What You Should Know About Alcohol Addiction: Alcohol addiction is a severe and often deadly disease. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol abuse disorder affects more than 17 million Americans. Whether you or a beloved someone is struggling with alcohol addiction, it’s essential to know what this disease entails to stop the cycle before it gets worse. Understanding how alcohol works within your body and what causes addiction can help you get better treatment.
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Read on to learn more about what you should know about alcohol addiction:
How Alcohol Works in Your Body
Alcohol enters your bloodstream quickly, and it goes to work on your brain immediately. As it reaches the medulla (a part of the brain), it triggers the production of dopamine, which makes you feel good. Once this chemical is released into your system, you’ll begin to feel more at ease and relaxed.
However, this is just the first step of your body’s reaction to alcohol. The other processes are much less pleasant. When you drink too much at once, your liver produces aldehyde dehydrogenase to break down the toxins in your body. This chemical builds up so quickly that other enzymes are produced to counteract it. These enzymes create a massive number of toxic byproducts that cause hangover-like feelings of nausea, vomiting, and headaches. This response is what causes you to feel so bad after an alcohol binge.
What Causes Alcohol Addiction
There are several factors involved in addiction. It’s important to note that while you may inherit physical and behavioral traits from your parents, addiction isn’t a simple problem that can be solved by ‘just saying no.’ Here are some of the possible factors that contribute to alcohol addiction:
- Genetics. It’s been common knowledge that individuals related to alcoholics were much more likely to develop alcoholism themselves. It’s been discovered that having an alcoholic family member doubles your risk of becoming dependent on alcohol. In addition, the scientists also believe there’s a genetic link between depression and alcoholism.
- Environment. This factor also influences the development of alcohol addiction. Suppose you were raised in an environment where alcohol was always available and looked upon as exciting and fun. In that case, you might experience cravings for alcohol at a higher frequency than someone who was not raised in this environment.
- Stress. Stress is yet another factor that can lead to alcohol addiction. Many people turn to the drug as a way of coping with problems or stress. Since drinking becomes such an integral part of their lives, it can turn into a severe problem.
- Peer Pressure. Many people begin to drink as a result of peer pressure. Whether it’s part of a new social group, a dare, or an attempt to impress someone they’re attracted to, alcohol abuse is often the result of peer pressure from friends or family members.
- Problems with the law. People struggling with alcohol are much more likely to get in trouble with the law. If you feel you have no way out of a bad situation, you might turn to alcohol to escape. You must seek help for your addiction before it lands you in serious legal trouble.
Why Quitting Alcohol is So Hard
With alcohol, the body and mind go through changes. While some people quit drinking without any major issues, others experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to put down the bottle for good. Why does this happen? What can you expect when you attempt quitting? And what should you do if you’re struggling with a problem?
- Cravings. Quitting alcohol can lead to cravings. These occur because alcohol is a toxin that the body has become addicted to. In addition, it’s been discovered that when individuals stop drinking, their serotonin levels decrease dramatically, causing depression and anxiety. Worse, the brain’s dopamine levels are also elevated, leading to cravings.
- Withdrawal symptoms. While some people experience cravings at first, others become so uncomfortable that they cannot stand the idea of being sober for a second longer. They begin to feel irritable, have trouble sleeping, and even develop physical symptoms, including headaches and nausea.
- Depression. When you stop drinking, you may experience depression. It is because your serotonin levels are low. For most people, this feeling lasts only a short time. However, certain individuals who have an underlying problem with depression or anxiety can develop these problems when they stop drinking.
- Relapse. Of course, the biggest challenge for alcoholics is staying sober after they’ve quit drinking. Alcohol is highly addictive and should be treated like any other serious drug addiction. The best-known way to prevent relapse is to get professional rehab treatment.
How to Combat Alcohol Addiction
If you’re already suffering from alcoholism, it’s crucial to get the proper treatment. Studies have indicated that people who receive early diagnosis and treatment for their drinking problems are less likely to develop severe health conditions. It is where alcohol rehab comes in. Inpatient alcohol rehab centers provide a safe environment where addicts can receive the proper care they need to overcome their alcohol problems.
Thanks to modern science, there are many ways to treat alcohol addiction. There are different detoxification programs available depending on the severity of your symptoms. Many treatments involve medications that help people withdraw from their alcohol dependence more safely and comfortably. Other options include:
- Therapy – It’s an excellent way to recognize the emotional and behavioral triggers that lead to dependence on alcohol.
- Workshops – These are an effective way for people to learn how their bodies react to alcohol and give them strategies for coping with cravings when they arise.
- Support – Support groups offer individuals a place to share their stories and form new relationships based on mutual understanding of the addiction.
- Living a healthy lifestyle – Quitting any substance is hard, but living a healthy lifestyle can make the process easier. This includes eating nutritious foods and regular workouts.
Withdrawal Symptoms from Alcohol
Withdrawal symptoms vary in both duration and intensity depending on the severity of your alcohol addiction. All withdrawal symptoms are a result of changes in brain chemistry. One theory posits that when you drink heavily over an extended period, your brain becomes used to functioning with excess amounts of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an inhibitory neurotransmitter that’s responsible for calming down the brain. When you suddenly stop drinking, your GABA levels drop dramatically, and your brain goes into ‘overdrive.’ It accounts for anxiety, irritability, insomnia, nausea, and hallucinations, to name a few withdrawal symptoms.
While everyone’s experience will be different, alcohol withdrawal symptoms are typically divided into two categories:
- Acute withdrawal – usually experienced within the first three days of detox, the acute withdrawal stage consists mainly of physical effects. The following are common symptoms during this period:
- Shaking (tremors)
- Muscle aches
- Heart palpitations
- Seizures (rare)
- Delirium tremens (DTs)- usually, this stage occurs between one to three days after the onset of acute withdrawal. Signs and symptoms include disorientation, visual disturbances, headaches, seizures, and hallucinations. Delirium tremens are very rare but can be extremely dangerous if not treated.
- Severe withdrawal – It occurs between three to seven days after the onset of acute withdrawal. Symptoms are much milder than during the delirium tremens stage, but they can still be difficult for some people to cope with. Symptoms include:
- Depression or apathy
- Anxiety or restlessness
- Poor concentration
- Impaired coordination and balance
While the symptoms of withdrawal can be unpleasant, they don’t usually last long. After an initial ‘crash’ period that lasts a few days, symptoms tend to fade as the body heals itself. Keep in mind that detox symptoms will vary depending on what drugs were used and for how long.
If you’re experiencing severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, it’s essential to seek medical attention right away. Severe alcohol withdrawal can spiral out of control quickly and lead to life-threatening complications such as seizures, DTs, and delirium. In these cases, a supervised detox program may help people withdraw from alcohol safely.
Alcohol Rehab – What You Need to Know
Alcohol rehab will put you in a controlled environment that removes all daily stress and stimuli that may trigger your drinking. Alcohol addiction is a disease where your body craves alcohol based on physical dependency even when you don’t want to drink. The first and best way to treat addiction is by removing yourself from any environment or psychological state that may trigger your cravings. It is why alcohol addiction treatment centers are so effective. You’ll be monitored 24/7 by trained professionals who can assist you through the withdrawal process and provide you with tools for coping with cravings when they arise.
The Dangers of Alcohol Addiction
Alcoholism is known to be the third leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. Common risks associated with alcohol addiction include:
- Alcohol poisoning – If you drink a lot in a short period, your blood alcohol concentration can rise dangerously high. This is known as alcohol poisoning, resulting in seizures, coma, or even death.
- Liver disease – Alcohol can damage the liver in various ways, including alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and fatty liver disease.
- Cancer – Studies have found that alcohol increases your risk of mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, colon, and breast cancer.
- Heart disease – Heavy alcohol use can lead to high blood pressure, stress on your heart.
Alcohol addiction can have serious consequences for you and those around you. If you want to quit drinking, many resources help you take the first steps towards recovery. You can start by locating alcohol addiction treatment centers near you. Rehab professionals are ready to help you get your life back on track so that you can live a happier and healthier life.
Quitting alcohol can be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. If you’re suffering from alcoholism, now is the time to act. You don’t have to go through this problem on your own. Reach out for help and retake control of your life.