Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol Addiction Facts

Considered the third most common mental illness in the United States, alcohol addiction affects approximately 15 million people. While men and teens are more likely to suffer from alcohol addiction, anybody can be affected either directly or indirectly. Alcoholism can also have an impact on the economy, accounting for about $60 million in lost revenue annually due to missed days of work, not to mention the billions spent on emergency medical care resulting from excessive alcohol consumption. It should be noted that alcohol abuse is not the same as alcohol addiction. Someone who abuses alcohol may drink to excess on an occasional basis without a strong “need” to drink again other than in social settings. An addict, on the other hand, develops a psychological dependency over time. Seeking help for an addiction to alcohol starts with identifying the problem and knowing the alcohol addiction facts.

Recognizing Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

Consuming about 4-8 ounces of alcohol a day can have many documented health benefits. However, when a “safe level” of drinking becomes excessive, an individual becomes more susceptible to alcohol addiction by developing a physical and mental dependency on alcohol, negating any possible health benefits. Symptoms or signs of a problem with alcohol vary from person to person. Family background and medical history can also play a part in an individual’s susceptibility to addiction. While everyone has a different level of alcohol tolerance, specific signs indicate a severe problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Short-term symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headaches and slurred speech are indicative of alcohol abuse since these symptoms disappear fairly quickly with no significant effects. When drinking becomes a pattern, however, many individuals develop physical and mental conditions associated with excessive alcohol consumption. Long-term symptoms of alcohol addiction may include:

  • Inability to concentrate on the task at hand
  • Erratic behavior and periodic bouts of depression
  • Looking forward to the next drink
  • Failure to control amount of drinks consumed
  • Giving up normal activities to drink instead
  • Suffering withdrawal symptoms when not drinking

Convincing Someone That There’s a Problem

The first step towards overcoming an alcohol addiction is for that individual to realize that they need help. A standard method of convincing someone to seek help is through an intervention. Some inpatient programs include initial meetings with family members to help the addict see how their behavior is affecting others. An intervention should be overseen by a professional familiar with working with individuals with varying degrees of addiction.  Also, it should be staged at a time when the individual is sober. The professional overseeing the intervention will typically meet with family and friends who are a part of the session separately to discuss what to expect and how to help their loved one best. Once an individual agrees to seek help, it’s best to start treatment immediately, another reason to consider going to an inpatient facility since many of these facilities are equipped to welcome patients following a successful intervention, which is the first step in the treatment process.

Long-term Physical and Psychological Effects of Alcohol Addiction

Chronic consumption of alcohol over an extended period can have an impact on every vital organ in the human body, including the brain. Unfortunately, some of the possible long-term effects of excessive alcohol consumption are permanent, or at least not easily treatable without serious medical intervention. According to a Harvard University study, alcoholism may reduce life expectancy from 10-12 years, depending on factors such as when a person stops drinking and how long the problem existed before seeking successful treatment. Some of the potential physical and psychological effects of long-term alcohol addiction include:

  • Anemia (evidenced by symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath)
  • Increased risk of some forms of cancer (including breast cancer and liver cancer)
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Poor coordination
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Thiamine deficiency
  • Amnesia and confusion
  • Low self-esteem and increased suicidal thoughts
  • Memory loss (including increased odds of developing dementia later in life)
  • Bone density and pubertal development in teens
  • Depression and mood swings
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Increased odds of infectious disease (including HIV/AIDS from risky sexual behavior)
  • Nerve damage (including muscle weakness and numbness)
  • Stomach pain and digestive issues

Why Going Cold Turkey Often Fails

Some individuals dealing with an alcohol addiction tend to have the attitude that they can stop drinking anytime. According to some estimates, the long-term success rate for individuals who use the cold turkey method is only five percent. The main problem with quitting cold turkey is that many individuals, even those with strong willpower, fail to consider the impact of withdrawal symptoms that often occur when suddenly stopping all alcohol consumption. Over time, the human body develops a dependency on alcohol, causing a series of physical reactions that often prompt an individual to return to their previous level of consumption. Common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Tremors
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Profuse sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Angry outbursts or irritability
  • Anxiety

How Inpatient Treatment Can Combat Codependency

Codependency, also referred to as relationship dependency, occurs when one individual is influenced by the actions of another. Regarding alcohol addiction, this often includes people who provide alcohol or encourage an individual to drink. Codependency can also include peer pressure in group situations when an individual drinks to fit in with the group. Individuals susceptible to codependent behavior tend to have low self-esteem and are easily manipulated by others. Inpatient treatment combats this problem by restricting outside contact, effectively cutting off the so-called “influencer” from encouraging a self-destructive behavior.

Recognizing Risk Factors of Alcohol Addiction

While peer pressure is often a reason for alcohol abuse, addiction is often driven by underlying issues such as depression and anxiety. Studies suggest that individuals with a family history of alcoholism, especially with parents who used and abused alcohol on a regular basis, are more likely to develop the same addictive behaviors. Studies link impulse and antisocial behaviors as contributing factors to alcohol addiction. Sexual abuse as a child has been identified as a possible factor for both men and women. Also, individuals who have their first drink at a younger age, specifically in preteen and early teen years, tend to develop addictive drinking behaviors as adults. The five specific stages of alcohol addiction, also used to characterize similar addictions, are:

  • Having access to alcohol
  • Experimenting with the occasional use of alcohol (such as binge drinking with friends)
  • Increasing frequency of the use of alcohol (may include spending more money on alcohol)
  • Establishing a regular pattern of frequent alcohol consumption (to become intoxicated)
  • Requiring the consumption of alcohol to function or “feel normal.”

When It’s Time to Seek Inpatient Treatment

No treatment for alcohol addiction is going to be successful unless the individual with the addiction is willing to seek help, or at least acknowledges that a problem exists. With more than 700,000 people seeking treatment for alcohol addiction or abuse annually in the US, there are plenty of options for treatment. Alcohol addiction facts show that out of all the treatment options available, inpatient treatments for alcohol addiction tend to be more successful than other programs. This is true because outside influences are limited and a variety of issues are addressed as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that identifies and addresses problems that likely contributed to the patient’s alcohol addiction. The medical staff is also on hand to address withdrawal symptoms and other immediate medical needs in a controlled setting. Additional benefits of inpatient treatments include:

  • Structure
  • 24/7 support
  • No access to alcohol
  • Continuous supervision
  • Avoidance of distractions
  • Development of supportive friendships

Developing Additional Therapeutic Outlets

Inpatient alcohol addiction programs often offer, or at least provide access to, other therapeutic outlets a patient can continue with once the initial inpatient process is completed. Some of these programs, such as yoga and group fitness exercises, can be easily continued after a patient is released from the treatment center through local classes or practiced individually at home. The basic concept of any alternative therapy is to provide the patient with another focus to avoid returning to previous behaviors. These therapies are often a part of inpatient treatment programs. However, patients can continue with therapies they find helpful once they are discharged from their inpatient program. Alternative therapies may include:

  • Tai Chi
  • Pilates
  • Low-impact aerobics
  • Walking/jogging
  • Arts and crafts

Long-term effects of alcohol addiction such as liver disease and issues with memory retention can last even beyond successful treatment. For this reason, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. It’s equally important to realize that the successful completion of inpatient treatment doesn’t mean that an addict has been cured. However, inpatient treatments often offer effective methods for dealing with situations an individual may encounter post-treatment such as continuing to address and identify the underlying causes of the addictive behavior and developing a strong support system.  You can learn more alcohol addiction facts by calling our toll-free number today.