Alcoholism is one of the most common forms of addiction.
It is amazing that we still struggle to solve the problem of alcoholism in this day and age. In spite of all of our medical advances, and the development of so many new medications to treat mental disorders, the substance abuse treatment community is basically still baffled with the problem of alcoholism. It is still extremely difficult to help the struggling alcoholic, and some of our best efforts today still resemble those used several decades ago.
Millions of people are dependent on alcohol. When a person becomes addicted, they will lose all self-control. Their cravings will increase and they will have a desire to drink in excess. When this happens, there are many things in the person’s life that are affected. Things will no longer remain the same. Not only does the alcoholism affect the individual, but there are also effects felt by other people, including friends, family members and coworkers. People who have alcoholism will often continue to drink. Some of these people won’t even realize they have a problem. While they are destroying their life and the lives of those around them, all they will be able to think about is getting their next drink.
Alcoholism is a serious disease that will usually require some form of treatment. It is possible for those addicted to alcohol to stop drinking, but when they do this, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. Some of these symptoms can be life-threatening and will require immediate medical attention. This is why most people with an alcohol addiction will benefit from an inpatient alcohol rehab center rather than trying to beat their addiction on their own.
Would you like to find an alcohol addiction treatment center that can provide you with the detox and addiction treatment help you need to stop drinking forever? If so, we can help.
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Health Effects of Dependence
Excessive drinking will result in the development of many health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control, alcohol use and abuse will result in about 79,000 deaths in this country each year, making it the third-leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the United States. The long-term effects of alcoholism are similar to those experienced with other drugs. When alcohol is consumed on a moderate level, individuals may run the risk of developing liver disease, pancreatitis, and esophageal and oropharyngeal cancers. Alcoholism can also result in cardiovascular problems. These risks are increased when the patient stops drinking and begins to experience withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms could be severe, and in some cases could result in death.
People who consume excessive amounts of alcohol will also have an increased risk of developing arthritis, cancer, heart disease, hyper- and hypoglycemia, kidney disease, obesity, nervous disorders, psychological disturbances and malnutrition.
- Alcoholism and Your Internal Organs. Studies have repeatedly found that long-term alcoholism effects in spurts throughout a person’s life can cause great harm to one’s internal organs. This includes liver damage, liver failure, high blood pressure and shrunken arteries.
- Alcohol and the Reproductive System. Most young, college-aged women who engage in ongoing binge drinking behavior would be mortified to learn that alcoholism causes disruption to their menstrual cycles, infertility and even early menopause in some women. Even more frightening are the risks of birth defects and fetal alcohol syndrome in the children born to alcoholic women. But young women aren’t the only ones at risk. Male alcoholics may experience a drop in sperm count as a result of long-term alcohol abuse – leaving many unable to father children as they grow older. Alcoholism can also have serious health effects on unborn children. Fetal alcohol syndrome is caused from a mother drinking heavily while pregnant. The fetus will suffer physical and behavioral abnormalities.
- Alcoholism and the Bones. Teen alcoholics run the risk of stunted bone growth as they grow older. This is another prime example of the risks of alcohol abuse during a time when the individual is going through important stages of development. In older men and women, alcoholism can lead to osteoporosis and other bone-related issues.
- Alcoholism and Cancer. A number of recent studies by the American Medical Association have found links between alcoholism and certain types of cancer. Regardless of the chances of getting cancer as a result of drinking, this should be reason enough to enter into an alcohol rehab program as soon as possible.
- The Nose and Alcoholism. It is a little known fact, but alcoholics run the risk of losing their sense of smell over time. Just another prime example of the many ways in which alcoholism leaves no stone unturned when it comes to damaging the human body.
- How the Brain Is Affected by Alcoholism. An individual who abuses alcohol sees their brain literally shrink over time, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction. The frontal cortex – the area of the brain responsible for higher functioning, including reasoning and long-term planning – is heavily impacted by this problem. The hippocampus is also impacted negatively by heavy drinking. This causes problems in learning and memory — and an individual’s mood as well.
Although some of the health problems associated with alcoholism are, unfortunately, irreversible, there is still time to get help before you see your good health slip away. An alcohol rehab program is designed to help individuals stop drinking – and learn the healthy habits needed to stay sober for the rest of their lives. Many alcoholism treatment centers even offer nutritional counseling and exercise programs to help rebuild their patient’s health after a long bout with alcohol abuse. And of course, there are medical detox professionals on site at these facilities to help individuals address the problems that have been created by binge drinking over many years.
Aside from the many health effects caused by drinking alcohol in excess, people struggling with alcoholism will also suffer negative social effects due to the disorder. They may begin to withdraw from positive relationships with family and friends and replace these with a new social circle that consists of other people with similar addiction issues.
Interactions at work often become strained – if the patient can function well enough to continue coming into work; most lose their jobs early on in the development of alcoholism and few manage to find another job or hold onto it for very long if they do.
Maintaining a meaningful partnership or romantic relationship becomes almost impossible and interactions with children fall to the wayside. Most people with alcoholism will experience major changes in their marriage and need therapeutic help if the marriage is to be saved. The well spouse may leave or demand divorce unless the alcoholic receives treatment. If children are involved, the addict may no longer be a part of their lives.
In general, alcoholism is an isolating disorder, worsening as the patient loses close connections to everyone outside of their addiction world.
Emotional and Mental Effects
Alcoholism poses a threat to every aspect of the addict’s life, and their mental and emotional well-being is no exception. Many alcoholics experience unexplained mood swings, anxiety, severe depression, suicidal thoughts and tendencies, angry outbursts and/or acts of violence. All of these things are caused by the changes that occur in the brain due to chronic alcohol abuse, according to the National Institutes of Health. Because of the emotional issues surrounding the development of alcohol abuse and addiction, a number of other residual negative consequences can crop up for those prior to recovery.
- Financial problems. Medical issues, losing one’s job, and being unable to pay bills can lead to massive financial problems. Bankruptcy, foreclosure, unemployment and homelessness are often the results of untreated alcoholism.
- Legal issues. Extreme mood swings can mean violent outbursts and poor decision-making, and these choices, in turn, can mean problems with the law. Arrests for driving under the influence, assault, and drunk in public charges are not uncommon.
- Lost reputation. Though many living with an active addiction believe that their issues with alcohol are secret, it doesn’t take long for others in the community to identify alcoholic patients by their addiction only and isolate them socially.
- Lost opportunities. The lost opportunities are almost limitless when alcoholism is an issue. How many raises, career opportunities, learning opportunities, new relationships, trips and other opportunities might a patient experience if he or she were not absorbed entirely by drinking?
The Difference Between Problem Drinking and Alcoholism
Problem drinkers and alcoholics are two completely different kinds of patients. Both can benefit from alcohol rehab but the focus and best practices for treatment are a bit different. Problem drinkers function well enough when they are sober but when alcohol is introduced, they create problems for themselves. In most cases, outpatient alcohol addiction treatment is the best option for care, providing problem drinkers with the therapy, educational classes, and therapeutic and peer support that they need to avoid drinking.
Alcoholics, on the other hand, are almost always under the influence and create such problems for themselves at work and home as a result that it is almost impossible for them to function successfully. Most end up dealing with homelessness, bankruptcy, divorce and isolation.
In short, a problem drinker has issues when they are given alcohol while an alcoholic has the most significant issues when he or she has alcohol taken away. The withdrawal symptoms and physical illness associated with alcoholism make it a primary disease and the drive to drink usually comes from a psychological issue that existed well before the development of alcohol addiction.
Because alcohol addiction is so common, there is a great deal of information and support available to patients who are ready to get the help they need to recover. The options for treatment range from inpatient care to outpatient addiction support as well as a number of aftercare options including 12-step meetings and sober living.
The traditional treatment for alcoholism is still the dominant model for recovery today: the 12-step program, Alcoholics Anonymous. The vast majority of alcohol treatment centers still employ this program as the foundation of their recovery model. There are both advantages and disadvantages to using the 12-step based approach, and a number of new holistic treatment programs also incorporate alternative therapies and treatments in order to provide a well-rounded treatment plan to suit the needs of any individual.
In addition to the 12-step model, other forms of effective treatment for alcoholism include:
- Alternative care. Yoga, meditation, acupuncture, acupressure – there are a number of Eastern medicines that have been shown to be effective for those in recovery from alcohol addiction. Many patients begin these treatments during rehab and continue them after they return home in an effort to maintain their recovery.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. CBT or talk therapy that focuses on behavior modification and management help patients to learn active new ways of dealing with stresses and underlying psychological issues that they formerly attempted to remedy through drinking. Provided in a one-on-one setting with only the patient and therapist present or performed in a group session with other peers in recovery from alcoholism, both forms offer different benefits to peers while moving them closer to the goal of active sobriety.
- Experiential therapy. Interactive therapies can go a long way toward helping reticent patients experience a “breakthrough” in treatment. Art therapy, journaling, writing therapy, cinema therapy, outdoors and adventure therapies – all these are based on active participation by the patient. The more involved the patient is, the more likely that he or she will be able to find a new perspective and understanding of their personal experience and learn how to move forward in recovery.
- Aftercare. After alcohol rehab, it is important that patients stay heavily involved in their recovery. Incorporating 12-step meetings, alumni group meetings, support groups, alternative therapies and other options into their schedule can help them to maintain focus. If this is not enough, sober living homes that offer 24-hour support and guidance can be effective.
Find Treatment Today
With the number of choices available in alcoholism treatment, the best choice for you may not be readily apparent. It’s important to choose a rehab that offers everything you need personally to heal from alcohol addiction and learn how to live without dependence upon alcohol and other substances.
Contact us today to discuss the options that would be most appropriate for your needs and begin the process of enrollment.
We can match you to an alcohol rehab that will provide you with the comprehensive care that will help you to make true progress in recovery. Call today.