Alcohol Addiction

People drink to socialize, celebrate and relax. Numerous people drink alcohol almost regularly without issue. When alcohol is being used to function and cope with daily life, it denotes a serious problem. How much is too much? Why do some people become addicted while others do not? The effects of alcohol vary from person to person depending upon how much and how often they drink, their age, their health status and their family history or genetics. Alcohol addiction, also termed alcohol abuse, is prevalent throughout the world. If you believe that you, a family member or friend may be addicted to alcohol, following are some signs and symptoms:

  • Neglect of work, school and family responsibilities
  • Driving under the influence or mixing with medications
  • Legal problems attributable to drinking
  • Continued drinking despite relationship problems
  • Drinking to manage stress
  • Tolerance – needing more alcohol over time
  • Withdrawal – experiencing shakiness, sweating, nausea etc. when alcohol is not available
  • Loss of control – drinking more than intended, unable to stop
  • Unsuccessful in attempts to stop drinking
  • Neglect of social life, hobbies and friends
  • More time spent drinking and recovering
  • Continued use despite consequences to health

When alcohol enters the bloodstream effects appear in about ten minutes. As a person continues to drink, their blood alcohol content — BAC — the amount of alcohol present in the bloodstream, increases. The higher the BAC, the more impaired a person becomes. The effects can include reduced inhibitions, slurred speech, confusion, memory and concentration problems, difficulty breathing and more. A higher BAC puts a person at risk of a number of issues too including:

  • Car crashes and accidents
  • Risky behavior
  • Violent behavior
  • Suicide and homicide

The more a person drinks and the more often they do so the more they put themselves at risk. Not only are they in serious danger if they drink and drive, they also put themselves at risk for suffering major damage to their heart, lungs, liver, stomach and more. This can result in the development of liver disease, digestive problems, cardiac issues, birth defects, bone loss, neurological complications, a weakened immune system and an increased risk for cancer.

Almost 88,000 people — approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women — die from alcohol related causes annually, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Almost three quarters of the total cost of alcohol misuse is related to binge drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism — NIAAA — defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings BAC levels to 0.08g/dL. This typically occurs after four drinks for women and five drinks for men in about two hours. Certain people should avoid alcohol completely, including anyone planning to drive a vehicle or operate machinery, those taking medication that forbids mixing with alcohol, those with medical conditions aggravated by alcohol and any person who is pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

Causes of alcoholism

Alcoholism is influenced by genetic, psychological, social and environmental factors that impact how a person’s body and behavior is affected. For example, a person who is the child of an alcoholic is more at risk to develop alcohol addiction than someone else. Likewise for someone who has dealt with trauma and/or abuse. Alcohol addiction occurs gradually for most people. As the condition progresses brain chemicals change, affecting how a person experiences pleasure, judgment and the ability to control their behavior. These changes result in craving more alcohol to restore good feelings or remove negative ones. Factors that can increase the risk of a person developing alcohol addiction include:

  • Steady drinking over time
  • Early onset drinking
  • Depression or other mental health disorders
  • Social factors, peer pressure etcetera
  • Mixing medication and alcohol

When to see a doctor

If someone feels they or their loved one is drinking too much it is best to start by talking with a doctor. This applies even if someone doesn’t think they have alcoholism but are concerned about their drinking. Other ways to get help include talking with a mental health provider or social worker and attending support group meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Because refusal to acknowledge alcoholism is common, an individual may not feel that they have a problem with drinking or need help to stop. They may not realize how much they drink or how many of their problems are alcohol related. If family members or friends are asking a person to examine their drinking habits though, it is time to seek help.

Alcohol addiction is a serious problem and can ruin a person’s life and even bring it to an early end. For those dealing with alcohol addiction, the sooner that help is found the better. If you or a family member is experiencing alcohol addiction and would like further information, please call the Arizona Alcohol Addiction Helpline to speak with a member of our team. They will be happy to assist you.

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