What is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction and alcoholism are essentially one and the same. It is now widely accepted that alcohol addiction is a disease. Like all diseases, alcohol addiction affects all races, social classes, demographics, and genders.

This addiction does not discriminate in who it chooses to plague. Also like other diseases, it’s difficult to pin down one single cause of alcohol addiction. Experts believe alcohol addiction arises from a combination of genetic, environmental, and behavioural factors.

Alcohol addiction, unfortunately, carries the stigma of being a choice, when in reality it is a disease in which the chemistry of the brain is altered. This means that the patient may suffer from withdrawal if alcohol is not taken as well as struggling with other side effects such as anxiety, depression, and behaviour which is impulsive.

Do I Have An Alcohol Addiction?

It can be difficult for us to determine whether our drinking habits have gotten out of control but one of the key signs that you may have developed an addiction is if you have noticed other people commenting on your drinking. If other people seem concerned, it may be time to assess your current situation.

There is an excellent tool known as the CAGE test which can help you to determine whether you have a problem where alcohol consumption is concerned. You should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you considered cutting down on your alcohol intake?
  • Do you ever get annoyed when someone makes a comment about how much you drink?
  • Have you experienced guilt where alcohol is concerned?
  • Has there ever been an instance where you have taken an eye-opener drink – as a way of getting rid of a hangover?

If you answer yes to any of these questions then it could be as likely as 75% that you have an alcohol addiction and that you may require some support to stop.

Looking for more answers?

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How Alcohol Addiction Develops

For many people, a few drinks with friends as a way to wind down from the stresses of the day is a perfectly normal routine, but in some instances, this can be the beginning of alcohol addiction.

In these cases, social drinking will start to become a problem with the person experiencing negative effects on their life as a result of drinking alcohol. These people may also seek out activities or social events where drinking will take place and may begin to develop a tolerance meaning that they require more alcohol to gain the same effect.

A person with developing alcohol addiction may attempt to stop but will likely find this difficult and so will find disruption to their lives due to hangovers, for which the person may drink more alcohol in order to feel better.

By the time end-stage alcoholism occurs, a person will no longer have control over their lives, or the amount that they are drinking and serious consequences can occur such as financial issues, problems with relationships, and health issues.

The Difference Between Alcohol Abuse, Addiction And Dependence

Alcoholism, which is a commonly used term spans a broad spectrum and has varying levels of severity, these levels are often confused as being the same thing when in fact, there is a marked difference.

When someone develops a dependence on alcohol, they will feel unable to resist drinking, they may feel as though their cravings are out of control and alcohol may become the main priority in their lives.

As a result of such heavy drinking, the patient will develop a tolerance meaning that their body becomes ‘used to’ alcohol and will subsequently require higher levels to achieve the same effect.

In contrast, a patient who abuses alcohol will notice many negative results of their excessive drinking such as loss of employment or financial difficulties. Despite these effects, the patient will continue to drink.

Those who are addicted to alcohol uncontrollable cravings are experienced and the person will continue to drink regardless of health issues or other negative effects related to their alcohol intake. In addition, the brain changes causing the patient to crave alcohol and experience withdrawal when it is not taken.

1. Alcohol Abuse

There are different severity levels of alcohol abuse, with many people beginning with a few drinks a day which can then build to higher amounts, as this happens the person may begin to become tolerant and drink more and more.

2. Early Alcohol Abuse

During the early stages of alcohol abuse, a person may drink socially and try various types of alcohol. In most cases, people in this category are younger, frequently those experimenting with going to parties and bars for example.

Most interestingly, people who fall under this category may not be consuming alcohol on a daily basis but maybe binge drinking, which refers to less frequent bouts of extremely heavy drinking.

For many people, this early stage will fizzle out and they will go on to lead healthy lives, but for some people, it can become more severe.

3. Problematic Alcohol Abuse

For those who are experiencing problematic alcohol abuse, drinking begins to take over their day to day activities and the person may have begun to drink intentionally, perhaps as a way of dealing with emotional issues or stress.

It is at this point that tolerance to alcohol may begin to develop, meaning that withdrawal becomes much more of a possibility.

4. Severe Alcohol Abuse

One of the most serious and risky levels of alcohol abuse occurs when an individual begins to develop health conditions as a result of their heavy drinking. These could be changed in blood pressure or heart problems, depression, nerve damage, and anaemia amongst others.

It may be surprising to learn that even at this severe stage, many people who abuse alcohol may appear to be living normal lives that do not seem affected by their problems when in reality, alcohol is taking over.

Causes Of Alcohol Addiction

It is thought that your biological makeup could be responsible for alcohol addiction and in 50% of cases, it is down to genetics. When alcohol addiction occurs the brain makes adjustments to cope with this and in turn, you will experience cravings and your judgement may become impaired.

But there are other causes aside from biology which can cause alcohol addiction. There are so many social events at which alcohol is present and for this reason, your social life may be a cause of alcohol addiction especially if you frequently attend events where it is ‘the norm’ to be drinking.

If you have seen others drinking, especially those who are an authority figure in your life such as a parent or family friend, you may be under the false impression that this is perfectly acceptable and safe.

The environment in which you find yourself can play a part in whether or not alcohol addiction, for example, if alcohol is easy to get hold of, you may be more likely to drink more frequently.

Searching for more help?

At Rehab 4 Alcoholism, our team of staff are highly trained in advising you on all things addiction, substance abuse, and recovery. Call us today on 0800 111 41 08.

Understanding Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol is legal in most countries in the world but it is important to understand that it is still a highly addictive substance and can lower your inhibitions and cause you to lose control. There are, of course, many different types of alcohol, and people who began addicted to it may prefer a specific type over others.

1. Beer Addiction And Abuse

Social drinking often revolves around beer but when a person cannot stop at the end of the social event and continues to drink beer, this can be a problem.

It may be easy to develop an addiction to beer with it being available at everything from a sporting event to a birthday party and whilst most beers are of lower alcohol content, there are some which are much higher.

2. Wine Addiction And Abuse

Made from fermented fruit, wine is a popular accompaniment to a meal and is often consumed in a social setting. Many wines have considerably high levels of alcohol but since it is seen socially as a ‘classier’ beverage, many people may believe that addiction is not possible.

There is some evidence that women may become more quickly intoxicated than men when drinking wine but it is important to remember that both men and women can be affected by this addiction.

3. Liquor Addiction And Abuse

When we talk about liquor, we are referring to a group of drinks such as vodka, whiskey, tequila, gin, etc and these beverages can have very high levels of alcohol within them.

Many people will take liquor with a mixer such as lemonade, but by doing this you may become drunk more quickly since carbonation can cause your blood to absorb alcohol much more quickly.

In many cases of severe alcohol abuse, a shot of liquor may be needed to ‘get going’ in the morning or to aid the person to fall asleep at night.

Signs And Symptoms Of Alcohol Addiction

Many people who are addicted to alcohol may attempt to cover up their behaviour and may seem as though they are living a normal life. However, there are certain signs and symptoms that can be a clue that someone is struggling with alcohol addiction.

A person may develop physical and psychological symptoms when consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, the most commonly recognised being tremors or shaking when withdrawing from alcohol. But there are other physical signs that can be observed which include:

  • Sweating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Slurring of the speech
  • Mood swings
  • Being uncoordinated
  • Visual impairment
  • Heart problems
  • Liver disease
  • Cancer
  • Memory loss
  • Nerve damage

In addition to the physical and psychological symptoms, a person struggling with alcohol addiction may also experience social effects. These may be any of the following:

  • Loss of employment
  • Problems with personal relationships
  • Financial struggles
  • Legal troubles
  • Being unnecessarily drunk in social situations

Who Is At Risk Of Alcohol Addiction?

Whilst anyone can develop an addiction to alcohol, there are some people who may be more at risk than others. For example, young people who are facing peer pressure to drink may be more susceptible as well as those suffering from lowered self-esteem, they may see alcohol as a way of giving them more confidence.

One of the most interesting factors is that men are seen to be more likely to become addicted to alcohol than women. In addition to this, children who have been brought up by family members who have struggled with alcohol may be more likely to develop the illness themselves.

Children who have suffered trauma such as abuse may also be more at risk. For people with mental illness, alcohol may be a way to self-medicate and this puts this group of people at higher risk of becoming addicted to alcohol.

Effects And Consequences Of Alcohol Addiction

When alcohol takes over your life, it is no surprise that there is a wealth of negative effects that it can have. Your health will certainly take a hit as alcohol is a toxic substance that is known to cause liver damage and certain cancers.

Alcohol is responsible for as many as 2.1 million deaths throughout the world each year. What’s more, alcohol may cause mental health problems such as anxiety and depression as well as physical conditions such as heart disease and low blood pressure.

The effects of alcohol do not stop at your health, it can give consequences on your social and financial situations as well with many people struggling with addiction losing their job and in turn, finding it difficult to manage household bills and other financial matters.

In addition to this, much of their income may be spent on obtaining alcohol so other financial priorities take a back seat. In a social sense, relationships may be ruined and friendships ended as a result of excessive drinking.

In some cases, whilst under the influence of alcohol, an addicted person may find themselves getting into trouble with the law which can have a knock-on effect on their social and professional lives.

Ready to start your recovery?

Contact us today on 0800 111 41 08 for free and personalised advice.

Treatment For Alcohol Addiction

There is a light at the end of the tunnel for anyone struggling with alcohol, with a wide range of treatment options, it is possible to become free of the substance and regain control over your life.

Accessing treatment will allow you to deal with why you became addicted to alcohol as well as developing techniques to recognise your triggers and resist them in the future.

1. Inpatient Treatment

There are a variety of residential alcohol rehab programs throughout the country that aim to tackle the addiction to alcohol as well as the underlying causes. In these kinds of facilities, you will be detoxed of alcohol, often with medication.

This is to help with withdrawal symptoms and comes with a range of support methods to help you to cope with emotional and psychological issues relating to your alcohol use. This, in turn, will help you to remain sober once the program has ended.

2. Outpatient Treatment

For some people, an inpatient program may not be necessary or viable, in which case an outpatient program might be more suitable.

You will be offered medication and counselling, in a similar way that an inpatient would receive but are able to remain within the community so that you can still go to work and tend to other priorities in your life.

3. Hospitalisation

If your drinking is so severe that you have suspected alcohol poisoning, it may be necessary for you to be admitted to hospital to receive urgent medical care.

There are many cases of coma and death when people consume too much alcohol and medical intervention is the only way to possibly prevent this. Once you have been successfully treated in the hospital, you can be moved to an appropriate inpatient centre for addiction treatment.

Types Of Rehab Therapy

Each case of alcohol addiction is unique to the individual, and this is why there are many types of therapy available in rehab.Below we discuss some of your therapy options to help tackle alcohol addiction:

  • Acceptance and commitment therapy otherwise known as ACT is a form of therapy that allows you to face unpleasant feelings in a secure environment, giving you the chance to react appropriately to them rather than turning to alcohol
  • Art therapy is an excellent way of expressing your emotions in a more positive manner than reaching for a drink
  • CBT or cognitive behavioural therapy is a type of therapy which encourages you to challenge negative thoughts and develop your own coping strategies to deal with them when they arise in the future
  • DBT or dialectical behaviour therapy is similar to CBT but combines mindfulness techniques to help you accept your thoughts and emotions.
  • Counselling will provide you with an opportunity to talk about how you are feeling in a controlled and safe environment with a person who is trained to offer practical and realistic advice
  • Experiential therapy is used to allow you to recreate experiences through art forms such as music or role-playing
  • Group therapy is offered as a way of exploring your problems with a group of people who are experiencing something similar and can widen your support network making you feel less isolated and alone
  • Holistic therapy can be offered to provide a better balance in your life and takes into consideration the mind, the body, and the spirit
  • Music therapy is another excellent example of how you might express your feelings and emotions through an art form which is much more healthy than using alcohol
  • Fitness therapy can be beneficial in addiction treatment as a way of regaining physical health which may have been neglected during your addiction
  • Psychotherapy is used to delve into your psyche, allowing for the release of emotional stress and is conducted by a highly trained psychologist

What Are The Benefits Of Being Supervised While Detoxing?

Detoxing from alcohol can be potentially life-threatening and this is one of the main reasons that supervised detoxes are extremely beneficial. Your health remains at the forefront of your treatment and you will have the advantage of a team of medical staff around the clock. They can be there to ensure assistance in an emergency as well as providing day to day-care and medication.

In addition to this, being in an enclosed environment will mean that you do not have easy access to alcohol, making relapse much less likely. For patients undergoing detox in their own homes, the risk of relapse greatly increases since alcohol can be easily obtained.

What’s more, whilst in a rehab facility, your main focus will be on your recovery and you will not face distractions making it much easier to concentrate on recovering.

Understanding The Medical Detox Process

Detox is essentially ridding the body of all traces of alcohol and a medical detox process is simply the first part in a lengthy treatment designed to free you from alcohol addiction.

Whilst it will remove alcohol from your body, it is not used to treat the underlying causes of addiction and further treatment is required to achieve full recovery.

The medical detox process allows you to rid your body of the toxins under the care and supervision of a trained team with the assistance of medication to make withdrawal more bearable. All of this is done in a safe and comfortable environment.

There are certain components that make up this process:

  • The evaluation portion of the process allows your support team to assess your physical and mental health which will help to determine the right treatment for you
  • Stabilisation is a part of the process where you stop taking alcohol and take advantage of your support team and medication to become free of the substance
  • Preparation gives you the chance to become prepared for any additional treatment which will come after your detox such as therapies and support groups.

Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

When you drink excessive amounts of alcohol, the chemical balance in the brain shifts so that when alcohol is taken away, the brain has to ‘get back to normal’ which can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

As a result of this, you may experience any of the following whilst detoxing from alcohol:

  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling agitated and mood swings

These symptoms can vary from person to person but usually begin to show around six to twelve hours after taking your last alcoholic drink and you can expect to experience these symptoms for between four and seven days.

Which Medications Can Help With These Symptoms?

The good news is that there are medications to help ease your withdrawal and make detoxing much more tolerable. There are a variety of medications used in alcohol detox and your doctor will discuss which ones might work best in your circumstances.

These medications include:

  • Benzodiazepines are used to treat common withdrawal symptoms and can help in patients having problems with sleep. This type of medication may also prevent patients from having seizures and delirium, making them more suitable for use on an inpatient program
  • Anti-convulsant medications are offered as a way of preventing seizures and are also beneficial in balancing the mood especially in those who suffer from conditions such as bipolar disorder
  • Anti-psychotic medication can help to treat psychosis and other mental health issues such as hallucinations and delirium
  • Barbiturate drugs are effective in treating withdrawal symptoms but are not as frequently used as they once were since they can be addictive and have dangerous interactions with alcohol
  • Beta-blockers are commonly used to treat patients who are undergoing detox from more than once substance and can be used in those with heart conditions to dull withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol Detox Timeline

It can help to understand what to expect throughout your detox and knowing the timeline can prepare you for what is to come.

Six to twelve hours after taking your last alcoholic drinks, you will begin to experience your first withdrawal symptoms. What is most interesting about this is that it demonstrates that you may still experience withdrawal despite alcohol still being present in the blood.

You will be offered medication to help deal with your symptoms and you can expect to experience them for between seven and ten days, one the symptoms end – your detox is finished.

Is It Safe To Detox From Alcohol At Home?

One of the main concerns about attempting to detox from alcohol at home is that you may experience serious health concerns, that in some instances can become life-threatening.

Delirium tremens is a type of severe confusion that present with physical symptoms when withdrawing from alcohol and in some cases can prove very detrimental to your health. For this reason alone, it is not recommended to detox from home.

In addition to this, going ‘cold turkey’ will mean that you do not have access to medication which can help you through the process. This could result in relapse since many people find that it is too difficult to cope with withdrawal.

That being said, with the assistance of a medical team as part of an outpatient process, detoxing from home is made easier.

Why Is Alcohol Withdrawal Dangerous Without Supervision?

Ultimately the biggest danger of alcohol withdrawal without supervision is death, but there are many other complications that can arise if you detox without supervision.

The risk of heart failure is significantly increased during detox as well as liver or kidney failure. Delirium Tremens is common in those with severe alcohol addiction and whilst this can be fatal, supervision will ensure treatment is given as soon as possible.

On top of the physical risks of detoxing without supervision, your emotional health may suffer too and if the correct support is not available this may lead to suicidal ideation as well as taking part in other risky behaviours.

You may also be more likely to relapse if you are not supervised as support is not as readily available and alcohol is much easier to get hold of.

How To Reduce Your Risk Of Becoming Alcohol Dependent?

One of the most effective ways of lowering the risk of becoming alcohol dependant is to take a break from drinking. This should be done frequently, allowing your body to maintain its natural balance without the use of alcohol. This will ensure that your body does not become tolerant.

It is recommended that you drink no more than 14 units of alcohol in one week and the guidelines for this also recommend spreading these units out across the week rather than engaging in binge drinking as this can be just as damaging to the body.

 

Ready to start your journey to sobriety?

We have decades of experience in treating substance and behavioural addictions among people from all walks of life.

Contact us today on 0800 111 41 08 for free and personalised advice.