Alcoholism – What You Need to Know
Alcoholism, a chronic and often progressive disorder, affects millions of individuals worldwide. Also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), it can have far-reaching consequences on physical, mental, and social well-being. Let’s delve into ten crucial facts about alcoholism, shedding light on its causes, effects, and available treatment options, including the emerging trend of virtual therapy.
Facts about Alcoholism
Fact One: What is Alcohol Use Disorder?
Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a chronic medical condition characterized by an inability to control alcohol consumption despite negative consequences. It involves both physical dependence on alcohol and a strong craving to drink.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, alcohol is the among the most commonly misused drugs in the world. It impacts men, women, and teens around the world and, when left untreated, can result in death. While the perils of opioids are the news every day, the truth is alcohol abuse is as prevalent.
Fact Two: Warning Signs You or Someone You Love is Suffering from Alcohol Addiction
While there are many signs of alcohol addiction, the ones listed below are most common:
Increased Tolerance – Alcohol doesn’t have the effect it once did and more and more is needed to achieve the desired effect.
Withdrawal Symptoms – Alcohol is highly addictive. When someone who is addicted stops drinking, they experience severe withdrawal symptoms including shaking, nervousness, sweating, hallucinations, and seizures.
Inability to Stop Drinking – Alcoholics who try to stop drinking are unable to do so.
Drinking Despite Negative Consequences – Alcoholics continue drinking even in the face of dire consequences, like arrests, job loss, health issues, or relationship problems.
Fact 3: Causes and Risk Factors
Genetics, environment, and psychological factors contribute to the development of alcoholism. Family history of alcoholism, early exposure to alcohol, mental health disorders, and peer pressure are some common risk factors.
It’s important to note that alcohol abuse skyrocketed during the COVID-19 lockdown. The pandemic also impacted the mental health of teens and adults around the world. Mental health is always a concern, but many people experienced heightened anxiety and feelings of isolation as a result of the pandemic. If they turned to drinking for relief then and did not stop drinking, they may now be full-blown alcoholics who need help.
Fact 4: Facts about Alcoholism’s Impact on Physical Health
Left untreated, alcoholism can be a devastating and deadly disease. It can negatively affect physical health in the following ways:
1. Liver Damage: Excessive alcohol consumption over time can lead to liver diseases like fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and even liver failure. These conditions impair the liver’s ability to function properly, impacting digestion, metabolism, and detoxification.
2. Cardiovascular Complications: Alcohol abuse can contribute to high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, cardiomyopathy (weakening of the heart muscle), and an increased risk of stroke and heart attacks.
3. Gastrointestinal Issues: Alcohol irritates the stomach lining, potentially causing gastritis, ulcers, and pancreatitis. Chronic heavy drinking is also linked to an increased risk of esophageal, stomach, liver, and colorectal cancers.
4. Neurological Effects: Alcohol has a detrimental impact on the nervous system, leading to neuropathy (nerve damage), cognitive impairment, memory problems, and even conditions like Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which affects memory and learning.
5. Mental Health Disorders: Alcoholism often coexists with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Alcohol can worsen the symptoms of these disorders and impede effective treatment.
6. Immune System Suppression: Chronic alcohol abuse weakens the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections and delaying the healing process after injuries or surgeries.
7. Bone Health Issues: Alcohol interferes with bone health by reducing the body’s ability to absorb calcium, potentially leading to osteoporosis and an increased risk of fractures.
8. Endocrine System Disruption: Alcohol disrupts the endocrine system, leading to hormonal imbalances, sexual dysfunction, and reproductive issues in both men and women.
9. Increased Risk of Accidents: Alcohol impairs coordination, judgment, and reaction time, significantly increasing the risk of accidents, falls, and injuries.
10. Social and Relationship Consequences: The health impacts of alcoholism extend beyond physical well-being. Alcohol abuse can strain relationships, lead to isolation, job loss, financial problems, and legal issues.
11. Risk of Dependence and Withdrawal: Chronic alcohol use can lead to physical dependence, resulting in withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit or reduce consumption. These symptoms can range from mild discomfort to life-threatening seizures.
12. Risk of Overdose: Excessive alcohol consumption, especially in a short period, can lead to alcohol poisoning, a potentially fatal condition characterized by vomiting, seizures, slow breathing, and unconsciousness.
Fact 5: Alcoholism Can Be Treated Successfully!
Effective treatment for alcoholism involves a holistic approach. For the best outcomes, most alcoholics opt to go to a detox facility, a residential recovery program, and a support group. Millions of people have recovered from alcoholism through the twelve-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The multi-pronged approach of being in a residential recovery program while going to AA meetings is powerful. While in residential recovery, alcoholics have access to counseling, community, a caring staff, and AA meetings.
Once in AA, alcoholics can get a sponsor and work the twelve steps. The twelve steps treat the underlying causes of alcoholism and offer alcoholics a beautiful new way of life.
Don’t Suffer for One More Day – Start Over at Breakthrough Recovery Outreach
There is one great fact about alcoholism and that is that alcoholics can recover and go on to live, happy, fulfilling lives. If you are suffering, contact us and let us help you. We can talk to you about the programs we offer on campus as well as the virtual counseling we offer for people who are unable to attend our program in person.