Alcohol Addiction Resource
Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol Addiction Resource: From Alcoholism to Treatment

Alcohol addiction is a difficult disease to recognize and diagnose. Because alcohol is legal and readily available, drinking is often viewed as normal behavior, and problems may remain unnoticed longer than they should.

Abusing alcohol has serious consequences, as you might imagine. Binge drinking and alcohol dependence can contribute to strained relationships, financial trouble, personal insecurity and health issues. Without help, you may feel as if you are spiraling out of control, which may cause you to drink more.

Understanding Addiction

Understanding Addiction Alcohol Addiction: What Is It?

Once you hit 21 years old in the U.S., the world of alcohol is at your fingertips. You don’t have to look hard to find a place that serves alcohol. Beer, wine and liquor/spirits are big money makers for grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants and other establishments.

Unlike harder drugs like heroin or cocaine, alcohol addiction takes longer to unfold, and it often sneaks up on the drinker. And since alcohol is a legal substance, there’s normally very little stigma or few repercussions for drinking casually out in the open.

In the short term, alcohol can impair memory and vision and reduce coordination, but prolonged drinking can lead to a dependence on the substance. This means the person will feel strong withdrawal symptoms if they don’t get their next drink within 8 to 24 hours after the last one, depending on how strong their addiction is.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms and Health Effects

Alcohol withdrawal can be life threatening in many cases, so trying to self-detox to end your alcohol addiction is never recommended. Potential withdrawal symptoms include:
 

  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Delirium
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble Sleeping
  • Fatigue

Long-Term Health Effects of Alcoholism

Continued heavy drinking over a number of years can lead to serious health consequences, such as:
 

  • Increased Risk of Cancer
  • Liver Inflammation or Cirrhosis
  • Impaired Memory
  • Damaged Speech, Vision or Muscle Tone
  • Neuropathy – weakness and numbness of the hands and feet
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (wet brain) – amnesia and dementia due to severe deficiency of thiamine

Who Has Alcoholism?

Alcoholism permeates all races, genders and socioeconomic classes in the United States. And, as you might expect, it impacts those younger than 21, as well.

Here are some of the most prominent risk factors for predicting who might be affected by alcoholism:
 

  • Genetics – a family history of alcohol abuse or addiction
  • Upbringing – if you grew up around family members who drank heavily and didn’t discourage your alcohol use
  • Social Environment – surrounded by friends and/or coworkers who drink often; living close to several bars
  • Existing Mental Health Issues – making you turn to alcohol to try to manage the symptoms of mental illness

Stats on Alcohol Abuse in the U.S.

To size up how big of a deal alcohol abuse and addiction is in the U.S., consider these sobering statistics:
 

  • Roughly 88,000 Americans die from alcohol-related causes annually (counting car crashes).
  • 21% of all substance abuse treatment admissions in 2013 were for alcohol only, and it was cited in 54% of all addiction treatment admissions that year, meaning it often accompanied other forms of addiction.
  • 23% of Americans younger than 21 were current alcohol users in 2014, with nearly 14% admitting to binge drinking.
  • 1 million adults and more than 600,000 adolescents had alcohol use disorder in 2015, according to a national survey.
If any of this criteria sounds like you, please get in touch with us for help: 1 (888) 789-4330
Treating Alcohol Addiction

How Is Alcohol Addiction Treated?

Many people do not understand that alcohol addiction is a disease and that it requires professional treatment if an individual wants to overcome this addiction. Because alcohol is legal and therefore very accessible, the abuse of alcohol isn’t often taken as seriously as it should be.

Here at Harmony Place, we understand how devastating the effects of alcohol abuse and addiction can be. Our staff and counselors treat your addiction step-by-step, first by evaluating the nature of your disease and then by considering the best methods and program for treatment. By learning about who you are and identifying the experiences that have contributed to your addiction, you can take part in a personalized plan that helps you achieve lasting sobriety.

Clients new to the alcohol treatment program at Harmony Place will always undergo expert medical detox to safely overcome the harsh symptoms of withdrawal. We’re licensed to offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for patients who could benefit from such treatment.

After detox, our clients progress through residential treatment and eventually into our outpatient program for extended care. Through all phases of care, they will receive a tailored number of clinical, evidence-based and holistic services to heal the body and mind and understand how to live a sober lifestyle going forward.

Alcohol Issues We Treat

At Harmony Place the alcohol issues we treat include, but are not limited to:

  • Binge Drinking – excessive drinking followed by period of no drinking
  • Loss of Control – when you start drinking and cannot stop
  • Alcohol Abuse – pattern of drinking too much, too often
  • Long-Term Alcoholism – typically drinks daily for years, is unable to stop drinking, and withdrawal symptoms are severe
Frequently Asked Questions

Alcohol Addiction FAQs

If you still have any questions about alcohol addiction and the treatment thereof, see if we have your answers in these alcohol FAQs below or call us to learn more:

Is there a difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction?

It is important to know that alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction are not the same thing. If you are addicted to alcohol, you have both a physical and psychological dependence on it. As with other addictive substances, you may build up a tolerance to it, meaning that it consistently takes more alcohol to achieve the effects you are used to.

If someone who is addicted to alcohol stops drinking, they experience withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Most will continue to drink despite the negative impact it has on nearly every aspect of their life.

Alcohol abusers may not drink consistently, but when they do, they drink enough to cause problems for themselves and others, such as:

  • Poor Decision Making
  • Risky Behavior
  • Drinking to the Point of Sickness
  • Alcohol Poisoning

Someone who abuses alcohol is usually a heavy drinker, but not necessarily a frequent drinker, who continues to consume the substance even when it negatively affects them.

How can I tell when a loved one is developing alcohol addiction?

There is a fine line between casual drinking and addiction – so fine that people who abuse alcohol or drink daily often become addicted. Some of the signs of alcohol addiction include:

  • Once you start drinking, you can’t stop.
  • You recognize that you need to cut back or stop altogether.
  • You’ve tried to stop drinking, but experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
  • Friends and family have voiced concerns about your drinking.
  • You feel guilty or try to hide your drinking.
  • You experience blackouts or memory lapses when drinking.
  • Alcohol is affecting your job, family and relationships.
  • You have health issues due to overconsumption of alcohol.

Are personality and lifestyle changes signs of substance abuse?

Here’s a typical scenario when an addiction is likely developing:

Your loved one is acting strange, and you can’t quite put your finger on it. Recently, they stopped affiliating with the usual people. Their hours at work have changed, keeping them away from home more often. When they are home, they demand to be by themselves, taking long periods of time in the bathroom, locked away in a study or sleeping in the bedroom. None of their normal activities seem to interest them and when you bring that up, they don’t seem to care.

As your concern grows, you ask more questions, which infuriates them. They argue about being entitled to their privacy about how they spend their time. Small quirks and behaviors lead you to believe they are unwell. They seem sick more often, and are constantly tired, exhausted, sniffling and falling asleep during untimely moments. They also are frequently visiting doctors, pharmacies or are just “out” during these times.

Increasingly, you feel like you are being pushed out of your loved one’s life by an imaginary wall you cannot see. The wall is addiction. These personality and lifestyle changes are signs that your loved one might be abusing drugs or alcohol, and it’s having a negatively destructive impact on their life.

What to Do If You Spot These Signs

When addiction starts to spiral out of control, it is a mirror for shame spiraling out of control. The more painful shame an addict feels for being out of control, the more out of control the addict will become. Rather than push someone you love further into their out-of-control addiction, approach with caution, love and honesty – and follow these tips:

  • Try not to judge, criticize or punish your loved one for what they’ve been doing. Why they’ve developed an addiction has little to do with you. In treatment, they will spend copious amounts of time investigating the underlying causes contributing to their addiction.
  • Confront the situation with honesty and love, as you would any other issue in their life. You cannot fix or stop their addiction for them. This is the time to use statements such as, “I love you,” “I know what’s going on,” and, “We are going to find you help.”
  • Expect resistance and hysteria in the name of the addiction. The erratic behaviors you have been witnessing are efforts to protect their addiction by hiding the truth and pushing their delusional reality that they need drugs or alcohol and can manage it.
  • If your loved one says they are ready for help, be prepared to help. Before confronting your loved one, call your insurance to find out about your behavioral health coverage. Make a list of desirable treatment facilities, and if necessary, make the choice for your loved one.

How will friends react when I tell them I’m an alcoholic?

Opening up to your friends after you’ve had the life-changing realization that you’re an alcoholic can be scary. These are four of the most common reactions you are likely to experience:

They Already Knew and They’re Happy You Want to Get Sober

True friends will recognize when you aren’t being yourself. Rather than you telling your friends that you were having a problem, your friends were telling you. After what might have been months or even years of encouraging you to get help, you finally sought out treatment.

Your friends love you, support you and want nothing but the best for you. Whether they understand alcoholism or don’t, they’re happy you’re taking steps to change yourself for the better.

They Had No Idea and They’re Happy You Want to Get Sober

Alcoholism can be well hidden. Studies have revealed that the most Americans are unaware of how much they drink, as well as how much they are supposed to drink. You caught many of your friends
by surprise with news of your alcoholism. Some weren’t sure how bad your problem might really be. Yet, because they are your friends, they encourage you to keep recovering and staying sober.

They Don’t Think You Have a Problem

Openly telling your friends, “I’m an alcoholic” is a major step in recovery. Vulnerable, honest and raw, it’s a moment of heightened emotional sensitivity. How your friends react will leave a lasting imprint on your recovery.

Damaging responses in this situation would sound like:

  • “You’re not an alcoholic.”
  • “You don’t look like an alcoholic.”
  • “You don’t act like an alcoholic”
  • “You can’t be an alcoholic”

Typically, when people are in denial of a friend’s problem with alcohol, they are masking a problem of their own. Don’t look at these friends to give you the love, support and inspiration you need throughout your time in treatment or for the rest of your sober life

You Don’t Have Friends Anymore

The ultimate mark of alcoholism is having only alcoholic friends. Regulars at the bar start to feel like family when they are all you have. When you finally get sober, you might find that those “friends” don’t want to talk to you, hang out with you or be around you anymore. If you aren’t drinking, how could they be around you?

How can I have fun at a party without alcohol (or drugs)?

The party isn’t over when you get sober. You’re about to have more fun than you’ve probably had in a long time. Though drinking and drug use can be and usually is fun for a while, it isn’t so fun when full chemical dependency takes over. Withdrawal symptoms, cravings and perpetual sickness aren’t much of a party.

Making the most out of a social occasion isn’t so hard to do when drugs and alcohol aren’t involved. Buy up a bunch of candy, grab your energy drinks, put on a pot of coffee and get ready to have a good time with these fun games for your next party:

Card Games

Card games used to be for drinking, but now they can be for fun. Spoon, kings, ring of fire and so many other card games can lead to laughs, healthy competition, and a demonstration of wit. When the good old aces and spades get boring, opt for alternative card games like Uno.

Board Games

For large crowds, board games can get difficult. Thankfully, there are hybrid games that use partners and teams or structure the game so that everyone can play. Cards Against Humanity and Apples to Apples are hybrid games that tend to get people laughing. Try Scattergories for a timer-chasing brain boggle. Or, get everyone to bring a favorite childhood board game and see how much fun they are today.

Charades

Charades is absolutely hilarious. Different version of charades exist today like the popular app Heads Up! in which a player has to hold a phone against their head and guess a word based on clues from other people. Games that require you to act something out gets everyone’s brains working and focused on the present

Spooky Stuff

Nothing like a good creepy night to make memories. Light your white candles, pull out the tarot cards and line up your ouija board. Keep a night light on nearby, just in case.

Active Games

Remember how much you used to love active games during recess? Four Square, Red Rover, Cut the Cake and other summer camp classics can still be fun. If you’re feeling extra daring, organize a game of neighborhood-wide capture the flag. You’ll have fun for hours.

Which mental disorders commonly co-occur with alcoholism?

Here at Harmony Place, we understand that alcohol issues are generally present alongside a co-occurring issue, such as a mental health disorder. We’ve found that many individuals with mental disorders go undiagnosed and untreated, leading to their need to self-medicate. Because alcohol is so accessible, it is the first choice for many who are suffering from depression and other mental disorders.

Common mental issues found in conjunction with alcohol abuse include:

  • Depression (all forms, including bipolar disorder and dysthymia)
  • Anxiety (including panic disorders)
  • Trauma Issues (including PTSD)
  • Eating Disorders (especially binge eating; we have an eating disorder specialist on staff)
  • Phobias
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

What Are Other Contributing Causes of Alcoholism?

Though widely misunderstood, it is not often the alcohol itself that causes alcoholism. Of course, alcohol does play a large role. However, it is the not the only contributing factor. Numerous underlying issues of genetics, psychology and environment are at play as well.

Alcoholism Is Hereditary

Some are predisposed to alcoholism. There is a genetic reason as to why one person can drink alcohol without getting addicted while others can’t. A normal drinker can even get excessively drunk and still return to a state of normalcy, while an alcoholic will seek to get drunk over and over.

Alcoholism is considered a mental health disorder, albeit one that affects the body directly, as well. Parents with a mental health disorder create 4 times the likelihood in their offspring.

Alcoholism Is a (Poor) Coping Mechanism

Alcoholism is a commonly listed side effect for many mental health disorders and conditions, such as bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, ADHD and trauma. Coping mechanisms are born out of a lack of information on how to handle one’s emotions.

Often, mental health diagnoses go undiagnosed, leaving someone lost in their disorder without direction. Whether trying to not feel as much, to feel more, to fit in, to forget or to remember, alcohol serves a purpose to those who abuse it. Unfortunately, alcoholism is not a medication and is not a sustainable coping mechanism. After the intoxication wears off, the problems still remain.

Alcoholism Is a Social Activity

Social drinking can quickly turn into problem drinking, though there are usually underlying issues. Typically, if one is consistently involved in an environment of alcohol and excessive drinking, the trend is likely to catch on. What starts as an innocent attempt to fit in can turn into a problem later.

What are the benefits of quitting alcohol for good?

Let’s go into a little detail on four of the top benefits of ceasing alcohol abuse for good:

Your Body Will Change

Alcoholism affects the mind, body and spirit. Physically, alcohol can affect the body in many different ways. Metabolism will change, your skin will change and even the way you look to other people will change. It will be hard for you to see it at first. Trust that it will be there.

You Will Think More Clearly

Cognitive functions are severely damaged during alcohol abuse. You don’t think clearly, your short term memory is shot, and you have a difficult time processing new information. As time goes on and you stay sober, you are able to perform simple cognitive tasks.

Over long periods of time, the brain heals itself. By teaching your brain new skills, you help it grow stronger.

You Will Improve Your Immune System

Studies have found that one’s immune system is significantly lowered after an episode of binge drinking. You are also more likely to experience heart attack or stroke in the week following problem drinking. If you are getting intoxicated consistently, you are at a higher risk.

Building up your immune system is much easier when you aren’t dousing it with the chemicals used to produce alcohol as well as the high levels of sugar naturally produced in the process of creating alcohol.

You Will Find Happiness

Most importantly, you will find a happiness that you’ve never known before. Feeling peaceful and serene, your life will start to take on new meaning. As your brain continues to heal, it will open up new channels of memories to come through. Clearing out the blockages for fresh space and clean brain tissue is part of recovery.

How does emotional wellness relate to addiction recovery?

All areas of wellness are compromised by the chronic and abusive presence of mind-altering substances. Chemically, drugs and alcohol change the way the brain handles and relates to emotions. In early recovery (the first six months), learning to feel, live with feeling, and cope with feeling emotions is both a challenge and a focus in treatment.

Emotions are a “new again” experience in recovery. Prolonged drugs and alcohol use means men and women have gone many years without being fully connected to their emotional selves or being emotionally well.

Inhibitors to Emotional Wellness

Drug and alcohol abuse in adolescence halts emotional development. It is said that the age you started abusing drugs and alcohol is the age at which you essentially stopped developing. Most adults who come to treatment are emotionally immature and lacking in emotional wellness because their brains could not mature.

They are unable to identify what their true emotions are as they are experiencing them. Commonly, addicts and alcoholics grow up in homes where emotions are not well defined, are stale and unavailable, or are used as tools of abuse.

Embracing Emotional Wellness

Embracing feelings and being emotionally well are two of the most critical components in addiction recovery. Too many people relapse because their emotions start to come up again. Without any tools or emotional maturity to handle the feelings, people run away from them and react in the way their brain has been trained to react: seeking and using drugs and alcohol.

The reason many feelings seem overwhelming and intimidating is because the brain has lost its endurance in regulating emotion. What addicts and alcoholics in recovery often are not able to embrace is that emotional regulation is a learning process. Emotional wellness takes time and practice to make the feelings less severe, less out of control, and more manageable.

Will relapse always be lurking around the corner in recovery?

John Sutherland, author of Last Drink To LA: Confessions Of An AA Survivor, referred to relapse as “that lovely word for something very nasty and all too common.” Sutherland was a “career alcoholic” as he calls himself, or what is sometimes referred to as a “periodic.”

Throughout his life, there would be times of sobriety and recovery followed by more times of drunk inebriation. Relapse, he described, “is a peculiarly destructive phase.” Describing his personal stories of relapse, Sutherland illustrates the sad imagery many alcoholics in recovery are familiar with from their own stories.

Guilt, anger, shame, self-hatred and a loaded conscience brought Sutherland back to the bottle time after time. Each time he relapsed, his family members and loved ones lost a little more hope in him. Knowing this, he felt even more compelled to drink. Despite his attendance at AA and trying to work for his recovery, he felt he had no defense against drinking time after time.
“What defense do you have? None. Guilt makes the drunken quarrelsome and few alcoholics – when drunk and quarrelsome – are not violent, verbally and (at their worst) physically,” he wrote.

Jealousy, paranoia, anger – Sutherland touched on each of the emotional experiences one has when they relapse. Taken completely over by alcohol, the alcoholic is left without any defense against taking another drink. Their spirit is crushed, the brain is compromised and their body is growing increasingly weak.

Alcoholic Moment of Clarity

Yet, out of the darkness of these dire circumstances comes recovery. The “moment of clarity,” the author called it, is “a fork in the road.” He added, “Take one path and it’s the morgue, locked ward, or skid row. The other, harder path, is recovery with relapse an ever-present risk.”

Not every alcoholic who relapses will make it back to recovery. Relapse is often described as getting worse each time it happens. However, with every moment of clarity, there is an opportunity to start recovery over and take another chance at living free from alcohol.

Why shouldn’t I self-detox from alcohol?

Detox from alcohol addiction should always be done in a professional setting, since a licensed team can monitor your symptoms and respond accordingly. Above all, we don’t recommend doing self-detox because alcohol is one of the few addictions that can lead to fatal withdrawal symptoms.

A professional team will be able to assess the severity of your alcoholism and then administer supplements and possibly medication to help you manage the withdrawal symptoms. It’s a process much too dangerous and complex to attempt at home.

Can a dissociative drug treat alcoholism?

Normally prescribed as an animal tranquilizer rather than a human medication, Ketamine is a powerful dissociative drug. Dissociatives are a class of drugs that cause a person to feel disconnected from themselves and their bodies. The dissociated state can cause someone to question their reality, experience depersonalization (become unidentified with the self) and derealization (become unidentified with reality). It can also cause feelings of floating above one’s own body. As a result, one no longer feels associated with themselves, the world around them, or even their own memories.

Brain Reception Channel

When substances are abused in high levels or high frequencies, they create a hyper production of a dopamine, a communication chemical for pleasure. Sending signals all over the brain, dopamine especially communicates with the glutamate channel, which solidifies the relationship between the production of dopamine and whatever the substance is that caused it. The memories created during this time become permanent associations.

As chemical dependency grows, the brain becomes completely reliant upon those memories until the only association for pleasure left is the memory of alcohol or drugs. Remembering how good the last round of drugs or alcohol felt, the brain sends out signals of cravings.

By blocking some memory channels, researchers are hopeful that ketamine can act as an interference between sensory triggers and cravings. If researchers can find a way to prevent a memory trigger from actually triggering a memory, which would then trigger cravings, they could be saving thousands of recovering addicts and alcoholics from relapse.

Controversially, ketamine has the potential for abuse and is widely done so in club scenes and party scenes around the earth. The testing of ketamine for alcohol and drug addiction is still in its early stages.

Is long-term treatment needed for alcohol addiction?

Certainly. Alcoholism leads people in recovery toward relapse more frequently than other forms of addiction, partially because it’s so readily available once the individual returns to the “real world” after rehab. Therefore, the longer the treatment, the better – in order to have enough time to build new habits, stronger resilience and a new mindset.

Harmony Place starts clients in in detox and residential treatment for 30 days before placing them in our outpatient program, during which they have the option to stay in our transitional living home nearby. This continuum of care give clients a greater shot at achieving long-term sobriety.

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Harmony Place Addiction And Recovery Blog

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