Alcohol addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Nearly 15 million people in the US meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder. Some will seek alcohol treatment, but many will suffer needlessly without it.
Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in the country. Most people will try alcohol before they turn 12. The earlier someone starts to abuse a substance, the more likely they will develop an addiction.
It’s important to remember that addiction occurs on a spectrum, starting with dependence and ending with substance use disorder.
America’s Drinking Culture
Culturally, alcohol is a large part of life in the US. We socialize around alcohol between happy hour with coworkers, binge drinking in college, and the new brewery culture; it can be hard to avoid.
Ironically, the lack of inhibitions alcohol causes is one of the main reasons it’s a cultural staple in the US, especially in adult social gatherings and events.
Because of the social acceptability of alcohol consumption, it’s one of the first things people turn to when they feel stressed out. Some stressful circumstances that may lead to alcohol abuse include:
- job loss
- relationship issues
- work stress
- emotional or physical trauma
- mental health disorder
Signs of Alcohol Abuse
Due to alcohol being so commonly abused, it can be challenging to tell when someone is struggling with unhealthy levels of alcohol abuse. Here are some behavioral signs to watch for:
- distress over the lack of alcohol
- wants to stop drinking but fails to do so
- obsesses over alcohol
- is cranky or upset when not drinking
- not wanting to talk about how much they drink
- denial when confronted about having a problem
- failing to meet responsibilities due to drinking
The most common physical symptoms someone experiences in the early phases of alcohol abuse include glassy eyes, headaches, mood swings, irrational emotional outbursts, and more.
Long-term Effects of Alcohol Addiction
Over time, people who chronically abuse alcohol will deal with deeper physical issues. Other possible physical issues someone with chronic alcohol abuse issues may experience include:
- liver disease
- cancer of the mouth, liver, colon, rectum, or breast
- brain damage
- immune suppression
- heart disease
- vitamin and nutritional deficiencies
- reduced bone density
Eventually, someone abusing alcohol will reach the point where they must continue to drink or experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop. Alcohol withdrawal can be an intense sensation and highly unpleasant. It’s never recommended to detox from alcohol alone.
Finding Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Once someone completes a medical detox, they will need an inpatient treatment program for the best chance at recovering from their alcohol use disorder. Contact our treatment helpline today to learn more about your treatment and recovery options.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction (NIAAA) – The Cycle of Alcohol Addiction
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction (NIAAA) – Alcohol Facts and Statistics