Alcohol is the most widely known and commonly used substance on the market. Whether it is being glamorized in movies or television advertisements, there is no denying its popularity. Alcohol addiction is a chronic disease, and if left untreated, it can lead to less than desirable outcomes. Due in part to being a chronic disease, the user and loved ones around them can be affected negatively. Receiving the help needed is crucial to saving lives.
There are two common scenarios relating to why people drink. These include coping with stress or “letting loose” to have fun in a social setting. The outcome of something seemingly innocent can lead to a crutch, a severe psychological and/or physical addiction or dependency.
When a person becomes dependent on alcohol, they begin to lose control of the amount that they will consume. Chronic alcohol abuse can quickly lead to tolerance, which, in turn, makes it difficult to go just a few hours without a drink. The problems associated with alcohol withdrawal classify it as one of the most dangerous addictions. Someone who is struggling with controlling alcohol intake should immediately consider alcohol rehab.
According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are 11 criteria clinicians use to determine if a person has alcohol use disorder (AUD) They are:
Alcohol, the most common addictive substance in the United States, affects more than 18 million people. Knowing what alcohol use disorder is can help people, particularly people who drink regularly or excessively, understand how severe a problem it can be and encourage one to get help for it.
Alcohol use disorder, also known as alcoholism, is defined as a long-term brain disease that is associated with the compulsive consumption of alcohol and having a negative mental state when not drinking. Statistics show that alcohol addiction affects 1 in every 12 U.S. adults and that one in 12 should seek alcohol rehab immediately.
The most important part of treatment is identifying the root of the addiction. With that said, a multitude of factors come into play. Some of these factors could relate to the users’ environment, mental disorders, and even genetics. All of these will affect each person differently, but studies have shown that environmental factors will dictate susceptibility to addiction. Those raised by an alcoholic parent have a greater chance of attending alcohol rehab and have a higher chance of developing alcoholism.
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In many cases, the beginnings of alcohol addiction can be traced back to childhood. The person was more likely exposed at a young age to alcohol and its intoxicating effects. Statistics show that children who began drinking before age 15 are six times more likely to fall into the clutches of alcohol addiction. A study from the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, support this data, telling us that more than 40 percent of all 10th-graders drink alcohol. Children are more likely to give into peer pressure that could exacerbate a problem that is seemingly innocent at the time.
While children are certainly susceptible to developing an addiction, college students also show a high rate of abuse as well. A major study released shows that freshmen have some of the highest rates of substance abuse. Alcoholism has been once thought of as a disease affecting people of “middle-age,” but studies that continue to be released are beginning to challenge those theories. Young adults actually hold the majority when it comes to alcoholics in the United States.
As with most drugs, a root in the cause and desire of use is a mental disorder. Those in pain tend to self-medicate to numb the pain from a mental disorder. This is something that will work short-term, as shown throughout this article and various studies released, alcohol abuse has several adverse long-term effects.
While there are no genes that have been proven linked to the development of alcoholism, there are genes that have been proven to reduce the effects of an alcohol hangover. Genes also can increase the pleasurable effects of drinking alcohol and push someone to abuse and build a tolerance than a person without this gene. When working in conjunction with one another, genes have the power to influence an individual’s susceptibility to alcoholism.
Studies have shown that 90 percent of people who are addicted to alcohol know they’re addicted but will refuse professional treatment. This scenario contributes to more cases of severe withdrawal with the strong chance of a fatal outcome. Reducing, or stopping heavy alcohol consumption, is not a feat to be taken lightly; it is a very serious issue that requires professional help to ensure a healthy detox.
Those who ignore the advice for professional treatment face one of two outcomes: 1.) Continue to abuse or 2.) Try to treat themselves by stopping cold turkey. This is an ineffective solution to a serious medical condition.
What “cold turkey” indicates is that a user of a substance quits all intake of a specific drug at once. This should never be considered. This is extremely dangerous, and severe withdrawal symptoms can result in great harm. It may seem like a quick solution, but it will be met with extreme discomfort. This route doesn’t offer medical supervision or support the user’s needs. The rate of relapse from cold turkey detoxing is generally higher than a true medical detox.
Alcohol is classified as a depressant, and it works by slowing down the body, brain, and central nervous system functions. This causes your body to work harder to simply stay awake. By quitting cold turkey, the person allows no time for their body to adjust safely from being overworked and dependent on an addictive substance to sobriety. Clients have a better chance of recovering from substance abuse safely if they slowly and properly adjust to not having the substance in their bodies with the help of addiction specialists.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be severe depending on factors related to past abuse. These can range from how long the user has been drinking, and how much alcohol is consumed every day. Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, and can include:
While these symptoms are uncomfortable, they are fatal. There are more severe side effects attributed to alcoholism called delirium tremens, or DTs for short. These only occur in five percent of alcoholics. Hallucinations can be associated with this symptom as well as hypertension and hypotension seizures. This can result in a fatality, which is why medical assistance is recommended when detoxing from alcohol. Some other side effects of delirium tremens include:
Treating alcohol abuse requires finding a personalized rehab experience. The person who attends a treatment center needs to feel comfortable with the customized medical plan to accommodate the specific needs of the individual.
Alcohol rehab can be extreme depending on the symptoms, even more so than other addiction treatment processes, but it follows the same practices as other substance abuse treatments. The individual will begin with a medical detox before transferring into a residential inpatient, or outpatient facility.
This is the first portion and widely considered the most difficult of alcohol rehab. Detox will dictate the overall success of treatment because those successful in detox are much more likely to achieve long-term sobriety.
This part of the process will vary from five to seven days depending on symptoms while medically removing the substance from the body. Through tapering and medications, medical detox allows for a more comfortable return to sobriety before an inpatient/outpatient treatment program.
Inpatient treatment refers to post-detox where a person lives on-site for the duration of their recommended treatment. If someone is at high risk of relapse after detox ends, the person should consider entering an inpatient treatment program.
Residential treatment is a specific kind of inpatient treatment that explores the psychological reasons for addiction. This method is usually longer than other inpatient programs. Clients are under 24/7 medical supervision while receiving therapy and other services while living on-site at the treatment facility.
Outpatient treatment is geared more toward people who cannot leave work for an extended time. Outpatient alcohol rehab programs are quick, clean effective, and generally shorter than inpatient programs. More often than not, in these situations where outpatient will be suggested, clients find themselves more comfortable in the confines of their own home.
If someone is at less risk of having a relapse, they will treat their addiction in this fashion as it would be most beneficial for them. After visiting the outpatient treatment center for the required few hours each day, the client will return home to continue living their day-to-day lives.
Those in this setting are granted many freedoms that in other treatments wouldn’t allow for. This allows the client to build new coping mechanisms in the environment that a client in residential would ultimately be released into. There is the bonus of constant support from friends and family. This teaches the individual not only how to be sober but how to stay sober.
What Is Alcoholism? Definition, Signs, Causes, & Effects. (n.d.). from https://www.alcohol.org/alcoholism/
Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD. from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015.pdf
MADD. Statistics. (n.d.). from https://www.madd.org/statistics/
Healthline. (2020, January 7) Is It Safe to Quit Substances Cold Turkey? Here's What to Consider. Watson, S. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/opioid-withdrawal/quitting-cold-turkey