Alcohol Addiction

White House Recovery Treatment

Alcohol addiction impacts millions of lives worldwide every year. The long-term effects on individual health and society as a whole are far-reaching and devastating. International and community-based projects work to provide preventative education and other resources for vulnerable demographics. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that 14.5 million Americans over the age of 12 have alcohol use disorder (AUD). Men are nearly twice as likely as women to develop AUD. 

Social drinking is an ingrained part of our national identity, making it difficult for some people to understand alcohol addiction. You see it on social media, TV shows, movies, books, and in the community around you at bars, restaurants, and clubs. Alcohol is highly addictive and toxic to humans. Drinking above the recommended limit affects the brain, body systems, and general mental and physical health, leading to possible illness, injury, addiction, or even death. 


What Is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction is sometimes referred to as alcohol use disorder (AUD). The criteria you must meet to be diagnosed with this condition include the following: 

  • Often drinking more than intended 
  • Unable to stop drinking when you try 
  • Drinking a lot
  • Feeling sick during or after drinking 
  • Experiencing moments where all your thoughts revolve around drinking
  • Drinking or the side effects interfere with your ability to follow up on life, school, work, or other obligations 
  • Replacing activities you enjoy with drinking 
  • Drinking even when the health and mental health effects scare you 
  • Experiencing blackouts during or after drinking 
  • Requiring more drinks to feel the same effects 
  • Withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking 

If you exhibit an inability to control your drinking, especially when you regularly drink over the recommended daily or weekly amount, you should talk to your doctor about getting treatment. Anyone can become addicted to alcohol, but some known risk factors include genetics and the following: 

  • Family history of alcohol use disorder 
  • Personal or family history of mental health or substance use disorders 
  • Acute or chronic stress
  • Childhood abuse or neglect 
  • Experiencing a traumatic event 
  • Frequent drinking socially or alone 
  • Binge drinking

 

Risk Factors for Adolescent Alcohol Addiction

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “in 2019, 4.2 million young people reported binge drinking at least once in the past month.” Alcohol is one of the most commonly used illegal substances by people under the age of 21. Younger people at risk for developing substance use disorders often start by drinking alcohol. Adolescents and young adults have easy access to alcohol, and many transition from drinking to other substances. Attending college after high school graduation provides opportunities to use study and party drugs. 

Risk factors for mental health disorders and severe medical conditions increase significantly for younger individuals who experience alcohol addiction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports “excessive drinking is responsible for more than 3,500 deaths and 210,000 years of potential life lost among people under age 21 each year.” The best way to help these young people is through in-patient treatment at facilities that use an evidence-based approach to care.

 

The Most Common Co-Occurring Disorders 

Many people use alcohol to self-medicate and treat symptoms of underlying disorders, or addiction may develop independently of other co-occurring conditions. The prevalence of alcohol misuse makes AUD a widespread dual diagnosis. Here are some common co-occurring disorders found in people diagnosed with AUD:

  • Bipolar disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Major depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD)
  • Social phobia
  • General anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorder 

Alcohol use often creates an artificial sense of calm and composure, causing many people to use drinking to self-medicate and treat symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress. 

Physical Health Side Effects of Alcohol Addiction  

Physical health effects of alcohol may not manifest for years or slowly worsen over time, making it harder for people to notice the connection between their health decline and drinking. However, anyone experiencing AUD may observe some or all of the following health side effects:

  • Digestive issues, stomach upset, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting
  • Liver disease
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes 
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Osteoporosis
  • Involuntary rapid eye movement and other eye conditions 
  • Memory issues
  • Numbness or tingling in extremities 
  • Increased risk of dementia
  • Reduced immune system 
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Alcohol often reacts adversely to other substances, including medications that can lead to serious injury, illness, or death 

 

Common Treatments and Therapies   

Alcohol use disorder regularly overlaps with other conditions and their symptoms. Medical professionals sometimes find it difficult to untangle them. A holistic approach is the most successful way to treat alcohol addiction. Facilities and community-based centers use the following types of treatment and therapies: 

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI)
  • Contingency Management (CM)
  • 12-Step programs 
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • Alternate therapies, including animal-assisted therapy 
  • Meditation-based therapy 
  • Mindfulness therapy 

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) pioneered the 12-Step method of recovering from substance abuse. Today the program is nearly universally accepted in private and state-run rehabilitation facilities as either a primary or secondary treatment. You can find out more about 12-Step programs by visiting the official alcoholics’ anonymous website. 

We are here to help you

We cannot overstate the dangers of alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, despite the prevalence of alcohol abuse, it is often misunderstood by the general public. You may feel isolated in your fight against the side effects and damage caused by alcohol side effects, but you are not alone. Local, national, and international resources are available to help you recover from your alcohol addiction. At White House Recovery and Detox, we strive to create a supportive and encouraging environment where everyone has the opportunity to heal and move forward with their life.