Throughout the United States, while the drug epidemic continues to rage on, some people might assume that opioids are the most commonly used and abused addictive substances in the country. However, while the rates of opioid abuse are climbing, the numbers cannot stack up to the substance that is actually the most abused: alcohol.
Because alcohol use is so ingrained and accepted in American culture, people often do not realize how dangerous it really is. It’s also difficult for people to distinguish between regular use and addiction, even for those who have become dependent on alcohol themselves.
In fact, it is the general population’s casual attitude towards alcohol use, especially compared to substances like heroin, which plays a significant role in the frequency that alcohol abuse and addiction go overlooked and undiagnosed.
Alcoholism may regularly be undermined by addictions that seem more “serious,” but the reality is that all addictions are serious. The effects of an untreated alcohol use disorder can be devastating and potentially fatal, not just to the person suffering from it but to those around them as well who could end up as victims of reckless behavior like drunk driving.
Despite the difficulty in detecting the early stages of an alcohol use disorder, it is imperative that it be caught as early as possible, as the longer it takes for someone to enter recovery treatment, the harder it is on them, with a much higher likelihood of severe withdrawal symptoms and relapse.
Learning the warning signs for alcohol abuse and dependency can help you identify it not just in someone you care about, but also potentially in your own behavior. The more educated and aware you are of what early alcoholism looks like, the more likely you will be able to get help before it’s too late.
An alcohol use disorder is defined by the most current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a chronic relapsing brain disease that is typically characterized by compulsive alcohol use, an inability to control one’s alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when someone is not using.
As previously stated, alcohol is the most commonly used and abused addictive substance in the United States, with roughly 1 in every 12 adults aged 18 and older who meet the criteria for alcohol addiction.
Obviously, no one intends to become dependent on alcohol when they start drinking. Generally, they are just drinking for fun or as a way to cope with the everyday stress of life. But it doesn’t take long for recreational drinking to progress to misuse, abuse, and eventually psychological and physical addiction.
Someone with an alcohol use disorder cannot control their consumption, and the chronic use and abuse of alcohol will make it so going even a few hours without drinking can cause withdrawal.
As someone begins the shift from the early stages of alcohol dependence to alcohol addiction, obtaining and drinking alcohol will become the driving force behind the majority of their decisions.
While major noticeable changes will most likely be soon to follow, it usually starts in smaller ways that might go unnoticed until they are viewed all together as a pattern of behavior. Some of these behavioral signs of alcohol addiction include:
As someone’s alcohol abuse progresses to addiction, the behavioral signs of alcoholism become much harder to miss and much more potentially damaging to both the person struggling with the alcohol addiction as well as those around them. Some of these alcoholism symptoms include:
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While it may be possible for someone to hide the behaviors that serve as signs of alcohol addiction, at least for a while, there are also many specific physical signs of alcohol abuse that can act as clear signals of a growing problem. If someone is regularly engaging in alcohol abuse, there are some things they will not be able to hide, including:
Some of these signs, such as noticeably jaundiced skin, are indicative of extremely severe long-term alcohol abuse and can have serious health consequences if left untreated.
Despite the near widespread cultural acceptance of alcohol use, alcohol addiction and alcohol use disorders are as dangerous as they are common. Contributing to nearly 90,000 deaths per year, alcohol is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
When you have identified the signs of alcohol addiction either in yourself or someone you care about, the next step is to enter into an addiction recovery treatment program as soon as possible.
In the case of nearly every addiction, but certainly alcohol, it is essential that the recovery treatment starts with medical detoxification. If someone is struggling with severe alcohol addiction, then there is a strong chance that they will experience potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that require the supervision and intervention of a medical professional. Roughly 1 in 10 people suffering from alcoholism will experience symptoms like seizures, psychosis, extreme depression, and Delirium tremens.
Once past the detox phase, there are multiple factors involved in determining whether an inpatient or outpatient treatment program will best suit someone’s needs. If someone’s alcohol abuse has been caught early, they might not require the higher level of care provided by an inpatient program and can instead attend regular sessions of outpatient treatment.
On the other hand, if someone is suffering from a severe alcohol use disorder, they may require to be taken out of their regular environment and placed in an inpatient treatment program to remove any distractions or triggers that could keep them from being able to focus on their recovery.
The length of treatment also depends on the individual and the severity of their alcohol use disorder, although addiction research studies recommend 90 days of treatment at the minimum in order for it to be at all effective. Many people may require longer periods of treatment, with some even needing a full year of rehabilitation.
This may sound unnecessary at first, but keep in mind that between 40 and 60 percent of people who successfully complete a recovery treatment program for alcohol addiction end up relapsing. This is why it is so important to remain in treatment as long as it takes to be able to best learn to manage addiction and maintain long-term sobriety.
While everyone’s addiction recovery treatment program will look a bit different, as it will have been tailored to their specific needs, alcohol addiction treatment will generally include at least some of the following elements:
Not every recovery treatment center will offer aftercare or alumni services, so it is important to seek out ones that do, as the network of support these services provide can make all the difference in remaining sober once someone’s recovery treatment has been completed.
When you’re struggling with an alcohol use disorder, it impacts every aspect of your life as well as the lives of those you care about. If left untreated, alcohol addiction destroy someone’s entire life, and while quitting is never easy, with the help of Delphi Behavioral Health Group, it is possible.
Our admissions specialists are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help find the facility and treatment program that best fits the needs of you or your loved one and answer any questions or concerns you may have.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). Alcohol Use Disorder. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2017, June). Alcohol Facts and Statistics. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
Wilcox, S. (2015, July 25). Facts About Alcohol. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/alcohol/facts-about-alcohol
Wilcox, S. (2016, December 19). Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/signs-and-symptoms/signs-and-symptoms