Alcoholism is an illness that develops after prolonged use of alcohol that is commonly referred to as alcohol use disorder. Alcohol abuse differs from drug-taking in that the substance in itself is not illicit or illegal. When a person has reached the point where they want to quit drinking, they need to seek specialist alcohol addiction treatment. There are many different options available to help people overcome alcoholism both as an inpatient or outpatient and it is always possible for someone to enjoy a happy and healthy life in sobriety after rehab.
However, many people still ask the question: “is alcohol addictive?” Understanding alcohol addiction facts such as how it develops and what the warning signs are invaluable in getting people to recognize whether they have a problem. It is only when someone recognizes their behavior has not only become detrimental to their own lives but those close to them that they will be in the position to take the next step towards recovery. In this article, we explore where alcoholism stems from, the red flags to watch out for and what alcohol addiction treatment options are available to someone battling with the illness.
What Is Alcohol Addiction?
One widely known alcohol addiction fact is that the illness usually develops as a result of prolonged drinking which leads to the body becoming dependent on its use. While someone may initially start drinking in response to stress or a traumatic experience, if they continue to use alcohol, their bodies eventually build up a tolerance to its effects.
This means an individual needs to drink progressively larger volumes of alcohol in order to get the desired results. After a while, their ‘desire’ for a drink is replaced by an intense ‘need’ and they are no longer in control of when they use alcohol. They may begin to experience distressing withdrawal symptoms overnight as their bodies crave alcohol while they’re sleeping.
There are varying degrees of alcohol dependence and alcoholism, and some may drink to a point that it causes problems in their lives without reaching a medically deemed dependency. Binge drinkers are examples of people who are not addicted to alcohol but who are nevertheless at high risk of developing dependency and even alcoholism.
What Causes Alcohol Addiction?
What starts a person on a journey towards alcohol dependence and alcoholism varies from person to person. Some may have started drinking to reduce symptoms of physical pain or in response to stress and others may have just lost control of their desire to use alcohol through persistent binge drinking. An important part of alcohol addiction treatment is to identify the root causes of addiction in each patient entering rehab which is done through thorough assessment and evaluation.
Dependence becomes alcoholism when individuals drink so much that they cause dramatic chemical changes in their brains. These changes increase the pleasurable side effects of alcohol but also serve to drives a need to drink more often to “fuel” the body’s drink more often and in progressively greater amounts.
After a while of sustained alcohol abuse, the pleasurable feelings associated slowly become replaced with a need to drink to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Because withdrawal from alcohol can cause serious and sometimes dangerous symptoms, it becomes easier for a sufferer to continue drinking than to stop.
Alcohol addiction doesn’t develop overnight. It is also known to be inherited genetically and so a family history of alcoholism can highlight a predisposition for the illness.
What Are the Risk Factors?
Although the root cause varies from person to person, there are common behaviors and symptoms indicating someone is at risk of developing alcoholism including:
- Men who have more than 15 drinks a week
- Women who have more than 12 drinks a week
- Binge drinkers who have more than 5 drinks at least once a week
- People with a parent with alcohol use disorder
- A mental health condition such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder
- Young adults under pressure to drink from peers
- A person with low self-esteem
- People coping with stressful jobs or life experiences
- Being surrounded by people who also drink and find it acceptable
What Are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of alcoholism can be both behavioral and physical.
- Drinking alone
- A developing tolerance to the effects of alcohol
- Displaying violent or aggressive behaviors when confronted on their drinking
- Neglecting responsibilities at school, work or home
- Eating a poor diet or rarely eating at all
- Being unable to control the desire to drink
- Continuing to drink in the face of the damage it is causing
- Giving up previously enjoyed activities and pursuits in favor of drinking
- Cravings for alcohol
- Withdrawal symptoms when not under the influence including nausea and vomiting
- Lapses in memory and blackouts
- Involuntary shaking, chills or sweats
- Illnesses like alcoholic ketoacidosis, which creates symptoms of dehydration or cirrhosis
Getting Appropriate Treatment for Alcoholism
It is an alcohol addiction fact that the illness has a widespread effect on the individual who is suffering, their families, close friends, and co-workers. Although someone suffering from the illness is likely to become withdrawn from their loved ones, this generally only serves to heighten their concerns further. It is very often the case that relatives and friends of someone struggling with alcohol are the ones to seek treatment on their behalves.
No matter what route a person takes towards sobriety, they will need the support of those around them and this is why specialist alcohol treatment is considered so effective. Rehab provides alcoholics and their loved ones with a neutral platform where they can communicate with each other effectively under the guidance of a therapist. Alcoholics can also go through what can often be an uncomfortable detox experience under the full supervision of medical staff.
No matter how consumed a person has become by their relationship with alcohol, a structured treatment program can arm them with the tools to cope very well in recovery for many years after rehab. Qualified therapists can also do much to rebuild close family bonds that may have been shattered by their loved one’s drinking, which gives patients extra motivation to achieve sobriety.
In answer to the question “is alcohol addictive?” the answer is potential yes, very much so.