All You Need to Know About Alcohol Addiction

This article is an overview of alcohol dependence, who it affects, the causes, the signs and the symptoms of someone struggling with alcohol addiction. We will also discuss the effects and highlight the treatment options for alcohol dependence. 

Alcohol dependence ranks as one of the most dangerous kinds of addiction, as this “drug” is so easily accessible and socially acceptable in many societies. Many people feel that alcohol consumption is safe and use it as a form of relaxation, without realizing that many scientific experts deem it to be the deadliest drug of all. 

Alcohol is a depressant and lends itself to be easily abused. It can lead to devastating health issues such as liver, kidney, and heart diseases. It can cause increases to blood pressure, elevated chances of stroke, and even increased cancer risk when consumed at high levels.

Not only is alcohol dependence harmful to the person using it, its abuse places a heavy strain on the family and is also detrimental to society. Car accidents, sexual assaults, domestic violence, and aggravated assaults are frequently caused when individuals are under the influence of alcohol. Unlike other dangerous drugs such as cocaine and opioids that can cause deaths by overdose, alcohol tends to kill by impairing people’s judgment leading to fatal accidents and by a slow deteriorating of critical organs within the body.

What Is Alcohol and Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol that is used in beverages contains ethanol or ethyl alcohol, an intoxicating and depressant ingredient. It produces a drunken, disinhibited sensation. The three most common forms of alcoholic drinks are beer, wine, and spirits. 

This dangerous and addictive psychoactive substance is created when yeast ferments the sugars in grains, fruits and vegetables. 20% of the consumed alcohol is absorbed by the stomach and the remaining 80% through the small intestine. Although the liver breaks down most of the alcohol, what is not metabolized travels through the blood stream disrupting the normal functioning of the body. Alcohol interacts with neurotransmitters when it reaches the brain and normal mood, awareness, and perception is affected.

The term alcohol addiction or alcohol dependence is defined as a chronic relapsing disorder associated with compulsive alcohol drinking, the loss of control over intake, and the emergence of a negative emotional state when alcohol is no longer available. An impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use, despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences is referred to as alcohol use disorder (AUD). The spectrum of mild, moderate or severe forms of this encompasses the conditions that some people refer to as alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, or the colloquial term, alcoholism. The moderate to severe range of the AUD spectrum is known as an alcoholic addiction.

Several debilitating physical and mental problems caused by alcohol addiction can result in death if not treated. Damage to the liver, stomach, and pancreas are just some of the physical effects of alcohol abuse. The mental effects include but are not limited to confusion and memory loss. 

The alcohol addicted person also faces a variety of social issues such as destruction of family relationships, divorce, loss of job, homelessness, and financial insecurity. If alcohol addiction is not treated, it may eventually consume the person physically, mentally, socially, and frequently results in premature death. It is never too early or late, to get effective alcohol addiction treatment. Most residential treatments consist of evidence-based group programs and individual psychotherapy. Medical detoxification when needed involves the prescribing of medication to help reduce symptoms and assist people to regain a happy, healthy, and wholesome life.

The Short-Term and Long Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol slows down brain activity since it is a central nervous system depressant. Some of the short-term effects of alcohol addiction may include:

  • slurred speech
  • distorted vision and hearing 
  • reduced inhibitions
  • impaired judgement and memory
  • altered or decreased coordination, senses and perception
  • loss of consciousness
  • coma
  • blackouts
  • anemia 
  • tiredness
  • drowsiness
  • vomiting 
  • diarrhea
  • upset stomach
  • headaches
  • breathing difficulties

The short-term effects are affected by the quantity and amount drunk. Other factors may include whether food was ingested beforehand, as well as the weight and gender of the drinker. Women often weigh less than men, so that when they consume the same amount of alcohol women’s bodies absorb it more slowly, making them more susceptible to negative effects.

The long-term effects of excessive alcohol consumption can be very concerning, especially if the body’s warning signals are ignored. Long-term heavy drinking might increase the tolerance to alcohol. Some of the long-term effects of alcohol addictions include:

  • cancer of the mouth, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast
  • coma
  • compromised immune system
  • dementia
  • heart damage
  • hormonal imbalances
  • insomnia
  • Korsakoff’s psychosis (“wet brain”)
  • liver cirrhosis
  • malnutrition
  • nerve damage
  • obesity
  • overdose
  • stomach ulcers
  • stroke
  • Wernicke’s encephalopathy
  • anxiety
  • decreased attention span
  • depression
  • difficulty forming thoughts
  • trouble with balance

The long-term impact of alcohol addiction affects more than just the body. Apart from serious impacts on the entire family and social group, it may become more challenging for someone with an alcohol addiction to be hired or to hold down a job. This may result in unemployment and financial difficulties.

Some Behavioural, Mental, Physical Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

Most people cannot recognize their own alcoholic symptoms, so it is those around them, family, loved ones, friends and colleagues, who must be aware of these alcohol addiction warning signals. 

Alcohol abuse generally manifests as symptoms throughout a person’s daily life, including in their job, school, and with family. People who are close to someone struggling with an addiction to alcohol may be reluctant to acknowledge these alcohol abuse indicators. They frequently offer justifications for the sufferer of alcohol addiction to avoid facing the possibility that their loved one is exhibiting alcoholic symptoms, and likely has a serious problem.  Behavioural symptoms of alcohol addiction are the easiest to notice. Friends, family, or colleagues may notice the person has some of these many behavioural symptoms:

  • has legal issues like DUI, domestic violence, or assault
  • displaying alcohol-impairment
  • absent from meetings, interviews, or scheduled appointments
  • goes “on and off-the-wagon” a lot.
  • demonstrates unusual, impetuous, or inappropriate behaviour
  • becomes more irate or rebellious
  • overreacts to everyday issues, difficulties, suggestions, and criticism
  • acts unusually withdrawn and alone
  • denies, lies, conceals, or keeps activities and whereabouts a secret
  • loses enthusiasm for interests and pursuits
  • acts recklessly or takes needless risks
  • has escalating financial difficulties and may borrow or steal from family and friends

Furthermore, those who live with the person addicted to alcohol may frequently notice the harder to recognize mental symptoms.  It is these mental symptoms that indicate that the alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction is becoming severe. These mental indicators that the person may exhibit include:

  • has trouble paying attention, concentrating, or attending to a task; needs assistance to finish a task
  • displays distraction or confusion often
  • makes poor or irrational decisions
  • has trouble in making decisions
  • loses consciousness, blacks out or experiences short-term memory loss 
  • requires repeated instructions
  • has trouble remembering specific details 
  • is agitated or depressed 

The physical symptoms are harder to spot than behavioural ones, but being aware of them makes it easier to recognize them. The physical symptoms of alcoholism are directly related to drinking or the withdrawal symptoms when abstaining from alcohol. These common physical symptoms are:

  • smells of alcohol or has odour on the breath
  • speech is slurred or has stutters, often slowly and unintelligible.
  • possesses trouble establishing eye contact
  • has trembling , shaking or twitching of hands and eyelids
  • appears lethargic or easily nods off
  • has issues with sleep such as insomnia, chronic fatigue
  • displays poor posture, grooming habits, and personal hygiene
  • shows poor coordination or a wobbly gait such as staggering, off balance
  • injured frequently or bruises without justifiable reasons
  • has long-term conditions that necessitate hospitalization or doctor visits
  • has significant mood changes
  • has a broad mood shift toward depression and a critical or pessimistic viewpoint.
  • experiences panic attacks
  • takes excessive sick leave with inadequate justification
  • has lengthy lunches and breaks
  • returns from breaks to work in a visibly different state
  • avoids colleagues and managers
  • violates the businesses codes, policies and procedure

Some alcohol addiction symptoms can be seen at work just as they can in one’s home and personal life. Colleagues can spot these workplace or job behavioural symptoms for alcohol addiction and intervene appropriately with the family of the person. Work related behavioural symptoms include:

  • makes mistakes during work
  • provides dubious justifications for shortcomings or places the responsibility elsewhere
  • has trouble keeping to a schedule
  • misses appointments, meeting, and planned events, and is frequently late
  • lodges numerous grievances or complaints

The Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Several major body organs can suffer detrimental effects from alcohol with the liver being the most impacted. Alcohol slows down the rate at which the liver metabolizes and releases toxins from the body. Also, some of the liver cells die each time the liver filters alcohol. Although the organ can develop new cells, prolonged alcohol abuse over many years reduces cell regeneration causing serious and sometimes permanent damage. Steatosis also known as fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis and cirrhosis are results of severe alcohol misuse.

The parts of the brain that govern judgement and decision-making are also harmed by alcohol addiction. Alcohol abuse can also damage the brain’s nerve cells that relate to sight and hearing. Heart issues such as irregular pulse, stroke, and heart muscle damage are some of the effects of long term alcohol consumption. Additionally, alcohol raises blood pressure, which can harm kidney, heart, and the blood vessels of the brain. The pancreas as well as the drinker’s immune system is severely compromised when coping with many years of heavy alcohol abuse.

Causes of Alcohol Addiction

The precise cause is unknown but it is influenced by a number of circumstances, including:

  • genetics and those who have a family history of alcohol abuse, including parents and siblings. these account for 50% to 60% of those who develop alcohol addiction
  • those who use other substances of abuse, such heroin or cocaine have a threefold increased risk of developing alcohol addiction compared to non-users
  • victims of physical or sexual abuse are three times more likely to develop alcoholism.
  • those who suffer from depression

Treatment Options for Alcohol Addiction

There are numerous accessible alcohol addiction treatment alternatives. Some of those struggling with alcohol addiction may decide to seek assistance from their primary care physician, who can advise them of available treatments, and direct them to specialists for additional assessment. 

Others can select a residential treatment centre that offers a secure, round-the-clock, and disciplined setting for recovery. Both inpatient and outpatient treatment options for alcohol addiction treatment are widely available. While outpatient alcohol addiction treatment allows patients to regularly attend support groups and individual therapy sessions, residential or inpatient alcohol addiction treatment includes staying at the facility for an extended length of time in order to undergo intensive treatment.

Participation in an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) program is another effective treatment for alcoholism. AA is a support organization that uses peer support and spiritual principles based around giving back and being of service to help addicts recover. AA does not offer professional treatment or medical care.

Hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers are just a few of the facilities that offer inpatient and outpatient treatment programs. These programs differ in terms of the daily population they serve, the duration, and the level of medical supervision they offer.

The most effective treatment for alcoholism is enrollment in an inpatient or residential treatment program, which has been shown to reduce the risk of relapse by 50 to 90%. 

Getting Started with Alcohol Addiction Treatment

The recommended course of action for treating alcoholism is to undergo a medically supervised detoxification process, which is then followed by a thorough psychological examination and inpatient therapy that a facility like The Cabin offers. 

Detox can be handled by some residential alcohol addiction treatment facilities, and their trained and skilled addiction specialists can provide evidence-based treatment approaches that ensure long-term sobriety and success in overcoming alcohol addiction. 

The first step is making the decision to seek treatment and making that call for help. You can be assured that The Cabin we will provide you with all the necessary information and advice that will help you start your recovery journey.

Helping a Loved One Who Needs Alcohol Addiction Treatment

There are numerous ways to support a loved one who is struggling with alcoholism. First, educate yourself as much as you can on alcohol addiction, the signs, symptoms, and even treatment options. There are a lot of useful online resources. You can also consult a professional who specializes in addiction. 

Practice your exact response before approaching a loved one about their alcohol abuse. Be uplifting and supportive when broaching the subject and try not to be critical. Approach the discussion with candour, compassion, and an open ear whilst trying to offer genuine support.

The First Step

Alcohol misuse can have terrible consequences that are not just felt by the abuser. Alcohol-related issues have an impact on friends, family, coworkers, and the community at large. Realizing there is a problem is the first step in recovering from alcohol addiction. If you are worried about your own, or a loved one’s drinking, call us today on +66 2038 5469 to speak to our dedicated admissions staff who will guide you through the process.

S.C. Tharan

August 12th, 2022

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