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Alcohol Addiction

While there is no cure for alcohol addiction, drinkers can regain control of their lives by participating in an alcohol treatment program and learning the tools to live a sober life. The road to recovery begins when individuals addicted to alcohol admit they have a drinking problem that’s out of their control.

Alcohol Addiction: What it is and how to get help

Many people suffering from alcoholism won’t admit their addiction needs treatment until they’ve hit rock bottom. Their drinking problem has brought them to the lowest point in their lives: triggered by a DUI, the day a spouse left, or a life-threatening medical emergency. It’s different for every person and for some it may take years to reach.  But when they do, help is available.

What characterizes alcohol addiction?

Alcohol addiction is a mental health problem and a chronic disease for which there is no cure.  According to National Association for Children of Alcoholics, about 14 million Americans are dependent on alcohol, with 8.1 million diagnosed with alcoholism. An estimated 43% of U.S. adults have had a relative who is an alcoholic.

Without treatment for their compulsive drinking, alcoholics can

  • Experience severe judgment loss
  • Engage in dangerous behavior
  • Risk losing their jobs
  • Alienate their friends and family
  • Suffer from paralyzing anxiety and depression
  • Turn to crime
  • Develop permanent liver and brain damage
  • Develop dementia or
  • Die prematurely.

Alcohol detox: What to expect

Quitting drinking is not to be undertaken lightly, When an alcoholic stops drinking, the withdrawal initiates a potentially life-threatening chemical imbalance.

Alcohol is a dangerous substance to detox from, and the withdrawal symptoms can be painful and frightening. According to New York Times Health, at least 10% of adult alcoholics will have seizures during withdrawal, and of those 60% will have numerous seizures.

Hospitalization may be required

Many recovery centers offer medically assisted alcohol detoxification, although some alcoholics need hospitalization. The level of care an individual attends for detox should be based on the length and severity of their alcohol addiction. 

Full hospitalization detox is often indicated for late-stage alcoholics, or for people who have consumed a large amount of alcohol over an extended period of time, because these individuals are at the greatest risk of delirium tremens and grand-mal seizures.

Delirium tremens generally occur within 72 hours of a heavy drinker’s last alcoholic beverage. Delirium tremens symptoms may include: delirium (severe mental dysfunction), hallucinations, violet tremors, sweats, and heightened sensitivity to sound, light, and touch.

The type of seizures experienced by many epileptics can also be induced by alcohol withdrawal. Grand-mal seizures require medical assistance. Generally they begin with loss of consciousness and are followed by 1-2 minutes of convulsing. According to the Mayo Clinic, urgent medical care is required if a grand mal seizure lasts 5 or more minutes or another seizure happens immediately after.

The acute physical withdrawal symptoms are usually over in one to three weeks, but the psychological and emotional withdrawal may last a lifetime.  The hallmark of alcoholism: All just want another drink. 

Alcohol addiction treatment: What to expect

Treatment in an alcohol rehabilitation center can last 30 to 90 days, sometimes longer.  A rehab center will:

  • Assess an alcoholic’s physical health
  • Put him in touch with addiction counselors
  • Teach techniques for how to cope with being an addict
  • Provide life skills counseling, occupational, and vocational therapy
  • Prepare the addict to re-enter society and practice their sobriety in the “real world.”

Some alcoholics may need ongoing medication to control their cravings. The two most common medications used for this purpose are Antabuse and Naltrexone

Therapy for alcoholism: What to expect

Treating alcoholism doesn’t end with rehab:  Community-based programs and outpatient treatment facilities provide alcoholics continuing individual counseling and group therapy several times a week or even daily. Outpatient programs teach alcoholics to:

  • Identify the triggers that make them want to drink
  • Cope with depression and significant life events
  • Handle everyday life in sobriety to avoid relapse.

Recovering alcoholics’ resources

Recovering alcoholics are encouraged to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and to reach out to a sponsor – someone successfully recovering – to help guide them through the process of 12-step recovery. AA meetings are held daily at thousands of locations throughout the world and can even be located via mobile phone apps. Meetings can help alcoholics stay sober so alcohol will never rule their lives again.

Alcohol addiction is an extremely serious and potentially life-threatening disease.  If you or a loved one would like to stop drinking, safety and likelihood of success by seeking professional help.

Have questions? Let our trained addiction counselors help. Call now.

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  • Tel: 1-800-610-HOPE (4673)
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