Understanding alcohol addiction may be the most difficult of all addictions. Alcohol is a substance that can be consumed by tens of millions of Americans with no consequence. But herein also lies a substance that, for a handful of those who consume it, alcohol ruins their lives, emaciates them spiritually, poisons their bodies, and shortens their lifespan.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has given this rising problem in the United States due diligence and released study information on what qualifies as alcohol abuse and what does not. The NIAAA says that, for healthy adults in general, any more than four drinks on any day or fourteen drinks a week is considered “at risk” or “heavy” drinking for men. For women, more than three drinks on any day or seven per week are considered “at risk” or “heavy” drinking. Understanding alcohol addiction starts with knowing these facts.
As the adage from the NIAAA goes, “Too much + too often = too risky.” In one sentence this defines problem drinking. As one can imagine, it gets more complicated than this when one begins to examine the physiological and psychological implications of alcohol abuse, but the guidelines for determining the presence of at-risk drinking are actually quite simple.
A Worldwide, Clinical Opinion of Alcohol Abuse
Perhaps it is best to diversify a clinical assessment of alcoholism. One might (often in an effort to justify their own drinking habits) consider the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to be acting somewhat excessively in their delineation of problem drinking. However, the defining lines for “alcohol abuse” versus “social alcohol consumption” are more or less shared worldwide.
The non-profit organization Drink Aware, based out of the United Kingdom, cited that any alcohol consumption over fourteen drinks per week was drinking to excess. They also stated that drinking any more than four to five drinks on any one day was drinking to excess. While Drink Aware did not differentiate between male drinking or female drinking as much as the NIAAA did, they did state that women who are pregnant or postpartum should not drink at all.
Understanding Alcohol Addiction
Fully understanding alcohol addiction involves studying two subjects. One must apprise themselves of information regarding the physiological factors of alcoholism as well as the psychological factors of alcoholism. The behavior of alcoholics is such that the casual observer can see that alcoholism as an affliction is much more than just a chemical dependency. Conversely, alcoholism and behavior is only one factor of a disease that harms both the body and mind. Alcoholism is a multifaceted crisis, replete with stumbling blocks and mental conundrums around every corner. Fully understanding alcohol addiction means one must study it and observe it.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, one in twelve American adults is an alcohol abuser or alcoholic. Furthermore, young adults between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine are the most likely to suffer from an alcohol abuse crisis. One survey from the NIAAA showed that eight percent of young people aged twelve to seventeen indulged in binge drinking in the past month. Moreover, almost forty-one percent of young adults between the ages of eighteen to twenty-five indulged in binge drinking in the past month.
Alcohol Addiction: A Physically Debilitating Crisis
Alcohol addiction has short-term side effects such as memory loss, hangovers, and blackouts. Acute effects of alcohol abuse can range in severity from nausea, vomiting, and headaches to a medical emergency such as alcohol poisoning through liver or kidney failure. Long-term effects of alcoholism can include stomach ailments, cancer, heart problems, severe memory loss, brain damage, liver cirrhosis, kidney failure, etc. These are only the biological implications of long-term alcohol abuse. In truth, heavy drinkers are also just as likely to experience death from automobile accidents, suicide, homicide, from mixing alcohol with pills, or from STDs accumulated due to poor judgment and decision making while under the effects of alcohol.
Alcoholism: A Mentally Consuming Crisis
The physical effects of alcohol abuse are just one side of a double-sided coin that is alcoholism. The other side is the psychological and mental effects of alcohol abuse and heavy drinking. In its own fashion, these effects are just as damaging as the physical effects. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services:
- “Excessive alcohol use, including underage drinking and binge drinking (drinking 5 or more drinks on a single occasion for men or 4 or more drinks on an occasion for women), can increase a person’s risk of developing serious health problems, including brain and liver damage, heart disease, hypertension, and fetal damage in pregnant women.”
Alcohol abuse has been traced to an increase in existing conditions such as depression, anger, anxiety, memory loss, nervous hysteria, fear, disassociation, bipolar, schizophrenia, etc. Alcohol abuse has the propensity for developing personality defects in those who partake in this habit. People will often lie, steal, cheat, harm, manipulate, coerce, and abuse others while under the influence of alcohol. Truly, they are not themselves, and they become alcoholics instead.
The Best Treatments for Alcoholism
Multiple factors make alcoholism one of the most difficult addictions from which to free oneself. These are factors like:
- Alcohol is legal.
- Alcohol is readily available to those who desire it, whether they are of age or not.
- Alcohol, considering the cost of one “alcohol experience” (how much it costs to have an individual “experience” from the drug) is one of the most affordable drugs one can purchase.
- Alcohol abuse is the most “accepted” substance abuse problem in the country for various reasons.
- Alcohol creates more virulent withdrawal symptoms than most drug addictions do. In fact, delirium tremens are more likely to be fatal than most withdrawal symptoms from most drugs, making alcohol harder to detox off of than almost anything else.
- If one does achieve a period of abstinence from alcohol, it is much easier to experience a recidivism back onto alcohol once again.
With these factors in play, it becomes apparent that only a fully inpatient treatment approach to alcohol abuse creates the environment necessary for alcoholics to be able to free themselves of both the physical dependence to alcohol and the psychological reliance upon the substance. Part of understanding alcohol addiction is knowing that it takes months to effectively remove even on an inpatient level, and even after that creating total freedom from alcohol addiction is a lifelong quest. Thankfully, inpatient rehabilitation centers possess the medical detoxification facilities to wean alcoholics down in a safe and efficient manner. Such centers also offer the counseling and therapy services to address the underlying issues and trigger mechanisms of alcoholism.
Getting Help for Alcoholism
Understanding alcohol addiction is a dedication to learning that it may take more than what one has initially bargained for. The best way to truly understand an addiction, if one is so afflicted, is to simply rehabilitate oneself through an inpatient treatment center. For an individual seeking help for another, helping that person into treatment and thusly observing progress will service the same result. So whether you are seeking help for yourself or a loved one afflicted with an alcohol crisis, contact A Forever Recovery today for viable solutions to end alcoholism permanently. Call to begin your journey to recovery.