Alcoholism is one of the most dangerous addictions known to our society. Alcohol abuse can result in massive organ damage throughout the body, especially the liver. For many alcoholics, the hardest part of rehabilitation is detoxification prior to alcohol rehab. Since Alcohol creates such physical dependence, the detox process is extremely jarring and sometimes very dangerous. From its inception until the last drink, alcoholism has devastating effects on individuals and their loved ones. This article helps to describe the effects and dangers of alcoholism and some helpful information on finding alcoholism treatment.
What is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism is a dangerous, chronic and progressive disease that has devastating effects on both the human body and mind. Like drug addiction, alcoholism is a disease that involves dangerous and compulsive behavior that often leads to life becoming unmanageable for the alcoholic. Some signs of the unmanageability of alcoholism are:
- problems at home, work, and in relationships
- incarceration and legal troubles
- poor or declining health
- financial hardships
Alcoholism is generally defined by four basic guidelines:
- An overwhelming compulsion or need to drink to feel a sense of normality
- Inability to moderate drinking to a limited amount at any given sitting
- Increase intolerance to alcohol
- Physical dependence – withdrawal symptoms when alcohol consumption is stopped suddenly. Symptoms include:
Despite the serious dangers of alcoholism, it is one of the most common addictions affecting our society today. One reason for its prominence is the general acceptability of alcohol throughout cultures worldwide. Aside from the fact that alcohol is legal, it is also available widely and even encouraged in many social settings. While there have been proven links between alcoholism and genetics, alcohol abuse often occurs in individuals with no family history of alcoholism. Research has also shown connections between alcoholism and social factors ranging from cultural norms and peer pressure to drinking age and availability.
What is Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol abuse differs from alcoholism in that an alcohol abuser is not necessarily addicted to alcohol, and has not yet developed a physical dependence on the substance. Individuals who abuse alcohol do not experience the same compulsive cravings or withdrawal symptoms as alcoholics, but they will often experience some of the same negative consequences such as:
- problems at work and home
- alcohol related legal issues (DUI etc.)
- deteriorating health
- irresponsible and dangerous drinking behaviors (i.e. drinking and driving)
Alcohol abuse can be just as dangerous as alcoholism because those who abuse alcohol often continue to drink despite negative consequences or expressed concern from friends and loved ones. Alcoholics cannot control their drinking and suffer from painful and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, whereas alcohol abusers often struggle with demons of their own and use alcohol to escape from the reality of their problems. In cases of alcohol abuse as well as alcoholism, alcohol treatment is highly recommended. Although some individuals are able to recover from alcohol abuse and alcoholism on their own without professional help, millions more need assistance to discover the root cause of their behaviors and gain the tools needed to change their lives. The biggest difference between alcoholism and alcohol abuse is the physical and psychological dependence that comes with alcoholism. The dangerous and negative effects on an individual’s life, safety and health, however, are often the same.
When Should Help Be Considered?
It’s never too late to get help! There is always hope for recovery, no matter how far into alcoholism someone may be. All that is needed is the desire to be sober and healthy. Of course, the earlier a problem is detected, the better the chances for success. Admitting to alcoholism is not an easy task for most, as it carries a social stigma such that alcoholics are viewed as “weak” and unable to control their own behaviors. The truth of the matter is that alcoholism is just as much a disease as cancer or diabetes, and does not hold any implications as to the strength of those who suffer from it. There is no miracle cure for alcoholism, but effective treatment is available for alcoholics to learn to live a healthy and alcohol-free life. Although the warning signs of alcoholism making life unmanageable may seem obvious for some looking in from the outside, there are other, more subtle signs that reveal themselves when the following questions are answered honestly:
- Do you ever drink when you are disappointed, under pressure or have had a quarrel with someone?
- Can you handle more alcohol now than you could when you first started drinking?
- Have you ever been unable to remember part of the previous evening of alcohol consumption, even though your friends tell you that you did not pass out?
- When drinking with other people, do you try to have a few extra drinks when others won’t notice?
- Do you sometimes feel guilty about your alcohol consumption?
- Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable if alcohol is not available?
- Are you in more of a hurry to get your first drink of the day that you used to be?
- Has a friend or family member ever expressed concern about your drinking alcohol?
- Have you experienced more alcohol-related “black-outs” lately?
- Do you often want to continue drinking after your friends have had enough?
- Do you frequently have a reason for the occasions when you drink heavily?
- When you’re sober, do you sometimes regret things you did or said while drinking?
- Have you tried switching brands of alcohol or following different drinking patterns to control your drinking?
- Have you sometimes failed to keep promises you made to yourself about controlling or cutting down on your alcohol consumption?
- Have you ever had a DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) violation, or any other legal problems related to your drinking?
- Do you try to avoid certain friends and family members when you are drinking?
- Are you having more financial, work, school, family, or social problems as a result of your drinking?
- Has your physician advised you to cut down on your drinking?
- Do you sometimes have the “shakes” and find that it helps to have a little alcohol or tranquilizer medication to feel better?
- Have you noticed that you cannot drink as much as you used to?
If you answered “yes” to one of these questions, studies show that you may be at greater risk for developing alcoholism. A “yes” answer to more than one of these questions indicates a strong recommendation to consult with an addiction specialist about your drinking and explore options for treatment. Seeking help for alcoholism is nothing that should cause shame, as millions of people experience the life-threatening and devastating effects of this disease. Despite the difficulty of early stages of recovery, the most important thing that can be done in the life of an alcoholic is to get help. If left untreated, alcoholism will kill either through the advanced liver and other health problems, or accidental alcohol-related death. Alcoholism does not go away on it’s own and no matter the means, it requires full dedication to sobriety and a lifelong effort to remain sober and active in recovery. If you are concerned about your own or a loved one’s drinking, please contact us or fill out a confidential free assessment form so we may help you to find the appropriate means of treatment for recovery. We’re here to help!