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.  Alcohol 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.

Whilst alcohol addiction affects thousands of people in the United Kingdom, it is still a relatively rare disease. Those who do suffer from alcohol addiction become physically dependant on alcohol. This is because alcohol affects neurochemical elements in the brain. When the alcohol addicted individual attempts to stop drinking alcohol, this causes a major shift in brain chemicals, and this causes the onset of alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

For this reason, it’s technically inaccurate to accuse those with an alcohol addiction of ‘irresponsible drinking’. Irresponsibility assumes moral failings on the individual’s behalf. If those with alcohol addiction are physically unable to stop drinking without suffering from alcohol withdrawal symptoms, we feel it is a grave injustice to accuse these people of ‘drinking irresponsibly’.

Alcohol addiction may manifest in a number of different ways. The signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction will vary greatly between individuals. For instance, some will drink alcohol on a daily basis, whilst others will binge and thus ‘function’ in ways that effectively hide their condition from loved ones, friends and colleagues.

No matter how alcohol addiction manifests itself in individuals, there are some common symptoms that will apply to all those with the condition. This includes an inability to remain sober for more than a few days at a time, and the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms when the person does attempt to detox.

What are the symptoms of alcohol addiction?

Alcohol is a legal substance and alcohol is often used to enhance social situations. Most of us have at best a hazy understanding of alcohol addiction. In polls we have conducted via the Internet, we consistently discover the general public’s lack of sympathy for those suffering from alcohol addiction. Thus, we feel it fair to say that alcohol addiction is generally misunderstood and not widely considered a ‘disease’ amongst the general population.

Due to this state of affairs, and because alcohol is widely consumed by those who are not considered ‘alcohol dependent’, it is difficult to differentiate between ‘problem drinkers’ and those who have developed an alcohol addiction.

The vast majority of people who suffer from an alcohol addiction are labelled a ‘drunk’. This type of language flies in the face of the ‘disease theory’ of addiction we discussed above.

To help educate the public about alcohol addiction, we list some symptoms that could help diagnose the existence of an alcohol addiction:

  • An inability to go for more than a day without drinking alcohol
  • Increased tolerance to alcohol well and above what could conceivably be considered as ‘normal’ e.g. consistently drinking more than 15 units of alcohol per day
  • Drinking in the morning or early in the afternoon on a regular basis, thus staying drunk for long periods of time
  • Drinking alcohol in situations where it is either inappropriate, irresponsible or dangerous to do so
  • Changing social circle so begin to ‘knockabout’ with other people who are alcohol dependent
  • Concealing the amount of alcohol that’s consumed. Lying about drinking alcohol and hiding alcohol in multiple places around the home
  • Developing negative emotions when alcohol is not consumed e.g. depression and anxiety
  • Financial, legal problems and job loss

The above list is not definitive. However, the above symptoms of alcoholism are common enough to warrant mentioning in this discussion.

How may alcohol addiction affect my health?

Alcohol addiction negatively impacts human health in a multitude of ways. Most significantly, alcohol addiction kills. Those suffering from alcohol addiction may perish in a number of painful and highly undesirable ways. These vary from infection, bleeding to death and aspiration (chocking on your own vomit).

Below, we list some of the specific ways alcohol is capable of inflicting hardship on human health:

  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Eyesight problems
  • Birth defects
  • Liver scarring (cirrhosis)
  • Diabetes complications
  • Ulcers

We feel it safe to say that those with an alcohol addiction are exposing their health to a number of risks.  Many of these risks are potentially fatal. Alcohol addiction is also indirectly harmful to human health because those who suffer from the disease are more likely to engage in dangerous activities. One example of such activity is drinking whilst under the influence of alcohol. Over the last 10 years, more than 200 lives have been lost on UK roads due to drink driving.

For reasons we discuss above, we feel it is fair to conclude that no good whatsoever may arise from alcohol addiction. If you or a loved one suffer from alcohol addiction, it is vitally important for you to seek out alcohol rehab treatment before it is simply too late to do so.

Getting treatment for alcohol addiction

If you or a loved one require alcohol addiction treatment, then you must understand the various different forms of treatment that are available to you in the United Kingdom.  Succeeding in recovery is not a simple undertaking, and if you are not fully committed to sobriety, it is unlikely that you will succeed. Before you consider investing in any form of treatment, it is essential for you to assess your level of motivation to succeed.

Recovering from an alcohol addiction is a lifetime pursuit. You must generally ‘work on’ your recovery each and every day of your life. When you enter recovery, you will note your ‘sobriety date’.  This allows you to monitor the precise amount of time you have remained in recovery for.  You will never be ‘cured’ or ‘recovered’ from your alcohol addiction. Instead, you are considered ‘recovering’. The use of this present tense verb reflects the harsh reality that relapse could occur at any time, should you leave your guard down for a sufficient amount of time.

Below, we discuss some of the treatment options you may consider in order to overcome an alcohol addiction.

Going to a residential rehab clinic

At Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we strongly advocate residential rehab clinics. Many of our advisors have themselves succeeded in recovery due to spending time in a residential rehab clinic. When you attend a residential rehab clinic, you will physically remove yourself from your alcohol ‘using’ environment. This removes temptation, meaning you will not relapse whilst you undergo treatment.

Thus, residential rehab is superior to outpatient treatment options, because when you undergo outpatient treatment, you are not fully removed from your ‘using’ environment. This means temptation is ever present and capable of derailing any progress you may have made in your treatment programme.

Residential rehab is typically run over four weeks. This allows you to undergo a detox programme, and then undertake a period of readjustment. Post-detox readjustment is facilitated through therapy and counselling sessions.

Therapy sessions allow you to build mental strength that’s required to avoid relapse.  These coping strategies are often termed ‘relapse prevention’ strategies. At Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we have collated many of these strategies here.

At rehab, you will also be given a healthy diet. This is important because many people who suffer from alcoholism also experience malnutrition. You will attend workshops that aim to educate you about the importance of sound nutrition.

Attending support groups such as SMART Recovery and Alcoholics Anonymous

Another powerful tool in the fight against alcohol addiction is to attend a ‘mutual support group’. These meetings are based on the concept of ‘one addict helping another’. Attending regular support group meetings help you to actively ‘work on’ your recovery.  Support groups are particularly effective following the completion of an alcohol rehab programme. We do not recommend you to attend a support group when you are drinking alcohol.

Support groups are also termed ‘sober communities’. Many support groups offer a sponsorship programme. This is when an established member of the group will assist you in meeting your recovery goals. In time, you yourself may become a sponsor for new members of the group. It is wise to choose a sponsor who is similar to yourself and who hasve experienced situations that are akin to your own experiences.

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