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Alcohol & Drug Rehab Main » Research » Alcohol Addiction » Understanding Alcoholism

Understanding Alcoholism

Alcohol Addiction Alcohol addiction is a disease of the behavior, the brain and most importantly the spirit. It's a malady that not only impacts the life of the alcoholic, but also to those they care about. It is progressive and doesn't take off weekends or holidays. It is damaging and life threatening. It is also treatable. Each day, more individuals are getting sober and walking away from alcohol abuse. For many, it takes an alcoholism treatment program. Below we address how alcoholism impacts us, and what can be done to treat and recover from alcohol addiction.

How big is the Alcohol Problem?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that 17 million adult aged individuals (7.2% of those in America that drink alcohol) can be diagnosed as being alcoholic, or the professional term, having an alcohol use disorder. In 2012, only 8% of these individuals actually received any treatment for their addictions. Estimates also state that 88,000 individuals with alcohol problems die annually from alcohol related causes, making it third leading cause of preventable death.

Other statistics related to alcohol addiction:
  • Alcohol Misuse costs the United States over 200 billion dollars annually
  • 5.9% of deaths around the world are attributed to alcohol consumption
  • Contributes to over 200 disease and injury-related conditions
  • More than 10% of Children live with a parent who could be classed as having an alcohol problem
(* NIAAA Alcohol Facts & Statistics)

Understanding Alcoholism, Dependence & Withdrawal

An addiction to alcohol is described in many different terms. Alcohol Abuse is the practice of binging or drinking too much, but doesn't mean an addiction. Nowadays the clinical term for being addicted to alcohol is an 'Alcohol Use Disorder.' Alcoholism is used to describe a situation where an individual has become physically and psychologically dependent to drinking. It is also called Alcohol Dependency, dependence or problem drinking. Regardless the terminology, if you cannot stop or curb drinking, you have a problem and most likely an addiction. The pages that follow in this article will help you with questions to answer regarding your drinking habits.

The American Medical Association, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, as well as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration all consider alcohol addiction as a progressive disorder or disease. This is an often discussed and debated concept, because it is a disease that is self-inflicted. However it fits all the criteria of the disease model of being chronic, often relapsing, has discernable symptoms and requires specified treatments.

Those dependent on alcohol will develop high tolerances to drinking, or will have to move onto harder drinks to get drunk over time. Dependency also means withdrawal when an individual doesn't have the right levels of alcohol in their system. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can vary and can range from minor things to severe and life threatening maladies. Some withdrawal symptoms include:
  • Sleeplessness
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • The Sweats
  • The Shakes
  • Migraines / Headaches
More severe withdrawal can involve:
  • Delirium Tremens (The DT's)
  • Disorientation, Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Fever
  • Seizures (mild to very serious)
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Irregular Heartbeat / Heart problems

What are the Effects of Alcoholism?

The social problems arising from alcoholism can include loss of employment, financial problems, strife within personal relationships and legal issues (such as drunk driving and public intoxication) Alcohol dependence affects not only the addicted but can profoundly impact the family members and loved ones around them.

Long-term physical effects from alcoholism are quite severe - cirrhosis of the liver, increased chance of heart disease and death. Additionally, alcohol is known to compound any existing depressive tendencies, leading to a great potential for suicide attempts and other self-destructive behavior. Alcoholism can even lead to sexual dysfunction in some people.

How does Treatment Help Someone Quit Drinking?

Treatment seeks to help you quit drinking in a number of ways. First of all, inpatient treatment provides you with a controlled and supportive environment. It gives you time to, as put in olden terms, 'dry out'. Without the influence of alcohol you will notice a number of things change. You will experience an array of different emotions that the booze kept suppressed. These emotions may not be too easy to deal with at first. That is where the therapy comes in. A licensed therapist can help you take a much deeper look at things and help you learn how to handle sobriety.

A support structure is also a vital piece to inpatient treatment. Even after you have quit drinking your mind will be begging and pleading for alcohol. This can be quite a rough patch on your own. Alcohol rehab provides a number of activities, treatments and scheduling to help you get your mind off of drinking. Part of this is the support structure of professional staff and also others who are in rehab with you. Rehabs like Cirque even provide a family element to help teach your loved ones about ways they can support your sobriety. This is just the surface of the benefits of an alcohol addiction program.