Many of us enjoy an alcoholic drink, and major family, sporting and life events are often enhanced by the enjoyment of alcohol. Across a range of different companies, brands and breweries there is a huge quantity of different options for alcoholic drinks for most of us to enjoy and savour.
However, for reasons which aren’t always clearly understood, some people struggle with their alcoholic consumption to the point that it becomes an addiction. It is thought that some people may have a general predilection for addictive behaviours and processes, whereas others may have a genetic predisposition to an addiction to alcohol.
Some people may find themselves drinking too much either because of stress or other pressures in their lives, or social pressures from friends, family or co-workers that means what started out as social drinking becomes something much more serious.
What is Alcohol Addiction
Sometimes it can be hard to define exactly what an addiction is, and how it relates specifically to alcohol addiction. Alcohol addiction can be seen as a number of different things.
Firstly, there is the physical component, where significant drinking leads to physical changes, and in particular to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as shakes/tremors, nausea, sleeplessness, that means the body encourages the person with alcoholism to keep drinking in order to avoid the symptoms. The person may also feel more high or euphoric when they have alcohol in their system, even though in the long-term alcohol tends to have a depressive effect. In this sense, alcohol addiction is a physical addiction.
Alcohol addiction also has a psychological component, in that the person may feel that they are more in control of themselves and their surroundings if they have a drink in them, and this becomes more than just a drink, but many drinks to keep the psychological controls in place. This escalates to a point where the person feels unable to cope without a drink.
Signs and Symptoms
It is important to note that someone who drinks, or even someone who drinks a lot, is not necessarily an alcoholic. However, excessive drinking without an ability to go lengths of time without a drink are significant markers.
Withdrawal symptoms once someone hasn’t had a drink for a while, such as the ‘DTs’ (delirium tremens) along with some of the symptoms mentioned above can be important indicators.
As with many indicators, persons with alcohol addiction will often not admit that they have a drinking problem. It is not at all unusual for problem drinkers and those with alcohol addiction to not be aware that it is an issue, and feel that they can control their drinking, and will often say so if challenged.
In later stages of alcohol addiction they may attempt to hide evidence of their drinking, by drinking secretly, and indeed they may have developed a tolerance for alcohol that means they do not obviously appear ‘drunk’ and high-functioning alcoholics can often be very difficult to spot.
However, the level of their drinking will be doing damage inside their bodies, particularly to their livers and also possibly their brains and their heart.
Many of those who have given up drinking will acknowledge that they are not former alcoholics, but continue to be alcoholics, but no longer drink. Treatment for alcohol addiction, like many addictions, is a lifelong process.
Alcoholics who are looking for treatment, or family and friends of alcoholics looking for treatments can be assured that there are many options for treatment.
One of the most popular options worldwide, often popularised through TV programmes and films, is Alcoholics Anonymous. With many branches and meetings in North America and throughout the world, they provide a vital and valuable support system for both new and old recovering alcoholics. They are able to provide support both locally and nationally, as many people travel for work and may need extra help to resist temptation when away from home and their usual support networks.
As alcohol addiction is much more out in the open in recent years, it is true that there are many available options for treatment.
A number of different alcohol addiction treatment centers and treatment styles are available to match the needs of the individual. Even a simple Internet search will often show up a wide range of local options for treatment.
These will range from drop-in centres, to online/offline counselling, support groups and rehab programs to residential rehab centers. The latter can be particularly helpful in terms of breaking the cycle of addiction, and allowing someone with alcohol addiction to be completely removed from alcohol and given the opportunity to get clean.
Of course, in these situations it is also important that alcohol addiction treatment considers the underlying issues of the addiction. Why did the person start drinking or why did they start drinking so much? Are there particular issues (depression, anxiety, loss etc.) that have acted as a trigger so that social drinking has become problem drinking?
If there has been physical (for example, liver) damage as a result of alcohol addiction, further medical treatment may be required to improve the general health of the person. Alcohol addiction is also often combined with mental health issues, so they may also need to be looked at and treated as part of the process.
If someone is finding it difficult to find treatment options, a good first port of call is their own general doctor. Although they may not be in a position to treat the alcohol addiction of the patient directly, they will have access to, or an awareness of local or national alcohol addiction treatment services to which the patient can be referred to start them back on their journey of wellness.
Enjoying an alcoholic drink can be pleasurable, but alcohol addiction can be destructive, both to the addict and the person around them. However, many options are available to help and improve, moving from addiction to wellness.