In 2019, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that nearly 15 million American adults had alcohol use disorder (AUD). Despite how widespread alcohol use disorders are, many people struggle in knowing how to treat their addiction to alcohol and remain not convinced when it comes to needing rehab for alcoholism.
In general, alcohol use disorder is multi-faceted in terms of its effects on your quality of life. Alcoholism can affect your cognitive function, bodily function, mental awareness, interpersonal relationships, impulse control, and many other factors of living.
What is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism, or alcohol dependence, is defined as the inability to control drinking due to an emotional and physical dependence on alcohol. Common symptoms of alcoholism include continued use of alcohol despite employment, social, legal, and physical health issues. It’s not uncommon for those with alcoholism to begin drinking in the morning and continue through until the night.
Most people with alcoholism have been progressively drinking more and more throughout their history with alcohol. After such a long time, alcohol addiction is woven deeply into the fabric of the person’s life. Similarly, people who struggle with alcoholism often feel a sense of guilt about their drinking, especially when there is family involved. If you or a loved one is struggling with the effects of alcohol dependence, know that there is help available.
Signs of Alcohol Abuse
Have you ever found yourself wondering if you are dependent on alcohol? The first step in deciding if you or a loved one needs alcohol addiction rehab is to determine if you’re addicted. While everyone’s needs in treatment are unique, there are common symptoms that can help you recognize the signs of alcohol abuse.
If you recognize any of the signs of alcohol dependency within yourself or a loved one, it’s important to reach out for help. This is because the desire to stop drinking or cut back, while important, is typically not enough to stop drinking. In fact, without the proper professional help, the drinking typically continues. More than that, trying to quit alcohol use after an extended time may lead to severe withdrawal symptoms and even potentially life-threatening side effects.
Common signs of alcohol abuse include:
Diagnosing an individual with alcoholism should be done by a licensed medical professional. If you or your loved one are seeking treatment, any reputable rehab for alcoholism should include a diagnostic assessment upon intake. For those who are unsure if their loved one may have an alcohol use disorder, you can find the proper information on this page to make your initial determination.
Levels of Alcohol Abuse
It can often be difficult to recognize when social drinking has progressed into alcohol abuse. Often, it can be even more difficult to decide when it’s time to get help. More importantly, it’s not always completely clear to the person with alcohol use disorder or their family members what addiction looks like. In general, being aware of the signs of alcoholism is the first step in deciding if seeking treatment is the right choice.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines the levels of alcohol abuse as follows:
- Binge drinking—occurs when someone drinks enough alcohol in one sitting to bring the blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 percent or more, which is considered legally impaired. On average, this means about five drinks for males and about four drinks for females within two hours
- Heavy drinking—is about 15 drinks per week for men and about eight drinks per week for women
- Alcohol abuse—is generally considered to be regular drinking that can result in physical harm or damage to a person’s relationships or responsibilities. Alcohol abuse does not always mean alcohol dependence is present
- Alcoholism, or alcohol dependence—is a psychological disorder that results in the inability to stop drinking, even when it causes negative consequences in a person’s life
What Is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking involves having five or more drinks on one occasion in the last month for men. For women, binge drinking is classified as four or more drinks on one occasion in the last month. In general, teenagers and young adults have the highest rate of binge drinking of any demographic. This is likely because binge drinking is commonly seen as socially acceptable in this age group.
However, binge drinking can have serious consequences for people of any age. Short-term effects include impaired judgment and coordination, increased risk of injury, memory loss, nausea and vomiting, dehydration, and even alcohol poisoning. Long-term effects can include increased risks for diseases like high blood pressure and stroke, as well as liver cirrhosis, cancer, and mental health issues.
What Is Heavy Drinking?
Heavy drinking is defined as drinking fifteen or more drinks per week for men, and eight or more drinks per week for women. This kind of behavior is dangerous because it puts you at risk for a variety of health issues. For instance, heavy drinking can lead to an increased risk of certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, liver cirrhosis, and stroke.
Drinking large amounts of alcohol over weeks, months, or years also lowers your immunity and impairs your ability to work or think clearly. As alcohol abuse continues, it typically puts stress on relationships and can result in financial difficulties.
Alcohol Use Disorder
Just like any medical or mental condition, you can be diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Alcohol use disorder is “a chronic brain disorder marked by compulsive drinking, loss of control over alcohol use, and negative emotions when not drinking.” The symptoms relating to alcohol use disorders continue despite adverse social, occupational, financial, or health consequences.
The process for being diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder is undergoing an assessment in which a licensed medical professional will ask a series of questions that outline the criteria for an AUD. The criteria for alcohol use disorder are laid out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Depending on the number of criteria met, an alcohol use disorder can be mild, moderate, or severe — regardless of severity, recovery is possible.
Alcohol Use Disorder Levels of Severity
Symptoms of Alcoholism
When looking for physical signs of alcoholism there are several things to look out for. During the early stages of alcohol dependence, these signs may not be easily recognized. However, as the severity of the addiction increases, the symptoms of alcoholism are much more apparent.
Psychological symptoms of alcoholism include:
- Erratic behavior
- Loss of control over drinking
- Intense cravings
- Guilt about drinking
- Concealing drinking from others
- Mood swings
Physical symptoms of alcoholism include:
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach pain
- Digestive issues
- Sleep problems
- Swollen face and nose
- Lack of interest in sex
- Equilibrium problems
- Blackouts or memory loss
- Accidents and injuries during blackouts
- Withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
Depending on the severity of the alcohol use disorder, people can experience physical and psychological symptoms. Once a person loses control over their drinking, they are driven by their cravings for alcohol. After many unsuccessful attempts to reduce or stop drinking, people often lose hope or fall into a state of denial. By ignoring the symptoms of alcoholism, a tolerance builds until the body develops a physical dependence. Following this, people will experience a range of mental and physical withdrawal symptoms whenever they stop drinking.
As with other drugs, the severity of alcohol withdrawal varies from person to person. In general, however, the longer someone abuses alcohol, the worse the withdrawal. Due to the normalization of alcohol consumption, people often ignore the signs of problematic drinking and deny the effects of alcoholism.
Withdrawal from alcohol is physically and emotionally taxing, and withdrawal symptoms vary in severity depending on age, alcohol and substance use, history of withdrawal, and peak blood alcohol levels.
Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
Life-threatening alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- Delirium tremens (DTs)
- Grand mal seizures
When someone who is physically dependent attempts to stop drinking, withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe. In more severe cases, an individual may experience delirium tremens (DTs), a potentially life-threatening condition caused by alcohol withdrawal. DTs are a form of alcoholic psychosis characterized by extreme anxiety, trembling, sweating, upset stomach, and chest pain. Delirium tremens can also cause potentially fatal side effects such as hallucinations, severe fever, and seizures.
Another more frequent need for medical alcohol detoxification is the possibility of having a potentially fatal grand mal seizure on day three of detoxification. This is another vital reason why it is important to seek treatment when attempting to recover from alcoholism.
Physical Dependency on Alcohol
Unlike other forms of addiction, the development of alcohol addiction can take much longer. For instance, the negative effects of cocaine abuse often occur within a few months of use, whereas problematic drinking can last for years before a person faces devastating consequences.
Early signs of physical dependence may include an increased tolerance for alcohol and the craving or need to drink more to achieve the same level of intoxication. Additionally, people who are physically dependent on alcohol may experience withdrawal symptoms when they don’t drink.
For this reason, physical dependency on alcohol makes alcoholism much more dangerous to an individual’s health and well-being. In fact, people who are physically dependent on alcohol may experience life-threatening withdrawals if they attempt to stop drinking by themselves.
Due to the risks involved with alcohol withdrawal, it is highly recommended for those who are physically dependent on alcohol seek professional help. Choosing to safely detox in rehab for alcoholism can be a life-saving decision.
Psychological Dependency on Alcohol
Alcoholism is a serious and dangerous condition that can affect people from all walks of life. Alcoholism often results from psychological dependency on alcohol, as individuals may turn to it to cope with stress and other emotional issues.
As a person continues to drink more and more, they become increasingly dependent on it for their sense of comfort and security. This results in an inability to function normally without alcohol and can lead to health problems, relationship issues, legal troubles, and more.
The longer the psychological dependence lasts, the harder it becomes for them to break the cycle of addiction. Unfortunately, this addictive cycle can cause a person’s health and well-being to deteriorate over time as they neglect important aspects of life such as nutrition, hygiene, exercise, and sleep in favor of drinking.
Consequences of Alcoholism
Alcohol abuse can lead to a multitude of issues. Personal health, social health, and emotional well-being can all suffer due to alcoholism. Prolonged drinking can have a serious toll on your health and potentially cause life-threatening complications. Similarly, legal consequences such as DWI and arrests are common for many people suffering from alcoholism.
Alcoholism takes a serious toll on the lives of all it touches. As a result, families tend to suffer in particular when living with an alcoholic. Without intervention, the all-consuming power of addiction often destroys lives without prejudice.
Physical Side Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol use disorders can range from mild to severe and typically involves drinking to the point that alcohol consumption causes distress or harm to the drinker or others. The longer a person engages in problematic drinking habits, the more likely that physical and mental health damage can occur.
Alcohol abuse can damage different parts of the body including:
- Immune system
Some of the long-term effects associated with alcohol use disorder may include liver disease, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, brain damage, and nutritional deficiencies. Alcoholism can also lead to an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer such as throat, liver, and breast cancer. The most common association with AUD is cirrhosis of the liver, a serious medical condition that leads to liver scarring and ultimately, liver failure, as cirrhosis is treatable, but not curable. Though AUD is highly treatable, fewer than 10% of people with the disease seek treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions About Alcoholism
Being an alcoholic doesn’t only depend on the amount of alcohol you consume, although consuming more alcohol for a longer period is indicative of developing physical alcohol dependence.
This process is different for everyone, as it may take one person 3 months of heavy drinking to become physically dependent on alcohol, while it may take another person who has been heavily drinking for ten years to develop physical dependence.
In general, physical dependence relies on medical history, family history, volume and frequency of alcohol consumption, and other factors like diet, pre-existing conditions, and predisposition.
DTs are Delirium Tremens, a condition marking the most severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. DTs are identified through extreme confusion, uncontrollable shaking, hallucinations, seizures, skyrocketing blood pressure, and fever.
Delirium Tremens are treatable with the proper medical care, but untreated they may last for around ten days and are likely life-threatening. In a setting well-equipped to handle alcohol withdrawal with the proper care and medication, it is unlikely that an individual detoxing from alcohol will experience DTs, although it is still possible.
Excessive drinking, both short-term and long-term, can cause damage to the brain. Luckily, the brain can heal itself from alcohol and the cognitive effects of alcohol.
Usually, it takes at least 18 months of abstinence to fully recover some brain functions and the brain’s structure, although the brain can begin regenerating around the 2-week mark of recovery. Keep in mind that some of the brain damage caused by alcoholism is irreversible.
Yes, various side effects can arise from an at-home or improper alcohol detox process which can result in death. A couple of these life-threatening side effects include an increased risk of stroke, heart failure, and grand mal seizures.
The physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal usually last around five or six days when you undergo a professional medical detox.
Post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) can also accompany typical withdrawal symptoms which can be seemingly physical symptoms brought on as a reaction to cognitive triggers of alcohol use. PAWS can last for months, usually three months.
These lingering symptoms will eventually subside with the proper comprehensive treatment program. To accomplish this, medications can assist in lessening the physical and psychological effects of alcohol withdrawal. In addition, education and therapy surrounding triggers can teach coping mechanisms to combat long-term side effects.
Usually, a mild benzodiazepine and an anticonvulsant or anti-seizure are recommended for alcohol withdrawals. These medications are commonly Librium (mild benzodiazepine), Keppra, and Lamictal.
While these medications are just examples of common standards, you should always consult with a doctor when determining which medication will work best for your case.
No. You should never trust any source that claims to have a rapid detox from alcohol available. ‘Rapid detox’ is a marketing scheme, there is no such thing as an effective and successful rapid detox.
Regardless of what some programs claim, the detoxification process from alcohol is entirely dependent on each person’s unique reaction to alcohol withdrawal. This is because several factors affect the detox process such as an individual’s biology, medical history, and history of alcohol abuse.
With that being said, there is no way to pre-determine a set length of time in which a detox will be complete until all information is taken into account and the individual begins presenting symptoms of withdrawal.
A medical detox program for alcohol will range from 4 days or more depending on the person’s reaction to the removal of alcohol from their system.
The length of stay in a medical detox program is dependent on various factors, including:
- Medical history
- Personal history of alcohol abuse
- Volume and frequency of drinking
- Tolerance to alcohol
- Level of physical dependence
- Severity of withdrawal symptoms
Rehab for Alcoholism
In general, alcohol rehab programs offer a variety of treatment offerings that can help you heal. With that being said, different facilities have different specialties, so not every program will be right for you and your goals. Quality addiction treatment programs provide medical supervision, psychological counseling, educational services, and support groups. All of these components are important in helping you build a foundation for a successful recovery.
Choosing The Right Rehab for Alcoholism
Sometimes the difference between the right facility, and the wrong one, can be a matter of life and death. It’s very important to choose the right fit for yourself in an alcohol rehab center. When choosing the right rehab for alcoholism, it’s important to research the programs available and find one that fits your needs.
You can start by looking for a program that holds accreditations and certifications. Additionally, make sure the facility has experienced staff and a comfortable environment so you can focus on healing without distractions. Other services that set treatment programs alike include evidence-based practices and other holistic wellness services. Finding a rehab for alcohol that has services and offerings that capture your interest and motivate you will help you to maintain your sobriety.
When choosing which rehab for alcoholism to join, it’s important to find out all the information you can to receive the best possible care. It may take some time to find the right program, but it’s worth the effort in the end.
Cost of Rehab For Alcoholism
Of course, cost and finances will play a large role in deciding which facility you attend. It’s usually the single biggest factor when deciding on a rehab. The first thing most people will do is check with their health insurance provider to see which facilities are compatible with their plan.
Each health insurance plan is different, which means that your options will vary based on your insurance coverage. If an individual does not have health insurance, rehab for alcoholism is still an option. For those with limited financial means, there are state-funded options and free local clinics that can help. Some programs will even offer some form of financing or installment payments.
At Royal Life Centers, we are a private rehab for alcoholism that works with many private insurance providers and commercial insurance plans. We also have extremely affordable self-pay pricing. Similarly, we can help you find a facility that has sliding-scale fees or scholarship opportunities if you are unable to finance the cost of rehabilitation. Everyone struggling with alcoholism deserves quality care and the tools needed to overcome alcohol addiction.
Detoxing from Alcohol
Alcoholism is a highly treatable disease. However, extra precautions should be taken when stopping. An abrupt cessation of alcohol can cause seizures that could be life-threatening. Without proper medical care and medications, a detox from alcohol could have deadly complications. Beyond a safe accredited detox, a quality alcohol dependence rehab will give the best chances for long-term success.
Alcohol detox is typically broken down into three stages, each characterized by a particular set of symptoms.
(8 hours after last drink)
(24-72 hours after last drink)
(72+ hours after last drink)
Rehab for alcoholism is a necessity considering alcohol use disorders can produce life-threatening effects during the withdrawal process. Detoxing from alcohol should be done under the care of trained medical professionals, as it quite literally can make the difference between life and death.
Inpatient rehabilitation detoxification provides the needed medical attention, including fluids, vitamins, rest, sedation to ease the symptoms, and sometimes other medications to control the potentially toxic effects of withdrawal.
Along with benzodiazepines, alcohol is one of the two most dangerous drugs to detox from outside of a medical facility. This is because both alcohol and benzos can cause potentially lethal side effects when a use abruptly stops.
Detox Medication for Alcoholism
Medical alcohol detoxification is started when the signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal begin to present, usually within hours of the last drink.
When treating people with alcoholism, it is vital to provide medications that minimally impact the liver. This is because liver damage is a common side effect of alcohol abuse. While an individual’s susceptibility to alcoholic liver damage varies, heavy, long-term alcohol consumption can and often does cause serious liver damage.
While all medications must be processed by the liver, certain medications are less strenuous on the organ. To avoid straining the liver more, addiction treatment centers provide evidence-based, FDA-approved medications such as Librium (also known by its generic name, chlordiazepoxide) to treat the potentially life-threatening effect of alcohol withdrawal.
In doing so, guests can rest assured that their bodies are safely removing the toxins from their systems without the risks of additional liver damage. Not only can guests notice the positive impacts of detox through an improvement in their mood, but also by watching their liver enzyme numbers going down.
Recovering from Alcohol Use Disorder
When you stop drinking and start to recover from alcoholism, your mind, body, and spirit will begin to heal. Not long after you stop consuming alcohol, the body begins to try and stabilize itself. Your brain will also undergo a long list of changes to return to a healthy state. Your emotional well-being will likely be up and down for a bit, while all these changes are happening.
The best place to handle these rapid changes is in a safe place such as a drug and alcohol treatment center. During detox and inpatient treatment, you’ll have resources and professionals available to you 24/7 to guide you through unfamiliar or uncomfortable feelings.
How To Stay Sober After Treatment for Alcoholism
In general, your recovery will probably be different from your peers. Everyone has a personal process when it comes to getting and staying sober. Learning where or how to build this foundation of recovery can be unfamiliar to those who are new to recovery. As a general rule of thumb, 12-step meetings, individual therapy, and sober living options are all great places to start.
Typically, the process begins in a drug and alcohol treatment center, however, not everyone will gain access to this opportunity. Whether or not you receive treatment in rehab for alcoholism, joining a strong program of recovery can provide numerous benefits during early sobriety. Factors of a strong recovery program can strengthen your overall recovery and help you navigate a newly-sober life.
To find out where to access these resources, a quick internet search can provide you with the information you need. If you don’t have internet access at home, local libraries provide free access and may even be able to provide a list of local 12-step meetings.
12-Step Programs for Alcoholism
One of the most common forms of recovery help is twelve-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). AA encourages you to attend meetings regularly, where you can connect with other alcoholics in various stages of recovery. Sharing your recovery in a meeting is a way to help others as well as help yourself. Alcoholics Anonymous operates on the premise that one alcoholic helping another is the most effective way to stay sober long-term.
In AA, you are encouraged to find a sponsor or sober companion who will guide you through the twelve steps. A sponsor is another member of AA who has completed the steps with their sponsor. The idea is that you will complete the steps with them and pass your knowledge and experience on to another alcoholic in need. Although not a religious program, another fundamental of AA is that you have a “spiritual awakening” as a result of the twelve steps.
This can mean anything from a simple change in your thought process to a complete reliance on God, or a “higher power,” in everything you do. It is important to remember that this process is different for each person. Similarly, there is no right or wrong way to approach the twelve steps and recovery.
Royal Life Centers' Rehab For Alcoholism
At Royal Life Centers, we understand the complexities of alcoholism and specialize in helping individuals build healthy and meaningful relationships with themselves and their families as they work through their recovery process. Our programs are designed to rebuild trust between all involved parties and create a safe space to foster honest, open communication. With our team of professionals and a supportive fellowship, you or your loved one can begin the journey to recovery.
Within our evidence-based therapies, our guests learn how to break the cycle of addiction and gain insight into their thoughts and feelings. We believe in taking a holistic approach to recovery that focuses on healing the body, mind, and spirit. For this reason, our personalized approach to treatment ensures that you get the help you need. If you or someone you know is ready to get help for their alcohol dependence please call us today.
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