Drug Rehab

Alcoholism Treatment, Alcohol Rehabilitation and Alcohol Detox

For most people who drink, alcohol is a pleasant accompaniment to social activities. Moderate alcohol use-up to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women and older people-is not harmful for most adults. (A standard drink is one 12-ounce bottle or can of either beer or wine cooler, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.) Nonetheless, a large number of people get into serious trouble because of their drinking. Currently, nearly 14 million Americans-1 in every 13 adults-abuse alcohol or are alcoholic. Several million more adults engage in risky drinking that could lead to alcohol problems. These patterns include binge drinking and heavy drinking on a regular basis. In addition, 53 percent of men and women in the United States report that one or more of their close relatives have a drinking problem.

The consequences of alcohol misuse are serious-in many cases, life threatening. Heavy drinking can increase the risk for certain cancers, especially those of the liver, esophagus, throat, and larynx (voice box). Heavy drinking can also cause liver cirrhosis, immune system problems, brain damage, and harm to the fetus during pregnancy. In addition, drinking increases the risk of death from automobile crashes as well as recreational and on-the-job injuries. Furthermore, both homicides and suicides are more likely to be committed by persons who have been drinking. In purely economic terms, alcohol-related problems cost society approximately $185 billion per year. In human terms, the costs cannot be calculated.

What Is Alcoholism or "Alcohol Dependence"?

Alcoholism, also known as "alcohol dependence", is a condition that includes four primary symptoms. Signs of Alcoholism are:

  • Craving: A strong need, or compulsion, to drink.
  • Loss of control: The inability to limit one's drinking on any given occasion.
  • Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety, occur when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking.
  • Tolerance: The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to "get high."

People who are not alcoholic sometimes do not understand why an alcoholic can't just "use a little willpower" to stop drinking. However, alcoholism has little to do with willpower. Alcoholics are in the grip of a powerful "craving," or uncontrollable need, for alcohol that overrides their ability to stop drinking. This need can be as strong as the need for food or water.

Although some people are able to recover from alcoholism without help, the majority of alcoholics need assistance. With treatment and support, many individuals are able to stop drinking and rebuild their lives.

Many people wonder why some individuals can use alcohol without problems but others cannot. One important reason has to do with genetics. Scientists have found that having an alcoholic family member makes it more likely that if you choose to drink you too may develop alcoholism. Genes, however, are not the whole story. In fact, scientists now believe that certain factors in a person's environment influence whether a person with a genetic risk for alcoholism ever develops the condition. A person's risk for developing alcoholism can increase based on the person's environment, including where and how he or she lives; family, friends, and culture; peer pressure; and even how easy it is to get alcohol.

What Is Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol abuse differs from alcoholism in that it does not include an extremely strong craving for alcohol, loss of control over drinking, or physical dependence. Alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of drinking that results in one or more of the following situations within a 12-month period:

  • Failure to fulfill major work, school, or home responsibilities;
  • Drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as while driving a car or operating machinery;
  • Having recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone while drunk; and
  • Continued drinking despite having ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by the drinking.

Although alcohol abuse is basically different from alcoholism, many effects of alcohol abuse are also experienced by alcoholics.

What Are the Signs of Alcoholism, Alcohol Abuse and Dependence?

How can you tell if your drinking is considered alcohol abuse or dependence? Answering the following four questions can help you find out:

  • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
  • Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
  • Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning (as an "eye opener") to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover?

One "yes" answer suggests possible alcohol abuse. If you answered "yes" to more than one question, it is highly likely that you are abusing alcohol and that you may have formed an alcohol dependence. In either case, it is important that you see your doctor or other health care provider right away to discuss your answers to these questions. He or she can help you determine whether you have a drinking problem and, if so, recommend the best course of action.

Even if you answered "no" to all of the above questions, if you encounter alcohol abuse related problems with your job, relationships, health, or the law, you should seek professional help. The effects of alcohol abuse can be extremely serious-even fatal-both to you and to others.

The Decision To Get Help for an Alcohol Abuse or Dependence Problem

Accepting the fact that help is needed for alcohol abuse or dependence may not be easy. But keep in mind that the sooner you get help, the better are your chances for a successful recovery.

Any concerns you may have about discussing alcohol abuse related problems with your health care provider may stem from common misconceptions about alcoholism and alcoholic people. In our society, the myth prevails that alcohol abuse is a sign of moral weakness. As a result, you may feel that to seek help is to admit some type of shameful defect in yourself. In fact, alcoholism is a condition that is no more a sign of weakness than is asthma. Moreover, taking steps to identify a possible drinking problem has an enormous payoff-a chance for a healthier, more rewarding life.

When you visit your health care provider, he or she will ask you a number of questions about your alcohol use to determine whether you are having problems related to your drinking. Try to answer these questions as fully and honestly as you can. You also will be given a physical examination. If your health care provider concludes that you may be dependent on alcohol, he or she may recommend that you see a specialist in treating alcoholism. You should be involved in any referral decisions and have all treatment choices explained to you.

Bibliography and Resources:

  1. FAQ' s on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, www.niaaa.nih.gov/faq/faq.htm, 14 May 2002.
  2. Alcoholism, from Wikipedia the free encyclopedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcoholism, 26 January 2005.

Support Systems Homes is a participant in various major health insurance plans and will work with special needs cases on the basis of availability. To find out more contact us today, toll free nationwide @ (800) 811-1800.

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