WHAT IF I HAVE… Alcoholism
Drinking, drug use or gambling are seen as fun pursuits by many in today’s society. It is because they all affect the reward system of the user’s brain. Drinking, for example, stimulates intense pleasure and it creates a craving to repeat this particular behavior. Although many people start drinking with a feeling that it is harmless, later on, if casual drinking becomes an addiction, it becomes very dangerous. However, people can recover from addiction as long as they recognize when it becomes a problem. Recovery is often hindered by denial or lack of understanding of the characteristics of addiction.
Alcoholism is defined as a chronic disorder which is characterized by dependence on alcohol. When the casual amount of alcohol consumption becomes an addiction, it displays repeated excessive use of alcohol and withdrawal symptoms on reducing intake amount.
People with alcohol use disorder may not see the signs as clearly as their family and friends around them. They may need people who care about them to get involved in recognizing the symptoms and be honest about them. Here are some of the symptoms:
– Not being able to limit the amount of alcohol to drink
– Thinking about cutting down on the amount and not being able to do so
– Spending time often drinking and recovering from drinking
– Feeling cravings or urges to drink between consumptions
– Failing responsibilities at work, school or home
– Developing tolerance to alcohol which causes to drink more each time
– Experiencing withdrawal symptoms like nausea, sweating, shaking when not drinking
Alcohol intoxication is a result of a certain amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. The higher the alcohol in the blood, the more impaired a person will be. Alcohol intoxications can cause behavioral and mental problems, including inappropriate behavior, impaired judgment, moodiness, slow speech, impaired memory, and attention. In some cases, blackouts are very common.
During alcohol withdrawals, one may experience severe sweating, shaking, rapid heartbeat, nausea, and vomiting, anxiety and even seizures. Sometimes withdrawal symptoms are severe enough that one may not function normally at work or in personal life.
From psychological, social and environmental factors to genetics; many external and internal reasons cause people to drink excessively. Drinking too often can lead to rewiring in brain activities and may cause addiction due to alcohol taking over and replacing brain activity that causes pleasure. People who start drinking at an early age are at a higher risk for alcohol use disorder. People who have alcoholic parents or close relatives are always at a higher risk for this addictive behavior. Most of the time, depression or other mental illnesses may cause problems with alcohol or even other substances. Social and psychological isolation and also financial issues often put people at risk for alcohol use disorder.
Addiction is a life-long disease like a heart disease or blood pressure. A person with alcohol use disorder is always at risk of relapsing. Relapse occurs when a person who recovered from alcohol addiction resumes the addictive drinking, even if once. Relapse is not failing; it should be calculated within the recovery plan. Relapse can even strengthen the recovery efforts. Learning the triggers of what causes addictive behavior can prevent relapses.
For the best treatment, it is recommended to consult a medical doctor or a licensed addiction therapist. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help people with addictions to learn about their addictive behavioral patterns and how to change them. Addiction counseling may provide group therapy or programs like 12 Steps by Alcoholics Anonymous. These groups can offer a strong support system to those who are suffering from the addiction or their family members.
Medications can also help controlling alcohol cravings and reducing withdrawal symptoms. The most popular medicines for alcohol use addiction are naltrexone and benzodiazepines.
Disclaimer: The comments and suggestions in this article are intended to be helpful in developing a treatment plan with the guidance of a physician. Please consult a medical doctor about which options would be best for you. Do not take any supplements or medicine without discussing the effects with your physician. The author is not responsible for any effects or the effectiveness of these treatments.
Elif Angel Raynor, MS., MIBA. Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern