What is Alcoholism (Alcohol Addiction)?

What is alcoholism?

Alcoholism , also known as alcohol addiction , is a pattern of alcohol use that includes symptoms such as inability to control alcohol consumption, excessive desire for alcohol, inability to give up alcohol even if it causes problems, and the desire to consume more alcohol to achieve the same effect. People affected by these problems experience withdrawal symptoms when they quickly reduce or stop drinking.

Alcohol dependence, or unhealthy alcohol use, includes any use of alcohol that puts health or safety at risk or causes other alcohol-related problems. It also includes binge drinking. Binge drinking is a drinking pattern in which a man drinks five glasses or more in two hours and a woman drinks at least four glasses in two hours. Excessive alcohol consumption also poses significant health and safety risks.

If your drinking habits are causing you significant recurrent distress and problems functioning in your daily life, you may have an alcohol dependency problem. Alcoholism can range from mild to severe. However, even a mild disorder can escalate over time and lead to serious problems, so early treatment is important.

What causes alcoholism?

Genetic, psychological, social and environmental factors can partially determine how drinking alcohol will affect your body and behavior. Theories hold that some people are more prone to alcoholism, or alcoholism, because of the psychological and physical effects of drinking on them.

Drinking too much alcohol over time can alter the normal functioning of areas of the brain associated with pleasure, judgment, and the ability to control behavior. This can cause cravings for alcohol to try to restore good feelings or reduce negative ones.

Alcohol use that is not at the level of alcohol dependence can be seen at any age. However, drinking habits at the level of alcoholism seem to be more common in the 20s and 30s.

Various risk factors include:

  • Regular drinking: Drinking regularly for long periods of time or binge drinking regularly can lead to alcohol-related problems or alcohol dependence.
  • Starting at an early age: People who start drinking at an early age, especially heavy drinking, have a higher risk of alcohol dependence.
  • Family status: The risk of alcoholism is higher for people who have a parent or other close relative with an alcohol problem. This may be related to hereditary factors.
  • Depression and other mental health problems: It’s common for people with mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder, to have problems with alcohol or other substances.
  • Trauma history: People with a history of emotional or other trauma have an increased risk of alcohol dependence.
  • Bariatric surgery: Some research shows that having bariatric surgery may increase the risk of developing alcoholism or a recurrence after recovery from alcoholism.
  • Social and cultural factors: Having friends or a close partner who drinks regularly can increase the risk of alcohol dependence. Sometimes the glamorous portrayal of drinking in the media can also send the message that drinking too much is okay.
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What are the symptoms of alcoholism?

Alcohol dependence can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the number of symptoms experienced. Symptoms include:

  • Inability to limit the amount of alcohol consumed
  • Wanting to cut down on drinking and failing
  • Trying to avoid alcohol use but still drinking
  • Feeling a strong desire or urge to drink alcohol
  • Failure to fulfill important obligations at work, school, or home due to repeated alcohol use
  • Continuing to drink alcohol even though it knows it is causing physical, social, or interpersonal problems
  • Giving up or reducing social and work-related activities and hobbies
  • Drinking alcohol even when it is not safe, such as while driving or swimming
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol so that you need more to feel its effects
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, and tremors when not drinking to avoid these symptoms

Alcohol addiction can also include episodes of alcohol intoxication and withdrawal symptoms such as:

alcohol poisoning

Alcohol poisoning occurs as the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream increases . The higher the concentration of alcohol in the blood, the more discomfort.

Alcohol poisoning causes behavioral problems and mental changes. These may include inappropriate behavior, unstable moods, impaired reasoning, slurred speech, impaired attention or memory, and poor coordination.

There may also be situations where events are not remembered. Very high levels of alcohol in the blood can cause coma and even death.

alcohol withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal can occur if alcohol use is heavy, prolonged and then stopped or drastically reduced . It can occur after a few hours to four or five days.

Symptoms include sweating, rapid heartbeat, hand tremors, trouble sleeping, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, restlessness and agitation, anxiety, and occasional seizures. Symptoms may be severe enough to impair the ability to function at work or in social situations.

When should you see a doctor?

Sometimes you can talk to your doctor if you think you drink too much, are addicted to alcohol, have problems with your drinking, or if your family is worried about your drinking. You can talk to a mental health professional (psychiatrist) or join a support group for help.

Because denial is common, you may not think you have a problem with drinking. You may not realize how much you drink or how many problems in your life are related to alcohol use.

It’s helpful to listen to relatives, friends, or coworkers when they tell you to study your drinking habits or seek help. You might also consider talking to someone who has a drinking problem but has quit.

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If your loved one needs help

Many people with alcohol dependence hesitate to seek treatment because they do not realize they have a problem. The intervention of loved ones can help some people realize and accept that they need professional help.

If you are dealing with someone who drinks a lot, you can ask a professional with experience in alcohol treatment how you should approach that person.

How is alcoholism diagnosed?

A family doctor often needs to be seen first for diagnosis. If the family doctor suspects that there is a problem with alcohol, he or she may refer the person to a psychiatrist.

To evaluate alcoholism, the doctor will likely use:

  • A few questions about drinking habits: The doctor may want to talk to family members or friends. However, privacy laws prevent the doctor from providing any information about the patient without their consent.
  • A physical exam: The doctor may perform a physical exam and ask questions about the person’s health. There are many physical signs that point to complications of alcohol use.
  • Lab tests and imaging tests: While there are no specific tests to diagnose an alcohol dependency problem, some lab test abnormalities can strongly detect it. Imaging tests may also be needed to identify health problems that may be linked to alcohol use. Damage to organs can be seen in tests.
  • Psychological assessment: This assessment includes questions about symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behavioral patterns. This often requires the person to fill out a questionnaire.
  • DSM-5 criteria: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, is often used by psychiatrists to diagnose mental health conditions.

How is alcoholism treated?

Alcohol addiction treatment can vary depending on needs. Treatment may include a brief intervention, individual or group counselling, an outpatient program or inpatient treatment. Working to stop alcohol use to improve quality of life is the main treatment goal.

Alcoholism treatment may include:

Detox and withdrawal

Treatment can begin with a detoxification or detox – medically managed withdrawal – program that usually lasts two to seven days. It may be necessary to take sedatives to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Detox is usually done as an inpatient in a hospital.

Learning skills and creating a treatment plan

This often includes alcohol therapy specialists. It may include goal setting, behavior modification techniques, use of self-help guidelines, counseling and follow-up care at a treatment center.

Psychological counseling

Counseling and therapy for groups and individuals helps to gain a better understanding of the problem with alcohol and to recover from the psychological aspects of alcohol use. Family therapy may also be used. Family support can be an important part of the recovery process.

Oral medications

A drug called disulfiram can help prevent binge drinking, although it won’t cure the problem of alcohol dependence or eliminate the need to drink. If alcohol is drunk, the drug produces a physical reaction that can include flushing, nausea, abdominal pain , vomiting, and headaches.

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Naltrexone, a drug that blocks the good feelings caused by alcohol, can prevent binge drinking and reduce the urge to drink.

Acamprosate can help combat alcohol cravings after you stop drinking. Unlike disulfiram, naltrexone and acamprosate do not make one feel sick after drinking a drink.

Remember, your doctor will decide which medicine to take and how.

injectable drug

Vivitrol, a version of the drug naltrexone, is injected once a month by a healthcare professional. While similar drugs can be taken in pill form, the injectable version of the drug may be easier to use consistently for people recovering from alcoholism.

Remember, your doctor will decide which medicine to take and how.

ongoing support

Aftercare programs and support groups help survivors quit drinking, manage relapses, and cope with necessary lifestyle changes. This may include medical or psychological care and joining a support group.

Treatment of psychological problems

Alcoholism often co-occurs with other mental health disorders. Talk therapy (psychotherapy), medications, or other treatment may be needed if you have depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder , or another mental health problem.

Medical treatment for health conditions

Many alcohol-related health problems improve significantly when the addicted person stops drinking. However, some health conditions may require continued treatment and follow-up.

Moral support

Feel-good things can be done during an attempt to recover from alcoholism. A religious person can perform religious rituals, help people. Some people can do activities that relax people, such as meditation and yoga.

Inpatient treatment programs

For severe alcohol dependence, a stay in an inpatient facility may be required. Most inpatient treatment programs include individual and group therapy, support groups, education classes, family involvement, and activity therapy.

Home treatment programs typically include licensed alcohol and substance counselors, social workers, nurses, physicians, and others who have expertise and experience in treating alcoholism.

Advice for those who want to quit alcohol

As part of recovery, it will be necessary to focus on changing habits and making different lifestyle choices. Strategies that can help the person in this regard include:

  • Improving social status: The addicted person can make it clear to friends and family that he or she does not drink alcohol. It will always be comforting and motivating to have people around who can support her recovery. He may need to distance himself from friends and social situations that hinder his recovery.
  • Developing healthy habits: For example, good sleep and regular physical activity can help manage stress more effectively. A healthy diet can make it easier to recover from the problem of alcoholism.
  • Doing non-alcoholic things: A person who wants to quit alcohol may find that most activities involve drinking. It is always helpful to alternate these with hobbies or activities that are not alcohol focused.

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