Alcohol and Addiction – What You Should Know About Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol consumption plays an integral role in American social circles. Generations of citizens have shared both joyous, celebratory, and tragic news over a drink with no lingering or longstanding adverse effects of use. If you are 21 or older and live in the United States, you’ve probably participated in some drinking practice at one point or another.

To drink alcohol is normal and, in some instances, can even prove beneficial to your health. But unfortunately, alcohol is a substance form that many individuals abuse in the United States. Researchers estimate that 7 million young adults experiment with underage drinking annually. Some to fit in with peers, others to emulate their parent’s drinking customs, rebel against authoritative figures, and some in an attempt to cope with the stresses of their daily lives. Even though drinking has its place in society, and not all individuals who enjoy alcoholic drinks are doomed to misuse the beverage, alcohol is an addictive substance. Abusing the liquid can lead to chronic diseases or other related alcohol problems.

So, what constitutes alcohol-related problems? And how can stopping drinking alongside professional treatment help individuals reclaim their lives, rebuild a relationship with a family member, and ultimately beat chronic disease? To answer these questions, we must first understand what an alcohol abuse problem is, what alcoholism is, and how these subjects interact with substance abuse as a whole. Once we have a firm grasp of what a drinking problem can connote, we can begin to unravel addiction treatment complexities.

Is Alcohol Addictive?

Yes, alcohol is an addictive substance. Although no one intends to become an addict when they start drinking when a person drinks, they open themselves up to experiencing the tantalizing effects of alcohol on the brain. These effects are short-lived and brief for many, with most individuals never evening consuming enough alcohol to cause even physical reactions to the beverage’s use, let alone mental health discrepancies. A drinking problem can develop in a person at any point in their life for many reasons. Today, over 14 million Americans suffer from some form of alcohol substance abuse.

Understanding How Alcohol Becomes Addictive

Alcohol by itself is not addictive, but it does carry a high addictive probability. Not every person who drinks alcohol becomes addicted to using the substance. But heavy drinking patterns often lead to alcohol problems and developing abuse.

When we drink, we allow alcohol the opportunity to stimulate the brain into releasing endorphins (“happy chemicals” in the central nervous system that help reduce stress and pain). The more alcohol consumed, the more endorphins released, and thus the “happier” we grow as we continue to drink. In many cases, this happiness is harmless and mild. But when people depend too heavily on the substance to perpetuate their opportunities to stimulate fun and pleasure in their lives, serious problems can begin to arise.

Alcohol addictions, like drug abuse, typically grow over time. An AUD can be born from any number of onsetting factors, including:

  • Parental drinking patterns
  • Genetic influence
  • History of alcohol abuse in a family member or ancestor
  • Work stress
  • Financial strain
  • School stress
  • Peer pressure
  • History of underage drinking
  • Pre-existing mental health conditions
  • Chronic health issues
  • Trauma history or current traumatic environment

No one ever intends to become an alcoholic. But heavy drinking, drinking in conjunction with drugs, or using alcohol to cope with stress can result in an individual becoming dependent on the substance. Alcohol becomes addictive when used frequently in heavy binges. To avoid an AUD and stay sober, individuals can refrain from drinking or limit alcoholic intake.

How Long Does it Take to Develop an Alcohol Addiction?

There is no exact timeline to describe how long it takes a person to become addicted to alcohol. But generally, five phases of abuse occur before an individual is diagnosed with an AUD. These alcohol abuse stages include:

  • Stage 1: Occasional Misuse
  • Stage 2: Increase Drinking
  • Stage 3: Problem Drinking
  • Stage 4: Alcohol Dependence
  • Stage 5: Alcoholism and Addiction

Alcohol addictions build gradually. An alcohol misuse problem can begin with the slightest change to general drinking habits; one drink a week can become a glass or two a night. On occasion, a pattern of binge drinking on the weekends or enjoying distilled spirits habitually can become a routine we struggle to live without. Sometimes these habits do not progress into anything further. But AUDs can occur in mild, moderate, or severe cases.

And suppose occasional misuse becomes increased drinking, leading to drinking habits that constantly interfere with our daily lives. In that case, we may begin to say we are dependent on alcohol use in one way or another. From there, we may soon find ourselves struggling with an addiction.

Can an Alcohol Addiction Be Considered a Disease?

Yes, an alcohol addiction, otherwise known as an alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a chronic illness. Like other substance abuse disorders, AUDs are an illness that falls into the mental health issues category. The condition can negatively affect a person’s physical health, elevating high blood pressure, instigating liver cirrhosis (liver disease). It can lead to a severe form of heart problem, congenital disability, etc., and exaggerate mental health issues.

What is Alcoholism and Alcohol Dependence?

AUDs are complex conditions. With a wide range of effects, severities, and onsetting factors that can influence each individual’s case differently, AUDs can prove challenging to nail down and understand. Substance abuse treatment centers like St. John’s Recovery Place (SJRP) have created a set of standard terms better to define drinking practices and the levels of alcohol addiction.

Alcohol use disorders develop gradually, beginning with occasional abuse that eventually snowballs in binge drinking and problem abuse patterns. Once these habits form, if they continue, left unchecked, the individual may grow dependent on alcohol’s presence to navigate their daily lives. They drink to avoid alcohol withdrawal, feel normal, or rely on a glass of distilled spirits to lift their mood. Even though not all cases of alcohol dependence result in alcoholism, generally, those who struggle with such a vulnerability are at increased risk for developing an addiction to alcoholic substances.

Alcoholism and alcohol addictions are the same, and these terms describe the condition that results from an alcohol dependence worsening. A chronic illness that the individual can no longer fight independently, substance abuse treatment is necessary to help individuals stop drinking once an addiction forms.

Alcohol Use Disorder and its Effect on the Brain and Behavior

Like other forms of substance abuse, alcohol use disorders directly affect the brain and behavior. Even in moderate drinking cases, the effects of alcohol can prove potent, causing individuals to feel relaxed, happy, and warm. But when alcohol is abused or misused, its impact on the brain can result in behavioral discrepancies within even the most steady personalities. Some common effects AUDs have on the brain and behavior include:

  • Poor memory
  • Slurred speech
  • Impulsive actions
  • Inability to control impulses
  • Difficulty maintaining social and familial relationships
  • Monetary issues
  • Problems getting and keeping work
  • Increased endorphin release
  • Blocked neuron (brain cell) signals and communications
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Impaired judgment and ability to make decisions

Intoxication is the body’s way of responding to blocked neuron cells in the brain. As the mind works to adapt to the chemical blockages produced by alcohol use, how the brain adapts and reacts to the world around it grows steadily more dramatic while more alcohol is introduced. This results in strange behaviors that can lead to physical harm, including drunk driving, risky sexual behaviors, alcohol poisoning, and more.

Individuals who suffer from an AUD can no longer function without alcohol. To cease drinking would mean they experience many painful alcohol withdrawal effects that further inhibit them from moving about their daily obligations. Chronic alcohol abuse issues result in intense impulse control problems, often requiring additional recovery resources to ensure success in alcohol treatment.

Common Warning Signs of Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

Alcohol use disorders and addictions can be tricky to identify at times, but in many cases, they are self-diagnosable. It may take time for you or a loved one to recognize the warning signs of an AUD, but once you do, you are just one step closer to obtaining the professional help you need. Some of the most common warning signs for alcohol addiction and abuse include:

  • The inability to stop drinking
  • Several unsuccessful attempts to quit drinking
  • Copious amounts of time spent drinking
  • Consuming more than you wanted or intended to
  • Spending a significant amount of time recovering from drinking
  • Experiencing withdrawal effects when you don’t drink for several hours
  • Experiencing intense urges or cravings to drink
  • If your work, home, family, professional, or financial stability has suffered as a direct result of your drinking habits
  • Drinking has affected your relationships with family or friends
  • You are experiencing memory problems
  • You are experiencing severe, uncharacteristic mood swings or behavioral changes
  • You’ve cut back on hobbies and activities you enjoy, making more time for drinking-related pastimes

Engaging in unsafe activities like operating heavy machinery while intoxicated or exploring hazardous areas under the influence of alcohol can also be warning signs of a developing disorder. Even so, not everyone who experiences mood swings and enjoys the occasional drink is struggling with abuse or developing an AUD. An alcohol use disorder can take on many forms and severities. Knowing these signs can help you spot problematic behaviors in yourself and others.

Alcohol Dependence Looks Different in Everyone – One Alcoholic Drink Does Not Equal Another

Heavily influenced by an individual’s metabolism, weight, height, age, gender, prior use history, and more, alcohol affects each person differently. Thus, an alcohol use disorder can also be expected to manifest different symptoms in each case of its occurrence. Generally speaking, drinking anything more than one alcoholic beverage per day for a woman is considered excessive on average. Meanwhile, consuming any more than two drinks per day qualifies as overdrinking for men.

Otherwise, what may be too much alcohol for one person, maybe just enough for another, and so on. Alcoholism for one person may manifest a wide variety of severe side effects. At the same time, the symptoms may be so mild that the condition can prove hard to spot.

Is Alcohol Addiction Treatment Possible?

Yes! There are ways to treat alcohol dependence and addiction. Alcohol treatment is possible and effective, but it is important to note there is no “cure” for alcoholism.

Is it Safe to Stop Drinking Altogether at Once?

If you or a loved one wrestle with an alcohol use disorder, it is not safe to quit drinking cold turkey. Attempting to cease all alcohol use at once can result in the onset of severe withdrawal symptoms, unnecessarily endangering the individual and their chances of treatment success.

How to Find a Treatment Provider for Substance Abuse Problems

A primary care doctor can make treatment referrals to aid addiction recovery success. Finding a rehab center that works for you may be challenging at first. But using local resources provided to you by your doctor, you can find national drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities best suited to meet your needs. In some cases, your health insurance company can help connect you with a rehabilitation center within your already established healthcare network.

Otherwise, you can ask a family member or friend for treatment recommendations. Or you can find an alcohol treatment program by conducting a simple internet search like “alcohol addiction treatment centers near me” online.

How Family Members Can Help The Alcohol Dependent Stop Drinking

Family members can play an integral role in healing from an alcohol use disorder. Although many rehabs utilize support groups in treatment, these peer outlets can feel somewhat impersonal to individuals at times. Families can also provide support to their loved ones and are often one of the main reasons why an individual enrolls in a recovery program in the first place.

Suppose your loved one struggles with an AUD, and you want to help establish a supportive environment for them at home. In that case, you can encourage your loved one in many productive ways, including:

  • Offering to take them to their support groups and meetings
  • Being empathetic and actively listening to what they have to say
  • Offering to be available to talk whenever they need
  • Attending family therapy

Support comes in many forms, and families can help cultivate a thriving environment for healing by taking an active role in their loved one’s recovery journey.

How to Reduce Alcohol Use at Home

Substance use is challenging to overcome but not impossible. It is not recommended for individuals struggling with an AUD to quit alcohol at home. But if you or a loved one is looking to reduce consumption, do not struggle with a substance use issue, and want not to drink alcohol as often anymore, there are several things you can do, including:

  • Maintain abstinence indefinitely – the best way to avoid developing an issue is not to use the substance that can potentially cause a problem.
  • Engage friends and family members in sober activities – involving others in fun outings where no alcohol is present can help you build confidence and remind you there are ways to have fun without drinking.
  • Think over the benefits of not drinking – alcohol has its advantages. Still, not drinking also comes with a series of pros. You have clearer skin, more energy, and often have better mental health, to name a few.

Can You Recover from Alcohol Abuse Without Professional Treatment Programs?

It is never recommended for an individual to try and navigate substance abuse treatment independently. Although individuals can stop drinking when experiencing only mild cases of binge drinking or other related alcohol issues, without professional rehab, withdrawal symptoms can occur in more severe bouts of illness. Extreme withdrawal side effects can prove dangerous and make treatment more challenging to work through. Yes, in some rare cases, an individual can recover from alcohol abuse at home. But it is, again, never recommended for a person to undergo substance abuse treatment without a professional program.

What Treatment Consists of in Addiction Rehab

Many people think of alcoholics anonymous or the American psychiatric association when considering alcohol addiction treatment. Still, substance abuse rehab involves so much more than counseling sessions and sitting in a group meeting. The treatment process in addiction rehab is extensive, involving family healing services, medical supervision, and more. Alcohol addiction medicine may even introduce certain medications to help optimize the recovery process and make the withdrawal process easier to navigate.

Although there are thousands of drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities across the country, many of these centers follow the same guidelines for building successful treatment programs and recovery opportunities. Traditionally, the treatment process in alcohol rehabilitation programs include:

  • Medical detoxification
  • Inpatient or residential rehab
  • Outpatient rehab
  • Support group

Like St. John’s Recovery Place, specialized treatment facilities may also allow residents to engage in intensive outpatient programs, partial hospitalization services, and alternative therapeutic opportunities.

John’s Recovery Place Alcohol Addiction Treatment and Rehab Program

AUDs are challenging to live with, but they are treatable conditions, and you do not have to suffer in silence. At SJRP, people and diverse, quality treatment are at the core of all we do.

Suppose you or a loved one suffer from a substance use disorder or alcohol addiction. In that case, the team at St. John’s Recovery Place is here to help you work through every phase of recovery. We will fight alongside you and love you every step of the way, even when you feel unlovable. Call St. John’s today at 1-833-397-3422 to learn more about your treatment opportunities, next steps, and how to get started in our drug and alcohol rehab program.