Intro on Alcoholism
Alcohol is a dangerous drug because it’s incredibly accessible, socially acceptable, and its prevalence in the young adult, and even the teenage community. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, over 15 million adults suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), and “less than 10% of them receive any treatment.” (www.niaaa.nih.gov)
Because alcohol does not carry the same stigma as heroin, amphetamines, or other hard street drugs, people who abuse alcohol are less inclined to seek treatment. A diagnosis for AUD is somewhat discretionary, and often addicts can live and function with the disease until the damage is irreversible.
The prevalence of alcoholism in our society has led alcohol to be the “most commonly used addictive substance
in the United States.” Expecting to cease the consumption of alcohol in the United States is unrealistic.
Instead, we’d like to educate the public on the long-term effects of alcoholism and do our best to prevent both regular heavy drinking and binge drinking.
Signs of Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction is one of the most common substance use disorders. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, “17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence “ (www.ncadd.org)
These warning signs can indicate that you or a loved one may suffer from alcohol addiction or dependence. If you:
- Are unable to cut yourself off after a few drinks
- Have tried to quit drinking in the past but couldn’t
- Continue to drink even if it hinders your relationships with loved ones
- Always think about when you will have your next drink
- Often wake up without memory of what happened the night before
- Notice withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, shaky hands, or sweating when a buzz starts to wear off
- Engage in binge drinking
Treating alcohol addiction requires an understanding of the nuanced differences between alcohol dependence, and harmful drinking.
According to the World Health Organization, “Alcohol dependence affects a small but
significant proportion of the adult population in many countries (3%-5% in industrialized nations), but hazardous and harmful drinking generally affect a much larger portion of the population (15%-40%).”
The effectiveness of an intervention and the level of professional and medical treatment needed can vary depending on the patient’s unique habit.
It’s often hard for someone to tell they’ve become addicted when he or she is busy functioning through life and have incorporated his or her addictive habit into a nightly routine. That is why it is vital if these warning signs describe a loved one that you get them help.
Short and Long Term Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol has a plethora of direct and indirect effects that can be extremely dangerous. Drinking alcohol leads to overall impaired judgement, and many bad decisions can follow such as drunk driving, violent outbursts, mixing of drugs and alcohol, and even sexual assault.
People often experience an elevated mood when they first begin drinking. The boost in short-term confidence and a drop in awareness can lure people into heavy drinking.
As the drinker’s blood alcohol content (BAC) continues to rise, they will start to experience a lack of motor functions, loss of memory, and blurred vision.
If the drinking continues, vomiting, complete unconsciousness, slowing down of body functions, and amnesia can all take place. In severe cases, death can occur. According to the CDC, 6
people die every day on average from alcohol poisoning.
Over the long-term, excessive alcohol consumption can negatively impact your heart, liver, your brain, and other organs. Often the damage caused by drinking is slow and steady, going unnoticed over many years.
By the time the damage is detected, it’s often irreversible and can lead to increased risk of developing heart disease, liver disease, pancreatitis, or alcohol dependence. The health and human impact of excessive drinking cannot be overstated.
As it pertains to womens health effects, consumption of alcohol when pregnant presents an increased risk of health complications for the fetus. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) refers to a “group of disorders caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol”. (https://store.samhsa.gov)
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “the possibility of an FASD is created any time a woman consumes alcohol while pregnant.” There is no safe amount of alcohol to consume when pregnant.
On top of everything else, there are scientific studies that link alcohol consumption and risk of cancer. The National Cancer Institute definitively lists alcohol consumption as a risk factor increasing the chance of contracting six different types of cancer.
- Mouth Cancer
- Liver Cancer
- Breast Cancer
- Throat Cancer
- Larynx Cancer
- Esophagus Cancer
Beyond the physical effects of alcohol on the body, the numbers correlating crime and consumption of alcohol are alarming. All in all there is a broad range of dangerous long-term effects, short term risks, and a prevalence of alcohol involved in tragic situations.
Special attention for anxiety and alcohol help
One dangerous combination for alcoholics is anxiety and other mental health issues.
Anxiety, for example is a mental health issue that causes the brain to produce too much adrenaline in certain situations, creating a fear or panic response.
For many sufferers of anxiety, alcohol is a crutch that is used to self medicate and dull the effects of anxiety.
This may require a more comprehensive dual diagnosis program.
When mental health and chemical dependency interact in this way, breaking the addiction can be doubly difficult.
Not only may the patient be physically dependent on the substance, but they may be mentally and emotionally dependent as well.
If being sober means suffering from panic attacks, an anxiety sufferer is much more likely to return to drinking as a way to cope.
For this reason, sufferers of anxiety or other mental health issues who also suffer from alcoholism need to receive extensive treatment for their mental health issues in order to be successful in fighting alcoholism.
Anxiety, depression, bipolar, and other issues greatly increase the chances of developing alcoholism, as well as the recidivism rate for those who have completed a rehabilitation program.
Get help for your loved one’s alcohol dependence
If your loved one suffers from alcoholism, it can be a crushing thing.
The important thing to remember is that they are suffering from a disease.
While alcoholism can cause behavior that is distressing, it is important to remember that first and foremost, alcoholics need help.
Instead of chastising and trying to shame an alcoholic into sobering up, the most important thing is to get them enrolled in a comprehensive recovery program.
Simply taking away the bottle or ordering them to stop drinking will not be sufficient, and getting angry may only make the problem worse.
If your loved one is an alcoholic, your primary goal should be to get them into treatment as quickly as possible.
Alcohol Help for Young Adults
Alcoholism is especially crushing when it happens to someone young.
Often, young adults who have easy access to alcohol for the first time in their lives find out the hard way that they have an addictive personality.
Alcoholism develops when someone susceptible to chemical addiction starts drinking regularly, and gradually finds that they cannot stop.
For this reason, college students and even high school students are very susceptible to alcoholism.
Especially at college, parties with alcohol are common, and it can often seem like it is required to drink regularly in order to have a social life.
A few months of drinking a couple times a week is plenty of time for alcoholism to set in, after which it can be very difficult to recover.
If you are or know a young adult who has a drinking problem, remember that alcoholism is not just a problem for older people.
Anyone who drinks can become an alcoholic, and anyone who develops this addiction needs help.
There are alcohol help programs out there just for young adults that can help with this illness.
Support For Overcoming Alcoholism
Many people find that support from their peers is a great tool for overcoming alcohol dependence. Where they get this support from can vary from one person to another.
Family and friends are always a great source of support, but for some people, those family and friends are the same people who encourage their drinking.
Attending an inpatient or outpatient rehab program will provide a person with a number of peer support opportunities.
Group therapy sessions will help people connect with peers who are going through similar problems. They may exchange information and remain in contact even after leaving the facility.
Another source of peer support is Alcoholics’ Anonymous(AA) meetings.
These are groups specifically designed for alcoholics overcoming their addiction or who have already overcome the addiction but are working to maintain sobriety for the long term.
AA groups encourage members to share their stories and to support one another while learning about the 12-steps of overcoming alcohol addiction.
Professional Treatment Centers
The first resource and easily the most effective is rehab. Rehabilitation centers are available in just about every city in the country.
In most cases, a person will have a choice between several different rehab centers in their local area.
This will provide them with an opportunity to research the different facilities and choose one that best suits their individual needs.
Rehab facilities offer programs that fall into one of two categories. The first is an inpatient program and the second is an outpatient program. Each of these options has its own advantages and disadvantages.
No program is absolutely perfect and someone considering a rehab program will need to choose between these two options.
Counseling Resources For Alcohol And Drug Abuse
Counseling is available from a number of sources. A client will receive a lot of counseling while attending an inpatient facility.
They may continue to receive that counseling even after the program has ended. Many rehab facilities offer aftercare addiction resources.
One of those aftercare resources is continued individual, group, or family therapy sessions.
A person may also seek counseling of their own accord.
Many professional therapists are trained and have experience dealing with substance abuse problems.
Continued counseling, even long after giving up alcohol, is highly recommended. This type of resource greatly reduces the risk of a relapse later in life.
Alcohol Addiction Resources For Parents And During Pregnancy
Overcoming alcohol addiction because of a sudden pregnancy can be extremely difficult, yet it is absolutely necessary for the health of the child. If someone is pregnant or has already had a child, then overcoming this addiction should be their first priority.
There are a number of informational articles, websites, and support groups for these situations.
Pregnant women will often receive free or discounted services from certain rehabilitation programs as well.
All of the alcohol addiction resources previously mentioned in this article are applicable to parents and during pregnancy as well.
Meditation and Yoga Practice in Alcohol Recovery
Many people turn to alcohol because they are stressed and struggling with the challenges of day to day life.
For those people, turning to something to help them with mindfulness and to control stress is often a good idea.
Meditation can help people to cope with alcoholism. In fact, Alcoholics Anonymous recommends daily meditation as one of the steps to sobriety.
Yoga is a form of meditative movement that helps with mindfulness and also helps because it releases endorphins which can help people to feel better in general.
Many people find that the act of de-stressing when meditating can be invaluable for keeping up their willpower when they are faced with challenges and the urge to drink.
Online Alcohol Recovery Resources: Hotline, Chat Rooms and Websites
Some people find that they deal with alcoholism a lot better if they have someone that they can talk to and someone that will be their accountability buddy, whether that is a person that they know in real life, or someone that they talk to online or over the phone.
There are many alcohol recovery resources for people who are struggling with the condition, including:
Drug and Alcohol Abuse Hotline (open 24 hours a day)
Alcohol Hotline (open 24 hours a day) 800-331-2900
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration(open 23 hours a day) 80-662-HELP
Forums offer people who are struggling with drugs and alcohol a chance to ask for help and advice, read resources, and talk at their own pace.
Some people struggle with talking on the phone and find forums better as alcohol recovery resources because they are a little stressful in terms of having a slower pace.
Some useful forums include:
AAChats.org is a chat room that is intended for people who are dealing with alcohol, you can find It at:
What makes this group particularly beneficial is that it is open only to people who are struggling with alcoholism, it is not for family members and friends. This makes it a private, safe space.
Family members and friends of alcoholics who are looking for support can visit al-anon.org.
Healthfulchat.org is another chat group that is aimed at people who are struggling with drugs and alcohol.
This chat group is open to men and women who are looking for support.
These alcohol recovery resources are just a few of the most common ones that are available to people. Ask your family doctor for more advice.
Awareness: Information For Alcohol Prevention In The Community
Many communities work together to help their citizens overcome alcohol addiction as well as to prevent their youth from succumbing to the pressures.
They do this by providing information on local websites.
These may be local government websites or websites created by organizations in the local community.
They often link to resources, such as books, contact information, and meeting times for local AA groups.
For help with alcoholism, try the following resources:
The most famous resource for alcoholics, AA will help alcohol suffers get connected with the right resources for recovery.
AA meets in person around the world, and is the most famous alcohol recovery solution.
For Alcoholics who are turned off by the religious connotations of AA, SOS is an alternative offering a secular approach to addiction recovery. SOS meetings take place across the country as well as online.
Women for Sobriety is an organization specifically designed to help female sufferers of alcoholism.
Since AA and other organizations have a disproportionate number of male members, women who are victims of abuse by men often feel more comfortable attending meetings with other women who suffer from alcoholism.
Women for Sobriety meet across the country and have a number of online resources for the women they serve.