Alcohol Addiction: Statistics, How it Happens, and What to Do About It
Alcohol seems like just a drink, one that many people consume with no concern and no risk to their health. Yet, consistent use and binge drinking create a high risk for developing health complications as well as alcohol addiction.
How Common Is Alcohol Addiction?
A few key statistics point out just how common alcohol consumption is. 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, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Still, use does not equate to abuse.
At the same time, 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. This can lead to health complications and addiction.
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 had this condition. More so, about 414,000 teens between the ages of 12 and 17 also had this disorder.
How Does Alcohol Addiction Form?
Alcohol may be a legal substance, but it does create risks to health. Initially, it can cause slurred speech and reduced inhibitions. It may lead to a sense of relaxation in some. Yet all forms – beer, wine, and liquor – can create addiction if enough is used over a period of time.
Addiction to alcohol develops with consistent use. 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 do so and when they experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking. Withdrawal symptoms indicate dependence – the body and brain become reliant on the alcohol to function in a normal way.
With the use of alcohol comes tolerance. The body becomes used to the amount consumed. As a result, a person needs to consume more alcohol or more powerful types of drinks to get the same outcome. Over time, the amount consumed is simply too much for the body to handle. This leads to overdose risks and life-threatening alcohol poisoning, along with numerous other health complications.
Alcohol dependence and tolerance make it impossible for a person to simply stop drinking. They require treatment for alcohol addiction.
Some people who are addicted to alcohol struggle to meet their work and family obligations. Others, especially those who have been drinking for a long time, manage to maintain their overall ability to function in life. Called high-functioning alcoholism, this is one of the highest risks for alcohol complications. A person who needs to stop for a drink after work each day or needs that glass of wine every night can develop into a high-functioning user. But health risks remain, and the addiction is likely to worsen, especially as tolerance grows.
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 that can 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. Withdrawal symptoms can manifest in any of the following ways:
- Intense headaches
- Muscle and joint pain
- Upset stomach and nausea
- High anxiety
These symptoms are 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. Medically monitored detox will help to remove the substance from the body safely while also providing medications and treatment to minimize discomfort.
How to 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
In many situations, residential treatment and intensive outpatient treatment for alcohol are beneficial as well. At The Ranch at Dove Tree, we offer our clients a safe and supportive environment for change. Reach out to us to learn more about our alcohol addiction treatment program.