This article provides a general overview of alcohol addiction, including information on who it affects, its causes, warning signs and symptoms, effects, and treatment options. Given that alcohol is one of the most available and socially acceptable “drugs” in many civilizations, alcohol addiction is one of the most hazardous types. People believe that drinking alcohol is safe and use it as a way to relax, not realizing that scientific professionals consider alcohol to be the most lethal drug of all. This depressant, which is easily overused, can cause serious health problems like liver, kidney, and heart disease, as well as raise blood pressure, increase the risk of strokes, and even exacerbate cancer if used at high doses.
Like many other addictions, alcohol misuse is not only bad for the user, but it is also bad for the family and detrimental to society as a whole. Violence, sexual assault, and car accidents are just a few of the many events that are frequently brought on by drinking. Alcohol kills by slowly degrading the body, as opposed to other risky drugs like cocaine and opioids that can result in overdose deaths.
Alcohol and Alcohol Addiction
Ethyl alcohol, the psychoactive component of alcohol used in hard beverages, makes the drinker feel inebriated. Beer, wine, and liquor are the three most popular alcoholic beverage types. The carbohydrates in grains, fruits, and vegetables are fermented by yeast to produce this addictive and hazardous hallucinogenic drug. The stomach absorbs 20% of the alcohol you ingest, while the remaining 80% passes through your small intestine. Even though the liver detoxifies the majority of the alcohol, the remainder enters the bloodstream and interferes with the body’s regular processes. When alcohol enters the brain, it interacts with neurotransmitters and alters normal moods, awareness, and perception.
A chronic relapsing illness known as alcohol addiction is characterised by obsessive drinking, a lack of control over consumption, and the formation of a negative emotional state when alcohol is not available. An alcohol use disorder (AUD) is characterised by a reduced capacity to reduce or control alcohol consumption despite negative social, vocational, or health effects. The problems that some individuals describe as alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, or the slang word, alcoholism, fall along the spectrum of mild, moderate, or severe versions of this. Alcohol addiction refers to the moderate to severe range of the AUD continuum.
If not treated, a variety of serious medical and mental issues brought on by alcoholism can potentially cause death. Some of the physical consequences of alcohol misuse include damage to the liver, stomach, and pancreas. Memory loss and confusion are among the mental side effects. A person who abuses alcohol may also experience a range of social problems, including the breakdown of familial bonds, divorce, job loss, homelessness, and financial difficulties. Alcoholism will eventually engulf a person physically, intellectually, and socially and will ultimately lead to death if it is not treated. It is never too early or late to receive effective treatment for alcoholism that makes use of evidence-based psychotherapy and particular drugs to help people come back to living a happy, healthy, and entire life.
Causes of Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that causes a slowdown in brain function. The following are a few possible short-term impacts of alcoholism:
- altered or decreased coordination, senses, and perception
- breathing difficulties
- distorted vision and hearing
- impaired judgment and memory
- loss of consciousness
- reduced inhibition
- slurred speech
- upset stomach
The quantity and amount consumed, whether or not any food was consumed previously, as well as the drinker’s weight and gender, all have an impact on the short-term consequences. Because they typically weigh less than men do, women are more likely to experience negative effects from the same amount of alcohol as men because their systems absorb it more slowly.
If the body’s alerts are disregarded, excessive alcohol consumption’s long-term repercussions can be worrying. Heavy drinking for an extended period of time may raise one’s tolerance to the point where the short-term effects are no longer noticeable. The following are some long-term consequences of alcoholism:
- Wernicke’s encephalopathy
- trouble with balance
- stomach ulcers
- nerve damage
- liver cirrhosis
- Korsakoff’s psychosis (“wet brain”)
- hormonal imbalances
- heart damage
- difficulty forming thoughts
- decreased attention span
- compromised immune system
- cancer of the mouth, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast
Alcohol addiction has long-term effects that extend beyond the physical body. A person with an alcohol addiction will find it harder to be employed or maintain a job, which could lead to unemployment and financial troubles in addition to major effects on entire families and social groups.
Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
Most people are unable to notice their own alcoholic symptoms, therefore it is up to those close to them—their family, friends, and co-workers—to be alert to the warning signs of alcoholism. Alcohol misuse typically shows symptoms in all aspects of a person’s everyday life, including work, education, and relationships with family. Those who are close to someone who is battling an alcohol addiction may be reluctant to recognise these signs of alcohol consumption. They provide excuses for the alcoholic to avoid acknowledging the likelihood that their loved one is showing signs of alcoholism and probably has a severe issue. Alcohol addiction’s behavioural indicators are the most obvious. Friends, family, or co-workers may see one or more of the several behavioural
- absent from meetings, interviews, or scheduled appointments
- acts recklessly or takes needless risks
- acts unusually withdrawn and alone
- becomes more irate or rebellious
- demonstrates unusual, impetuous, or inappropriate behaviour
- denies, lies, conceals, or keeps activities and whereabouts a secret
- displaying alcohol-impairment
- goes “on and off-the-wagon” a lot.
- has escalating financial difficulties and may borrow or steal from family and friends
- has legal issues like DUI, domestic violence, or assault
- loses enthusiasm for interests and pursuits
- overreacts to everyday issues, difficulties, suggestions, and criticism
Additionally, those who live with an alcoholic may regularly observe the less obvious mental signs. These mental symptoms are warning signs that alcohol abuse or addiction is getting worse. These mental warning signs that a person might display include:
- displays distraction or confusion often
- has trouble in making decisions
- Has trouble paying attention, concentrating, or attending to a task; needs assistance to finish a task
- has trouble remembering specific details
- is agitated or depressed
- loses consciousness, blacks out or experiences short-term memory loss
- makes poor or irrational decisions
- requires repeated instructions
Although the physical signs are more difficult to identify than the behavioural ones, being aware of them makes it simpler to recognise them. Alcohol use or alcohol withdrawal symptoms are directly correlated with the physical signs of alcoholism. These typical physical signs include:
- appears lethargic or easily nods off
- avoids colleagues and managers
- displays poor posture, grooming habits, and personal hygiene
- experiences panic attacks
- has a broad mood shift toward depression and a critical or pessimistic viewpoint.
- has issues with sleep such as insomnia, chronic fatigue
- has lengthy lunches and breaks
- has long-term conditions that necessitate hospitalization or doctor visits
- has significant mood changes
- has trembling, shaking or twitching of hands and eyelids
- injured frequently or bruised without justifiable reasons
- possesses trouble establishing eye contact
- returns from breaks to work in a visibly different state
- shows poor coordination or a wobbly gait such as staggering, off balance
- smells of alcohol or odor on the breath
- speech is slurred or has stuttered, often slowly and unintelligible.
- takes excessive sick leave with inadequate justification
- violates the business codes, policies, and procedure
Similar to how they can be noticed in one’s home and personal life, some alcohol addiction symptoms can be visible at work. Colleagues can recognise this workplace or employment behavioural signs of alcoholism and take necessary action with the person’s family. Behavioral issues at work include:
- has trouble keeping to a schedule
- lodges numerous grievances or complaints
- make mistakes during work
- misses appointments, meeting, and planned events, and is frequently late
- provides dubious justifications for shortcomings or places the responsibility elsewhere
Alcohol Addiction Harms the Body
Alcohol can have a negative impact on many important human organs, with the liver being the most affected. Alcohol slows down the liver’s ability to remove poisons from the body quickly. Every time the liver filters alcohol, some liver cells also perish. Although the organ may regenerate new cells, consistent alcohol misuse over many years slows down cell growth, producing substantial and occasionally irreversible damage. Severe alcohol abuse can lead to steatosis, also known as fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
Addiction to alcohol can also have negative effects on the areas of the brain that control judgement and decision-making. Additionally, excessive alcohol use might harm the brain’s visual and auditory nerve cells. Long-term alcohol use can have negative effects on the heart, including irregular heartbeat, stroke, and heart muscle damage. Additionally, it increases blood pressure, which can damage the blood vessels in the kidneys, heart, and brain. When dealing with years of heavy alcohol usage, the pancreas and the drinker’s immune system are significantly weakened.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment
There are many available options for treating alcohol addiction. Some people who are battling alcoholism may choose to seek help from their primary care physician, who can inform them of available therapies and point them in the direction of experts for further evaluation. Others can choose a residential treatment facility, which provides a safe, regulated environment for recovery. There are inpatient and outpatient alcohol addiction treatment alternatives accessible. Residential or inpatient alcohol addiction treatment involves remaining at the facility for a prolonged period of time, in contrast to outpatient alcohol addiction treatment, which enables patients to often attend support groups and one-on-one therapy sessions.
Participation in an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) programme is the most effective alcoholism treatment and has been shown to reduce the risk of relapse by up to 80%. AA is a support organisation that helps addicts recover through peer support and spirituality, but it does not provide professional treatment or medical care.
Inpatient and outpatient treatment programmes are provided by a variety of facilities, including hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centres. The daily population served, the duration, and the level of medical supervision provided by these programmes vary.
Enrollment in an inpatient or residential treatment programme, which has been shown to reduce the risk of relapse by 50 to 90%, is the most effective treatment for alcoholism. Although less effective than AA, inpatient and outpatient treatment programmes that follow the 12-step methodology are also beneficial.
The most recommended course of action for treating alcoholism is to go through a medically supervised detoxification process, which is then followed by a thorough psychological examination and inpatient therapy. Most residential alcohol addiction treatment facilities can handle detox, and their trained and skilled addiction specialists can provide evidence-based treatment approaches that ensure long-term sobriety and success in alcohol addiction recovery.
Getting Started with Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Alcohol addiction can have devastating consequences that affect more than just the person struggling. Alcohol-related problems affect friends, family, coworkers, and the community as a whole. Recognizing that there is a problem is the first step toward recovery from alcoholism. If you are concerned about your own or a loved one’s drinking, please contact us at The Hills Rehab to speak with one of our dedicated admissions staff members who will guide and advise you on making your first steps toward recovery.