Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction touches virtually everyone’s life in some way–whether we struggle ourselves with alcoholism, or have witnessed a loved one’s alcohol addiction. In the United States alone, 8 percent of the population–over 17 million Americans–struggle with alcohol addiction. However, despite the high rate of alcohol addiction, countless individuals have been successfully treated and embark on a sober life each day. With the help of progressive alcohol treatment programs, we can remove the stigma once associated with alcoholism, to better understand–and successfully treat–alcohol addiction.

What Is Alcohol Addiction?

Quite simply, alcohol addiction occurs when individuals experience a loss of control over their alcohol intake. While the reasons for alcohol addiction may be varied, addicted individuals often share symptoms of alcoholism. Alcohol tolerance begins to build in the body, creating the need to consume stronger and more frequent drinks to feel the effects of inebriation. Alcohol addicted individuals also feel unable to stop drinking or to moderate their alcohol intake, and “one drink” often leads to another. When sober, cravings for alcohol begin to take place, creating a strong and immediate need to drink. In severe cases of alcoholism, abstinence can even lead to withdrawal symptoms as the body copes with the sudden absence of alcohol.

What Causes Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction is a complex problem, usually with more than one contributing factor. Some alcohol addicted individuals may experience a chemical imbalance in the body that fuels the drive to drink. Other individuals turn to alcohol consumption to escape grief, emotional pain or traumatic experiences from the past, creating a cycle of physical and psychological dependency. Individuals who suffer from mental health disorders–known as “dual diagnosis” cases–may develop alcohol addictions in an attempt to self-medicate anxiety, depression or mental illnesses.

Can Alcohol Addiction Be Cured?

Yes. Countless individuals have overcome their addictions to alcohol. Once the underlying reasons for alcohol addiction have been successfully treated, formerly alcohol addicted individuals can lead successful, whole and sober lives–free from cravings or the psychological drive (also known as the “psychic need”) to drink. Freedom from alcohol addiction does not indicate the ability to consume alcohol without consequence–but rather the elimination of the desire to do so in the first place.

How Does Alcohol Addiction Affect Your Health?

Alcohol addiction takes a tremendous toll on the body. Alcohol is a leading factor in the development of heart disease and heart conditions such as cardiomyopathy, clogged arteries and increased risk of heart attack. Alcohol addiction also contributes to severe liver conditions, such as fatty liver, cirrhosis, and alcoholic hepatitis. Those struggling with alcohol addiction also face serious digestive issues as health problems in the pancreas, stomach and bowels occur. High levels of alcohol consumption have even been linked to a variety of cancers, including mouth, esophagus, colorectal, liver, stomach, ovarian and breast cancers. In fact, 3 1/2 percent of all cancers are associated with problem drinking.

How Does Alcohol Addiction Affect Your Relationships?

Relationships can be seriously damaged by alcohol addiction. Because of the strong pull of alcohol addiction, many addicted individuals engage in behaviors they otherwise would not, or find negative behaviors aggravated. Alcohol addiction greatly affects the family structure, and has been linked to instances of domestic violence, verbal abuse, and child abandonment. Alcohol addiction can also contribute to the breakdown of trust in our everyday relationships, with closet drinking, theft, lies and infidelities compromising intimate partnerships and increasing the likelihood of break-ups and divorce. Alcohol addiction also contributes to drunk driving accidents, accidental deaths, and has been linked to an alarming percentage of sexual assaults.

What Are the Most Effective Treatments for Alcohol Addiction?

In general, inpatient alcohol rehabilitation programs tend to have higher success rates than outpatient alcohol treatment programs. Successful sobriety should include a combination of physical and psychological treatment. Rehabilitation programs that emphasize all aspects of living–known as holistic alcohol addiction programs–tend to boast higher success rates than those that do not. Holistic alcohol addiction treatment programs include psychological, spiritual, physical, and social aspects of treatment, and often place additional emphasis on nutrition and exercise. Additionally, alcohol addiction programs that specialize in cognitive therapy–particularly individualized therapy–tend to have higher success rates than those that offer solely group therapy sessions.

What Is the Difference Between Alcohol Detox and Alcohol Rehab?

Alcohol addiction treatment programs usually include two distinct phases of recovery–detox and rehabilitation. The alcohol detox process allows the body to literally detoxify from alcohol addiction, so that the physical dependency on alcohol can be broken. Once the body has been freed from alcohol addiction, psychological healing can take place through cognitive therapy sessions. In fact, the most successful alcohol rehabilitation programs emphasize individualized (one-on-one) therapy sessions, allowing dependent individuals to delve deeply into emotional or mental factors that have contributed to their alcoholism.