How To Treat Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse

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Do You Have A Drinking Problem?

It is not always easy to distinguish between moderate or social drinking and problematic alcohol consumption. It can be difficult to determine if or when your alcohol consumption has become a problem, given drinking is so prevalent in many countries and its effects vary so drastically from person to person. However, if you use alcohol as a coping mechanism or to avoid feeling awful, you are in a potentially dangerous area.

Additional indicators that you may have a drinking problem are:

  • Feeling ashamed or guilty about your drinking?
  • Lying or hiding your drinking habits from others.
  • The need for alcohol to relax or feel better.
  • “Blacking out” or forgetting what you did while under the influence of alcohol.
  • Regularly consuming more alcohol than anticipated.

It is vital to be aware of the warning symptoms of alcohol misuse and alcoholism and to take action to reduce your drinking if you identify these indicators. Understanding the issue is the first step in resolving it and reducing consumption to a healthy level or quitting entirely.

Effects Of Alcoholism And Alcohol Abuse

Alcoholism and alcohol misuse can have an impact on every part of one’s life. Alcohol abuse for an extended period of time can result in major health consequences, impacting practically every organ in the body, including the brain. Additionally, problem drinking can harm your mental stability, money, profession, and capacity to form and maintain rewarding relationships. Alcoholism and alcohol addiction can also have negative effects on your family, friends, and coworkers.

The effects of alcohol abuse on the people you love:

Despite the potentially fatal effects of excessive drinking on the body, such as cancer, heart disease, and liver disease, the social implications can be equally terrible. Alcoholics and alcoholics who abuse alcohol are far more likely to experience divorce, domestic violence, unemployment, and poverty.

The impact of alcoholism and alcohol abuse on personal relationships cannot be avoided, however, even if you are able to maintain a successful career and a stable marriage. Problematic drinking places tremendous pressure on those closest to you.

Frequently, family members and close acquaintances feel forced to conceal the drinking issue of a loved one. So they are forced to clean up your messes, lie on your behalf, or work harder to make ends meet. Pretending that nothing is wrong and concealing one’s worries and resentments can have a significant impact. When a parent or caretaker is an alcoholic or frequent drinker, children are more vulnerable and can endure long-term emotional trauma.

Risk Factors For Drinking Problems And Alcoholism

Multiple linked elements, including genetics, upbringing, social environment, and psychological health, contribute to the development of alcohol-related issues. Certain racial groups, such as American Indians and Native Alaskans, are more likely than others to develop alcoholism or drinking issues. Those with a family history of alcoholism or who maintain strong relationships with heavy drinkers are more prone to develop drinking issues. Those with mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder are also at increased risk, as alcohol is frequently used as self-medication.

The path from alcohol abuse to alcoholism:

This is a significant risk factor. However, not all alcoholics develop from alcoholism. Occasionally, alcoholism develops suddenly in response to a stressful change, such as the end of a relationship, retirement, or another loss. Occasionally, it occurs gradually as your tolerance to alcohol increases. If you engage in binge drinking or consume alcohol on a daily basis, your chances of developing alcoholism are increased.

Symptoms And Signs Of Problematic Drinking

Experts on substance addiction differentiate between alcohol misuse and alcoholism (also called alcohol dependence). Alcohol abusers, unlike alcoholics, have some capacity to control their drinking. However, their alcohol consumption is still damaging to themselves and others.

Common signs and symptoms include:

Frequent disregard for your home, work, or school duties as a result of your drinking. For instance, doing poorly at work, failing school, ignoring your children, or avoiding obligations because you’re hungover.

Using alcohol in physically hazardous settings, such as drinking and driving, working heavy machinery while intoxicated, or mixing alcohol with prescription drugs without a doctor’s permission.

Repeatedly encountering legal issues as a result of your drinking. For instance, being arrested for driving under the influence or disorderly conduct while intoxicated.

Continuing to drink despite the fact that your alcohol consumption is generating relationship issues. For example, getting drunk with your friends despite knowing your wife will be very upset or fighting with your family because they despise how you behave when you’re drunk.

Drinking as a means of relaxation or de-stressing. The use of alcohol to self-soothe and relieve stress is the origin of many drinking issues (otherwise known as self-medicating). For example, getting drunk after every difficult day or reaching for a bottle after every disagreement with your spouse or boss.

Signs And Symptoms Of Alcoholism (Alcohol Dependence)

The most severe type of problem drinking is alcoholism. In addition to the symptoms of alcohol abuse, alcoholism is characterized by physical reliance on alcohol. You are an alcoholic if you require alcohol to function or feel physically forced to drink.

Tolerance: The 1st major warning sign of alcoholism

Do you need to consume significantly more alcohol than you used to in order to get drunk or feel relaxed? Can you consume more alcohol than others without becoming intoxicated? These are symptoms of tolerance, which may be an early indicator of alcoholism. Tolerance indicates that, with time, increasing amounts of alcohol are required to get the same effects.

Withdrawal: The 2nd major warning sign

Do you require a beverage to calm your morning trembling? Drinking to alleviate or prevent withdrawal symptoms is a warning flag and an indicator of alcoholism. When you drink excessively, your body adapts to the alcohol, and you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop.

Among the withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Anxiety or jumpiness
  • Shakiness or trembling
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache

Alcohol withdrawal can cause hallucinations, confusion, seizures, fever, and anxiety in severe situations. These symptoms can be harmful, so if you are a heavy drinker who wants to quit, consult your doctor.

Other Alcoholism Symptoms And Signs

You are no longer in control of your drinking. You frequently consume more alcohol than you intended, for longer than you anticipated, or despite vowing not to.

You want to stop drinking but are unable to. You have a continuous desire to reduce or stop your alcohol consumption, but your attempts to do so have failed.

You have given up other activities due to alcohol consumption. Because of your alcohol consumption, you’re spending less time on activities that used to be essential to you (hanging out with family and friends, going to the gym, pursuing hobbies).

Alcohol consumes a large deal of your energy and concentration. You devote a great deal of time to drinking, contemplating it, and recovering from its effects. You have few, if any, non-drinking-related interests or social involvements.

You consume alcohol while being aware that it causes issues. For instance, you realize that your alcohol consumption is harming your marriage, exacerbating your depression, and causing health issues, but you continue to drink.

Binge Drinking And Alcohol Poisoning

While someone with alcoholism will typically consume alcohol on a daily basis, others limit their drinking to brief but intense bouts. Typically, binge drinking is associated with young adults and college students who binge drink during parties and abstain during the week. However, many older persons, particularly those over 65, also engage in binge drinking. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in six Americans binges drinks at least four times every month.

Consuming so much alcohol that your blood alcohol level surpasses the legal limit of intoxication within a few hours is defined as binge drinking. This refers to men taking five or more drinks within two hours and women consuming four or more drinks during the same time frame. These amounts can be easily reached if you take shots, play drinking games, consume cocktails with many servings of alcohol, or lose track of your alcohol consumption in any other way.

Other signs that you may have a problem with binge drinking include drinking excessively on weekends, holidays, and special occasions, usually drinking more than you intended and frequently forgetting what you said while intoxicated.

The long-term impacts of binge drinking on health, relationships, and finances are comparable to those of other forms of problem drinking. But it is also a short-term dangerous endeavor. Binge drinking can lead to irresponsible conduct such as aggression, unsafe sex, and drunk driving. Additionally, binge drinking can result in alcohol poisoning, a potentially fatal illness.

What Is Alcohol Poisoning?

Consuming too much alcohol too rapidly can induce slowed respiration and heart rate, lowered body temperature, confusion, vomiting, seizures, coma, and even death. Alcohol poisoning can also depress your gag reflex, increasing the likelihood that you will choke on your own vomit if you pass out due to alcohol poisoning.

Drinking problems and denial

Denial is one of the most significant barriers to receiving treatment for alcohol misuse and alcoholism. The temptation to drink is so strong that the mind finds several justifications for it, even when the consequences are evident. By preventing you from honestly assessing your behavior and its negative impacts, denial exacerbates alcohol-related difficulties at work, in your money, and in your relationships.

You can deny you have a drinking problem by:

  • Drastically underestimating your drinking habits
  • You minimize the negative effects of your drinking.
  • Complaining that loved ones are exaggerating the issue
  • Attributing your drinking or difficulties related to drinking to others
  • You may, for instance, blame an “unfair employer” for problems at work or a “nagging wife” for marital problems rather than considering how your drinking contributes to the situation. Work, relationships, and financial strains affect everyone; nevertheless, a pattern of deterioration and placing blame on others may indicate a problem.

Consider why you are so defensive if you find yourself justifying your drinking habits, lying about them, or refusing to confront the matter. If you honestly believe you do not have a drinking issue, there should be no reason for you to conceal your drinking or manufacture excuses.

Getting Help

If you’re willing to acknowledge you have a drinking problem, you’ve already made the first step toward recovery. It requires considerable fortitude and bravery to confront alcoholism and alcohol misuse head-on. The second stage involves seeking assistance.

Support is crucial, regardless of whether you opt for rehab, self-help programs, therapy, or a self-directed treatment strategy. Recovery from alcoholism is significantly facilitated by having individuals on whom one may rely for support, solace, and direction. Without assistance, it is simple to revert to old habits when the going gets difficult.

Continued mental health care, the development of healthier coping skills, and improved decision-making in the face of life’s obstacles are essential to your ongoing recovery. To remain alcohol-free on a permanent basis, you must also address the underlying issues that contributed to your alcoholism or alcohol abuse in the first place.

These disorders may include depression, an inability to manage stress, an unresolved childhood trauma, or any number of other mental health concerns. Such issues may become more apparent when alcohol is no longer used to mask them. However, you will be in a better position to address problems and seek the necessary assistance.

Helping A Loved One

Admitting that a loved one has an alcohol problem can be difficult for the entire family, not just the alcoholic. But have no shame. You’re not alone. There is accessible assistance and support for both you and your loved one.

Start by having an open and honest conversation with a friend or family member who is drinking excessively. However, keep in mind that you cannot force someone to give up drinking. The decision is theirs to make.

You may also benefit from attending Al-Anon, a free peer-to-peer support group for families dealing with alcoholism. Listening to people experiencing the same difficulties can be a huge source of solace and support.

Avoid The Following Responses: 

  • Threatening, punishing, bribing, and preaching. Avoid emotional appeals that heighten the problem drinker’s feelings of guilt and need to drink or use other substances.
  • Don’t make excuses for them or hide your loved one from the effects of their drinking.
  • Do not assume the alcoholic’s obligations, leaving them without a sense of significance or dignity.
  • Avoid hiding or discarding alcohol bottles or attempting to shield your loved one from circumstances when alcohol is present.
  • Do not dispute with a person who is intoxicated.
  • Avoid drinking with problematic drinkers.
  • Don’t feel guilty or responsible for the behavior of the problem drinker.

When Your Teen Has A Drinking Problem

When parents discover that their child is drinking, they may experience anxiety, confusion, and rage. It is essential to maintain composure when confronting your adolescent and to do so only when everyone is sober. Explain your concerns and make it appear that they are motivated by affection. It is essential that your adolescent perceives your support.

Your adolescent should realize that drinking alcohol carries with it specific restrictions and penalties. But avoid making empty threats or establishing unenforceable restrictions.

Insist on knowing your teen’s whereabouts and who they associate with.

Promote additional interests and social activities. Introduce your adolescent to healthy pastimes and activities, such as team sports, Scouting, and after-school organizations.

Discuss with your child underlying difficulties. Alcoholism can be a consequence of other disorders. Does your youngster have difficulty fitting in? Has there been a recent life-altering event, such as a move or divorce, that is causing you stress?

Next step: Finding Help For A Drinking Problem

There are a variety of actions you may take to recover control of your drinking and your life, regardless of whether you want to cut back or quit drinking entirely.

Learn more about elder abuse and neglect in our blog section.