Alcohol Addiction Symptoms and Treatment Options

Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - An Overview

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism exacts a huge toll on individuals and families the world over. Apart from the hugely destructive effect it has on families, it can also contribute to increased crime in society. Alcohol abuse can be looked upon as a disease, wherein the desire for alcohol is so strong that you continue to drink, despite knowing the ill effects it is having on your family and work. Alcoholism, on the other hand, is a progression of alcohol abuse and in this situation you become physically dependent on the effects brought on by alcohol and have to (and want to) drink to prevent withdrawal symptoms. In the United States, it is estimated that there are about 20 million who can be categorized as alcoholics. Generally, more men become alcoholics than women, also it is prevalent largely among young people - in the 18 to 30 range.

RISK FACTORS:

There are many factors that could result in a person becoming an alcoholic.

  • Genes - Some studies seem to suggest there might be a connection between our genes and how our bodies respond to alcohol. Apparently, not everyone responds to alcohol the same.
  • Family History - Having family members who are alcoholics can predispose you into taking to alcohol. Alcoholism has been found to run in families.
  • Social Pressure - Social pressures from peers is another reason why people may be forced to take up alcohol and continue taking it just to fit in.
  • Psychiatric Conditions - People suffering from schizophrenia, depression, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), apparently have been found to have higher rates of alcohol abuse.

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DANGERS OF ALCOHOLISM:

Biologically, alcohol can adversely affect/damage your liver, heart, nervous system, brain, etc. Alcoholism can also significantly increase your risk of being involved in an accident, sustaining falls, causing bodily harm to your spouse/even death, family problems including divorce, loss of job, getting involved with the law, risk of suicide, increased tendency to take up other addictive substances and much more.

SYMPTOMS:

Symptoms of alcoholism and alcohol abuse differ. Alcoholism is suggested by an unusually strong craving/desire for alcohol and total loss of control over the drinking habit. Basically, the person becomes dependent on alcohol and can't do without it, without facing withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol abuse, on the other hand, can mean that you function normally for the most part, but have recurring problems at work, home or school as a direct consequence of your drinking. This can mean that you get into trouble with the law by getting arrested for driving under the influence, probably end up hurting someone physically because of being drunk, etc.

This can progress to alcoholism where the person would:

  • Have an uncontrollable urge for alcohol.
  • Experience withdrawal symptoms if alcohol is stopped including shaking, nausea, sweating, probably seizures.
  • Give up social activities/work to continue drinking.
  • Increasing need for greater amounts of alcohol to get the same desired effect/feeling of intoxication.

TREATMENT OPTIONS:

The severity of your alcoholism/alcohol abuse would determine the treatment option, also whether you would need outpatient or inpatient treatment. If the problem is not severe (most cases of alcohol abuse), options can include individual or group counseling or both, medications to help prevent relapse back to drinking, once you've stopped. There are also self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) who can help. They would provide you tools and an environment in which you can stay sober. Detoxification would be indicated in severe cases (almost all alcoholism cases) and the person would need to be admitted inpatient to a facility to undergo the detox process.

AVOIDING ALCOHOL TIPS FOR ALCOHOLICS

There are some things you can do to avoid alcohol - if you do have an alcohol problem and want to avoid relapse, having stopped drinking. These are basically lifestyle changes and these are some of them:

  • Stay away from bars.
  • Keep yourself occupied doing things with friends who aren't alcoholics or develop a good hobby like reading books.
  • Do socialize, but without alcohol and with friends who aren't fond of it either.
  • Consciously avoid situations that you know would involve alcohol.
  • Never keep alcohol at home - don't tempt yourself.
  • Know what are your triggers and work on some coping strategies for those situations.
  • Learn to deal with stress better by learning some yoga or meditation exercises.

It might be difficult for alcoholics to acknowledge that they do have a problem, but generally they know within there is a problem when there actually is. If not, a friend or family member would need to be honest with them and tell them that they do have a problem. Alcoholism causes lots of pain - not just physical pain from medical effects of alcohol but also emotional pain. It is an avoidable pain, both for the individual concerned and for the family. Honesty is the first step - accept your real situation for what it is. All other steps follow from that honesty.

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