Alcoholism is among the most common and deadly forms of addiction plaguing society. Alcoholism is defined as a chronic disorder characterized by the dependence on alcohol and repeated, excessive amounts of alcoholic beverages. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 18 million Americans suffer from alcoholism or alcohol abuse. While alcoholism is the more serious of the two conditions, alcohol abuse is a slippery slope as it often leads to alcoholism, especially in those who abuse alcohol in adolescence. When an individual begins drinking at a young age, he or she is almost 20 times more likely to develop a drinking problem in adulthood. Approximately 40% of all alcoholic adults report heavy drinking during their adolescent years, and since alcohol is widely accepted and accessible, these statistics are not likely to improve in coming years.
Why is Alcoholism So Common?
Alcohol is the only drug of abuse and addiction that is legal for those above the drinking age of 21, and does not require approval or a prescription from medical professionals. Unlike prescription drugs, alcohol can be obtained legally from grocery stores, liquor stores, restaurants, and bars with no more than an ID confirming legal drinking age and money to purchase it. Because it is legal, many people erroneously fail to recognize alcohol as a drug, but it is toxic to the human body and brain, exemplified by the mood altering and intoxicating effect it produces.
There are several situations and social attitudes about drinking that contribute to higher and more frequent episodes of alcohol consumption, which are more likely to lead to alcoholism. Some examples are as follows:
- When presented with a stressful or difficult situation, many people have a drink to take their mind off of whatever troubles they are experiencing. This is a very common practice, as most everyone has either heard or uttered the phrase, “What a day. I need a drink”.
- After a long week or day of work, multiple co-workers often gather at a local restaurant or bar to have drinks, unwind, and discuss their job woes. This is so common, that most every bar offers happy hour specials to entice these groups to come in and drink for reduced prices.
- When celebrating an accomplishment, birthday, wedding, holiday or anniversary, the most accepted and common thing to do is gather and drink alcohol. Especially during seasons of graduations and holidays, advertisements are flooded with alcoholic beverages.
With alcohol as abundant as it is, society offers one who is susceptible to alcoholism little to prevent its development.
Unlike most other drugs, there is little to no social stigma attached to alcohol consumption as it is generally accepted in social and private settings. Once alcoholism has developed in an individual, it can be easy to hide from society. Unless an individual is visibly intoxicated in inappropriate situations, it is often very difficult to know if alcoholism is a problem. Inherent to addiction of all kinds, as alcoholism progresses, more of it necessary to achieve intoxication, but smaller, and more frequent amounts can be sufficient to avoid withdrawal symptoms. For this reason, alcoholics can go through their day and night, consuming enough alcohol to appear normal, but not intoxicated, and there are a few ways in which this is accomplished.
- Alcoholics usually have stashes of alcohol hidden around their homes, in their cars, an often in their place of work. This allows them to take a quick drink in secret to maintain their sense of normalcy.
- Those who suffer from alcoholism, and drink in secret usually carry with them gum, mints, toothbrushes, and toothpaste to remove the smell of alcohol from their breath after taking a secret drink.
- Alcoholics often carry canteen style water bottles to hold alcohol mixed with other juices. This allows them to fit in with others who are drinking water or juice, but still have their alcohol in secret.
This kind of behavior creates a dangerous environment for both the alcoholic and the public, especially if he or she is driving or operating dangerous equipment. In addition to the tactics employed by many alcoholics who continue to carry on with what seems to be a normal life, the social settings in which alcohol is accepted only add to his/her alcohol consumption and consequential danger. Often, social environments where alcohol is present provide a cover for alcoholics, as multiple people are drinking, and the alcoholic can easily blend in with the crowd. However, when alcohol is abundant, most alcoholics are unable to stop drinking, and are much more likely to be identified when their drinking continues well beyond the point of clear intoxication.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism
Although alcoholism is very common, and can be hidden to some degree, alcoholism is a progressive disease, and will eventually create noticeably unmanageable situations for the addicted individual. Some signs of alcoholism are more noticeable by those close to the alcoholic, while others can be recognized most anyone who encounters the individual. The following are some of the signs of alcoholism that can be used to identify an alcoholic, or someone who is dangerously close to becoming one.
- Inability to stop drinking, even after severe intoxication has occurred
- Repeated negative consequences such as DUIs, drunken fights, public intoxication charges, etc.
- Frequent absences and tardiness to events and obligations such as work and school
- Severe mood changes while drinking, such as becoming angry or violent
- Drinking until black-out occurs
- Multiple failed attempts to cut down or stop drinking
- Drinking in the morning to steady oneself or get rid of a hangover
When one or more of these signs are present, alcoholism is likely the cause, and help should be sought immediately. Alcoholism takes over the life of an alcoholic to the point at which he or she is consumed with drinking alcohol, obsesses about the next time he or she will drink alcohol, and has no control over when to stop drinking alcohol, despite negative consequences and dangerously high blood alcohol concentrations (BAC).
In addition to the dangerous signs of alcoholism, the disease has devastating consequences to an alcoholic’s health. As a toxic drug, chronic and excessive consumption leads to dangerous and potentially deadly health threats, some of which are:
- AnemiaHeavy drinking can reduce the number of red blood cells, which carry oxygen through the body. This can result in shortness of breath, fatigue, and lightheadedness.
Cirrhosis occurs when the liver is severely scarred by alcohol consumption, and can no longer function properly. Responsible for cleaning the blood of toxins, the liver is a vital organ and advanced cirrhosis can be life threatening.
- High Blood Pressure
Alcoholism can cause chronic high blood pressure, which can lead to more serious health issues, like kidney disease, heart disease, and stroke.
- Nerve Damage
Alcoholism can cause nerve damage called alcoholic neuropathy, which produces a “pins and needles” sensation or numbness in the extremities, muscle weakness, erectile dysfunction, and incontinence.
Chronic and excessive drinking can cause seizures and, when in withdrawal, alcoholics can suffer from potentially life- threatening seizures.
Additional dangers associated with alcoholism are related to the alcoholic’s personal safety and the safety of society. Some of these dangers are:
- Driving and using other dangerous equipment while intoxicated
- Becoming angry and/or violent and causing injury during fights or fits of rage
- Lack of coordination leading to stumbles, falls, and other dangerous accidents
- Lack of inhibition and altered judgment can lead to risky and unprotected sex, thereby potentially spreading sexually transmitted diseases.
Alcoholism Can Be Treated
Alcoholism is progressive, and will continue to get worse so long as it remains untreated. Over time, the chronic and excessive drinking associated with alcoholism will cause diseases and health issues that can be life threatening. Alcoholism has claimed the lives of countless alcoholics and devastated families year after year.
Although alcoholism is a deadly disease, it can be treated with effective alcohol addiction treatment, and commitment from the alcoholic to get well. The first requirement for an alcoholic to get well is his or her desire to do so. It is not uncommon for alcoholics, especially those in later stages of their disease to deny having a problem, and in these situations, it is recommended to conduct an intervention on him or her to encourage a course of addiction treatment and recovery from alcoholism.
If you or someone you know are suffering from alcoholism, please call us now and speak with one of our trained counselors to discuss the best treatment options to overcome alcoholism. We understand how dangerous and devastating alcoholism is, and we will listen to your concerns, and work with you to find the individualized treatment program and methodology that works best with you or your addicted loved one to ensure a prolonged recovery from alcoholism. This is a deadly disease, and it doesn’t have to claim another life. Please don’t wait, and call us now. We can help.
Alcohol is considered a drug because of its addictive qualities, but not everyone who drinks alcohol has a problem with alcoholism. Many individuals enjoy alcohol during social events without any adverse consequences, while others become addicted and fall into a lifetime of alcohol abuse that will eventually require alcoholism rehab.
What Causes Alcoholism
There are no distinct indicators to determine who becomes an alcoholic, but studies show there are elements in some individual’s lives that contribute to the likelihood of alcoholism. Some of these contributing psychological factors include financial distress, family history of alcohol abuse, physical or medical issues, emotional disorders or relationship problems. As with other drug addictions, alcoholism is a complex disease and all factors involved in the addiction must be treated before alcoholism rehab can be successful.
The first phase of treatment involves the process of medical detox to cleanse all traces of alcohol from the body. During this process, some withdrawal symptoms can be intense or dangerous enough to require medication; therefore, trained staff or physicians must supervise or conduct detox.
Following detox, enrollment in a professional rehab program will be necessary to address the psychological aspects of the addiction. While in this program the alcoholic will attend group or individual counseling sessions, behavior modification training, and cognitive skills training. Other valuable aspects of treatment include protocols for a holistic approach to treatment, faith-based therapy, family support, and continuing care services.
Contact Us Immediately If You Or Someone You Love Has A Problem With An Alcohol Addiction
Rehab helps the individual become alcohol-free and guides them toward living a sober, productive life, but none of this is possible until the alcoholic admits he has a problem and makes a commitment to end the addiction. In some cases intervention by friends or family may be needed to convince the individual to seek treatment, and it is important to know that whether treatment is forced or voluntary, rehab works and recovery is possible.