Blackouts
  • Shorter attention span
  • Anxiety
  • Anger and irritability
  • Impaired judgment
  • Depression
  • Memory impairments
  • Building up a tolerance for alcohol
  • Needing to drink to prevent withdrawal symptoms
  • Cravings

When to Seek Treatment…

There are several ways to identify if you or a loved one has a drinking problem. If you notice any of the following signs, you should get help from medical professionals.

  • You have developed a tolerance to alcohol.
  • You drink alcohol to cope with anxiety and stress.
  • You both, mentally and physically, declining,
  • Your withdrawal symptoms make you drink again and again.
  • You have tried to quit drinking but failed,
  • Your relationship with family, friends, children, and coworkers are negatively impacted.
  • You are secretive about your alcohol usage.
  • You are noticing distinct mood swings.
  • You are no longer interested in the activities that you once enjoyed doing.

If you are not sure about what to do, then an important first step may be to get in touch with health care providers at The Haven. Contact us at (561) 328-8627.

If a Loved One Needs Help…

It’s difficult to talk to a loved one about their drinking. You may be worried that bringing up your concerns would cause the individual to become angry, defensive, lash out, or just deny that they have a problem. In fact, all of these are common reactions. However, this is not an excuse to remain silent. Your loved one’s drinking is unlikely to get better on its own; rather, it is likely to worsen until you intervene.

Here are a few essential steps that you can take to help your loved one recognize their drinking problem and seek professional addiction treatment.

  • Learn about alcoholism
  • Engage in careful conversation
  • Do not criticize or blame
  • Offer your support
  • Avoid enablement
  • Find the alcohol addiction treatment program

After your loved one seeks professional help, they would require additional help to stay sober after leaving the rehab center. Here is what you can do to keep them on track to recovery:

  • Encourage a healthy routine
  • Avoid bringing alcoholic drinks into the home
  • Be mindful of relapse
  • Attend therapy sessions and support group meetings
  • Help them discover healthier ways to cope with anxiety and stress

If your loved one has accepted that they have a drinking problem and are ready to enroll in an addiction treatment program, then The Haven can help. We offer a comprehensive range of alcohol addiction treatment services and aim for our patients to get and stay sober. Contact us at (561) 328-8627.

addiction is a disease that has multiple causal factors

Causes of Alcoholism

While there is no specific formula for depicting a person’s drinking habits, studies show that a number of factors impact alcohol addiction. Alcoholism is a disease that has no bounds and may affect anybody, regardless of age, gender, race, physical shape, or personal convictions.

There are a variety of potential causes of alcoholism. These include:

Genetics

Many studies have found that no one factor has a greater influence on whether or not a person becomes an alcoholic than that person’s genes. Biological children of alcoholics, whether raised by alcoholics or non-alcoholics, are much more likely to become alcoholics. Similarly, non-biological children of alcoholics raised by alcoholics have a lower risk of becoming alcoholics than biological children raised by alcoholics.

Psychological Factors

Certain psychological conditions have a significant impact on the chance of developing alcoholism. For example, individuals suffering from depression, bipolar illness, and social anxiety are considerably more prone to develop alcoholism. More than 40 percent of bipolar patients abuse or are addicted to alcohol, while around 20 percent of depression patients abuse or are addicted to alcohol.

Many people suffering from psychiatric problems resort to alcohol to help them cope. Some people with schizophrenia believe that alcohol “quietens” the voices in their heads, while others with depression claim that alcohol improves their mood. This is common in those who have not been diagnosed or discovered that their medication has unpleasant side effects. Furthermore, many psychiatric disorders impair a person’s ability to understand the reality of their drinking or recognize risks and warning signs.

Environmental Factors

The environment in which someone lives has an impact on alcoholism. Alcohol is substantially harder and more expensive to get in some states than in others. Individuals are less prone to develop alcoholism when they have limited access to alcohol. The more common alcohol in an environment, the more likely an individual is to develop an alcohol addiction problem. Family wealth is also important. Individuals with greater familial wealth are significantly more prone to drink alcohol excessively and develop alcohol use disorders. In the United States, 78 percent of people with an annual household income of $75,000 drink, whereas only 45 percent of people with an annual household income of less than $30,000 drink.

Social Factors

Social factors can impact drinking attitudes. Your culture, religion, family, and job influence many of your actions, including drinking. The family has the biggest role in an individual’s chance of developing alcoholism. Those children who are exposed to alcohol abuse at a young age are more likely to develop a risky drinking pattern.

Beginning college or a new career might also increase your susceptibility to drinking. You’re hoping to meet new friends and develop relationships with your peers during this period. The urge to be liked and fit in may lead you to engage in things you would not ordinarily engage in. Before you know it, you’re going to every happy hour, drinking more regularly, and even craving alcohol after a long, tough day at work – all of which are warning signs of alcohol use disorder (AUD).

family speaking to a therapist

Risk Factors of Alcoholism

Learning about some of the most common risk factors might help you find out whether you or a family member has a drinking problem and needs help. Some of the most well-known risk factors for alcoholism are as follows:

Family History

Having a close family member with alcoholism, such as a parent, sibling, or other close relatives, can increase your chances of developing a drinking problem yourself. This is due to the effect of a person’s environment as well as genetics. According to genetic research on alcoholism, people with specific genes may react differently to alcohol and be more vulnerable to its effects. Furthermore, living with someone who abuses alcohol or drinks excessively might also have a significant impact.

High-Stress Level

Many mental health issues, including alcohol use and addiction, are associated with stress. High levels of stress related to school, work, or relationships are some of the most common types of stress linked to alcoholism. Although drinking to relieve stress may appear to be common, it can become an addictive behavior for others. If an individual is unwilling or feels unable to go a day or longer without alcohol, this may indicate that he or she is suffering from addiction.

Mental Health Problems

According to a study on people who have been diagnosed with alcoholism, having other mental health disorders is a substantial risk factor for developing a drinking problem. Depression, anxiety disorders, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, and many other mental health conditions have been linked to higher rates of alcoholism.

Frequent Drinking

Most people who drink moderately are unlikely to develop an AUD. However, if you or a loved one drinks more often than is medically recommended, the chances of experiencing harmful health outcomes increase. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), people who are more likely to develop alcoholism include:

men who consume five or more alcoholic drinks a day, or more than fourteen per week

women who consume four or more alcoholic drinks a day, or more than seven per week

Mixing Alcohol with Other Drugs

Drinking alcohol to boost or calm down the high from other drugs such as prescription opioids, benzodiazepines, or cocaine is a type of polysubstance usage that can raise the chance of developing a serious drinking problem. Without taking proper care, mixing alcohol with other drugs, especially ones recommended by a doctor, can have severe health consequences. For example, mixing alcohol with opioids or even drugs for depression or anxiety might result in undesirable side effects such as increased drowsiness, respiratory depression, and memory blackouts.

85.6 percent of people aged 18 adn older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime

Effects of Alcoholism

Alcohol is the most commonly used drug in the United States. Heavy drinking can take a toll on a person’s physical and mental health, as well as social life.

Physical Effects of Alcohol

Over time, heavy alcohol consumption can lead to a variety of health conditions, including:

  • Obesity
  • Heart damage
  • Compromised immune system
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Stroke
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Malnutrition
  • Cancer of the mouth, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast

Mental Effects of Alcohol

Long-term alcohol abuse can impose various negative effects on the brain, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased attention span
  • Trouble with balance
  • Korsakoff’s psychosis (“wet brain”)
  • Overdose
  • Nerve damage
  • Wernicke’s encephalopathy
  • Dementia
  • Difficulty forming thoughts
  • Coma

Social Effects of Alcohol

There are many social effects of alcohol on an addict’s life. These include problems at work, school, family, and in relationships.

  • Home problems (abusive and violent behavior, arguments with family members)
  • School problems (poor grades, skipping classes, short attendance)
  • Work problems (poor work performance, showing up late at work, arguments with coworkers)
  • Relationship problems (no trust, neglecting responsibilities)
  • Legal problems (public intoxication, physical fights, domestic violence)
insurance detox and rehab

Get Help

If you’re suffering from alcoholism, getting help as early as possible is essential. Alcoholism is a severe illness that can lead to many problems. Getting help as early as possible can significantly improve your chances of recovery. Call us to get started with treatment.

Our resources are available to help you overcome your drinking habits, including Alcoholics Anonymous, among other evidence-based therapies and innovative treatments proven by medical science to effectively manage AUD (alcohol use disorder). Our admissions counselors can help you learn more about the disease and how to keep it out of your life. Contact us confidentially today.

smiling female doctor

Treatment of Alcoholism

Although there is no cure for alcohol use disorders at the moment, AUDs can be successfully controlled and treated. Professional treatment at an alcohol treatment center like The Haven can help people suffering from AUDs to recover from their alcohol abuse issues and stay sober. If you or someone you care about is suffering from an AUD, you will most likely benefit from treatment.

If you’re seeking professional treatment for problematic alcohol use, you have several options available, including detoxification, inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, behavioral therapies, medication, and peer support groups.

Medical Detox

Detox is an important initial step toward recovery from an AUD, but it is rarely sufficient to help a person achieve long-term sobriety. Detoxification is a collection of helpful interventions aimed to assist someone in withdrawing from alcohol safely and pleasantly, allowing them to transition into a formal and often longer-term treatment program.

A primary care physician will need to perform a comprehensive medical assessment of a patient’s experience with alcohol abuse, previous withdrawal experiences (if any), and medical history before admitting them to a detoxification clinic in order to determine their withdrawal risk. As a part of this assessment, patients may also undergo blood testing and screening for the existence of any co-occurring physical or mental health issues.

During the detox process, patients may be given medications to help them withdraw from alcohol safely throughout the detox procedure. Among these medications may include:

  • Benzodiazepines (like diazepam, chlordiazepoxide, oxazepam, or lorazepam)
  • Anticonvulsants (like carbamazepine, gabapentin, or topiramate)
  • Antipsychotics (like haloperidol)

After detox, a patient may enter a suitable substance abuse treatment program. Following detoxification and withdrawal management, a patient may undergo inpatient or outpatient treatment for an AUD, depending on the level of their addiction, their level of social support at home, and other factors. However, inpatient care is considered the most effective form of treatment.

woman speaking to a therapist about alcohol detox
woman standing in front of group therapy

Inpatient or Residential Rehab

Inpatient or residential AUD treatment involves patients living and residing in the rehabilitation center 24/7. The duration of inpatient alcohol treatment can vary, often consisting of brief stays of 3-6 weeks that may or may not be followed by attendance at an outpatient rehab. Some patients require extended stays of 6-12 months at therapeutic communities (TCs), which provide highly structured programming and aid with community reintegration.

Inpatient and residential rehab stays are advantageous because they remove a person from environments and distractions where they may be surrounded by such people, places, or events that can easily trigger an alcoholic relapse. It allows recovering addicts to focus solely on their recovery and develop the necessary coping skills to live a sober life. Here, patients are also given round-the-clock care and monitoring, which aids in the treatment of any post-acute withdrawal symptoms and provides essential support.

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies provide a regulated, nonjudgmental setting in which the patient may share their challenges and concerns. The essence of behavioral therapies is discussing these issues. Even if a patient is able to overcome their physical reliance on alcohol, they may still have a psychological void that alcohol fills.

These underlying issues must be addressed before the patient may be reintegrated into society. It may be accomplished through individual sessions between a therapist and the patient, group therapy, or both.

A therapist can use a range of psychotherapies to help patients in alcohol addiction recovery. The most commonly used therapies are as follows:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Motivational enhancement therapy (MET)
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
patients receiving therapy

The Haven Detox Can Help You Get and Stay Sober

If you are having a difficult time overcoming your alcohol addiction despite your best efforts, it is necessary to seek medical help from the best treatment center, such as The Haven Detox. Our medical detox and inpatient treatment options are available to you. Our medical specialists want to help those who are battling substance abuse or mental health concerns.

Contact our team of health care experts at (561) 328-8627 for additional information on how we can assist you.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does alcohol addiction affect family life?

Abuse is one of the most significant ways that alcohol addiction affects the entire family. No matter whether the abuse is emotional, physical, or sexual, the risk increases. There is a good chance that family members will encounter violence at the hands of an alcoholic.
An addict’s relationships with family members are usually strained. This results in damaged relationships and broken families.
Another effect of alcoholism on the family unit is the potential of another family member developing alcohol addiction. Children who grow up in a substance-abusing family are more likely to experiment with drugs.

Is there any way to truly help a family member who has an addiction?

Here are a few useful tips you can follow to help a family member who is struggling with an addiction problem:

Educate Yourself about alcohol addiction

Get Support

Get Counseling

Seek Specialists Help

Don’t Enable

Have Realistic Expectations

Take care of yourself

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