Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

People across the world today consume alcohol and range from light, social drinkers to hardcore alcoholics. While alcohol can be addictive, many people today consume alcohol without any addiction while others prove to be more inclined to be affected by addiction.

Alcohol abusers typically consist of people who frequently or heavily consume alcohol without being dependent on it. However, with continued abuse, dependence may happen. Alcohol addiction, however, is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake and a negative emotional state when not using.

Is Alcohol a Stimulant or Depressant?

Alcohol depresses your central nervous system. For some people, the first reaction is stimulation. At low quantities, alcohol’s effects can be those of a stimulant which include feelings of euphoria. But as you continue to drink, you become sedated.

Eventually, the alcohol affects your speech, muscle coordination, and crucial areas of your brain. Heavy binge-drinking can even cause a life-threatening coma or death. It’s especially dangerous when you’re taking certain medications that are also depressants.

Do You Have Alcohol Use Disorder?

About 15 million people in the U.S. have alcohol use disorder (AUD). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) outlines the criteria necessary to be diagnosed with AUD. Anyone who has any two of the 11 criteria during the same 12-month period may be diagnosed with AUD. The severity of the disorder — mild to severe — depends on the number of criteria met.

Criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder

To find out whether you or a loved one might have AUD, ask the following questions.

In the past year have you:

  • Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you meant to?
  •  Wanted to cut down or stop drinking more than once? Or tried to and couldn’t?
  • Spent a lot of time drinking, or been sick getting over the after-effects?
  • Experienced craving — a strong need or urge to drink?
  • Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Has it caused job or school problems?
  • Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with family or friends?
  • Given up or cut back activities that were important or interesting or gave you pleasure in order to drink.
  • More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt? (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex?)
  • Continued to drink even though it made you feel depressed or anxious or added to another health problem? Or after having a memory blackout?
  • Had to drink a lot more than you did before to get the effect you want? Or found out that your usual number of drinks had less effect than before?
  • Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms such as:
    • Sleeping
    • Shakiness
    • Irritability
    • Anxiety
    • Restlessness
    • Nausea
    • Sweating
    • Sensing things that weren’t there?

How Do You Rank?

Your drinking might already be a problem if you have any of the previous symptoms. The more criteria you meet, the more important it is for you to change. A medical professional can give you a formal assessment to determine if you have AUD. No matter how severe the problem is, people with AUD can benefit from alcohol treatment centers. Unfortunately, less than 10% of them ever receive  any help.

What Causes Alcohol Addiction?

Factors that can have an impact on how drinking alcohol affects your body and behavior are:

  • Genetic
  • Psychological
  • Social
  • Environmental

Some theories suggest that for some people drinking has a different and stronger effect that can lead to AUD.

Drinking too much alcohol over time can change the normal function of the areas of your brain associated with pleasure, judgment, and the ability to control your behavior. This results in craving alcohol to try to restore good feelings and reduce the negative ones.

Risk Factors

You might have started drinking alcohol in your teens, but alcohol use disorder happens more often in the 20s and 30s. However, it can begin at any age. Risk factors include:

  • Drinking steadily over time. Drinking too much on a regular basis, for an extended period, or regular binge drinking can lead to AUD.
  • Starting at an early age. If you began drinking at an early age — especially binge drinking — you are at a higher risk.
  • Family history. The risk for AUD is higher for people who have a parent or other close relative with alcohol problems. There might be a genetic link to AUD.
  • Depression and other mental health issues. People with mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder often have problems with alcohol and other substances.
  • History of trauma. People with a history of emotional or other trauma have an increased risk.
  • Having bariatric surgery. Research has indicated that having bariatric surgery (weight loss surgery of the stomach or intestines) may increase the risk of developing AUD or of relapsing after recovering from AUD.
  • Social and cultural factors. If you have friends or a close partner who drinks regularly it could increase your risk of alcohol use disorder. The media often depict drinking as glamorous and may send the message that it’s okay to drink too much. For young people, parents, peers, and role models can increase the risk if they drink.

Binge Drinking and Alcohol Addiction

The most common, expensive, and deadly pattern of alcohol use in the U.S. is binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that causes your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to rise to 0.08 or higher. Typically, this happens when men drink 5 or more drinks in about 2 hours and for women it’s 4 drinks. Oddly enough, most people who binge drink do not have severe alcohol use disorder. But there are serious risks.

Binge Drinking Risks

  • Unintentional injuries such as car accidents, falls, burns and alcohol poisoning. There are about 2,200 deaths a year in the U.S. due to alcohol poisoning.
  • Violence including homicide, suicide, domestic violence, and sexual assault
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Unintended pregnancy (poor pregnancy outcomes including miscarriage and stillbirth)
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome disorders
  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Continuing diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and liver disease
  • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
  • Memory and learning problems
  • Alcohol use disorder

Short-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Many times when people think of the consequences of alcohol abuse, they think of the awful hangovers they might end up with the next day. However, there are more effects that are often overlooked. These may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Breathing Difficulties
  • Coma
  • Concentration Difficulties
  • Death
  • Headaches
  • Impaired Judgement
  • Memory Loss
  • Nausea
  • Slurred Speech

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Continued abuse of alcohol can affect all areas of a person’s life, from their relationships with friends and family to their careers and overall health and well being.

  • Anxiety
  • Brain Damage
  • Cancer
  • Cirrhosis
  • Decreased Productivity
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Learning Problems
  • Ulcers
  • Violence

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

Treatment for alcohol addiction depends on the severity of your disorder and how long you’ve been abusing alcohol. Like most people, you will probably need the following.

Detox Program

In detox, you rid your body of toxins and your brain adjusts to functioning without alcohol. This can be a painful process. So much that people relapse during detox just to stop the withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to have medical supervision during this period.

At Rock Recovery, however, we use an abstinence-based approach to treatment without medication.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Whether you’ve been heavily drinking for a few weeks or a few years, you may experience mental and physical withdrawal symptoms when you cut back or quit drinking alcohol. The heavier you drink and the more frequently, the greater the potential for your withdrawal to produce severe and even deadly effects. These may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Delirium tremens
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Nightmares
  • Rapid heart rate

Establishing a Treatment Plan

When you enter alcohol rehab in West Palm Beach, you will work with addiction specialists and therapists to develop a treatment plan specifically for your needs and issues. It might involve setting goals and looking into any underlying issues or conditions you have. People with AUD frequently have a co-occurring mental condition. This is called a dual diagnosis and both conditions need to be treated at the same time.

Psychological Counseling

This is the heart of your treatment. Individual counseling and therapy groups help you better understand your issues with alcohol and provide you support for your recovery. Family or couples therapy may be a benefit in your situation. Some therapies involve exercise and recreational activities which distract you from thinking about your alcohol using life. These can all be important to your recovery process.

Treatment Programs

  • Inpatient Treatment. Sometimes called residential treatment, this is the highest level of treatment. You live at the treatment facility in a safe, structured, and sober environment. Your days will be filled with therapy and support and goal setting.
  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP). PHP is a lower level of care than inpatient. You will spend the day at the treatment facility for therapy sessions and counseling but will be free to go home at the end of the day.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). This program allows you to basically carry on with your everyday life. However, you will go to the treatment center several days a week for a few hours to continue your therapy sessions.
  • Outpatient Program (OP). The outpatient program is the lowest level of care. It can be used as a step-down program from one of the higher levels for those who are not confident enough to go back to real life. You will still see your therapist each week and participate in groups.
  • Sober Living. When you complete your treatment program, moving into a sober living home helps with the transition into a normal drug-free life. You will live in a home with other people in the same situation. Residents are assigned chores and everyone is responsible for the upkeep of the house.

Looking for Alcohol Rehab in West Palm Beach?

Did you recognize the symptoms of alcohol use disorder? Do you need help for yourself or someone close to you? Maybe you’re “just” a binge drinker. If so, you are on your way to an AUD and some rough times ahead.

Get some treatment or help someone else get help. At Rock Recovery Center, we have worked with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. Our professional recovery specialists are medically trained and licensed and their only job is to help you. Contact us now. We are prepared to help in your journey to sobriety or to help someone that you love.


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