Cirque Lodge > Addiction > Understanding Alcohol Addiction

What Is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcoholism is incredibly common. Most people in the United States are affected in some way – they might have a friend, family member, or partner who suffers from the condition. Alcohol is freely available, cheap, and socially acceptable. However, alcohol is also highly dangerous and addictive. In 2019, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 19.3 million Americans had a severe problem with alcohol.

Alcohol addiction is characterized by seemingly uncontrollable urges to drink, despite the negative consequences.

It can be hard to acknowledge that you have a problem with alcohol. It can also be challenging for families to recognize that their loved ones have a disease. However, alcohol addiction is a medical problem that affects the brain, the body, and the spirit. If left untreated, it can be physically and psychologically destructive and even fatal.

With careful treatment, it is possible to recover and live your life free from addiction. At Cirque Lodge, we offer a supervised treatment program to help your body and mind heal from alcohol addiction.

The Scale of the Problem

The Scale of the Problem

In 2019, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism said that 25.8% of people aged twenty-five and older had engaged in binge drinking in the past month. They also found that:

  • only 7.3% of adults aged 18 and over suffering from Alcohol Use Disorder received treatment in 2019.
  • the rate of Emergency Department visits related to alcohol increased by 47% between 2006 and 2014.
  • 1% of liver disease deaths in 2019 involved alcohol.
  • Around 7.5 million American children live with a parent with Alcohol Use Disorder.
Understanding Dependence, Abuse, and Addiction

Understanding Dependence, Abuse, and Addiction

Different Terms and Definitions

There are many different terms to describe an addiction to alcohol. Alcohol abuse means bingeing, but not necessarily being addicted. Bingeing is defined as having a Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.8 g/dl or above. This usually happens when people consume more than four drinks in two hours.

Alcoholism or alcohol dependency is when a person is psychologically or physically dependent on alcohol. Alcohol dependency is a progressive condition, which means it gets worse over time.

The American Medical Association states that alcohol addiction is a disease that has specific symptoms and requires special treatment. However people define themselves; if a person cannot stop drinking, they should seek professional help, and the first step towards recovery is recognizing that there is a problem.

“Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.” Alcoholics Anonymous

How Alcohol Works

Alcohol has both stimulant and depressant effects. When a person drinks a small amount, the alcohol causes a release of dopamine. This produces feelings of pleasure, which can be highly addictive and is responsible for the giddy, elated feeling when you first drink.

However, we are hardwired to want to recreate experiences we enjoy, as our survival instinct assumes it is something that helps us.

As we drink more, alcohol’s depressant effects start to kick in. This means that it slows down the Central Nervous System (CNS) by enhancing the effects of the chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This produces a feeling of calmness, sedation, and confidence. It also lowers the heart and breathing rate.

Alcohol also lowers brain activity and neural functioning. Drinking more than the body's tolerance level or drinking heavily over time can increase the depressant effects of alcohol.

Over time, the more serious effects on your Central Nervous System can include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Unsteady movement
  • Slow reactions
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Memory loss
  • In severe cases: respiratory failure, coma, or death

Common Symptoms of Alcoholism:

  • Having a compulsive desire to drink
  • Thinking or worrying about where your next drink will come from
  • Planning social arrangements or your diary around drinking
  • Not being able to stop drinking once you have started
  • Feeling the urge to drink as soon as you wake up
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking alcohol

Alcohol Withdrawal

When we drink for an extended period, our brain gets used to alcohol, and our nervous system ‘overfires’ to compensate to bring us back to equilibrium. However, our nervous system and brain take time to adjust, and stopping can be a massive shock to the system.

When the nervous system overfires, it causes a wide range of physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms.

Typically, when people start to experience withdrawal symptoms, they will want to drink more to avoid them. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe. Experiencing any of the following symptoms could indicate that you have a problem.

Common Withdrawal Symptoms:

  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Tiredness
  • Feelings of depression or being ‘down.’
  • Mood swings
  • Shakiness
  • Nightmares
  • Sweatiness
  • Insomnia

Serious Withdrawal Symptoms:

  • Delirium Tremens (the DTs)
  • Hallucinations
  • Fever
  • High blood pressure
  • Seizures (both mild and severe)
  • Heart problems, including irregular heartbeat

Without medical intervention, alcohol withdrawal is very uncomfortable and can be fatal. Professionals can help ease the effects of withdrawal with medication and therapy.

The Effects of Alcoholism

The Effects of Alcoholism

When a person is addicted to alcohol, it can start to take over their life.

They spend more and more time thinking about when they will get their next drink. This can affect their relationships, financial situation, and employment.

People suffering from addiction often neglect their family members and lose interest in much-loved hobbies. They can become less committed to their job and prioritize alcohol over personal relationships. Alcoholism can lead to legal problems, such as drink-driving, and increase your risk of being a victim of crime.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, high drinking levels are a risk factor for:

  • Strokes
  • High blood pressure
  • Mental health problems including depression, anxiety, and loneliness
The Causes of Alcoholism

The Causes of Alcoholism

Alcoholism can impact anyone, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity. However, there are some common causes, which are: biological, environmental, and historical.

The biological causes of alcoholism are two-fold. Firstly, the brain seeks to repeat pleasurable experiences like the first effects of alcohol. Secondly, scientists have found that specific genes make some people more likely to develop an addiction than others.

Environmental factors can be anything stressful enough to cause trauma in your present life. This could be experiencing domestic violence or being in a high-pressure job.

Historical causes of alcoholism are usually Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs. Traumatic experiences as a child have a lasting impact on our lives as adults. Often, we drink to cover the unpleasant feelings they cause. Unresolved trauma is one of the leading causes of addiction.

What are the signs of alcohol?

How Treatment Can Help

How Treatment Can Help

The first step to overcoming addiction is recognizing that there is a problem.

The next step is seeking help. The National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors found that early intervention is one of the key factors to recovery.

Addiction treatment is essential because it offers support in a safe and enclosed environment. You will be away from the temptations of drinking, giving you the space to reflect and recover. With the help of our staff, you can come to terms with the problem and begin to rebuild your life.

A strong support structure is vital to recovery. At Cirque Lodge, we know that family is essential to treatment. We take a family approach and involve family members at every stage. We teach family members how to support their loved ones and face addiction head-on.

Our alcohol rehab center provides the perfect support structure to keep you focused on recovery. Our clinically trained therapists will support you every step of the way. We offer tailored activities as part of our experiential therapy to keep your mind occupied while you recover.

We use the most effective addiction treatment methods, research-based techniques, and a combination of therapeutic approaches. Our approach and your desire to recover, will enable you to embrace the future, one day at a time.

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About Cirque Lodge
Cirque Lodge is a recovery retreat providing cognitive and experiential therapies, in the pristine natural beauty of Utah’s Rocky Mountains.

Cirque Lodge is considered among our colleagues, as one of, if not the premium drug and alcohol rehab facility in the country.

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