a man in need of alcohol rehab

Alcohol Addiction: What You Need to Know

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), more than 16 million people struggle with some form of alcohol use disorder (AUD). What does that mean in reality? Who and what determines how much alcohol is too much? Why do some people seem to control their drinking better than others? Essentially, what determines whether someone has an alcohol addiction and what addiction treatment options are effective? We explore the answers below.

What are the Signs of Alcohol Addiction?

AUD, also known as alcohol addiction, is a chronic disease characterized by uncontrollable drinking and preoccupation with alcohol. Since alcohol is so prevalent, it can be challenging to recognize the signs of addiction. Some of the common warning signs that indicate alcohol addiction include:

  • Drinking alone or in secret
  • Choosing to drink over responsibilities and obligations
  • Becoming isolated and distant from friends and loved ones
  • Making excuses to drink (i.e., “I need to relax, de-stress or feel normal”)
  • The frequent smell of alcohol on the breath
  • Drinking at odd times during the day
  • Desiring a drink first thing in the morning or in the middle of the night
  • Slurred speech
  • Constant rambling or repetitive statements
  • Mood swings, irritability, and panic attacks
  • Emotional outburst when not drinking
  • Frequent binge drinking

Some physical warning signs that appear in conjunction with the above include:

  • Constant falling, dizziness
  • Lack of coordination and poor balance
  • Headaches
  • Broken capillaries on the nose and face
  • Tremors and an unsteady stride
  • Changes in appetite
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Jaundice, a yellow discoloration of the eyes and skin

How is Alcohol Addiction Treated?

Sadly, only about 6.5% of adults with Alcohol Use Disorder receive treatment. For those that do, treatment for alcohol addiction consists of detox, rehabilitation, and maintenance.

Alcohol Detox

  • People with AUD have developed alcohol dependence. So even though they can quit “cold turkey,” medically-assisted detox is best. During the detox process, the client eliminates alcohol from their body, often with the help of medication. Although it doesn’t “cure” alcohol addiction, detox makes the rest of the recovery process possible.

Alcohol Rehab & Treatment

  • After detox, the client begins rehabilitation in an inpatient or outpatient program. Rehab consists of different therapies and strategies to combat drinking urges and triggers. A significant component of this process is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). In CBT, a licensed therapist helps clients build coping strategies and skills to lessen their alcohol dependency. Depending upon the client’s needs, CBT sessions occur individually, with family, or in a group. Sometimes, clients participate in one-on-one, family, and group therapy as part of a broader addiction treatment program.

Maintaining Sobriety

  • Once rehabilitation is over, clients begin to re-acclimate themselves with daily life. Often, they join peer support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. These groups help clients stay motivated and build healthy relationships. They also help clients maintain sobriety after treatment is complete. Other activities that help clients re-adapt to daily life include exercise and mindfulness.

What is Alcohol Withdrawal & How Dangerous is it?

Receiving treatment doesn’t mean cravings disappear. After consistent, heavy drinking, the body learns to function with alcohol dependency. Unlike some drugs which stimulate the central nervous system, alcohol has a depressive effect on the brain. The more people drink, the more their nervous system slows down. When alcohol vanishes from the system, the body struggles to adjust. That’s why quitting alcohol “cold turkey” is very dangerous.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include shakes, anxiety, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and insomnia. Without appropriate medical care, withdrawal can lead to relapse, restarting the cycle of addiction again. Continued relapse inhibits recovery and leads to long-term effects of AUD, including:

  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Stroke
  • Steatosis or fatty liver
  • Increased risk of liver and esophageal cancer
  • Fibrosis

Alcohol Abuse Statistics in the United States

  • In 2017, 14.1 million adults ages 18 and older had AUD.
  • An estimated 85,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually. Alcohol is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
  • Every year, approximately 20% of college students meet the criteria for AUD.
  • According to the 2017 NSDUH, about 7.4 million people ages 12–20 reported drinking alcohol in the past month.
  • In 2010, alcohol misuse cost the United States $249 billion. Binge drinking caused three-quarters of the total cost of alcohol misuse.
  • More than 7 million children live with a parent with alcohol problems.

Solution Based Treatment Can Help

Alcohol use disorder is a chronic disease. Luckily, the addiction treatment professionals at Solution Based Treatment can help. Our drug and alcohol detox program, along with our inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, provide evidence-based solutions.

If you, a friend, or a loved one shows signs of alcohol addiction, contact Solution Based Treatment & Detox today. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.