As the most well-known, commonly used addictive substance, alcohol is undeniably dangerous. Alcohol addiction is considered a chronic disease, increasing in severity and danger as time progresses. Because it is a chronic disease, those that are close to the addict are also affected in a negative manner, so getting the help you need as soon as possible is essential.
People usually drink for one of two reasons. The person either drinks to cope with the stresses associated with living everyday life, or the person will drink just for pure fun. In either case, the consumption and eventual abuse of alcohol can very quickly develop into a serious psychological and/or physical addiction or dependency.
When someone is dependent or addicted to alcohol, they cannot control their consumption of alcohol. Chronic alcohol abuse leads to quickly building a tolerance and thus will make it difficult to go even a few hours without having a drink. The possible dangers and withdrawal symptoms are severe enough to cause alcohol to be considered one of the most dangerous addictions, and we strongly recommend that someone that suffers from alcohol addiction seek rehab immediately.
What is Alcoholism?
Having the knowledge about alcoholism and what defines it is the first step in alcohol rehab, and seeing as alcoholism is such a severe problem, it is important to get as much background information as you can.
Alcohol is the most common addictive substance in the United States, affecting over 18 million people. Alcohol use disorder, commonly known as simply alcoholism, is defined as a long-term brain disease associated with compulsively consuming alcohol and having a negative mental state when not drinking. Alcohol addiction affects 1 in every 12 adults in the United States, and those that suffer from alcohol addiction should seek alcohol rehab immediately to make treatment and recovery as easy as possible.
When it comes to identifying the roots of addiction in an individual, there are a wide variety of factors that may come into play. Depending on an addict’s environment, mental disorders, and even genetics, an individual may be at a much lower or higher risk to develop an addiction to alcohol. Some of these factors influence individuals differently, however environmental factors have the most dictation over the susceptibility to addiction in a person. For example, if someone is raised by an alcoholic parent, they have a much higher chance of attending alcohol rehab due to the increased chance of alcoholism.
Development of Addiction
On the topic of alcoholic parents, alcohol addiction is commonly traced back to childhood, where the patient was exposed at a young age to alcohol. When taking into account that those who begin drinking before the age of 15 are six times more likely to develop alcohol addiction, and also seeing that more than 40 percent of all tenth graders drink alcohol, it is clear that children are much more susceptible and malleable to the idea of alcoholism. By giving into peer pressure at a party or around friends or family, a child can easily start binge drinking, which could potentially snowball into a full-blown addiction.
Although children are at a high risk of alcoholism, students in college show alarming rates of alcohol abuse as well. In fact, studies show that freshman students show some of the highest rates of student substance abuse. Though alcoholism is thought of as a “middle-aged” disease, most people that are diagnosed with alcoholism are part of the “Young Adult” demographic. Young adults are actually the majority subtype of all alcoholics in the United States.
As for the mental health factors of addiction development, those that have been diagnosed with mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression may take up drinking as a way to self-medicate themselves to show fewer signs of their disorder. While it may help ease the short-term symptoms of the person’s mental illness, alcohol abuse has many negative effects long-term.
Those with a mental disorder that turns to alcoholism as a way to treat themselves put themselves at extreme risk of being dual-diagnosed. People with dual diagnosis have co-occurring disorders such as a mental disorder as well as a substance abuse disorder, and the negative long-term side effects associated with each combine and snowball themselves into severe side effects and withdrawals.
As for genetic factors, although no gene directly determine whether or not someone will become an alcoholic, there are genes that have been proven to reduce the effects of an alcohol hangover. Genes may also boost the pleasurable effects of drinking alcohol and may push someone to abuse and build a tolerance much faster than someone without that specific gene. When working together, genes can very easily influence the susceptibility of an individual.
Even though some people realize they have an alcohol addiction, most people refuse to seek professional treatment. In fact, more than 90 percent of people that recognize their alcoholism ignore professional treatment, contributing to more cases of severe withdrawal and possibly fatal side effects. Those that ignore the severity of alcoholism will either do one of the two: continue to abuse, or try to treat themselves. As a substitution for professional treatment, and a very ineffective one at that, alcoholics generally attempt to self-detox by going cold turkey.
Quitting a substance cold turkey simply means that an addict is immediately stopping the intake of any form of the substance that they are addicted to. If cold turkey is fast, why isn’t it advised? The reason it sounds too good to be true is that it is. Quitting cold turkey is dangerous and should almost never be even considered. Quitting a substance cold turkey results in severe withdrawal symptoms and will cause the victim intense discomfort. While it may be fast, quitting any physically addictive substance cold turkey is not only dangerous but also ineffective. Most relapses occur in the beginning stages of treatment, mainly detox, and seeing as cold turkey does not offer the medical supervision and support that an addict needs, the rate of relapse for detoxing cold turkey is substantially higher than that of medical detoxification.
Alcohol is a depressant, and it slows down body, brain, and central nervous system function. Chronic alcohol use chemically alters the functionality of your central nervous system, with your body adjusting accordingly to the constant sedative effects brought on by alcoholism. Under continuous fire from the depressant, your body switches into overdrive to stay awake. When someone quits a substance cold turkey, they give their body no time to readjust from overclocked back to sobriety. To properly adjust back to a sober state, the body needs time, and quitting cold turkey gives no time at all.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcoholism has many withdrawal symptoms with the severity of each depending on the severity of past abuse. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, and can include but are not limited to:
- Shaking hands
Though the above symptoms are uncomfortable and may act as roadblocks on the path to sobriety, they are rarely fatal. The even more severe and dangerous side effects that are associated with alcoholism are called Delirium tremens, or DTs for short. Delirium tremens only occur in five percent of alcoholics but should not be disregarded as possibilities. Along with vivid hallucinations as well as hypertension and hypotension, seizures are Delirium tremens that often prove fatal.
Some Side Effects of Delirium Tremens Include:
- Fast heart rate
- High blood pressure
- High body temperature
- Excessive sweating
When it comes to treating your alcohol abuse disorder, it is important to find an alcohol rehab center that will create a personalized treatment plan for you to accommodate the specific needs of you as an individual.
Even though alcohol rehab can be extreme, and sometimes is much more severe than other addiction treatment processes, alcohol rehab usually follows the same path as the other substance treatments. A patient will start with medical detox before transferring into a residential (inpatient) or outpatient treatment.
Medical detoxification, more commonly known as detox, is the first and consequently considered the hardest step in alcohol rehab. The success of detox is commonly known to be reflective of the overall success of treatment as a whole; people who are successful in detoxing and staying sober after detox are generally much more likely to complete treatment and achieve long-term sobriety.
Over the next five to seven days, medical detox will remove all substance residue and leftover toxins from past abuse and addiction. Through gradual tapering and medications, medical detox can comfortably return a patient to sobriety before they are admitted to an inpatient or outpatient treatment program.
Inpatient And Residential
More long-term addictions generally require inpatient treatment programs, and they have been proven effective in treating multiple cases of substance abuse, alcohol included. The term “inpatient treatment” simply refers to post-detox treatment in which a patient will live on-site for the duration of treatment. Those who have difficulty staying sober in their living environment will benefit greatly from inpatient treatment programs. If you find yourself at a high risk of relapse after detox, you should consider enrolling in an inpatient treatment program.
Residential is a more specific branch of inpatient treatment and explores the psychological reasons behind addiction and the roots of the patient’s addiction, compared to other inpatient treatments that put more focus on physical dependence, such as intensive inpatient treatment. Though it is generally longer than other inpatient programs, residential treatment is widely known as the more laidback, hotel-like treatment program in which clients are referred to as “residents” instead of “patients.” You are no longer under 24-7 medical supervision, and medical intervention is very rarely an occurrence. The amount of time per week required to attend therapy in residential treatment is also significantly less than other treatment programs.
Outpatient treatment is tailored more towards acute addictions that require immediate treatment. Outpatient alcohol rehab programs are quick, clean, effective, and generally shorter than inpatient programs. If a patient finds themselves comfortable living at home, and are not at risk of relapse, treating their addiction via an outpatient program would be most beneficial to them. Outpatient programs work around the patient’s schedule, making time for school, work, family, and any other responsibilities they may have. After visiting an outpatient treatment center for the mandatory few hours each day, the patient will return home to continue their everyday lives until the next therapy session.
A client in outpatient care is granted many freedoms that those in inpatient care usually wouldn’t be given. Those in outpatient care have constant support from their friends and family, which can easily be a deciding factor in whether or not a victim succeeds in drug treatment. With the privileges and responsibility associated with it, outpatient treatment programs teach the patient how to not only be sober but also stay sober. As a matter of fact, outpatient treatment programs are commonly used after treatment as relapse prevention methods.