By Sophia Banos-Lindner, Staff Writer, The Pawprint
What is alcohol addiction?
Alcoholism has been known by a variety of terms, including alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. Today, it’s referred to as alcohol use disorder. It is characterized by addictive behavior, the overpowering desire for alcohol. The disease is characterized by physical, psychological, and social symptoms. Physical withdrawal symptoms indicate physical dependence during drinking breaks and emotional support by the compelling need for further alcohol consumption. Alcohol addiction must be differentiated from both alcohol intoxication and the harmful consumption of alcohol. However, the transition from repeated intoxication to harmful consumption to addiction is fluid. Alcohol addiction does not arise overnight but usually develops slowly. No one who consumes alcoholic beverages is safe from addiction.
What causes this addiction
The cause of alcohol use disorder is still unknown. Alcohol use disorder develops when you drink so much that chemical changes in the brain occur. These changes increase the pleasurable feelings you get when you drink alcohol. This makes you want to drink more often, even if it causes harm.
Eventually, the pleasurable feelings associated with alcohol use go away, and the person with alcohol use disorder will engage in drinking to prevent withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms can be quite unpleasant and even dangerous.
Alcohol use disorder typically develops gradually over time.
Although the exact cause of alcohol use disorder is unknown, certain factors may increase your risk of developing this disease.
Known risk factors include having:
- more than 15 drinks per week if you’re male
- more than 12 drinks per week if you’re female
- more than 5 drinks per day at least once a week (binge drinking)
- a parent with alcohol use disorder
- a mental health problem, such as depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia
- Have a low self-esteem
- Experience a high level of stress
What are the reasons for becoming alcohol addicted?
Drinking at an early age
Mental Health problems
Taking Alcohol with medication
Identifying alcohol addiction
The emergence of alcohol addiction is a creeping, individual development. It is often not recognized or denied for a long time. Neither a certain amount of alcohol nor the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms are mandatory requirements. Alcohol dependence exists if at least three of the six diagnostic criteria have been present at the same time during the past year:
- A strong desire or compulsion to consume alcohol
- Tolerance development: Increasingly larger amounts of alcohol are necessary to achieve an effect
- Continued consumption of alcohol even though there are consequential damages
- Difficulty controlling the onset, cessation, and amount of use
- Physical withdrawal symptoms when no or less alcohol is drunk
- Progressive neglect of other interests in favor of alcohol consumption
Symptoms and complications that can occur with chronic alcohol use
Those who drink too much reduce their life expectancy considerably. Alcohol is responsible for more than 200 diseases; it damages almost every organ.
Widespread physical and psychological consequences:
- Stroke, epileptic fits, seizures,
- dementia, diabetes
- Inflammation and cancer of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum
- Kidney failure
- Nerve damage and muscle wasting
- Personality changes, depression, fears
- Heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, high blood pressure
- Skin changes
- Bleeding disorders,
- Increased infections risk
What happens to the person who suffers from this addiction?
Drinking alcohol usually elevates a person’s mood at first. However, a person who has been consuming unhealthy amounts of alcohol for a long time is likely to become sedated when they drink. This is because alcohol depresses the nervous system. Alcohol may undermine a person’s judgment. It can lower inhibitions and alter the drinker’s thoughts, emotions, and general behavior. Heavy regular drinking can seriously affect a person’s ability to coordinate their muscles and speak properly. Heavy binge drinking could lead to a coma.
- Memory loss: Alcohol affects short-term memory in particular.
- Eye muscles: The eye muscles can become significantly weaker.
- Gastrointestinal complications: Gastritis or pancreas damage can occur. These will undermine the body’s ability to digest food, absorb specific vitamins, and produce hormones that regulate metabolism.
- Hypertension: Regular heavy drinking is likely to raise blood pressure.
- Heart problems: There is a higher risk of cardiomyopathy (damaged heart muscle), heart failure, and stroke.
- Diabetes: There is a high risk of developing diabetes type 2, and people with diabetes have a high chance of complications if they regularly consume more alcohol than is recommended. Alcohol prevents the release of glucose from the liver, resulting in hypoglycemia. If a person with diabetes is already using insulin to lower their blood sugar levels, hypoglycemia could have serious consequences.
- Erectile dysfunction: There may be problems getting or sustaining an erection.
- Fetal alcohol syndrome: Consuming alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects. The newborn may have a small head, heart problems, shortened eyelids, and developmental and cognitive problems.
- Thinning bones: Alcohol interferes with the production of new bone, leading to a thinning of the bones and an increased risk of fractures.
- Nervous system problems: Numbness in the extremities, dementia, and confused or disordered thinking.
- Cancer: There is a higher risk of developing several cancers, including the mouth, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, breast, prostate, and pharynx.
- Accidents: There is a higher chance of injuries from falls, road traffic accidents, and so on.
- Domestic abuse: Alcohol is a significant factor in spouse-beating, child abuse, and conflicts with neighbors.
- Work or school problems: Employment or educational problems and unemployment are often alcohol-related.
- Suicide: Suicide ratesTrusted Source among people with alcohol dependence or who consume alcohol inappropriately are higher than among those who do not.
- Mental illness: Alcohol abuse increases the risk of mental illness, making existing mental illnesses worse.
- Problems with the law: People who consume alcohol are significantly more likely to spend time in court or prison than the rest of the population.
Effects of alcohol addiction
- Risk to the workplace due to reduced performance and quality of work
- Co-dependency of life partner and children
- Decrease in social contacts
- Impairment of the ability to drive
- High risk of accidents
- Decreased awareness
- Longer response times
Treatment of alcohol addiction
Treatment for alcohol use disorder varies, but each method is meant to help you stop drinking altogether. This is called abstinence. Treatment may occur in stages and can include the following:
- detoxification or withdrawal to rid your body of alcohol
- rehabilitation to learn new coping skills and behaviors
- counseling to address emotional problems that may cause you to drink
- support groups, including 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
- medical treatment for health problems associated with alcohol use disorder
- medications to help control addiction
There are a couple of different medications that may help with alcohol use disorder:
Naltrexone (ReVia) is used only after someone has detoxed from alcohol. This type of drug works by blocking certain brain receptors associated with the alcoholic “high.” In combination with counseling, this type of drug may help decrease a person’s craving for alcohol.
Acamprosate is a medication that can help reestablish the brain’s original chemical state before alcohol dependence. This drug should also be combined with therapy.
Disulfiram (Antabuse) is a drug that causes physical discomfort (such as nausea, vomiting, and headaches) any time the person consumes alcohol.
Coping with alcohol addiction
- Set yourself goals and prepare for changes
- Get rid of temptations: remove all alcohol
- Announce your goal
- Be upfront about your new limits: Make it clear that drinking will not be allowed in your home and that you may not be able to attend events where alcohol is being served.
- Avoid bad influences
- Learn from the past
How can you help people with alcohol addiction?
The best way to help someone who suffers from alcohol addiction is first to learn about alcohol addiction because it is more than just drinking too much from time to time.
Sometimes alcohol is a coping mechanism. Secondly, practice what you are going to say.
Let the person you care for know that you’re available and that you care.
Try to formulate statements that are positive and supportive. Avoid being harmful, hurtful, or presumptuous. The next step is to pick the right time and place. Step four is to approach and listen with honesty and compassion.
If the person has an alcohol problem, the best thing you can do is be open and honest with them. Hoping the person will get better on their own won’t change the situation. The person may be in denial, and they may even react angrily to your attempts. Do not take it personally.
Give them time and space to make an ethical decision, and listen to what they have to say. The next step is to offer your support. Realize that you can’t force someone who doesn’t want to go into treatment. All you can do is offer your help. It’s up to them to decide if they’ll take it.
Be non-judgmental, empathetic, and sincere. Imagine yourself in the same situation and what your reaction might be. Lastly, intervene advise on how to get the person into treatment
explain what treatment options there are.