Recognizing Alcoholism In Order To Deal With It Effectively
Alcohol abuse has similar characteristics to other disorders so the sooner you can identify it with a loved one, the earlier you will be able to help them get professional assistance. Treating alcoholism can help one get back to a healthy and productive lifestyle as it was before. Alcoholics usually lack the mental clarity and physical ability to identify the indications of alcoholism within themselves. Some of them may even attempt to conceal their alcoholic behavior from loved ones. This is one of the ways you will be able to determine whether someone is an alcoholic.
An alcoholic is defined as anyone with issues concerning alcohol consumption. The term is no longer used by public health organizations anymore and instead problem drinking has been grouped into three categories:
- Alcohol use disorder
- Heavy drinking
- Binge drinking
All these conditions can cause sudden death if not long-term health issued so you need to be able to identify the symptoms for each category.
Alcohol Use Disorder
One out of every four people drinking heavily has alcohol use disorder. An individual should meet two out the criteria listed below, at the very least, in order to be diagnosed with this condition.
- Drinking more alcohol or drinking for longer periods than one intended
- Unsuccessful attempts to reduce one’s drinking more than once
- Spending too much time drinking or recovering from the after effects of drinking too much alcohol
- Experiencing the strong urge to consume alcohol or craving it
- Drinking alcohol affecting one’s family, school, or family responsibilities
- Continued drinking regardless of it causing problems with loved ones or despite friends or family expressing their concern
- Reduced engagement in important hobbies or activities just to drink
- Engaging in risky behavior while under the influence of alcohol such as unprotected sex or walking an driving in dangerous areas
- Continued drinking despite one experiencing health problems such as anxiety or depression
- You will notice that more alcohol is required to experience the original intoxication level
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as hallucination, depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, cravings, sweating, nausea, restlessness, and shakiness
Problem drinking in this form is rarely considered dangerous but it is. Heavy drinking is defined by the CDC along guidelines of gender because women and men differ in how they metabolize alcohol.
- Heavy drinking in men involves the consumption of at least two alcoholic beverages on a daily basis or taking 15 servings of alcohol or more within a week
- Heavy drinking in women involves the consumption of at least one alcoholic beverage on a daily basis or at least 8 servings of alcohol weekly.
Heavy drinkers are less likely to develop acute health problems or suffer from alcohol poisoning. This is because they can build up their alcohol tolerance in their bodies. On the other hand, they have a higher risk for developing chronic health problems related to alcohol such as:
- Seizures – Seizures can happen because when one withdraws from alcohol, because the pathways in the brain affected by drinking will be affected.
- Pancreatitis – Pancreatic inflammation that impedes digestive function of which the chronic state can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea
- Neuropathy – Alcohol is poisonous to the body’s nerve cells and heavy drinking causes nerve damage resulting in a numb or pins and needles sensation within one’s extremities. It causes other nerve-related problems such as incontinence, constipation, and muscle weakness.
- High blood pressure – When there are elevated alcohol levels in the blood, this can affect blood vessel dilation and constriction eventually leading to chronic changes
- Gout – This health condition occurs when crystals of uric acid form within the joints. It is usually a hereditary condition but it can be worsened by heavy drinking
- Gastritis – This is a condition involving stomach lining inflammation and it can result in ulcers and acid reflux.
- Depression– Alcohol has been connected to multiple co-occurring disorders such as bipolar disorder and anxiety. On the other hand people struggling with depression have a higher likelihood of drinking heavily while heavy drinkers also have a higher likelihood of developing depression
- Dementia – Heavy drinking accelerates the brain’s shrinking with age leading to dementia, cognitive problems, and memory loss. It can also reduce one’s ability make judgments, plan, or solve problems. Chronic drinking problems can cause a pattern of physical dysfunction and memory loss because of a thiamine deficiency, also referred to as Wernicke- Korsakoff Syndrome.
- Cirrhosis – This is a condition involving the formation of scar tissue on one’s liver. This damage to the liver is the result of excessive alcohol metabolism by the liver and it can hinder proper liver functioning
- Cardiovascular Disease – Heavy drinking increases the risk of platelets clumping together resulting in blood clots which can cause strokes or heart attacks. It also weakens the muscles of the heart resulting in cardiomyopathy
- Cancer – Heavy drinking can cause cancers of the breast, colorectal, bowel, liver, esophagus, voice box, throat, and mouth
- Anemia – This is indicated by reduced numbers of red blood cells, which transport oxygen around the body. Symptoms of anemia include lightheadness, dizziness, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
Usually, heavy drinkers might not feel like they have an alcohol problem until these chronic health issues arise.
Binge drinking can be defined as the consumption of more than five servings of alcohol at any occasion. It is an alcohol consumption pattern that can increase one’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 within a period of two hours. The liver is only capable of processing one alcohol serving per hour so consuming alcohol rapidly and in less time can be harmful.
Binge drinking or heavy episodic drinking is given its name because one does not have to be struggling with alcohol dependence or drink every day to engage in this type of alcohol abuse. It can be characterized by the consumption of large alcohol amounts quickly and then followed by an abstinence period, which can last days for days or months. Binge drinkers also have a higher risk of experiencing alcohol poisoning, the symptoms of which include:
- Low body temperature or hypothermia
- Irregular or slow breathing
- Falling unconscious
- Being unresponsive yet conscious e. a stupor
In the event that someone experiences alcohol poisoning, it is crucial that you call for medical assistance because leaving him or her to rest or sleep so it wears off increases their risk of death. Binge drinkers might not exhibit obvious symptoms, as they are less likely to be in withdrawal or constantly intoxicated. However, individuals who frequent house parties, nightclubs, or bars as an excuse to socialize have a higher likelihood of engaging in binge drinking.
Even though heavy drinking and binge drinking are not deemed as alcohol use disorder, they can lead to chronic and acute health problems and they can translate into alcohol use disorder or alcohol dependence. Anyone having intense alcohol cravings or seeking alcohol frequently might have a developing alcoholism problem.
High Functioning Alcoholics
Most people with drinking problems and not experiencing any consequences because of it can claim to be functioning alcoholics. High functioning alcoholics apparently maintain happy families, academic achievements, work achievements, and they have normal lives. They often feel like they can cope with all of life’s demands by drinking. They are often unbothered by cravings for alcohol as they can drink quite easily. They also usually have friends willing to drink with them frequently. High functioning alcoholics defy the stereotypical image of alcoholics and they are often in denial about their alcohol abuse. This reduces the likelihood that they will look for treatment, as their alcohol drinking does not seem to affect their lives in any way.
It can be hard to identify a high-functioning alcoholic because usually there are no indications of patterns of alcohol abuse. However, they will probably not function well for too long and have a higher likelihood of experiencing illnesses, cognitive problems, or mood disorders. They can also develop issues with health, form emotionally abusive connections with loved ones, or become hospitalized for issues with alcohol poisoning. Red flags to look out indicate whether someone is a high-functioning alcoholic include the following.
- They usually want to keep drinking or get one more drinking even when everyone else is finished
- They never want to leave any alcohol behind after a drinking spree.
- They usually experience blackouts during which they cannot remember specific events that occur and they seem to lose chunks of time regardless of not seeming intoxicated at the time or demonstrating a high tolerance.
- They can demonstrate changes in behavior such as defensive or aggressiveness as they drink and when asked about their drinking.
- The person can deny adamantly about having drinking problem when asked about their drinking habits. High functioning alcoholics usually believe that they do not have a drinking problem since they are capable of functioning properly in society
- They about their drinking habits
- They are regularly late or miss work and appointments
- They are facing legal issues because of alcohol or they have gotten a DUI
- They use alcohol to build confidence or relax
- They hide their drinking behaviors
- They drink when alone or anytime in the course of the day
- They believe that they can control their drinking
- They substitute food with alcohol
- They usually wake up without hangover after drinking heavily the night before
- They can go through periods during which they abstain from alcohol resulting in negative physical reactions such as feelings of discomfort, elevated heart rate, sweating, anxiety, nervousness, or irritability.
Risk Factors for Alcoholism and Drinking Problems
The risk factors for developing drinking problems can come up from various interrelated factors such as emotional health, social environment, how someone was raised, and genetics. People with alcoholism within their family history or those with a close association to heavy drinkers have a higher likelihood of developing drinking problems.
People suffering from mental health problems like bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety are also at risk from using alcohol as a means of self-medication.
Not all people who abuse alcohol can become alcoholics but it plays a significant role. At times alcoholism can develop in an individual because of stressful life changes such as loss of a loved one, retirement, or a breakup. It can creep up as your alcohol tolerance increases gradually. You are at a greater risk of becoming an alcoholic if you binge drink or drink daily.
For High functioning alcoholics, the risk can be affected by peer influence, high stress jobs, abusing other substances, trauma, or drinking from an early age, in addition to the above-mentioned risk factors.
You do not have to wait until a drinking problem affects your life for you to seek assistance. Understanding and recognizing signs of drinking problems will you get through these them before relationships, career, and long-term health problems can come up.
Admitting that you have an alcohol abuse problem is the first step towards getting the help you need. You need to have great courage and strength in order to tackle alcoholism and alcohol abuse. The second step involves reaching out for help and support.
Support is crucial for recovery regardless of whether you will take a self-directed approach for treatment, therapy, self-help programs, or rehabilitation. It is much easier to recover from alcohol addiction when you have the support, guidance, comfort, and encouragement of your loved ones. Without all this, you can easily fall back into your harmful drinking habits when things become difficult. Continued recovery from alcohol addiction is dependent on making better decisions, adopting healthy coping mechanisms, and taking up mental health treatment when faced with life’s challenges. You need to deal with any underlying issues you may have that led you to start drinking if you want to remain alcohol-free for the long haul.
Such problems may include mental health problems, unresolved childhood trauma, inability to deal with stress, or depression. When you cease alcohol use, these problems can seem bigger than they were before. However, you will be better equipped to deal with them and get professional assistance for recovery. Professionals who deal with addiction treatment address alcoholism in the same way they would treat other substance abuse problems. An effective program for treating alcohol abuse will include up-front concentrated treatment and long-term support to keep from relapsing. It can also start with intervention to help the person see why he or she needs to commit to rehabilitation.
A professional treatment plan for to deal with alcohol abuse involves the following features to ensure an effective recovery for the individual.
- The person should commit willingly to getting the treatment he or she needs. If you are dependent on alcohol, you can choose to look for assistance to help you stop but you cannot choose to stop consuming alcohol
- It involves an individualized plan to treat the issue based on a professional evaluation. Everyone drinks for personal reasons, which is why it is essential to create a plan for treatment customized to an individual’s requirements to offer the best opportunity for long-lasting recovery. The treatment program begins with a professional evaluation involving a physical health exam, a medical history review, and a mental health assessment. The staff and the client will create an alcohol treatment plan to meet the individual’s needs. This plan should be able to treat any underlying problems like trauma or depression while addressing any underlying physical issues as well.
- The next step is detoxification and it involves ridding the individual’s body of alcohol completely. It is the first step towards ensuring the body resumes proper functioning. This step requires medical supervision because the process can be dangerous if conducted improperly especially in the event of alcohol addiction. Medical supervision during the detox process protects against any dangerous withdrawal symptoms such as heart attacks or seizures. It can also help to reduce the severity of any withdrawal symptoms the individual may experience six months following the detox i.e. post-acute withdrawal.
- The next step involves treating the physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing as they all affect each other to contribute to overall wellbeing. An intensive treatment program seeks the healing of one’s whole being and not just physical ailments. If the source of the alcohol abuse is dealt with and the individual is taught new ways to establish a stable life devoid of alcohol, there will be less risk of relapsing.
- Emotional healing is the next step in the treatment program. It involves therapy sessions in groups and individually overseen by professional counselors to help recovering individuals deal with the psychological and emotional triggers that led to drinking. These therapy sessions can help them heal from any events caused by their alcohol addiction. It is a trauma-informed method included in substance abuse therapy and it is beneficial in helping the recovering individuals determine why they turned to alcohol in the beginning.
- The next step involves physical healing and it emphasizes on healthy physical activity such as yoga, sports, hiking, or walking as well as balanced nutrition. This phase is essential in helping the recovering alcohol user regain physical strength and start developing healthy long-term habits. Alcohol is essentially a poison and it can throw off your body’s nutritional and physical balance. The restoration of this balance via nutritional therapy in combination with developing a healthy exercise routine can reduce the symptoms experienced during early alcohol recovery.
- An effective rehabilitation program involves some degree of interaction between the people undergoing the recovery process together. This interaction can be in the form of 12-step meetings, group therapy, social activities, and discussion groups.
- Spirituality and becoming grounded follows at this stage. Addiction usually develops due to loss of control, insecurity, and feelings of helplessness. This is why it is important to get in touch with something that gives you a sense of purpose or something reliable and solid. This will set the foundation for a healthy life without any addictions. Some can find this through spiritual or religious practices while other people learn to mentally channel and rely on their inner strength when faced with any circumstance.
- Clients usually check into rehabilitation with knowledge gaps on how to deal with whatever led to their addiction. Treatment programs offer educational sessions during which there are discussions and questions. These sessions help to provide them with the skills and knowledge they require to establish the type of life they want to live after completing the program.
- Addiction of any kind can put a strain on one’s relationships with friends, colleagues, and family. An effective rehabilitation program helps to offer clients support so they can mend their relationships by offering therapy, support, and educational sessions for the family members as well.
- Alcoholism can cause legal ramifications in most cases due to the problems associated with drinking. Some rehabilitation centers help the clients remain focused on treatment by facilitating correspondence with legal representatives to help with legal problems.
- It is common to hear of people relapsing even after going through alcohol treatment programs and recovering fully. An effective treatment program will set up an aftercare support program to promote long-term recovery from alcohol abuse. These aftercare support programs include assistance with getting employment, access to alumni and mentorship activities, specialist referrals, support group referrals, and ongoing counseling. Alcohol aftercare treatment is a proactive way to help the person resume a life of sobriety while offering a relapse prevention plan.
It is possible to overcome alcoholism with long-term support and sound treatment options. If your life has been affected by alcohol addiction directly or indirectly, the best thing to do is reach out to a professional for assistance. You do not have to deal with alcohol addiction by yourself when there are established practices making it possible to recover from addiction to alcohol.