Alcoholism, commonly known as alcohol addiction, is a debilitating disease that impacts people in every walk of life. It has no single cause. Experts have unsuccessfully attempted to narrow down factors such as sex, race, genetics, or socioeconomics that could predispose an individual to the addiction to alcohol.
There don’t seem to be any apparent connections.
The reality is that a wide array of behavioral and psychological factors can contribute to alcoholism.
It’s important to remember that alcohol addiction is a genuine disease. It causes changes to neurochemistry and a person’s brain. A person suffering from alcoholism may be unable to control what they do.
Alcoholism rears its ugly head in several ways. The frequency of drinking, the overall severity of the disease, and the amount of alcohol consumed all vary from person to person. Some alcoholics drink heavily throughout each day. Others binge drink then stay sober for some time.
Regardless of what the disease looks like for an individual, a person who suffers from alcoholism can be noticed because they rely heavily on drinking and can’t remain sober for an extended period.
The Symptoms of Alcoholism
Often, alcoholism is hard to recognize. Unlike other drugs such as heroin and cocaine, alcoholic beverages are accepted by most cultures and readily available. It’s typically part of social gatherings and linked with enjoyment and celebrations.
Simply stated, drinking is a normal part of life for a lot of people. Because it’s so prevalent in culture, it’s difficult to tell the difference between someone with an addiction and someone else who just enjoys a couple of drinks here and there.
Common symptoms of alcoholism include:
- An increased level of consumption and use frequency.
- High alcohol tolerance or a lack of symptoms associated with hangovers.
- Drinking in places such as work or church, or drinking right away in the morning.
- Avoiding situations where no alcohol will be present.
- Changes in relationships. Many alcoholics choose friends who are heavy drinkers as well.
- Avoiding friends and family.
- Hiding their drinking habits or hiding alcohol in the home.
- An inability to function in everyday life without drinking.
- A noticeable increase in depression, anxiety, lethargy, or other emotional issues.
- Professional or legal problems, such as loss of a job or an arrest.
Addictions get worse as time goes on. This makes it very important to spot some of the early warning signs. When alcoholism is noticed and treated in its early stages, an alcoholic might be able to avoid the significant consequences associated with alcoholism.
If you’re concerned that a friend or loved one is addicted to alcohol, approach them in the most supportive way possible. Avoid laying on guilt trips or shaming them for their addiction. It might push them away and cause them to resist the help you wish to give.
Treatment and Rehab Options
Treating alcoholism is highly challenging and complicated. For treatment to have any chance of success, an alcoholic must desire to get and remain sober. You can’t force an alcoholic to quit drinking before they’re ready to do it. Long-term success depends solely on that person’s desire and needs to heal.
The alcohol recovery process is a life-long commitment for many. There aren’t any quick fixes. Because of this, it’s said that a lot of people suffering from alcoholism are never entirely cured.
Inpatient or outpatient rehab clinics are a common treatment option for individuals suffering from alcoholism. Inpatient clinic programs will last anywhere from 30 days to a full year, depending on the level of addiction. They assist someone in handling their withdrawal symptoms and the emotional challenges they face.
An outpatient treatment facility will provide daily support and allow the patient to continue to live in their home.
AA and Additional Support Groups for Alcoholics
A lot of people suffering from alcoholism will turn to successful 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Other support groups exist that don’t follow the traditional 12-step model, like Sober Recovery and SMART Recovery.
No matter what type of support system an alcoholic gets involve in, it can be beneficial to get into at least one when choosing a sober lifestyle.
These types of sober communities help a person struggling with the addiction to alcohol deal with the many challenges day-to-day life will bring while remaining sober. Sober communities also share experiences and offer healthy, new friendships outside of their circle of drinking friends. They also make an alcoholic more accountable and provide a safe place to return to if they happen to relapse.
Alcoholics may also benefit from changes in nutrition, counseling, and drug therapy.
Withdrawal and Detox
Detoxing from alcohol is a distressing, painful, and dangerous experience. It requires that the alcoholic lives through the full range of severe symptoms. The withdrawal experience often causes an alcoholic to relapse to avoid the symptoms immediately. However, a detox allows them to quit drinking with less pain safely.
An individual who resolves to go through full withdrawal without suppressing the symptoms with another drink must take the process seriously. But this step is lost if they endanger their lives during the process.
Many alcohol withdrawal symptoms are hazardous. Because of this, they need to undergo a full detox under close medical supervision. Alcoholics who go through detox with the help of a professional are much more likely to weather the storm successfully and safely.
Detox certainly isn’t a pleasant experience. But it’s the necessary first step for someone who desires to recover. After the detox is complete, they can start treatment and therapy.
Symptoms of Withdrawal
Every individual who goes through withdrawal will have varying experiences. However, some of the most common symptoms are:
- High blood pressure
- Heart palpitations
- Severe insomnia
- Shaking and tremors
- Nausea and vomiting
Delirium Tremens (DT)
This is a condition experienced by people going through extreme withdrawal. DT is potentially fatal due to the seizures it can cause.
Approximately 5% of people going through alcohol withdrawal will suffer from this condition. It occurs most often in people who are severely addicted and have experienced the pain of withdrawal in the recent past.
The majority of symptoms related to DT typically begin within two or three days after the last drink. If you or a person you know starts to exhibit any signs of DT, get medical help immediately.
These symptoms include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Severe emotional distress
- Intense confusion
- Intense irritability and agitation
- Hypersensitivity to touch, light and sound
- Seizures (typically within 24 hours of the last drink of alcohol)
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?
It does take time for your body to break down and process alcohol. The time duration that alcohol remains in a drinker’s system depends on several factors. Generally speaking, it’ll take about an hour to metabolize one standard-sized drink.
In your blood, alcohol is processed and removed from the bloodstream at around 0.015 every hour. However, alcohol can show up in a blood test for as long as 12 hours after your last drink.
In urine, alcohol is detectable for up to 3 – 5 days for the EtG (ethyl glucuronide) test. For a standard urine test, you’ll test positive for up to 10 – 12 hours.
Alcohol can be detected in hair follicles for up to 90 days after your last drink.