Alcoholism is also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD). The person suffering from AUD has trouble controlling their alcohol consumption, and end up increasing their intake just to feel the same as they did the last time they drunk. This raises their tolerance and causes them to keep increasing their intake every time they drink. This leads to withdrawal symptoms that cause them to keep taking the alcohol to work at their optimum.
Most alcoholics are motivated to maintain their lifestyle by the problems and issues in their life. Most f these issues are caused by alcohol intake in the first place. For example, the alcoholic could drink away the college fund of their children and skip work for a week just to drink. However, alcoholism and harmful drinking are different. Harmful drinking includes binge drinking or overdoing your alcohol intake. People who practice harmful drinking are endangering their lives even though they are not addicted to alcohol.
Before you approach your loved one to discuss their drinking habits, you need to be aware of these two types of alcoholism. Is the person overindulging or addicted? This will help you figure out how to educate the person about their health without insinuating that he or she is an addict when they are not. The following are some of the traits of an alcoholic:
- Their alcohol tolerance has increased. It takes a lot of practice and consistency to increase your tolerance. If a person used to get drunk with a few shots, you will notice that they start being able to consume an entire bottle without getting drunk. This is a sure sign that their tolerance for alcohol has increased. For most people, it begins with regular drinking followed by a morning of continuous drinking with the aim of reducing the effects of a hangover. This graduates and makes them increase their alcohol intake in order to achieve the same feeling that they used to achieve.
- They complain of not feeling well when they do not take alcohol. This is a sure sign of them developing withdrawal symptoms from not consuming alcohol. Look out for signs such as shaking, sweating, and nausea.
- They prefer drinking to engaging in the hobbies. If your friend used to appreciate the beauty of drawing or writing novels and all of a sudden, they are always drunk and lack the passion to engage in their hobbies, then this is a sign that the person is developing an addiction. Drinking consumes time since the person’s cognitive functions are disabled for some time. Thus, if the person starts sidelining their job or hobbies then they have clearly started giving in to their addiction.
- They see no problem with starting to drink early in the morning. Anyone who enjoys their drink has come across when they suffered a hangover after a day of drinking a great misconception. The misconception is that after a night of heavy drinking, if you wake up in the morning and you have a terrible hangover then drinking a few shots is the best cure. This misconception is the beginning of alcoholism. It increases the person’s dependence on alcohol by relaying to your body that alcohol will make your body function normally. After some time of continuously trying to subdue your hangover symptoms with this technique, you will create a dependence leading to alcoholism. This technique just postpones the hangover and makes it worse than it would have been before the additional drinking.
- Their reasons for continuing to drink are very questionable. Drinking is very normal when celebrating special occasions. However, daily drinking is not normal. An alcoholic will never lack a reason to drink. They will always justify their drinking. The excuses show that they subconsciously know that they have a problem or are developing a health problem.
- Their relationships are not working out. Drinking heightens and changes our personalities. This is why most introverts and conservative people become more outspoken and active when they are under the influence. For occasional drinkers, this is just fun and games. However, for avid drinkers, they can sometimes turn to become more militant and mean. This makes them directly approach relationship issues in an agitating manner. This is a clear warning sign of alcoholism. This is because the person is allowing their alcohol get in the way of their relationships and friendships and they keep doing it even though they are aware that they keep hurting their loved ones.
- They have memory issues and frequent blackouts. Alcohol affects the cognitive functions of the brain. Thus, the normal operations of the brain are altered. The brain’s function of retaining memories deteriorates. The brain keeps shutting down the body causing the person to experience blackouts. Do you have a friend who never remembers what happens when they drink? This is a sign of alcohol abuse.
- They stop paying attention to their physical appearance. You might have experienced this feeling during a night out or the day after. For a person who is addicted to alcohol, they constantly do not mind their appearance. If your friend’s appearance has started deteriorating, then this is a sign that they are not even aware of their appearance and if they are, they do not care.
- The person could be exhibiting some traits of anxiety and depression. Most people use alcohol as a get way drug to get away from their stresses in the real life. However, every time they sober up and come back to their senses their problems are still present. Once most people realize that alcohol cannot help them get away from their issues they start to develop depression and anxiety. Since alcohol affects their judgment, it could alter their thoughts and make them think and dwell more on their issues. This makes them feel caged and trapped. If this is not monitored, it could even make them decide to commit suicide.
- Hangovers also give rise to other issues such as missing classes, examinations, and work. They also contribute to less productivity in both the workplace and the classroom.
- The person is always experiencing a hangover when you talk or meet with them. The symptoms of a hangover are similar to those of flu. They include shaking, weakness, sweating or chills, nausea aching, headache, impaired reactions, and impaired memory, among others. This could last for almost sixteen hours. Take note that this symptom could prolong to even after the person sobers up. Thus, it is very detrimental for a person to operate a motor vehicle when they are a hangover.
- He or she is involved in violent scenarios such as homicide, intimate partner violence, and even sexual assault. This is because alcohol messes up a person’s judgment and makes them more open and able to tackle private issues that they would not do in their sober state, directly. This makes them likely to attack and severely harm human beings who aggrieve them in this state. In addition to this, if a person is suffering from depression and other mental issues such as anxiety, they are more likely to succumb to this stress by committing suicide. It could be intentional or unintentional.
- They lose their dexterity and coordination. This leads them to slur as they speak. It also makes them speak slower and longer than usual. Sometimes it may not be easy to understand whatever they are trying to communicate.
- They lose their balance and become clumsy. They may trip over nothing and stumble as they try to get up. They may not be able to walk along a straight line or stand with a leg. This is because the alcohol affects their cognitive functions and makes them feel a sense of dizziness. Their walk is commonly referred to as staggering.
- Their judgment is impaired leading to slower reactions. For example, if a person makes a joke the drunken person may take some seconds or a minute to get the joke and actually react. Sometimes their reaction may be longer than usual in comparison to that of a normal person.
The most distinguishable symptoms of alcoholism include:
- Fast heart pulse
- Twitching or trembling
- Nausea or vomiting
A number of approaches could handle alcoholism. However, the person has to be willing to commit. If you force the person to rid them of the addiction, the person will rebel and not be able to comprehend the justification for ending their alcoholic habits. This will lead to a relapse that might make them indulge more intensely in alcohol consumption in comparison to their initial state. The idea is to not make it seem like an ambush or not to embarrass the person. Below is a list of approaches you could employ to make your loved one realize that he or she is suffering from alcohol addiction.
- The person should commit willingly to getting the treatment he or she needs. If you are dependent on alcohol, you can choose to look for assistance to help you stop but you cannot choose to stop consuming alcohol
- It involves an individualized plan to treat the issue based on a professional evaluation. Everyone drinks for personal reasons, which is why it is essential to create a plan for treatment customized to an individual’s requirements to offer the best opportunity for long-lasting recovery. The treatment program begins with a professional evaluation involving a physical health exam, a medical history review, and a mental health assessment. The staff and the client will create an alcohol treatment plan to meet the individual’s needs. This plan should be able to treat any underlying problems like trauma or depression while addressing any underlying physical issues as well.
- Detoxification is a good but difficult to maintain method. It entails the person completely stopping their drinking for their body to adjust to their new lifestyle of no alcohol. Take note that during this time the person experiences severe withdrawal symptoms. This is supplemented by ongoing treatment. Ongoing treatment here caters to three main camps, which are:
- Psychosocial – This could involve some counseling to help the person understand their situation in a bid to alter the attitude they have towards drinking.
- Psychological – This could involve some counseling to help the person understand their situation in a bid to alter the attitude they have towards drinking.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This helps in altering the negative thought process of the alcoholic that keeps leading them back to drinking.
- Take note that detoxifying is not as easy as it sounds especially to people who are already addicted to drugs. You will need to wean yourself out of the normal drug abuse routine. This is because suddenly changing your normal routine will negatively affect your system and you might end up more addicted than you were before. Relapsing is a great risk at this stage. Start out by reducing your drug or alcohol intake until it reaches a point that your body system does not react negatively if the drug is not introduced into the body.
- Additionally, you could incorporate an addiction treatment plan into your detoxification plan. A good example of an addiction treatment plan is a medication-assisted treatment. This treatment involves the use of buprenorphine and methadone to help the addicted person cope with the side effects and helps them reduce their urge of indulging in the drugs.
- The next step involves treating the physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing as they all affect each other to contribute to overall wellbeing. An intensive treatment program seeks the healing of one’s whole being and not just physical ailments. If the source of the alcohol abuse is dealt with and the individual is taught new ways to establish a stable life devoid of alcohol, there will be less risk of relapsing.
- Emotional healing is the next step in the treatment program. It involves therapy sessions in groups and individually overseen by professional counselors to help to recover individuals deal with the psychological and emotional triggers that led to drinking. These therapy sessions can help them heal from any events caused by their alcohol addiction. It is a trauma-informed method included in substance abuse therapy and it is beneficial in helping the recovering individuals determine why they turned to alcohol in the beginning.
- The next step involves physical healing and it emphasizes healthy physical activity such as yoga, sports, hiking, or walking as well as balanced nutrition. This phase is essential in helping the recovering alcohol user regain physical strength and start developing healthy long-term habits. Alcohol is essentially a poison and it can throw off your body’s nutritional and physical balance. The restoration of this balance via nutritional therapy in combination with developing a healthy exercise routine can reduce the symptoms experienced during early alcohol recovery.
- An effective rehabilitation program involves some degree of interaction between the people undergoing the recovery process together. This interaction can be in the form of 12-step meetings, group therapy, social activities, and discussion groups.
- Spirituality and becoming grounded follows at this stage. Addiction usually develops due to loss of control, insecurity, and feelings of helplessness. This is why it is important to get in touch with something that gives you a sense of purpose or something reliable and solid. This will set the foundation for a healthy life without any addictions. Some can find this through spiritual or religious practices while other people learn to mentally channel and rely on their inner strength when faced with any circumstance.
- Clients usually check into rehabilitation with knowledge gaps on how to deal with whatever led to their addiction. Treatment programs offer educational sessions during which there are discussions and questions. These sessions help to provide them with the skills and knowledge they require to establish the type of life they want to live after completing the program.
- Addiction of any kind can put a strain on one’s relationships with friends, colleagues, and family. An effective rehabilitation program helps to offer clients support so they can mend their relationships by offering therapy, support, and educational sessions for the family members as well.
- Alcoholism can cause legal ramifications in most cases due to the problems associated with drinking. Some rehabilitation centers help the clients remain focused on treatment by facilitating correspondence with legal representatives to help with legal problems.
- It is common to hear of people relapsing even after going through alcohol treatment programs and recovering fully. An effective treatment program will set up an aftercare support program to promote long-term recovery from alcohol abuse. These aftercare support programs include assistance with getting employment, access to alumni and mentorship activities, specialist referrals, support group referrals, and ongoing counseling. Alcohol aftercare treatment is a proactive way to help the person resume a life of sobriety while offering a relapse prevention plan.
In order to deal with the rise of alcoholism in the public, we need to learn how to create awareness about the effects of alcoholism to the individual family unit, society, economy and even the children. We need to show the youth that it is not cool to drink. We should start by creating awareness on the dangers of alcohol consumption by highlighting issues such as:
- Anemia – This is indicated by reduced numbers of red blood cells, which transport oxygen around the body. Symptoms of anemia include lightheadedness, dizziness, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
- Cancer – Heavy drinking can cause cancers of the breast, colorectal, bowel, liver, esophagus, voice box, throat, and mouth
- Cardiovascular disease – Heavy drinking increases the risk of platelets clumping together resulting in blood clots which can cause strokes or heart attacks. It also weakens the muscles of the heart resulting in cardiomyopathy
- Cirrhosis – This is a condition involving the formation of scar tissue on one’s liver. This damage to the liver is the result of excessive alcohol metabolism by the liver and it can hinder the proper liver functioning
- Dementia – Heavy drinking accelerates the brain’s shrinking with age leading to dementia, cognitive problems, and memory loss. It can also reduce one’s ability to make judgments, plan, or solve problems. Chronic drinking problems can cause a pattern of physical dysfunction and memory loss because of a thiamine deficiency, also referred to as Wernicke- Korsakoff Syndrome.
- Depression – Alcohol has been connected to multiple co-occurring disorders such as bipolar disorder and anxiety. On the other hand, people struggling with depression have a higher likelihood of drinking heavily while heavy drinkers also have a higher likelihood of developing depression
- Gastritis – This is a condition involving stomach lining inflammation and it can result in ulcers and acid reflux.
- Gout – This health condition occurs when crystals of uric acid from within the joints. It is usually a hereditary condition but it can be worsened by heavy drinking
- High blood pressure – When there are elevated alcohol levels in the blood, this can affect blood vessel dilation and constriction eventually leading to chronic changes
- Neuropathy – Alcohol is poisonous to the body’s nerve cells and heavy drinking causes nerve damage resulting in a numb or pins and needles sensation within one’s extremities. It causes other nerve-related problems such as incontinence, constipation, and muscle weakness.
- Pancreatitis – Pancreatic inflammation that impedes the digestive function of which the chronic state can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea
- Seizures – Seizures can happen because when one withdraws from alcohol because the pathways in the brain affected by drinking will be affected.
Overcoming alcoholism is very possible. You will need support from your loved ones and a lot of discipline. Reaching out for assistance is the best way to kick starts the healing. Make sure that you cut off people who might pressure you into overindulging in alcohol consumption from your social life. Always remember that you are not alone in your healing journey.