A person suffering from alcohol addiction or dependence may not believe that quitting is an option. With an individualized substance abuse treatment approach, recovery from alcohol addiction is possible. To learn about our alcohol addiction treatment program, please contact Vertava Health today at 844.470.0410.
What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical diagnosis for problem drinking that becomes severe. AUD is a chronic relapse brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over how much alcohol is consumed, and a negative emotional state when alcohol isn’t available. AUD can be mild, moderate, or severe.
Alcohol is a legal drug that people use as a way to relax, socialize, and celebrate for as long as it’s been around. For those with an alcohol use disorder, drinking may cause legal trouble, health problems, anxiety, depression, or broken relationships.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between alcohol use and social drinking. Alcohol affects each person differently. Even though the act of drinking alcohol plays a major part in AUD, there are also environmental, biological, and developmental factors to consider with AUD.
As many as 16 million people in the United States may battle with an AUD. However, not everyone who drinks alcohol will become addicted to it or even abuse it. Those who practice binge drinking may never build up a tolerance or crave alcohol, but they will be at a greater risk of developing alcohol dependence.
With alcohol use, an individual isn’t dependent on alcohol, yet it still causes serious problems with their health, home life, career, or schoolwork. Types of alcohol use include binge drinking and heavy alcohol use.
Binge drinking is five drinks for men, and four drinks for women, in a matter of two hours. Heavy alcohol use is defined as binge drinking on at least five days in the past month. Moderate drinking is one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
Alcohol use impacts each individual differently and varies greatly based on their:
Short-Term Effects of Use
The short-term effects of alcohol use are the symptoms that may occur regularly. The more alcohol a person drinks, the more severe the short-term effects they will experience.
A low dose of alcohol may cause a relaxing effect. However, a medium dose may cause slurred speech, and a high dose of alcohol may produce breathing difficulties.
Other short-term effects of alcohol use may include:
Long-Term Health Risks of Use
On any single occasion or over time, alcohol can take a toll on the health. Too much alcohol for any person can damage their organs. Long-term alcohol use may damage the following organs:
- Brain — Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways and can affect the physical appearance of the brain and how it functions.
- Heart — Too much alcohol can lead to cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia, stroke, and high blood pressure.
- Liver — Heavy drinking can lead to fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
- Pancreas — Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that lead to pancreatitis. Too much alcohol can also decrease the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin, which results in diabetes.
Too much alcohol can also break down a person’s immune system, making the body an easier target for disease and vitamin deficiencies. Chronic drinkers are more likely to develop a thiamine deficiency, which means their body isn’t getting enough vitamin B-1. Vitamin deficiencies from alcohol use can make a person feel weak, less coordinated, and even lose muscle.
Long-term effects of alcohol may increase the risk of developing cancers of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, and breast. An estimated 40,000 newborns each year are affected by fetal alcohol syndrome, which can be damaging in a number of different ways, often into adulthood.
Signs of Alcoholism
The signs of alcohol use can be blatant or subtle. Many people who use alcohol find that they consume more than they intended when they drink. Alcohol use may cause problems with work or family. However, alcohol use is not the same as alcohol addiction.
Alcohol addiction is characterized by an individual’s inability to moderate or quit, even if it causes serious distress. A person suffering from an alcohol addiction or alcohol use disorder may lose interest in things they were once passionate about and engage in risky behaviors that increase the chance of getting hurt.
Long-Term Health Risks of Use
A high-functioning alcoholic is a person who, on the surface, does not have an alcohol problem. They may brag about how much they drank the night before or even have a faint smell of liquor on their breath, any given day of the week.
A person struggling with any kind of alcohol addiction is battling the same dependence, the same powerlessness, and needs the same support. Without some form of treatment, alcoholism, due to the disease’s progressive nature, keeps getting worse over time.
Many people who practice daily drinking eventually become dependent on alcohol. The safest way to drink alcohol is to do so in moderation—which is seven or fewer drinks per week for women and 14 or fewer per week for men.
Dangers of the AUD
A person suffering from alcohol addiction may reach a point in their drinking when they feel that they can’t function without alcohol. Recurrent alcohol use can change how the brain works, causing it to stop producing necessary chemicals that it instead receives from alcohol.
The dangers of alcohol addiction are widespread. Many people with alcohol addiction drink until they pass out. The danger is that the alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate through the body, raising a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) long after sleep.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol kills 88,000 people each year in the United States, and two and a half million years of potential life is lost to alcohol.
A person who develops alcohol dependence may experience several different physical and mental withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may occur as early as eight hours after an individual’s last drink and may continue for several weeks.
It’s common for alcohol withdrawal symptoms to peak between 24 and 72 hours, but the severity of symptoms may vary from person to person and depend widely on how much they drink.
- Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Mental health symptoms such as anxiety or depression
- Restlessness and irritability
- Increased heart rate
- Insomnia and nightmares
- Loss of appetite
- Disorientation or hallucination
Delirium tremens (DT) occurs most often in people who have a history of heavy alcohol use. Delirium tremens are especially common in people who drink four to five pints of wine, seven to eight pints of beer, or one pint of hard alcohol (liquor) every day for several months. Delirium tremens commonly affects people who have regularly used alcohol for more than ten years.
Medically-Supervised Alcohol Detoxification Centers
Many inpatient alcohol addiction treatment programs begin with medically-assisted detoxification, especially for patients suffering from physical dependence on alcohol. Medical detox helps patients safely manage withdrawal symptoms, remove unwanted chemicals from their bodies, and overcome the physical addiction to alcohol.
Receiving professional guidance and help with detoxification is the safest way to manage withdrawal symptoms. In many cases, medical detox is necessary to get fluid, vitamin, and nutrition levels back to normal before receiving behavioral treatment.
Because alcohol addiction is a physical, mental, and spiritual illness, medically-assisted detoxification is only one part of a comprehensive treatment plan and should be followed with behavioral treatment.
Get Help with Alcohol Treatment at Vertava Health
Alcohol maybe the most commonly used drug in the United States, but no two cases of alcohol addiction are exactly the same. It’s for this reason that alcohol addiction should be treated using an individualized approach.
With the help of trusted professionals at Vertava Health, purpose and balance can be restored. Both our inpatient and outpatient alcohol rehab centers offer a unique treatment approach tailored to an individual’s needs, which can help them grow mentally and spiritually. Freedom from addiction is possible, and it all starts with the first step.
Contact Vertava Health at 844.470.0410 to learn more about our alcohol treatment programs.