There are millions of American men and women currently struggling with alcohol abuse in varying degrees. Alcoholism is a physical dependence on alcohol that is characterized by an inability to control the compulsion to drink. Although treatment for alcoholism is eminently possible, many are still unaware of the alcohol addiction facts and what is involved in rehabilitation and so in this article, we take a closer look.
Many people drink alcohol from time to time and most don’t have any issues as a result. However, it is not unusual for people to ask “is alcohol addictive?” as it is so commonly consumed in our society. Dependence and addiction are driven by different things according to varying factors in an individual’s life, which is why some people have problems and other don’t. The bottom line is that it is possible to be addicted to just about anything if there is an existing predisposition for the illness. That said, the answer to the question: “is alcohol addictive?” is potentially yes, very much so.
Why is Alcohol Addictive?
Alcoholism is not something that develops overnight and begins with an innocent drinking habit that becomes more difficult to control as time passes. There are certain factors that come into play that turn a habit into full-blown dependence and alcohol addiction including:
- Family history of alcohol addiction
- Childhood Experiences
- Social environments
- Unstable mental or emotional health
The first sign that alcohol abuse has become a problem is when the body craves it in order to function, which often leads to heavier drinking and ultimately, complete dependence.
What Is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is a rising problem in the US, particularly among young people under the age of 21 and it is important to recognize it as a form of alcoholism. Although binge drinkers will tend to confine their habit to social events rather than on a daily basis, if they drink to excess with too much regularity, they risk becoming alcohol dependent over time.
Warning Signs of Alcohol Abuse
An important alcohol addiction fact is that once someone’s drinking habit has become an addictive compulsion, there are likely to display some of the following signs:
- A complete lack of control over drinking, despite a desire to stop
- Falling short of work, school or other obligations
- Using alcohol as a response to stressful situations
- Increased risky behavior such as driving under the influence of alcohol
- An apathetic attitude towards activities previously enjoyed
- Drinking alone
- Concealing how much alcohol has been consumed
- An increased tolerance to alcohol
- Mood swings, blackouts and uncharacteristic behavior
- Increased withdrawal symptoms
- Strained relationships with partners and loved ones
Health Effects of Alcohol Addiction
There are several physical, emotional and behavioral red flags for alcoholism including:
- Lack of appetite and weight loss
- Difficulty sleeping despite feelings of exhaustion
- Nausea and headaches
- Burst capillaries in the nose and cheeks that create a patchy red complexion
- Withdrawal symptoms including fever, uncontrollable shaking and sometimes seizures and heart palpitations
Other Health Effects of Alcoholism: Short-Term and Long-Term
Alcohol is a toxic substance when consumed to excess over a prolonged period of time and acts like a poison on the brain. Impaired memory and reduced coordination are short-term effects of alcohol abuse that can present a personal risk to the sufferer. Some users may display very violent behavior which has the potential to lead to incidents such as assault, domestic violence, car crashes or personal injury.
The longer-term effects of alcohol abuse are potentially very serious, possibly life-threatening although they can be avoided if alcohol addiction treatment is received sooner rather than later. The risk of cancer is increased through prolonged alcohol use, as is damage to the liver which can lead to hepatitis or more seriously, cirrhosis of the liver. The liver is the only of the body’s organs that can regenerate but the risk long term heavy drinkers take is that they damage the cells that make this regrowth possible.
Long-term heavy drinking also reduces the function of the central nervous system, which in turn affects the following:
- Muscle condition
- Response and reaction time
- Weakness, pain or numbness in the hands and feet caused by neuropathy
The First Step Toward Rehabilitation and Recovery
In order to overcome alcoholism, it is essential to have a solid support system and medical assistance. It is not possible to ‘cure’ alcoholism by simply stopping drinking as there are underlying issues to address that drive the compulsion to use.
Professional rehabilitation allows alcoholics 24/7 access to medical professionals who can supervise what is often a very uncomfortable experience in detox to ease the symptoms of withdrawal. Once alcohol’s toxins have been removed from the body, it is then possible to commence a structured rehab program that is tailored to each individual patient’s needs.
One of the most important aspects of structure treatment for alcoholism is that a great deal of time is spent evaluating and assessing each patient that’s admitted. This means therapists are able to identify the unique set of medical needs that need to be met in an alcohol addiction treatment program which can be devised on a patient by patient basis. An alcohol addiction fact that has been confirmed by medical research is that professional rehab provides a better chance of a fulfilled life in sobriety.
Alcoholism is an illness that destroys lives; not only those of people suffering but those close to them. Although someone currently combating alcoholism may feel isolated and misunderstood, taking the first step towards sobriety by reaching out for alcohol addiction treatment can provide a vital lifeline. Being in an environment where there are others batting their own alcohol addiction issues, enables patients to find a common bond of understanding that may have previously eluded them.