Alcohol addiction, also called alcoholism, is defined by a wide range of symptoms. Do you continue to drink even though it causes trouble with your family or friends? Do you end up drinking more than you intended? Have you tried to stop drinking, but you couldn’t? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, nearly 18 million Americans meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder diagnosis.
If any of the following symptoms of alcohol addiction remind you of your own experience or that of someone you love, Michael’s House can help. We offer a comprehensive residential alcohol addiction treatment program with integrated treatment for co-occurring mental health issues and outpatient treatment options. Call us now to talk about how our patient-centered care can help you or a loved one start a new life in recovery.
Here are some ways in which alcohol addiction is different from alcohol abuse:
- No control over drinking (e.g., you end up drinking multiple drinks when you started out wanting only one or blacking out during drinking binges)
- Withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking
- Feeling compelled to drink in order to stop withdrawal symptoms
- Tolerance for alcohol or the need to drink more and more in order to feel the effects
- Chronic health problems related to alcohol addiction (e.g., liver disease or kidney failure)
- The loss of relationships, jobs, favorite activities and other positive things in your life due to alcohol
- The desire to quit drinking but the inability to do so alone
Alcohol: The Legal Drug
In the United States, alcohol is legal to buy and possess for everyone over the age of 21. The rules and regulations surrounding alcohol in this country generally deal with amounts of consumption and behavior under the influence. Unfortunately, these are often the only safety nets that help authorities identify those who are living with alcohol addiction.
Responsible use of alcohol is not only possible but the norm in our society and in societies and cultures dating back to ancient times. Alcohol addiction does not strike everyone who picks up a drink or even every person who drinks regularly. In fact, in small doses, alcohol can be a positive health choice. However, when alcohol abuse becomes a factor and ultimately evolves into alcohol addiction, all benefits of minimal consumption are lost to the extreme, life-threatening issues that develop.
Common Myths Surrounding Alcohol Use, Abuse and Addiction
Too many myths surround alcoholism and addiction, and these falsehoods often result in poor choices made by those who believe they are making educated and safe choices. Here are just a few of those myths debunked:
- Alcohol is good for you. Only in very small amounts (e.g., half a glass of red wine per day) is alcohol beneficial to the health. Larger amounts can mean health disturbances later on.
- Moderate alcohol consumption is okay. According to the National Institutes of Health, moderate alcohol consumption can lead to negative consequences, just like heavy drinking in both the short and long term.
- Alcoholism signifies a moral deficiency. Alcoholism is a medical disorder that affects the brain and body; it is not an issue of character or morality. Medical treatment is necessary for a full recovery.
- Alcoholism is only a problem for the drinker. The community, family members, neighbors and strangers all bear the brunt of a single alcoholic’s addiction. The financial cost to the community alone adds up to about 60 percent as compared to the 40-percent cost born by the drinker and his or her family.
- Alcohol addiction is an adult issue. Teens are one of the largest groups of alcohol abusers and it is the drug of choice among those aged 12 to 18. The only difference between children and adults in terms of alcohol addiction is the criteria with which it is diagnosed. There is also a significant effect on children when parents live with the disorder.
- AA can cure alcoholism. There is no cure for alcohol addiction or addiction to any drug. However, 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous can be a significant part of a successful treatment for alcoholism.
The Dangers of Alcoholism
Alcohol addiction is even more destructive than alcohol abuse, destroying the health of the alcoholic, their family and interpersonal relationships, their hopes for their career and in the community – everything that is good and positive. Self-esteem plummets, leaving many alcoholics with the feeling that their sole friend is alcohol and that, without it, they are uninteresting to others and ineffective in their lives. Unfortunately, the opposite is true – alcoholism drains the personality and makes it impossible to enjoy functional relationships with family members, coworkers and friends. Without treatment, many lose themselves, their futures and their happiness to the bottle.
Genetic Risk and Environmental Causes for Developing Alcoholism
Most people can drink without consequence, maintaining a healthy relationship with alcohol. However, about 17 percent will ultimately develop a dependency or abuse issue with alcohol, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Why? Though there are a number of possibilities, genetics is the most studied potential cause of alcoholism; research shows that children of alcoholics or siblings of alcoholics are at a higher risk of developing an addiction to alcohol or to other drugs as well.
It should be noted, however, that those who are closely related to an alcoholic share more than just genes; they generally share a common environment as well. By studying twins and siblings separated by adoption, it became clear that both genetics and environment are key factors but even siblings related to alcoholic siblings who were separated in early childhood had an increased risk of developing an addiction to alcohol.
It is important to note that genetic predisposition does not in any way guarantee that alcoholism will become an issue. Having a genetic predisposition means that you have an increased chance of developing a dependency through regular drinking than someone without a genetic link to family members living with the disease.
The Effects of Alcoholism on Teenagers
Alcohol addiction affects teenagers heavily. In fact, alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among teens. Why? A number of reasons. Seeing a parent or family member drink heavily and/or often is one of the biggest; teenagers, like children, tend to model the behavior they see around them. Also, when parents drink often, teenagers who live with them have more ready access to alcohol, which makes experimentation easier.
According to J.S. Baer’s “Effects of college residence on perceived norms for alcohol consumption: An examination of the first year in college” in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, teens may also drink according to how much they believe their peers are drinking. Their perception may not be based on fact, but
many tend to drink more if they believe their friends and others their age are drinking.
Additionally, many teens are heavily affected by their impressions of drinking and its effects. If that impression is positive, they may be more likely to drink and in large amounts. If that impression is negative, they may be more likely to shy away from alcohol. Parents play a large part in developing those notions, as does the media and peer influence. Parents who support their teenagers and help them to avoid drinking have a significant impact on whether or not their child ultimately develops a dependence upon alcohol.
Related Article: Teens and Recovery
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
It’s not always easy to recognize alcohol addiction in yourself or in someone you care about. Here are some of the most common and easily spotted signs that alcoholism is an issue that requires treatment in your life or the life of someone you care about:
- Relationship problems. The first person to tell you that your drinking is out of control will most likely be your spouse or significant other if you are currently involved. If not, a close friend or coworker may ask a few questions and hint that it seems like your drinking is a bit excessive and frequent. It’s easy to brush off these concerns as an irritation, but it’s also one of the first signs that things are going awry in terms of your relationship with alcohol.
- Financial woes. A few drinks at the bar, a bottle at home, a 12-pack of beer for a weekend night – these purchases add up, especially when you put them on a credit card and end up paying interest in addition to taxes and CRV. When your drinking causes hangovers and physical illness or simply begins to take over your life, you’ll likely miss a few bill payments here and there, resulting in even more interest charges and late fees. If you aren’t making it to work, your income may be lower as well, making it more difficult to maintain a budget. Those living with an alcohol addiction often have huge debt problems, more than one creditor calling and a tenuous grasp on their job – if they haven’t been fired already.
- Health ailments. Low energy and physical illness related to hangovers and drinking too much are common signs of alcohol abuse, but these become chronic problems when alcohol addiction is an issue. Additionally, over time, many alcoholics find that they have a great deal of problems with their kidneys and liver, a result of overrunning these organs with an inordinate amount of alcohol, which the body views as a toxin. Also, malnutrition is often an issue for those who drink heavily, since most calories consumed are alcohol. The result is often a litany of health problems and physical ailments, including a lowered immune system.
- Legal issues. People under the influence of alcohol make more choices, and the more often one chooses to drink, the more likely it is that he or she will eventually get caught doing something illegal while drinking. Driving under the influence, violent behavior or assault, causing damage to property and being drunk in public – all these are common charges that alcoholics face.
- An inability to quit drinking. If, despite some or all of the above problems, you are still unable to quit drinking, it is a sure sign that you are living with an alcohol addiction and you need treatment help.
Identifying Problems Early
It’s one of the keys to a successful recovery from alcohol addiction – early identification of the problem followed by immediate treatment at an alcohol rehab center that offers both alcohol detox and psychological alcohol addiction treatment. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of alcoholism in yourself or someone you care about gives you the opportunity to take action.
If you are struggling with alcoholism, an alcohol rehab program that includes medical and psychological care is necessary. Ask for help from your loved ones if you are having a hard time taking the steps necessary to get treatment.
If your loved one is living with alcohol addiction, confront them on the issue. If they minimize your concerns, then consider staging an intervention. By gathering together friends and family who share your feelings, your loved one is more likely to see the truth in his or her behaviors and take the steps to get the help necessary to heal.
Treatment at Michael’s House
At Michael’s House, we can provide you with everything you need to begin the healing process after alcohol addiction – professional interventionists, in-home assistance, alcohol detox, alcohol addiction treatment, residential care, outpatient support, sober living and more.
Call now. Let us help you determine the next best step to help yourself or someone you love recover from alcohol addiction.
Speak with an Admissions Coordinator 877-345-8494