Unlike most other substances, alcohol is legal, making it one of the most available and used drugs in the world. According to a 2016 report by the U.S. Surgeon General, alcohol contributes to over 88,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

Are you worried that a loved one may be addicted to alcohol? Read on to learn more about alcohol addiction and its treatment and determine whether Beacon House alcohol addiction treatment is a good fit.

Alcoholism Facts and Statistics

Male and female, young and old, rich and poor: no one is immune to the harsh reality of alcohol addiction. Indeed, the facts and statistics of alcohol addiction—one of the most common and devastating health problems in the United States—paint a troubling picture. It’s estimated there are more than 12 million alcoholics in our country; three-fourths of all adults drink alcohol, and six percent of them are alcoholics; and nearly 40,000 people die each year of alcohol addiction-related illnesses.

Unfortunately, the numbers are especially troubling for young people: nearly seven million 12- to 20-year-olds are binge drinkers, and those who begin drinking alcohol before the age of 15 are four time more likely to become alcoholics than those who don’t begin drinking until the age of 21. Additionally, there are more than 50,000 cases of alcohol poisoning reported each year, and some 30 million people admit to driving under the influence of alcohol, leading to a death every 30 minutes in an alcohol-related automobile accident.

If you count yourself among the approximately 53 percent of adults who have one or more close relatives with a drinking problem, these alcoholism facts and statistics no doubt strike close to home. And indeed, it should, as much alcohol abuse runs in families as a genetic predisposition, as well as manifests itself in familial behavior patterns that often lay the groundwork for alcoholism later in life. Sometimes, children mimic the examples set by parents; other times what begins innocently enough as mere experimentation in our younger years turns into an out-of-control problem, one that can ultimately destroy relationships with family and friends, impact work or school, and seriously jeopardize one’s health.

Here are a few facts and stats to consider:

  • In 2015, over 66 million people in the U.S. confessed to binge drinking during their free time.
  • Alcohol abuse costs the U.S. government $249 billion in healthcare expenses, criminal justice costs and lost productivity.
  • Over 175 million people aged 12 and above reported having consumed alcohol in the past year.
  • About 8% of the population (20 million people) in the U.S. is abusing an illicit drug, and 1% of that number has an alcohol use disorder.
  • Even though over 20 million people (8%) were found to be using an illicit drug, only a little over two million people received some form of treatment to help them in their recovery.

The causes of alcohol addiction, of course, vary from individual to individual, but perhaps the best place to begin is to know the facts about how alcohol affects the body: simply stated, it’s generally believed that when you consume enough alcohol over time chemical changes occur in the brain, changes that emphasize pleasurable feelings. Unfortunately, in many people, those feelings create an increased desire for more alcohol. Therefore, the disease of alcoholism develops gradually over time, and often slowly enough that a person may not realize they have a problem until it’s too late.

For those wondering about the risk factors of alcoholism, it’s important to realize that they vary from person to person, but some well-known markers are widely recognized: males who consume more than 15 drinks a week; females who consume more than 12 drinks a week; consuming more than five drinks per occasion at least once a week; having a parent with alcoholism; and coping with a mental health problem such as depression or anxiety. You may also be at greater risk for developing alcoholism if you are a young person under the rigors of peer pressure or experience low self-esteem or a high degree of stress on a regular basis.

Understanding Alcohol Side Effects

Whenever we drink alcohol, effects both expected and unintended occur within our bodies. And while some effects are strictly felt in the short term—slurred speech and drowsiness for example—when significant amounts of alcohol are consumed a host of unwanted effects may happen as well, many of which cause lasting damage to the body and brain.

Among the short-term effects that occur when too much alcohol is consumed at one time are vomiting, diarrhea, upset stomach, headaches, difficulty breathing, distorted vision and hearing, impaired judgment, a decrease in perception and coordination, a loss of red blood cells (known as anemia) and, in the more serious realm of dangerous side effects, unconsciousness and coma.

While the short-term alcohol side effects are perhaps more well-known, what may not be as well understood is the long-term lasting damage that can be done to the body’s systems when large amounts of alcohol are consumed on a regular basis, whether during occasional “binge-drinking” or through intermediate or advanced alcoholism. Incidents of high blood pressure, stroke and other heart-related diseases are well-documented results of alcohol addiction, as is nerve damage, sexual problems, vitamin B1 deficiency—which can lead to a disorder characterized by amnesia, apathy and persistent disorientation—alcoholic liver disease (cirrhosis), ulcers and gastritis (inflammation of the stomach walls), malnutrition and cancers of the mouth of throat.

One of the more serious alcohol side effects—and unfortunately one that many people are unaware of until a serious and potentially deadly situation arises—is alcohol’s interference with many common and often vitally important medications. Whether they’re prescription or over-the-counter drugs or even herbal supplements, alcohol often has harmful interactions that may include nausea and vomiting, headaches, dizziness, fainting, changes in blood pressure and generalized abnormal behavior. More serious consequences of mixing alcohol and medications include internal bleeding, heart and liver damage and impaired breathing, serious implications that can quickly turn lethal.

Vicodin and alcohol abuse.The dangers of mixing alcohol and antibiotics—especially alcohol and amoxicillin—may be less apparent to many people. While not a particularly dangerous pairing with certain antibiotics, alcohol does impair the drug’s efficiency, simply meaning that the body may not recover as quickly from an infection when such a drug is taken with alcohol. However, certain classes of antibiotics should never be taken with alcohol— tinidazole and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole for instance—as doing so may lead to flushing, headache, nausea and vomiting, and a rapid heart rate. Likewise, the mixing of prednisone and alcohol—the former an immunosuppressant used to treat a wide variety of conditions including allergies, asthma, colitis and migraine headaches—can potentially worsen symptoms of these various diseases and conditions and cause gastrointestinal bleeding, as can mixing the widely-popular pain medication ibuprofen and alcohol.

Alcohol and depression is for many people another unintentional alcohol side effect. Here is a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts: we drink alcohol to proverbially “drown our sorrows” after a having a bad day at the office, a fight with a friend or a break up with a significant other. And while in the short-term alcohol as a depressant can relieve anxiety, using it constantly every time one encounters a stress in life could be a sign of alcohol abuse.

Addiction research has shown a strong link between serious alcohol abuse and depression, with issues being studied that seek to answer whether regular drinking leads to depression or depression leads to regular drinking. Indeed, statistics show that nearly one-third of people with major, chronic depression also have an alcohol problem, with the depression most often occurring first and followed by alcohol abuse at some later point in time. Regardless, keeping in mind that alcohol by its nature is a depressant, it’s likely that alcohol will only worsen the symptoms of depression, and one may increase their drinking to combat said symptoms.

Warning Signs of Alcohol Addiction

Sometimes the warning signs of an alcohol addiction are obvious. At other times, they are not easily noticeable. When alcohol addiction is discovered early on, the chances for a successful recovery increase.

Common signs of an alcohol addiction include:

  • Finding it hard to control the urge to drink alcohol
  • Craving alcohol strongly when you are not drinking
  • Putting the love for alcohol above other responsibilities
  • Feeling the urge to drink more and more all the time
  • Spending almost all your money on alcohol
  • Behaving weirdly after indulging in alcohol

What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Alcohol?

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms begin about six to 24 hours after the last drink. Their severity depends on many factors including how much was consumed, concurrent disorders, medical history and any past trauma.

Overcoming the alcohol withdrawal timeline. Some common withdrawal symptoms of alcohol include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Tremors and sweating
  • Stomach pains and loss of appetite
  • Trouble thinking clearly
  • Irregular/elevated heartbeat and breathing
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Increase in blood pressure

 

Those who are dedicated to alcohol addiction treatments note that alcoholism symptoms can be best classified into two categories: behaviors and physical markers.

Behaviors relate to a wide spectrum of actions and practices:

  • drinking alone
  • drinking more and more in an effort to continue to experience the effects of alcohol (which can be best described as building up a “tolerance”)
  • becoming violent or hostile when asked about drinking
  • neglecting one’s diet or personal hygiene
  • continually missing or underperforming at work and at school
  • being unable to control how much one drinks
  • continuing the spiral of over-drinking despite problems that may develop in one’s social life or after developing fiscal or legal problems

Physically, symptoms of alcoholism may involve:

  • intense and often uncontrollable cravings for alcohol
  • tremors early in the day after a night of drinking
  • lapses in memory after alcohol consumption
  • serious illnesses such as alcoholic ketoacidosis—which manifest itself in severe dehydration
  • cirrhosis, more typically known as a scarring of the liver
  • weight loss
  • persistent sore or upset stomach
  • redness of the nose and cheeks

Additionally, those suffering from the disease of alcoholism may experience episodes of alcohol poisoning, symptoms of which can include but aren’t limited to: profound confusion, vomiting and seizures, slowed and irregular breathing, low body temperature, and becoming unconscious to the point where one cannot be awakened.

There are myriad other factors that may lead to a realization and diagnosis of alcoholism, such as feelings of guilt or shame about one’s drinking, lying to others or hiding your drinking habits, having family members or friends express concerns about your drinking and needing to drink to relax or fall asleep. Additionally, many people who have a problem with alcohol addiction find themselves consuming alcohol in the mornings and giving up once-enjoyed activities or hobbies in favor of drinking.

Other symptoms of alcoholism can be much more discreet but should nonetheless be taken seriously. Changing what one drinks: switching from beer to wine for instance—with the belief that doing so will enable you to drink less or prevent you from getting drunk—is a commonly reported action, as is making excuses for the amount of alcohol you consume by purchasing it from different stores. Likewise, worrying about whether you’ll have enough alcohol on hand for a night or weekend is one behavior that should certainly by seen as a warning sign of alcohol abuse or addiction.

 

Coping with Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

When a heavy drinker—whether a binge drinker or alcoholic—suddenly stops or severely reduces the amount of alcohol they consume, a wide variety of alcohol addiction withdrawal symptoms can occur. On the mild side of the spectrum, those with an alcohol abuse problem can expect anxiety or nervousness, depression, irritability, jumpiness or shakiness, mood swings, unclear thinking and nightmares.

However, for those at a more advanced state of alcoholism symptoms can be much more serious and may involve alcohol withdrawal syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition. For those suffering from the syndrome, withdrawal symptoms can begin in as little as two hours after the last drink and persist for weeks. In addition to the milder side effects previously mentioned, such serious effects can include seizures and delirium tremens (DTs) as well as chronic confusion, a rapid heartbeat, high fever and hallucinations.

It’s believed that alcohol withdrawal syndrome occurs because heavy and prolonged drinking suppresses the brain’s neurotransmitters, those brain chemicals that transmit messages throughout the body. These chemicals include GABA—which produces feelings of relaxation and calm—and glutamate, which produces feelings of excitability. When the suppression of these neurotransmitters is suddenly eliminated they rebound exponentially, and the brain enters a state of hyperexcitability.

Because alcohol withdrawal symptoms can rapidly worsen, it’s vital to seek medical attention, as there are highly effective treatments that are effective in easing or eliminating the symptoms of withdrawal. This is especially crucial if an alcoholic or alcohol abuser has an underlying health condition such as uncontrolled infections, heart or lung disease or a history of seizures.

Enduring the rigors of alcohol withdrawal is no doubt a scary prospect. But as therapists are quick to counsel, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Indeed, while the very thought of embarking on a quest to quit drinking alcohol may seem daunting, millions and millions have successfully conquered their addiction, emerging into an alcohol-free life filled with new hope and promise.

How Is Alcoholism Treated?

There are different forms of alcohol addiction treatment based on the severity and frequency of alcohol use. Recovery from an alcohol addiction is a long process that continues even after rehab. It takes a strong individual commitment and immense willpower to break the cycle of addiction and instead apply the techniques you learned in rehab.

Although every individual will have a personalized treatment plan tailored to their unique needs, treatment at Beacon House generally follows the following structure.

Alcoholism treatment is divided into three sections.

1. Detoxification

The first stage in alcohol treatment involves detoxification. During detox, you have no access to alcohol and are away from the triggers that normally lead you to drink. This phase is usually done with the help of medical professionals because of the potential for painful and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Most times, you are given medications to help alleviate the serious side effects of withdrawal.

2. Rehabilitation

There are two types of rehabilitation programs that can help with alcohol addiction: inpatient and outpatient rehab.

Alcohol Abuse Rehabilitation Treatment Program Centers Monterey CAInpatient rehab programs allow you to step away from your daily routine and commit to round-the-clock treatment for a period, usually 30, 60 or 90 days. For many, the focused environment is the most ideal setup for faster healing and recovery.

Outpatient centers are also ideal if you want to stay home with your loved ones while they work on resolving their alcohol addiction. It’s a personal decision an individual makes in consultation with family and friends who can help them throughout the entire process.

Inpatient rehab is the best choice for if you want to focus on recovery completely without the distractions of work, home or social obligations as it allows one to totally immerse themselves in recovery. Plus, it’s perfect if you have tried outpatient treatments unsuccessfully. As mentioned, inpatient rehab may last anywhere from one to three months, and recovery times usually depend on the needs of the individual.

Treatment at inpatient facilities includes cognitive behavioral therapies that encourage you to change how you react to stressful events in your life by learning healthy ways to cope. At Beacon House, we also offer individual and group therapy sessions, experiential treatment and training on good health and nutrition.

3. Maintenance

Recovery does not end when you get out of rehab. Successful and long-term sobriety requires you to commit to ongoing therapy which entails counseling and support groups. This ensures you don’t relapse and instead, continue to lead a sober life for months and years to come.

After Rehab

After rehab, the best thing you can do is look for ongoing support for a successful recovery. Whether you choose to be in the company of others who are going through the same struggle or you look for support in your personal network, it’s important that you share your struggle with like-minded people.

You can also seek help from friends and family. Chances are they’ll be happy to help you take control of your life. External groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) now have more than two million participants. The 12-step program emphasizes submitting to a higher power for help.

Get Help Today

The first step on the road to getting help for alcohol addiction often involves an alcohol addiction test, a series of well-researched questions that can determine the extent of the problem and, hence, any underlying causes. Such questions may take the form of “can you handle more alcohol now than when you first started drinking?” “Do you drink heavily when you are disappointed, under pressure or have had a quarrel with someone?” “Have you been having more memory ‘blackouts’ recently?” “When you’re sober, do you sometimes regret things you did or said while drinking?” Each question is designed to evaluate the place alcohol holds in your life and whether that place is benign or unhealthy.

Beacon House SupportIf a diagnosis of alcoholism is determined, alcohol addiction recovery or rehab is the absolute next step towards helping you come to grips with the knowledge of how to overcome alcohol addiction. Due to the extent of alcohol abuse in our country and the new, cutting-edge formulas that trace the disease’s cause, alcohol addiction treatment centers have multiplied over the last three decades, and many are equipped to handle various levels and forms of alcohol addiction treatments, whether said treatment can be done on an inpatient or outpatient basis.

Regardless of what model for long-term recovery from alcohol addiction a person chooses it’s important to ask questions of care-givers and therapists, as finding the right match for treatment leads to the best possible outcomes. Counselors and admissions staff should take measures at the onset of treatment to identify any issues that may hinder recovery; programs should have some manner of accreditation and licensing and be staffed with well-trained mental health professionals and addiction specialists; and they should have in place a comprehensive and well-managed continuing care program to give the proper types of support that will avoid relapses into alcohol addiction.

Sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, friends and colleagues: the terrible reality of alcohol addiction affects millions in the United States, and chances are you or someone you know suffers from this devastating disease. But today we have more tools and knowledge at our disposal than ever before, vital information that can beat back the tide of alcoholism and help people achieve lasting, long-term recovery. There are many treatment options, and many have been successful with recovery. If you’re ready to get help, fill out our insurance form and call us at 831.372.4366 to learn more about how you can reclaim your life. A new life of sobriety and happiness is only one call away.