Having trouble with alcohol? Finding it hard to control how much you drink? Feeling like your life is spinning out of your control? The Ranch at Dove Tree in West Texas can help.
Alcohol seems like just a drink, one that many people consume without much thought about how it might affect their mental or physical health. Yet, consistent alcohol use, as well as periodic binge drinking, create a high risk for developing health complications, including alcohol addiction.
How Common Is Alcohol Addiction?
Sometimes it seems like everyone in the United States–everyone in the world, even–drinks. That’s not true, but it’s close to the truth. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a 2019 survey found that 85.6 percent of people over the age of 18 reported consuming alcohol at some point in their lifetime, with 54.9 percent stating they did so in the last month.
In addition, the survey found that 25.8 percent of people reported binge drinking in the previous month. Binge drinking is the consumption of 4 or more drinks for women or 5 or more drinks for men within a two-hour timespan.
Many of the large number of people who drink will never struggle with alcohol dependence or addiction. However, those who develop an addiction are far from alone. Alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism, is also prevalent in the U.S. The same survey found that 14.1 million adults over the age of 18 suffer from alcohol addiction. More so, about 414,000 teens between the ages of 12 and 17 also had alcohol use disorder.
What are the Health Risks of Alcohol Use?
Alcohol may be a legal substance, but it does create risks to health, even for those who never develop an addiction. In the short term, alcohol use can cause slurred speech and reduced inhibitions. Many people like the relaxing effect alcohol has, making it easier to navigate social situations. Sometimes this release of inhibitions can lead to risky behavior: drunk driving, unprotected sex, risk-taking, etc. These are dangerous enough, and can even be life-threatening, regardless of whether addiction is present.
Long-term health risks of alcohol use, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention), include:
- High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems
- Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum
- Weakening of the immune system, increasing the chances of getting sick
- Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance
- Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
- Social problems, including family problems, job-related problems, and unemployment
- Alcohol use disorders, or alcohol dependence
How Does Alcohol Addiction Form?
Addiction to alcohol develops with consistent use. In those who are predisposed to alcohol addiction, whether because of genetics, mental health, environment, or other factors, addiction can develop quickly. The brain recognizes the substance as a pleasure-providing product and, as such, seeks it out on an ongoing basis. Alcohol addiction forms when a person is unable to stop using even if they want to. This happens in several stages.
Tolerance – the person requires more and more alcohol to achieve the same effect. Over time, the amount consumed is simply too much for the body to handle. This leads to overdose risks and life-threatening alcohol poisoning. This requires immediate medical care.
Dependence – the body develops a need for alcohol; if the person stops drinking, they will experience withdrawal symptoms.
Addiction – in addition to physical dependence, the mind becomes dependent on alcohol. The person craves alcohol and is unable to stop consuming it despite negative social, occupational, financial, and interpersonal consequences.
Once someone is addicted, it becomes nearly impossible for them to stop drinking without medical and psychological intervention.
What is High-Functioning Addiction?
Some people struggle to maintain their ability to work and meet family obligations with just a small amount of alcohol. Other people, especially those who have been drinking for a long time, do not feel as limited and seem able to maintain their overall ability to function in life. Called high-functioning alcoholism, this presents a high risk for alcohol complications. A person who is high-functioning has a much harder time admitting they need help. It’s only when their addiction results in devastating consequences (which it inevitably will) that the person might finally seek help.
What are the Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction?
To know if you have alcohol addiction, consider the following common symptoms.
- Needing to drink or thinking about drinking daily.
- Feeling like the only thing to calm your nerves is a drink.
- Using alcohol to manage stress, previous trauma, or anxiety.
- Being unable to stop using even though you want to and have tried.
- Struggling with health complications from alcohol consumption.
Another key to recognizing alcohol addiction is to monitor for symptoms of withdrawal. When a person is dependent, they may feel intense cravings for the substance when they do not have access to it. This often leads to symptoms such as the following:
- Intense headaches
- Muscle and joint pain
- Upset stomach and nausea
- High anxiety
This is the body’s way of trying to continue to gain access to the substance. If withdrawal is
occurring, it may be necessary to work through an alcohol detox program. This process will help to remove the substance from the body in a safe, protective manner while also providing medications and treatment.
How Do I Beat Alcohol Addiction?
Alcohol addiction is a treatable condition, especially when a person is ready to make a change. It’s not as easy as simply not picking up a drink again. Instead, many people need:
- Alcohol detox to gain stability
- Mental health treatment for underlying depression, anxiety, and trauma
- Individual therapy to help with dealing with the addiction
- Therapy to learn how to maintain sobriety and cope with triggers that encourage use
- Group therapy to explore new solutions for recovery
There are situations where residential treatment and intensive outpatient treatment for alcohol is beneficial as well. Many people can find relief. They just need to reach out for comprehensive treatment to get there.
At The Ranch at Dove Tree, we offer this type of supportive environment. Reach out to us to learn more about our alcohol addiction treatment program.