According to the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, new research reveals that 53 percent of Americans have at least one family member with a drinking problem.
That amounts to having three or more alcoholic drinks every day, 12 or more drinks on a weekly basis, or five drinks during any one session at least once per week (i.e., binge drinking). Researchers aren’t yet sure why some people who are heavy drinkers develop alcoholism and some don’t, but if alcohol is causing problems for someone you love, then it’s time to do something about it before it gets worse.
Alcohol addiction, or alcoholism, is a self-destructive disease that creates a myriad of physical, mental and emotional disorders that can literally cripple an individual with often irreversible mental and physical health issues. It is possible to drink yourself to death.
The Difference Between Abuse and Alcoholism
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the simplest terms, experiencing negative consequences from using alcohol (health problems, accidents, relationship troubles, poor performance at work, legal or financial worries, etc.) and still continuing to drink is the framework for alcohol abuse. Needing more and more to feel good (increased tolerance) and drinking to avoid unpleasant hangovers (i.e., withdrawal symptoms) embodies alcohol dependence.
Alcoholism is recognized by a controlling desire to drink (cravings), constantly thinking about drinking (obsession), and feeling powerless to stop (compulsion). An alcohol abuser, on the other hand, is often still functional at work or school and may binge drink regularly (e.g., on the weekends or most evenings after work) but not necessarily every day.
Characteristics of Abuse
There are a number of characteristics that can help you define whether you or a loved one are abusing alcohol. Alcohol abuse manifests in the following ways:
- Problems at work and the inability to keep up with schoolwork or family responsibilities
- An compulsivity to drink despite negative results such as drunk driving, missing appointments, destroyed relationships and inappropriate behavior
- Problems with law enforcement due to behavior while under the influence
Characteristics of Alcoholism
Dependence on alcohol or alcoholism is also easily recognized by taking an objective look at behavior. The following list of alcoholic characteristics will help you determine whether or not you or your loved one is an alcoholic:
- The need for an excessive number of drinks in order to get drunk
- Shaking, headaches, muscle pains and lack of appetite when a few hours have passed since the last drink
- Drinking in secret or downplaying the number of drinks
- The feeling or appearance that every day is taken up either with drinking or recovering from hangovers
- Drinking early in the day, every day
- Using any excuse to drink and drinking so much that important occasions are forgotten or missed completely
Signs and Symptoms
Learning the symptoms of alcoholism can help you recognize the issue in yourself or in someone you love. The sooner you recognize the signs of the disorder, the sooner you can begin the treatment process or help the alcoholic person you care about to get the help they need to heal.
- Daily use of alcohol
- Missing work or school in order to keep drinking or to recover from drinking
- Rationalizing drinking
- Boredom with or contempt of activities that were once enjoyable
- Hiding alcohol use from family or friends
- Irritability when drinking rituals are interrupted or delayed
- Always having alcohol on hand
- Anxiety in social settings when there is no alcohol
- Violent or cruel behavior when intoxicated
- Poor eating habits (malnutrition)
- Indifference to personal appearance or hygiene
- Tremors or shaking when without alcohol
- Experiencing blackouts or memory lapses after drinking
- Increased tolerance, or needing more and more alcohol in order to get drunk
- Developing chronic alcohol-induced health problems
Are You an Alcoholic?
Many who are living with alcoholism will look at the signs of the disorder and rationalize or minimize their experience with any of the issues included in the list. Denial is one of the biggest obstacles for those living with the disorder when it comes to getting the appropriate treatment and care. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are a number of questions that patients can ask themselves in order to determine whether or not alcoholism is an issue for them. These include:
- Do you drink alone?
- Do you create reasons to have a drink?
- Do you feel guilty about your drinking?
- Have you tried to cut back or quit, but were unsuccessful?
- Do you lie about how much you drink?
- Do you black out or forget things that happened while you were drinking?
- Do you drink to deal with your problems?
- Have you had DUIs, traffic accidents or fights while drunk?
- Do you need a drink as soon as you wake up?
- Do you become enraged when anyone questions your drinking?
- Do you become shaky when you haven’t had a drink in a while?
- Are you able to function normally without alcohol?
Chances are, if those who are close to you say that you need an alcohol treatment program, then it’s highly likely that a rehab that provides both detox and psychotherapeutic addiction treatment is necessary.
The Different Effects on Men and Women
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), alcoholism is 2.5 times more common among men than women, although the addiction progresses more rapidly among women. There are a number of reasons why this may be, but some believe that it is because women are less likely to experience certain significant stressors experienced by men including difficulties with employers, finances, or the law. Another possibility for the difference has more to do with the gathering of the statistical data; women are less likely to seek treatment than are men or to engage in behaviors like driving under the influence that would reveal their behaviors and force them to enroll in rehab.
- Physical dependency upon alcohol is seen more often among men.
- Roughly 22 percent of men (as compared to 10 percent of women) consume an average of two or more drinks in a given day.
- Up to 60 percent of men between the ages of 18 to 25 are binge drinkers (drinking five or more alcoholic beverages on any one occasion).
- Women drink more often between the ages of 26 to 34, or if they are divorced or separated from their spouse.
- Moderate drinking is defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men due to the differences in body mass, body water and metabolism. More than that for either gender is considered heavy drinking because it amounts to toxic blood alcohol content levels.
- Women have a higher liver volume to body mass ratio, so alcohol is expelled (metabolized) into the blood stream much faster than for men.
- Women are more likely to combine prescription drugs with alcohol, especially those who live with men who abuse drugs.
- Women are at higher risk for physical health problems related to alcohol than men, such as liver disease, brain damage (atrophy), heart failure, cancer, physical and sexual assault, and even traffic crashes.
- Death comes much sooner for women who drink, too, usually by about 11 years. Liver scarring (cirrhosis) and domestic violence are the number one killers of women who participate in alcohol abuse.
According to the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA), binge drinking and alcoholic drinking are both directly related to higher rates of injury, sexually transmitted disease and unplanned pregnancy, as well as inflammation of the liver (hepatitis) and deposits of calcium lining the arteries (coronary calcification) in both men and women.
Effects on Different Populations
There are more than just gender differences when it comes to the effects of alcohol. Different populations and demographics experience different results when drinking the same amount of alcohol. According to the NIAAA, some of the factors that can influence how alcohol is metabolized by the liver and absorbed into the bloodstream include:
- Age and gender of the drinker
- Race or ethnicity
- Physical fitness, including weight and health
- Rate of intake of alcohol
- Type of alcohol consumed
- Food eaten prior to drinking and in what quantity
- Use of prescription drugs or OTC medications
- Genetic predisposition for alcoholism or alcohol abuse
Not everyone is the same when it comes to the effects of alcohol, but those who drink more than five alcoholic beverages in a sitting on a regular basis risk developing alcoholism, which in turn can cause a number of health and social problems that only medical and psychotherapeutic treatment can help heal.
Is It Treatable
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 19 million people need treatment for alcohol abuse. Of these, less than 88 percent get the help that they need. About 4.5 percent agreed that treatment was necessary but did not get it and only 25 percent of that number made the effort to enroll in rehab. The most common reasons cited for not enrolling in alcohol rehab were not being ready to stop drinking (42 percent) and cost (34.5 percent). Those who do enroll in alcohol rehab benefit from medical help that assists them in stopping the habit of drinking safely and effectively as well as the psychotherapeutic treatment necessary to learn the tools to remain abstinent.
According to Alcoholism Treatment in the United States by Richard K. Fuller, M.D. and Susanne Hiller-Sturmh_fel, Ph.D., any alcohol treatment facility you choose should be equipped to first help you handle the medical detox that is often necessary in cases of serious or long-term alcoholism or alcohol abuse.
When your body is physically addicted to a drug, you must first give your undivided attention to your physical health under the supervision of medical professionals who will make sure that no other complications make the ordeal any more difficult than it needs to be.
Your physical detox will not stop once the major withdrawal symptoms have passed, however. Your alcohol treatment and the attention to your physical health should continue with regular, gentle exercise and organic, nutritional meals. Bodywork, yoga and meditation are important aspects of any well-rounded alcohol treatment program.
As you progress through treatment, you should attend group and one-on-one therapy sessions as well as experiment with a range of therapeutic techniques to help you get to the root cause of your alcoholism as well as any mental or psychological issues that may have developed during your drug use or existed prior to your addiction. Treating all co-occurring disorders simultaneously is crucial to your success in alcohol treatment.
A Future Without Alcohol Starts at The Canyon
Without alcoholism in your life, imagine the possibilities. Your issues with finances will be relieved drastically _ no more high bills for alcohol, no more tickets or legal cases for drunk driving, and no more inadvertent damage caused by actions under the influence. Alcohol rehab practically pays for itself when this is taken into consideration.
Along the same lines, consider how much better your relationships at home and work will function. Alcohol causes problems in every relationship when alcoholism is present. Also, without alcohol, you will have more time to devote to your loved ones, your friendships, your hopes, your dreams and your goals. Without alcoholism, the future is bright.
The Canyon is a California alcohol treatment center located outside of Beverly Hills. We offer alcohol detox and comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment in the form of both outpatient and inpatient programs. Contact us at The Canyon today at if you would like to learn more about our programs or to schedule a tour.