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Alcoholism and Abuse
Alcoholism is also referred to as 'alcohol dependence' and it's a chronic disease which doesn't just go away, it stays with a person for the remainder of their life. The symptoms of alcoholism are; Loss of control, once a person starts drinking they are unable to stop on their own. No matter what problems there are associated with their drinking an alcoholic continues to drink. Health issues, legal issues or alcohol related family issues are serious problems but an alcoholic will continue to drink in-spite of them.Physical dependence, is associated with the withdrawal symptoms an alcoholic experiences when they stop drinking, these include nausea, sweating, trembling and nervousness.
Unfortunately alcohol consumption and problems related to alcohol is increasing throughout the U.S. Around 15 percent of people in the United States have drinking problems. About 5 to 10 percent are male and 3 to 5 percent are females that could be diagnosed as dependent on alcohol throughout the U.S.
Many people confuse alcoholism with alcohol abuse, but they aren't the same thing, these are two separate types of drinking problems. Alcoholism has signs of physical addiction, tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol abuse is when drinking behaviors lead to problems but not physical addiction.
(Physical) Alcohol Dependent Signs
If a person is dependent on alcohol there are physical signs to look for. The individual may have illnesses that are alcohol related like alcoholic liver disease. Tolerance will build and the person will have to increase the amount of alcohol they consume to achieve the level of intoxication they're looking for. They may have blackouts from drinking heavily; blackouts are also referred to as memory lapses. Withdrawal symptoms are associated with alcohol dependency and if a person experiences these symptoms when they stop drinking, they are dependent on alcohol.
No one knows for sure what causes alcoholism, some people can drink responsibly and stop when they want to and others lose control and are unable to stop once they take that first drink. One thing that can influence a person's chance of becoming dependent on alcohol is the amount of alcohol they drink.
Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse Risk Factors
One drink is defined as a 12 ounce bottle of beer, a 5 ounce glass of wine, or a 1 and a half ounce shot of liquor.
- If a man has 15 or more drinks in a week this can influence their chance of becoming alcohol dependent which is then associated with withdrawal symptoms.
- If a woman has 12 or more drinks in a week this can influence her chances of becoming alcohol dependent which is then associated with withdrawal symptoms.
It doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman, if you have 5 or more drinks per occasion at least once a week, this can influence your chance of becoming alcohol dependent also.
Other Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse Risk Factors
Genes could play a role in someone becoming an alcoholic or problem drinker but not enough is known yet, research is continuing concerning alcoholism and genetics. Risks that have been identified are:
- There is a better likelihood a person could become addicted to alcohol if they came from a home where a parent abused alcohol, was an alcoholic or had a drinking problem compared to someone who didn't have alcoholism in their immediate family.
- Teenagers and students in college that have peer pressure issues have a higher risk of problem drinking.
- Anyone who suffers from disorders like bipolar, depression, anxiety or schizophrenia is at a higher risk of developing a drinking problem.
- If a person has easy access to alcohol their risk is higher.
- Stress is a big factor and if a person's lifestyle is stressful their risk is higher.
- Cultures where there is high social acceptance of alcohol puts some people at a higher risk.
Symptoms of Alcoholism
There are many symptoms and behaviors that are associated with alcoholism. If a person continues to drink even though it's affecting their health, or affecting their job, or if it's harming their family this is a sign they're dependent on alcohol. Some of the other symptoms include:
- Drinking alone
- Violent incidences when they drink
- They become hostile when they're confronted about their drinking
- They find excuses to drink
- Work, school or their normal performance suffers and decreases. Missing school or work is also a sign.
- They need to drink on a regular basis or daily because they can't function without alcohol.
- They don't eat much anymore, neglecting to eat.
- Their physical appearance suffers because they don't care as much anymore.
- They become more secretive about their use of alcohol.
- They experience the 'morning shakes' because of their need for alcohol.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
When a person is alcohol dependent and drinks frequently they will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking. Withdrawal symptoms can start as early as 5 to 10 hours after a person has their last drink. Everyone is different and their level of alcohol consumption is too so some people don't start to experience withdrawal symptoms for a few days after they stop drinking. Withdrawal Symptons can include:
- Bad dreams
- Fast heart rate
- Mood changes
- Clammy and damp skin
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of their appetite
- Shakiness and trembling
- Sweating and perspiring
- Problems with clear thinking
Some people go through severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms and become agitated, become delirious, have a temperature and have seizures.
Medically assisted detoxification may be in order for people who stop drinking if they're alcohol dependent. There is no 'cure' for alcoholism but with proper treatment the individual is able to maintain abstinence and remain sober. It's important for anyone that's alcohol dependent to receive some form of help in order to reduce their withdrawal symptoms because they can be very serious for some people.
Some people require inpatient treatment either in a hospital or alcohol treatment facility to help them safely manage their withdrawal symptoms. There are wonderful treatment programs, treatment facilities and therapies for individuals seeking sobriety from alcohol dependency.
A lot has to do with your health and other factors when it comes to determining the type of treatment needed to insure a safe long term sobriety. Some people may or may not know if they also have a mental health issue like bipolar disorder, depression disorder or anxiety disorder. It's very important to have co-occurring disorders diagnosed properly if an alcoholic is seeking treatment. It's very common to have an existing mental health issue and alcohol dependency at the same time. Both conditions need to be addressed during treatment to prevent relapse and for sobriety to be successful.
The type and level of alcohol treatment varies for every person because everyone is different, levels of alcohol dependency are never the same, and a person's mental and physical health is always a factor. Hospitalization, Inpatient Treatment, Outpatient Treatment, Residential Treatment and Intensive Treatment programs are all good options for anyone seeking treatment for alcohol dependence. Finding the right form of treatment is crucial for a person's success.
12 Step Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous are also extremely successful helping people maintain abstinence and sobriety but they are unable to help with alcohol detox and withdrawal symptoms. Many alcoholics who enter into treatment and rehab programs receive 12 step based therapy while in treatment and continue with 12 Step Group meetings in their community when treatment is over. Programs like AA help problem drinkers remain abstinent and maintain sobriety helping each other stay clean and sober.
Medications for Alcoholism That Help to Prevent Relapse
There are 3 medications that are taken orally available right now that have been approved to treat people that are alcohol dependent. Disulfiram, Naltrexone, and Acamprosate help people decrease their drinking, achieve abstinence, and maintain their abstinence. These medications also help to prevent relapse. There is a long acting form of Naltrexone that's injectable called Vivitrol that's also available for treating alcohol dependency.
- Disulfiram is used to discourage drinking; an individual will feel sick if they drink alcohol when taking this medication.
- Naltrexone reduces alcohol cravings after a person stops drinking.
- Acamprosate reduces the symptoms of insomnia and anxiety for people that have been abstinent from alcohol for a while.
Other medications can be given to help with shakiness, nausea and sweating which are associated with the withdrawal symptoms a person goes through when they stop drinking if they're alcohol dependent.
Sometimes an intervention is needed to help someone you love and care about get help for their alcohol problem. Professionally trained Interventionist help families and friends develop planned strategies for getting their friend or loved one the treatment they so desperately need. Professional Interventions are extremely successful and the interventionist makes sure the person in need of treatment gets the right form of treatment needed for that particular person.
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