Over 17 million people in the United States suffer from alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence. These problems exist for several reasons. Alcohol is easy to find, inexpensive, and legal. Drinking is also socially acceptable. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports that in 2012 at least 87.6 percent of the American population over age 18 reported drinking alcohol within their lifetimes. The use of alcohol in moderation is usually considered acceptable. Alcohol in excess or while under the legal age of 21 may lead to many health, social, and legal problems.
What Represents Binge Drinking?
A typical drink is defined as 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol. This breaks down to 12 ounces of five percent beer, five ounces of 12 percent wine or 1.5 ounces of 40 percent distilled spirits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that bingedrinking is when someone has more than four or five drinks in a sitting. A pattern of heavy drinking is established when a woman drinks more than eight drinks a week or a man has more than 15 drinks per week.
Chronic binge drinking episodes may lead to troubles with alcohol abuse and/or dependency. Fortunately there is a range of specialized treatment options with positive results for those willing to make the healthy changes necessary for a successful recovery from alcohol abuse.
How To Recognize An Alcohol Use Disorder
It is important to understand the difference between social drinking and problem drinking. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) isa mental illness and a chronic disease.Here are the following as symptoms of an AUD:
- Excessive time spent on getting alcohol, consuming alcohol, and recovering from its effects
- Desire to cut back on drinking, but inability to do so
- Craving alcohol
- Social and/or relationship issues caused or heightened due to alcohol intake
- A decreased performance at work, school or home
- Give up activities to continue drinking
- Drinking regardless of physical or emotional problems created and/or exacerbated by alcohol consumption
- Participation in risky or physically hazardous behavior or situations caused by alcohol use
One of the symptoms of an AUD is the onset of withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking. These symptoms range from mild to severe, and chances are if you have engaged in binge drinking at some point in your life, you have experienced some form of a hangover. When these symptoms persist due to chronic episodes of heavy drinking, withdrawal may include other side effects as well.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine reports that withdrawal symptoms in someone who drinks every day are likely to start around eight hours after the last drink and peak between 24 and 72 hours.Some withdrawal symptoms may last for up to a few weeks.
Symptoms are both physical and psychological and may include:
- Mood swings
- Irregular heart rate
A serious form of alcohol withdrawal is called delirium tremens. This condition includes fever, seizures, hallucinations, confusion, and more severe agitation. This is a medical emergency. It can even be potentially fatal. Delirium tremens occurs in patients between five and 24 percent of the time, with a mortality rate of two percent. If you suspect someone is suffering from delirium tremens, seek immediate medical attention.
Treatment for Alcohol Abuse
One of the first goals of alcohol treatment is aiding the patient with withdrawal. Medications are used to promote safety and comfort. Some forms of treatment include the use of benzodiazepines, seizure medications, or antipsychotic medications. These drugs help balance chemicals in the brain and body. You should not stop drinking alcohol on your own without proper medical care. After the initial detox period, treatment continues in a residential or outpatient setting.
Alcohol disorders do not occur in a vacuum. Records show that 37 percent of those suffering from an AUD also suffer from a mental illness or disorder. The occurrence of both a mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder is diagnosed as a co-occurring disorder or a dual diagnosis. Each disorder aggravates the symptoms of the other. For example, drinking alcohol increases the symptoms of someone who suffers from depression. Many times, a mental health disorder will go undiagnosed. Alcohol and other substances are used as a form of self-medication. Over time, this pattern of drinking develops into an AUD.
Specialized treatment is necessary for co-occurring disorders, as dual diagnosis methods treat each disorder simultaneously. Teams of medical professionals work together to manage both issues as primary disorders. This means that someone suffering from depression, for instance, may be treated with medications that need to be monitored more closely if they are also suffering from a substance abuse disorder.
Behavioral therapies are highly successful in treating both facets of co-occurring disorders. Evidence-based treatment models that utilize scientific research, clinical knowledge and individual patient preferences are useful methods during dual diagnosis treatment as well.
Inpatient Services and Outpatient Treatment
Treatment for an AUD will vary depending on the severity of the condition. Other factors, include genetic predispositions and environmental stressors. A residential alcohol treatment center offers a structured environment and provides a stable routine. There is a schedule for meals, sleeping and therapy sessions.
Balanced and nutritious diet plans are important aspects of recovery as are exercise or fitness opportunities. Alcohol dehydrates you and depletes the body of natural nutrients. Exercise can produce endorphins that activate the reward center in your brain in a positive manner. Some residential programs offer alternative treatments, such as massage, equine-assisted therapy, yoga, meditation and other holistic methods.
Behavioral therapies help treat a negative self-image and/or destructive behavior patterns. Any social and/or emotional triggers that may cause a desire to drink are identified. Individuals use coping mechanisms to handle these triggers.
Group therapy sessions provide a safe and secure environment where those with similar circumstances can support each other and feel safe. Educational opportunities provide the necessary knowledge for managing the disorder successfully long-term. Family therapy, as well as individual counseling and therapy sessions, is an important part of the recovery process as well.
Reintegration and Aftercare
Treatment programs also teach life skills and ways to manage emotional side effects of the disorder. Substance abuse creates chemical changes in the brain that take time to reverse. Residential treatment allows the opportunity to fully explore and heal the psychological ramifications in a comprehensive manner. Total immersion in a residential program can give those suffering from an AUD the chance to balance physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of the self, creating new and healthier habits before returning home.
Support groups are a vital part of the recovery process and aftercare. For many, aftercare means participation in 12-Step programs or other sobriety groups. A healthy peer network can go a long way toward the prevention of relapse. The creation of strong support systems helps with long-term sobriety. Family education and therapy helps family members take an active role in understanding and supporting someone in recovery.
The Canyon is a private and confidential treatment facility that offers specialized treatment plans for substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. Surrounded by breathtaking views, The Canyon offers many alternative and holistic treatment methods as well as evidence-based and proven scientific methods of treatment.
Recovery is possible with the right treatment. The Canyon can even set you up with an interventionist if you need help starting the conversation with a loved one. Call today to discuss your options and discover the right path for you and your family.
 https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/alcohol/facts-about-alcohol Facts About Alcohol.
 http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf Dietary Guidelines For Americans.
 http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm Fact Sheets Alcohol Use and Your Health
 http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000764.htm Alcohol Withdrawal.
 http://www.annals-general-psychiatry.com/content/12/1/39 Risk factors for lethal outcome in patients with delirium tremens – psychiatrist’s perspective: a nested case-control study
 http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=383975 Comorbidity of Mental Disorders With Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse