Choosing recovery isn’t easy. But it is one of the bravest choices you can make. Many factors contribute to recovery, and there is no one-size-fits-all model that works for every individual. It is essential to understand your health, what the signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder look like, what treatment options are available and how you can maintain a healthy and happy sober life.
Alcohol use disorder is something that can often be a silent threat because of its social acceptance. It is often viewed as normal to most Americans to drink socially. It can be easy to overlook friends and family’s drinking habits because of the social acceptance of alcohol in daily life in the United States. The role that alcohol plays at events such as parties, family gatherings, dates, and so much more significantly reduces how dangerous alcohol consumption can be. Some people may even recognize that alcohol may negatively impact their life but do not to the degree they want to stop independently.
What is Alcohol Use Disorder?
First of all, people from all walks of life are affected by alcohol use disorder. It does not discriminate based on age, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. Alcohol use becomes harmful when you develop a behavior pattern in which you cannot control your drinking habits.
You likely have an alcohol use disorder if:
- You continue to use alcohol while recognizing it is causing problems in your daily life and activities.
- You have become preoccupied with the use of alcohol.
- You notice signs and symptoms of withdrawal after you decrease your alcohol intake.
This disorder can range from mild to severe depending upon how many symptoms you exhibit and your daily use. It is also marked by negative emotions when you are not consuming alcohol, compulsive drinking, and loss of control over alcohol use and is considered a chronic brain disorder. Symptoms of withdrawal and intoxication from the use of alcohol are key signs of alcohol use disorder. According to a 2019 survey conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 86% of individuals age 18 and above reported drinking alcohol at some stage in their lives. In an age range from 12 years and older, it is estimated that 15 million people had an alcohol use disorder. It is extremely important to be aware of signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse to prevent the development of an alcohol use disorder.
Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder
It can be extremely challenging to tell the difference between someone that has a drinking problem or someone who likes to have a few drinks. According to research, alcohol use is widely accepted and available. It has a close link to and is often found in many social engagements. Major consequences can be avoided if alcohol abuse is identified and treated early on. Looking for warning signs is important because addiction can get worse over time. Signs and symptoms of addiction to alcohol are:
- Alcohol consumption frequency has increased
- Alcohol use during times when and in places where it isn’t appropriate, such as upon waking, at place of work, etc.
- Dependent upon alcohol to cope with daily life.
- Change in behavior
- Change in friends
- Contact with loved ones or formerly close friendship avoided.
- Fatigue, decrease in motivation, or other emotional issues.
- Keeping your alcohol consumption from friends and family.
- Loss of job or arrest.
It is important to remember that if you are concerned about a friend or loved one, approaching them in a supportive way is ideal. Provoking feelings of guilt or shame could cause them to retreat or be resistant to any assistance offered.
Risks and Complications of Prolonged Heavy Alcohol Use
An individual’s overall health, gender, body mass, genetic factors, and the amount of alcohol consumed are influential in the body’s response to chronic excessive drinking. Excess alcohol builds in the bloodstream and is circulated by the heart throughout the body when more alcohol is consumed than can be metabolized by the body. Excess alcohol in the body can lead to changes in normal bodily functions and a result in altering body chemistry.
Here are some of the risks and complications of prolonged heavy alcohol use:
- Ulcers and gastrointestinal issues
- Dysfunction of the immune system
- Brain damage
- Deficiency in vitamins and malnourishment
- Heart disease
- Increase in the risk of cancer
- Complications with vision
- Increase risk of Injuries and accidents
- Congenital disabilities
- Bone damage
- Menstruation and sexual function issues
- Adverse interaction with medication
Most of the risks and complications associated with alcohol use disorder can be prevented or treated when addiction is recognized and treated early on. Finding the right treatment center is crucial to the success of your recovery. Once you have chosen to seek assistance, selecting a specific treatment option to the needs of you or your loved one is an important part of rehabilitation and recovery.
Treatment Options for Alcohol Use Disorder
The goal for rehabilitation is lifelong recovery. This goal can be achieved by finding a treatment program, a support system, and a person-driven commitment toward the goal of sobriety. There is no predetermined set length of time for rehabilitation. Every person and every set of circumstances are unique and should be treated as such.
Programs designed to treat alcohol use disorder will typically last for seven to 10 days and continue as long as necessary for each person. A great way to help determine which treatment option would be best for you or your loved one is to know your goals and seek the advice of a medical or treatment professional. Some of the main treatment options for alcohol use disorder include, but are not limited to:
- Detoxification: Detoxification is typically the beginning, or first step, in the treatment process. During alcohol detox, alcohol consumption is eliminated along with the harmful toxins built up inside your body.
- Inpatient treatment: During this type of treatment, it would occur on-site in a residential treatment program. One of the advantages of this type of treatment option is removing the patient from an environment that would cause a trigger or temptation to re-engage alcohol consumption. It allows a person to have 24-hour access to medical and treatment professionals to help guide a person’s detoxification process, therapy and offer support.
- Outpatient treatment: Outpatient treatment is care in which you are not admitted into a facility. This can include a 12-step program, group and individual therapy, and attempts to balance personal accountability and independence coupled with support.
- Sober living: Sober living homes can serve as a bridge between rehabilitation and entering back into your normal daily lifestyle. This treatment option allows for a certain level of structure while allowing for the opportunity for adjustment to gain a person’s independence back. In-person support is offered daily.
There are a wide variety of treatment options available for the treatment of alcohol use disorder. There are many pathways and no one-size-fits-all model toward treatment and recovery. Recovery and support can involve community, family, finding value in emotional and physical well being and so much more. Hope can be encouraged by support groups and peers, and family and goes a long way toward fueling the desire to continue a sober lifestyle.
There is hope, and there is a pathway for each individual. Seeking treatment and admitting you need assistance is a huge step in an individual’s ability to regain control over their lives. It is never easy to acknowledge that you may have a problem, but the sooner it is recognized and treated, the better chance you have to eliminate the serious risk of harm to self or others. Through the new relationships and life, you build you can be empowered to live the life you have always wanted.
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol use disorder, here are some great reasons why it is beneficial to seek professional treatment.
- Support can be offered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- You are not alone during the process of treatment and recovery.
- The likelihood of recovery is much greater.
- Your mental and physical well-being is important.
- During moments where you feel you may not be able to continue recovery, you will have a support system.
- You will have the ability to regain a healthy and productive lifestyle.
- Your treatment can be highly customized to your unique set of needs.
Alcohol use disorder | Mayo Clinic
Social and Cultural Contexts of Alcohol Use | US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health