Alcohol use disorder (AUD), also known as alcohol addiction, is a chronic and degenerative disease characterized by uncontrollable drinking and preoccupation with acquiring alcohol. Since alcohol is so prevalent in the United States, it can be challenging to recognize the signs in a person who is addicted to alcohol.
Alcoholism in the United StatesAccording to research from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), more than 16 million people in America struggle with some form of alcohol use disorder, but only around 10% of them ever get treatment. It may seem unfair that some people are about to drink and use drugs without losing control of their lives, but coming to this realization is one of the first steps for someone learning to manage alcoholism.
How Effective Is Alcohol Rehab?Attending rehab for alcoholism can help people live lives they’re proud of. However, rehab doesn’t cure alcoholism. Like other chronic conditions, alcoholism remission requires behavior changes that can seem tedious or unnecessary. However, a relapse prevention plan can help people stay on the right track.
Recognizing AlcoholismAlcoholism causes mental, emotional, and physical impairments that make life unmanageable for most people. Even functional alcoholism, when a person is able to manage their job and life responsibilities regardless of their alcohol dependency, causes tremendous bodily harm. Alcoholism causes vital systems in the body to shut down and become damaged. Some of the commonly occurring warning signs that indicate the potential for alcoholism include:
- Drinking in secret
- Becoming frequently incapacitated by alcohol
- Becoming isolated from friends and loved ones
- Using alcohol in place of coping skills
- Drinking alone
- Prioritizing alcohol
- Drinking to avoid withdrawal
- Needing a drink to prevent shaking
- Becoming violent when drinking
- DUIs or other alcohol-induced violations
- Rambling or repetitive statements
- Mood swings, irritability, and impulsivity
Alcoholism & the Central Nervous SystemAlcohol has a depressive effect on the central nervous system. The more alcohol people consume, the more their central nervous system slows down. When alcohol vanishes from their system, the body struggles to adjust. That’s why quitting “cold turkey” is very dangerous for alcoholics. Alcohol withdrawal includes symptoms like shaking, panic attacks, headaches, nausea, vomiting, severe insomnia, and body aches. Without appropriate medical care, withdrawing from alcohol can lead to relapse, restarting the cycle of addiction, or precipitating an overdose. Continuing to relapse inhibits recovery and leads to long-term effects of alcohol use disorder, including:
- Cardiovascular issues
- Heart disease
- Steatosis or fatty liver