Alcohol addiction is more commonly referred to as “alcoholism”. Alcoholism is now recognized as a disease and it can affect anybody, being indiscriminate of race, gender, age, or creed. Scientists have tried to determine whether there are certain factors, like socioeconomic status, race, sex, or genes, that make somebody more likely to develop the disease, but there simply is no such thing. That said, there are behavioral, genetic, and psychological factors that may contribute to people developing the addiction.

Alcoholism is a disease because it changes the way the brain functions, as well as its neurochemistry. This also means that once people have the disease, they have less control over their actions.

There are a number of different ways in which alcohol addiction can show itself. Every individual experiences it differently, however, depending on the alcoholic beverage, how often the person drinks, and how severe the addiction is. Some people with alcoholism, for instance, drink from the time they wake up until they go to bed. Others will binge drink on one night, and then remain sober for a few days. What brings it together, however, is that those who have an alcohol addiction rely on heavy drinking for certain situations, and that they are not able to remain completely sober for lengthy periods of time.

Understanding the Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

It can be very difficult to recognize alcoholism. This is because, unlike heroin or cocaine, alcohol is a socially accepted drug in most cultures, meaning it is also readily available. Only those who are underaged are prevented from drinking. In many cases, social situations are centered around alcohol, and this means people associate it with enjoyment and celebration. Many people see drinking as a normal part of life. It is very common in our society for people to drink, which means it is difficult to determine whether someone simply enjoys a few drinks now and then, or actually has a problem.

That said, there are a number of symptoms associated with alcohol addiction:

  • People increasing how often they drink and/or how much they drink
  • People becoming tolerant to the effects of alcohol and no longer experiencing hangovers
  • People drinking at times that are not appropriate, such as in church, at work, or first thing in the morning
  • People actively seeking out situations where there is alcohol, as well as avoiding those where there isn’t any
  • People changing their social relationships, searching for new friends who also consume large amounts of alcohol
  • People withdrawing from those who care about them
  • People feeling they need alcohol in order to be able to function normally
  • People experiencing emotional issues such as depression or increased lethargy
  • People experiencing professional or legal problems, such as losing their job or getting arrested

Addictions are progressive in nature. This means it is important to be aware of the various early warning signs. If alcoholism is identified early enough, and treatment is provided, those who suffer from it may be able to avoid its most serious consequences. Hence, if you believe certain people you care about are addicted to alcohol, you need to find a supportive way to approach the issue. If you make them feel guilty, or shame them, they are more likely to feel pushed out and it will be more difficult for them to accept the help that you are trying to offer.

Health Complications Associated with Alcohol Addiction

Alcoholism can lead to some very serious health problems, including liver disease and heart disease, which can both be fatal. Other associated health concerns include:

  • Complications with diabetes
  • Ulcers
  • Birth defects
  • Sexual problems
  • Vision problems
  • Bone loss
  • Suppressed immune function
  • Increased risk of various forms of cancer

Another significant issue is that many people with alcoholism engage in risky behaviors when they drink. This means that they also put the lives of other people in danger. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that some 28 people lose their lives on our roads every day as a result of drink driving. Furthermore, there are links between drinking to excess and homicide and suicide, as well as with promiscuous behaviors.

These are all very serious complications. They also demonstrate the importance of making sure that the addiction is treated as early as possible. Virtually every risk that is associated with alcoholism can either be avoided or treated, and long term recovery can be very successful.

How Is Alcohol Addiction Treated?

Treating alcoholism is both challenging and complex, unfortunately. For treatment to be successful, the person who is receiving it must want to receive treatment. This is quite unique in the world of addiction, as most can be successfully treated even if someone is unwilling to accept the treatment. With alcoholism, however, it is virtually impossible for people to stop drinking unless they feel ready to do so. Only those who want to get better will be ultimately successful in doing so.

No Easy or Quick Solution

Recovering from alcoholism takes the rest of someone’s life. There is no easy of quick solution or fix. Rather, it is a treatment that people have to commit to daily, for the rest of their lives. As such, it is widely accepted that there is no cure for alcoholism, and most people will say they are always “recovering alcoholics”.

Alcohol Rehab Programs

One of the most common forms of treatment for someone who is addicted to alcohol is rehab. There are both inpatient and outpatient rehab programs. In an inpatient program, people stay within a facility for anything from 30 days to a a full year. Here, people learn to deal with the withdrawal they will go through when they stop consuming alcohol, but also with the emotional challenges that they face. In outpatient programs, people are provided with support every day, but they continue to live at home.

Perhaps the most famous type of alcoholism treatment is offered through Alcoholics Anonymous ( AA), with various other programs based on the AA program. This program is known as the 12 step model, which involves surrendering to a higher power. Some people feel incapable of doing this, and they can turn to SMART Recovery and Sober Recovery instead, for instance.
Importance of a Support Group

Regardless of the support system that someone chooses, getting involved in some sort of group is often very important. By being part of a sober community, you can deal with the complex challenges of being sober in day to day life. Additionally, they enable you to be surrounded by a community of real peers, who understand the experiences you go through. With these people, you can build healthy friendships, while at the same time being held accountable and giving you a safe place to go to if you fear your will relapse.

Other Options

There are other options available as well, including nutritional changes, counseling, and drug therapy. Certain conditions may also be treated through medication. For instance, some people with an alcohol addiction self-medicate because they suffer from depression, and they could be prescribed antidepressants. In fact, medication to deal with emotions is commonly offered to people who are recovering.

Therapy is one of the most important tools to help people deal with the stress of recovery. Additionally, it helps them to gain the skills they need to avoid relapse. They are usually also offered nutritional therapy, as alcohol will have significantly damaged someone’s health, often leading to either weight loss or gain.

As such, there are many different methods available to treat someone with alcoholism. The right treatment depends on the individual, as they must receive the support that will help them achieve sobriety. For some, this means more therapy, while others need longer inpatient treatment.

Alcoholism Treatment Resources

Resources are available for those who have alcoholism, or who suspect their loved ones have it. There are numerous organizations out there who can help with referrals, or they can provide other resources and information. Some of the organizations to consider are, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD).

Outlook for Alcohol Addiction

If alcoholism is treated early, the outlook is generally good. The longer an addiction is in place, however, the more difficult it becomes to treat. That said, even long-standing alcohol addiction is treatable. It is important that alcoholics have a proper support network, however, which is why their loved ones are also encouraged to join programs to help them better understand the situation.

Unfortunately, relapse rates across all addictions are high, even after people have been sober for months or even for years. They may suddenly have a night on which they binge drink and then instantly seek help. Some return to drinking for lengthy periods of time. Either way, relapse should not be seen as a failure, but rather as an indication that they require further treatment.

At the end of the day, alcoholics are the ones who are ultimately responsible for remaining sober. This is why their loved ones should ensure they do not enable them to return to destructive behaviors, and that they set boundaries in place if the addicted person continues to drink. This could mean, for instance, no longer providing them with any kind of financial help as this will make it harder for them to remain addicted. At the same time, however, it is very important that loved ones continue to provide strong emotional support and that they are encouraging.