Unfortunately for people who are struggling with this condition, there are a lot of misconceptions about alcoholism.
Anyone can develop a drinking problem, regardless of gender, race, social status or level of education. There is no single cause of this disease. A complex range of psychological, behavioral and environmental factors combine to put you at risk of falling victim to alcohol addiction.
Many people who drink too much are in denial about their situation. The consumption of alcohol is socially acceptable, and this makes problem drinking easier to hide. There is also a fine line between enjoying a regular drink and having a compulsive need to consume alcohol. Many alcoholics tell themselves they are in control, but then when they try to stop or cut down, they realize it’s impossible. As it’s a progressive disease, it’s better to seek medical help sooner rather than later.
The Effects of Alcohol
Alcohol affects your central nervous system (CNS). These connections between your brain and spinal cord control most of your bodily functions. Memory, speech, thoughts, sensation and movement are all controlled by the CNS. Alcohol is a depressant of this system, so the more you drink, the more these functions are impaired. One or two drinks may have the effect of making you feel more confident and upbeat, but once you’re drunk, you gradually lose your faculties.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism
It can be difficult to understand whether you or someone you know has developed an addiction to alcohol. The chances are that if you’re concerned, there is a good reason to be. According to the DSM 5, you have a severe alcohol use disorder if you meet six or more of the 11 criteria listed below. You have a moderate disorder if you can identify with four to five and a mild disorder if it’s two or three.
- Regularly drinking more than you intended.
- Inability to stop or cut down your consumption.
- Spending a disproportionate amount of time drinking or hungover.
- Having strong, persistent cravings for alcohol.
- Getting into trouble at work, school or home because of problem drinking.
- Prioritizing alcohol interferes with social and interpersonal relationships
- Giving up occupational, recreational and social activities in favor of getting drunk.
- Regularly putting yourself at risk as a result of alcohol.
- Continuing to drink despite worsening physical or mental health problems
- Increasing alcohol tolerance. You require more or stronger alcohol to achieve the desired effects.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you don’t drink or use alcohol or other substances to avoid withdrawal.
Is Alcoholism Hereditary?
There is plenty of evidence to show that alcoholism is a highly complex hereditary disease, with a large number of genetic variations that increase your likelihood of becoming addicted. It’s even more complicated than that, though, as not everyone who has these genes will become an alcoholic. Environment and learned behaviors also play a huge role, but even so, two people with similar experiences won’t always respond in the same way.
As well as genes, factors such as seeing family members use drugs and alcohol, starting to use addictive substances at a young age, peer pressure, ease of access to alcohol, traumatic life events and childhood neglect or abuse are commonly seen in people suffering from alcohol addiction.
What Can Alcohol Abuse Do to Your Body?
- Blackouts: Alcohol affects your ability to make memories.
- Behavioral problems: If you have a lot of alcohol in your system, your judgment can be clouded even during times when you aren’t drinking.
- Heart damage: Chronic heavy drinking is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular health problems.
- Pancreatitis: Alcohol is full of sugar, and when taken in excess, it can damage your pancreas.
- Cancer: The risk of throat, mouth, breast and esophagus cancer is much higher in heavy drinkers.
- Lung infections: Frequent heavy drinking means you’re less able to fight infection.
- Fatigue: Severe tiredness and even anemia can result from chronic alcohol abuse.
- Digestive problems: Drinking causes problems in your stomach, including gas, diarrhea and ulcers.
- Sexual dysfunction and infertility: Men who abuse alcohol experience blood-flow problems that can lead to erectile dysfunction. Infertility can occur in men and women who drink excessively.
- Nerve damage: Alcoholism seriously damages your CNS.
Statistics and Facts About Alcohol Abuse
How Many Americans Have Alcohol Use Disorders?
As of 2017, there were 14.1 million adults and 443,000 adolescents between the ages of 12-17 with an alcohol use disorder. Only 6% of these people received treatment for addiction. Just like any health condition, alcoholism requires treatment from trained professionals. Going through withdrawal alone can be dangerous and uncomfortable. This disease is best treated under the care of a team of addiction specialists in rehab, with targeted therapy and guidance.
Can Alcohol Abuse Be Deadly?
Yes, it can. Over time, alcohol abuse damages the liver and increases your chance of cancer and heart disease. In the short term, you’re at a higher risk of getting into an accident or suffering from fatal alcohol poisoning. Each year, approximately 88,000 Americans die every year from an alcohol-related cause. This makes it the third most prevalent cause of death after tobacco and poor diet and lack of physical activity.
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Is Rehab an Effective Way of Addressing Problematic Drinking?
Yes. Detox is required first in order to flush your body of all traces of alcohol. When you’re under the influence of alcohol, your ability to reason and think is impaired. To be truly receptive and engage with therapy, a clear mind is required. Rehab provides a structured environment to give you the tools and skills necessary to get back on track with your life. Medication is often used to ease the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting alcohol.
Alcoholism is not an easy thing to go through, but you don’t have to do it alone. Call our team of addiction experts at 866-300-6955 if you have questions or follow the link to learn more about our alcohol treatment program in Delray Beach, Florida.