Alcoholism: Symptoms and Treatment Options

Alcoholism: Symptoms and Treatment Options | HealthSoul

In the United States, substance abuse has become a national crisis. More specifically, alcoholism has maintained to be a leading issue in our country. Regardless, alcohol abuse is not discussed very often due to the wide acceptance that alcohol consumption must be normal when you consider that it is a legal substance. According to the CDC,more than 15 million people struggle with alcohol abuse disorder in the United States. Since alcohol is legal and an acceptable American pass-time, how can one tell if they are suffering from alcoholism? Also, more importantly, what can be done to treat alcoholism?

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is often referred to as alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder is defined by drinking to such excess that your body becomes dependent on alcohol. People who suffer from alcohol use disorder tend to continue drinking despite the consequences. Whether an alcoholic loses their job, loved ones, or other aspects of their life that hold substantial value to them, they have the inability to stop drinking.

Risk Factors of Alcohol Abuse Disorder

The cause of alcohol abuse disorder is still unknown, but there are several risk factors that can contribute to the development of alcohol abuse disorder:

  • Drinking 12 drinks per week if you are female
  • Drinking 15 drinks per week if you are male
  • Binge drinking (more than 5 drinks a day)
  • Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc.
  • History of substance abuse in your family
  • Being a young person and experiencing peer pressure
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Living in a family or culture where alcohol consumption is common
  • Experiencing a high level of stress

Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse Disorder

There are several physical and behavioral symptoms that a person suffering from alcoholism may display. Not every alcoholic displays the same symptoms and it is important to remember that behavioral symptoms typically vary from person to person.

Behaviors common in Alcoholics:

  • Drinking alone
  • Having a high tolerance for alcohol from frequent use
  • Becoming defensive when confronted about their drinking habits
  • Changes in their eating habits like eating less or not at all
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Missing responsibilities because of alcohol like work, school, or family functions
  • Not being able to control the amount of alcohol they drink
  • Continuing to drink despite consequences such as legal, social, or financial consequences
  • Giving up activities that they used to enjoy in order to drink

Physical symptoms of Alcoholism:

  • Alcohol cravings
  • Withdrawal symptoms after a period of abstinence such as shaking, nausea and vomiting
  • Tremors (involuntary shaking) in the morning before having the first drink
  • Blacking out (lapses in memory) while drinking
  • Illnesses caused by alcoholism such as alcoholic ketoacidosis or cirrhosis

What is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal is characterized by the changes a person’s body undergoes after abruptly stopping the consumption of alcohol after a long period of alcohol abuse. When someone is going through alcohol withdrawal, the brain begins to behave like it is being overstimulated. This happens because, after a long period of heavy drinking, your brain becomes accustomed to the slowing effect that alcohol provides. So when you abruptly stop, your brain has to quickly readjust to the absence of said “slowing effect” by producing extra naturally stimulating chemicals.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal:

  • Tremors (uncontrollable shaking)
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal typically subside after 5 days, but in severe cases, withdrawal symptoms can continue for several weeks. In order to treat alcohol withdrawals, you must find a local drug and alcohol detox center that can assist you in a safe and effective manner.

Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous without medical assistance, so if you or a loved one is experiencing any of the mentioned symptoms you must seek professional medical treatment.

How to Treat Alcoholism?

Abstinence is the number one goal of any method of alcohol abuse disorder treatment. There are many different avenues one can utilize when looking for alcohol treatment and sometimes each method can be used concurrently in stages.

Alcohol treatment includes:

  • Detoxification during the withdrawal stage in order to rid your body of alcohol
  • Inpatient rehabilitation where you reside on campus in order to treat your body and mind, learn positive behaviors, and coping skills
  • Outpatient rehabilitation, which is similar to inpatient treatment but you do not reside on campus
  • Halfway or sober living homes where you reside with other recovering alcoholics
  • Counseling and therapy, which is utilized in inpatient and outpatient treatment as well as after graduation from any treatment center
  • Support groups for alcoholics such as 12-step fellowship meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Medical treatment for any illnesses acquired during your alcohol abuse

Typically, alcoholics seeking treatment will use detox as a first step within their recovery process. In detox, alcoholics will be medically supervised 24/7 while they undergo withdrawal. After the withdrawal process is completed, patients will either opt for inpatient or outpatient treatment. Patients who want to go through the most extensive care will first receive inpatient treatment and then go to an outpatient treatment center after completion. Inpatient and outpatient treatment both offer individual therapy, group therapy, and the learning of vital coping skills. The difference is that once someone begins inpatient treatment they reside on-site, whereas outpatient clients will reside at their own homes and go to the treatment center for therapy and groups.

After the completion of detox, inpatient treatment, and/or outpatient treatment, a recovering alcoholic can decide to go to a halfway or sober living home. Sober living or halfway homes are residences where recovering alcoholics live together, continue to learn vital coping mechanisms, attend support groups, and learn how to become reacclimated living in society. Whichever method or treatment plan you choose, you have the opportunity to begin a new life free from the bondage of alcoholism. The constant cycle of alcohol abuse can become tiring, lonely, and begin to make you feel hopeless. Allowing professionals to help you win the fight against alcoholism can and will save your life.

Author Bio:

Maya Keller is a writer for Agape Treatment Center, a drug and alcohol treatment center located in South Florida. She is passionate about spreading awareness in regards to addiction, mental health, and childhood trauma. In her free time, she enjoys making art.