Did you know that more than 80,000 people die from alcohol-related deaths each year in the United States? Alcohol abuse and dependency affect not just the individual, but also their family, friends, and even strangers. But if you or someone you love is dependent on alcohol, there are many alcohol treatment programs available to help you become and remain sober.
Here, let’s examine what alcohol abuse, dependence, and addiction are, the harmful effects of alcohol, and the many alcohol treatment solutions available. By understanding these conditions and the environments that create them, we can better understand how to help the ones we love.
What is Alcohol Abuse?
While not everyone who drinks alcohol will abuse it, it is highly addictive. Alcohol abusers drink regularly regardless of the physical, social, and mental consequences of their drinking. One common myth is that people who abuse alcohol drink a lot, but this isn’t always the case. Someone can abuse alcohol and only drink once or twice a week, but when they do drink they experience detrimental effects, such as putting themselves in dangerous situations. Yet, they continue the behavior.
The signs of alcohol abuse present themselves in many aspects of a user’s life, such as their health and relationships. Some signs that can indicate alcohol abuse include:
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Putting themselves in dangerous situations
- Conflicts with friends or family while drinking
- Getting drunk in inopportune situations, such as before driving or at sober events
While alcohol abuse may not seem as serious as alcohol addiction, alcohol treatment is still a great option to get help.
What is Alcohol Dependence?
Like alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence occurs when a user’s brain has become dependent, meaning that the neurons adapt to the presence of that substance. Once a user is dependent on a substance, they may experience withdrawal symptoms when the substance is not present. These withdrawal symptoms can vary, from being mild or uncomfortable to life-threatening. In the case of alcoholism and opioid addiction, withdrawal symptoms can be fatal. This is why it’s crucial to undergo a medically-assisted detox from a reputable detox center, like The Waismann Center©.
What is Alcohol Addiction?
Alcohol addiction is similar to alcohol dependence, but there are some notable differences. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain.”
Addiction is both a brain condition and a mental illness as it changes the way a user’s brain functions. Addiction is the most severe form of a full spectrum of substance use disorders, and is a medical illness caused by repeated misuse of a substance or substances.”
The Harmful Effects of Alcohol
We live in a society where alcoholism is often overlooked because drinking is legal for those 21 and older and having a drink (or a few) is a socially acceptable way to wind down after a long day. But this normalization shouldn’t make us ignorant to all the harmful effects of alcohol, such as:
- Shrinking brain cells – Did you know that regular heavy drinking can actually shrink your brain cells, making it harder for you to think, learn, and remember? Alcohol affects your brain in many other ways, too, which impact motor control and critical thinking skills.
- Poor sleep – While a glass of wine or a few beers might help you fall asleep, you’ll actually get a worse night’s sleep because your body is processing the alcohol instead of going into REM. REM sleep is responsible for restoring your body physically and mentally and getting at least 6-8 hours of sleep a night is crucial for overall health.
- An upset stomach (and possibly stomach ulcers) – Throwing up after drinking is a common side effect because alcohol irritates your stomach lining. While this may seem like a short-term side effect, heavy drinkers may develop stomach ulcers or stomach bleeding. You may also experience diarrhea or heartburn because your digestive system is off track.
- Kidney stones or kidney disease – Your kidneys’ main function is to filter your blood and produce urine to clear harmful substances. Healthy kidneys only do this as much as needed, and our naturally occurring hormones tell them when to work and when to stop. But when you introduce alcohol into your system, your kidneys process it as a toxic substance and that’s why you have to urinate so frequently when drinking. But this means your kidneys are overworking and your body can quickly become dehydrated. This, combined with the added demand, can cause serious kidney issues.
- Liver disease – One of the more commonly known side effects of a lifetime of heavy drinking is the increased likelihood of liver disease. Like our kidneys, our livers process toxins. Over time, this puts stress on your liver, sometimes leading to liver failure and liver disease.
These are just a few of the many ways alcohol can have a detrimental effect on your body. Therefore, if you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, start an alcohol treatment program to help.