group of alcohol rehab patients

Whether you’re at a party, casual social gathering, or a bar or restaurant, alcohol is a part of daily life. 85% of people in the U.S. admit to having had alcohol at one point in their lives. Alcohol is one of the most frequently abused substances, and unfortunately, there are more than 3 million cases of alcohol addiction each year as a result. Thankfully, however, with the right treatment and therapy, you can get over alcohol addiction. But it takes work and plenty of self-reflection. Learn more about this disease and how you can treat it by addressing it early.

What is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction, commonly known as alcoholism or alcohol use disorder, is a disease defined by a preoccupation with alcohol and the inability to control severe, frequent drinking. Since alcohol is a legal substance in the U.S. and most other countries around the world, it is easily available and, ultimately, abused.

Although moderate alcohol consumption won’t necessarily cause any bodily or psychological harm, increasing how much you drink could lead to alcohol addiction. People addicted to alcohol don’t know how or when to stop drinking. Their consumption is uncontrollable and also interferes with work, friendships, and relationships. Treating alcohol addiction early is key to successful recovery since it can cause great psychological and physical harm.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

There are a few ways to tell if you or a loved one has an alcohol addiction. Based on the number of symptoms you have, alcohol addiction can be anywhere from mild to severe. Even if you display some of these signs and symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily make you an alcoholic. If drinking takes precedence over anything else in your life or puts your health at risk, however, you have a problem.

Signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction include:

  • Frequently feeling a strong urge or craving to drink alcohol
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol; drinking more and more to feel the same effect
  • Continuing to drink even if it interferes with work and relationships
  • Drinking alcohol in unsafe situations, such as driving
  • Giving up hobbies or social activities due to drinking
  • Storing alcohol in unlikely places
  • Drinking alone or secretly

Many people who have alcohol addiction will deny that they have a problem. Only those who admit to their addiction will be able to seek help for it.

Risk Factors of Alcohol Addiction

Addiction can be caused by several factors, whether they be psychological, social, or genetic:

  • Family history: People who have a family history of alcoholism have a greater chance of developing alcohol dependence and addiction.
  • Starting to drink at an early age: People who begin drinking from a young age are at risk for developing alcoholism or alcohol dependence.
  • History of trauma: People who have experienced trauma (physical or emotional) are more likely to drink heavily to ease their pain, thus becoming at risk for developing alcohol use disorder.
  • Cultural and social factors: If you have a partner or friends who drink or binge drink regularly, this could increase your risk of developing alcohol dependence. Peer pressure can also cause you to drink more, even if you’re not comfortable doing it.
  • Easy access: There is a connection between access to cheap alcohol and alcohol-related deaths. After Alaska raised taxes on alcohol, there was a significant decrease in alcohol-related deaths in the state.

Alcohol Tolerance and Dependency: What’s the Difference?

We have talked about alcohol addiction, but in reality, alcoholism lies on a spectrum. There are serious alcoholics who might be homeless and jobless, while some are considered “functioning alcoholics”: people who can drink a large amount but still perform daily responsibilities and have good relationships.

Alcohol tolerance and alcohol dependency are two different terms. As people drink more and more, they build up a tolerance to alcohol, meaning that they need higher amounts of it to achieve the same effect. This can happen even with healthy social drinkers who consume responsibly, and people who weigh more than others can generally “handle” more alcohol.

However, having alcohol dependence is more severe. Whereas people with a high tolerance can simply handle a larger amount of alcohol, those with a dependence require any amount of alcohol just to function daily. They also drink to avoid any withdrawal symptoms.

How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain and Body?

Alcohol affects both the body and the brain through several reactions. Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, meaning that it slows down brain activity. Although alcohol has stimulant properties at first, these effects will gradually decrease as you keep drinking throughout the day.

When you first drink alcohol, it binds to receptors for gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of sedation and calmness. It also releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which produces feelings of reward and pleasure. At the same time, alcohol restrains glutamate, which sends important signals to other cells. As a result, judgment becomes impaired and reaction time slows down. Alcohol also dulls the senses and is responsible for depressing the CNS, causing suppression of heart rate and breathing.

Long-term drinking can cause complications in your body, including:

  • Liver disease
  • Heart failure
  • Memory loss
  • Fatigue
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Diabetes
  • Gastritis
  • Pancreas damage

A standard drink is considered 12 ounces of regular beer, 8 to 9 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof hard liquor (a shot).

Binge Drinking and American Youth: Statistics

Binge drinking is defined as 5 or more drinks for men and 4 or more drinks for women in 2 hours. 1 in 6 adults binge drinks about 4 times a month, drinking about 7 beverages per binge, studies show. Surprisingly, the majority of binge drinkers do not have a dependency on alcohol. However, binge drinking enough times could very well lead to alcohol addiction.

Binge drinking can be seen on college campuses all over the country, as well as in plenty of movies. It is most common among people ages 18 to 34, but more than half of the people who binge drink are ages 35 and older. In 2015, 25% of people aged 18 to 24 binge drank.

Binge drinking may sound like something fun to do at the moment, but it can have serious consequences. You could unintentionally injure yourself, engage in risky sexual behavior, or put people around you in danger.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment: Finding the Best Program for You

Once you admit that you have a drinking problem and are ready to seek help, the next step is to find the best alcohol addiction treatment for your specific needs. North Jersey Recovery Center has plenty of detox and aftercare options for all kinds of patients, and we can guide you toward the best course of treatment. Residential, partial-care and outpatient treatment options are all available to you.

What is Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol detox is a period, usually 30 days long, in which a person overcomes psychological and physical dependence on alcohol with the help of medical professionals. This is the first step in treatment for alcohol addiction. During detox, the rehab center staff will review your medical history to understand your situation. Then they will most likely prescribe you medication that will imitate the effects of alcohol. As a result, your withdrawal symptoms won’t be as painful. Staff will monitor you around the clock to make sure you are safely detoxing.

If you have an addiction to alcohol, you must detox in a facility instead of self-detoxing. Many alcoholics believe they can detox by themselves, but you could put yourself in great danger if you do this. In addition, the withdrawal symptoms you experience may be too difficult for you to handle. Alcohol detox at North Jersey Recovery Center is supervised by licensed medical staff who have been trained in this process. We provide a safe, comfortable environment in which we can track your withdrawal symptoms and alleviate any pain you might feel.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

If you’re addicted to alcohol and have abruptly stopped or greatly reduced your drinking, you’ll most likely experience withdrawal. This can occur anywhere between several hours or 4 or 5 days after you stop drinking.

Withdrawal symptoms of alcohol addiction include:

  • Delirium tremens (DT)
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Anxiety

Therapy for Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Alcohol detox is a necessary part of your path to sobriety, but more is required for you to get back into a healthy state of mind. Therapy for alcohol addiction treatment will rewire your brain and provide you with healthy thinking patterns that will benefit you in the long run.

  • Individual therapy: In an individual therapy session with your mental health counselor, you’ll most likely discuss the setbacks you’ve experienced in your alcoholism, as well as what factors have led you to abuse alcohol.
  • Group therapy: Group therapy offers you the chance to share your struggles with others who have gone through similar experiences.
  • Family therapy: Family therapy can be beneficial for those who have strained family relationships due to their alcohol addiction.

We Can Help with Alcohol Addiction Treatment at North Jersey Recovery Center

You’re not alone in your alcohol addiction. The treatment programs offered at North Jersey Recovery Center are filled with people just like you: patients with difficult family histories or trauma who resorted to drinking to solve their problems, and who now want to take back control of their lives. We can help you do the same. Why wait? Contact us today to speak with one of our representatives, and start your journey to sobriety.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brian Ostertag

brian-ostertag-150x150Brian Ostertag, BA, MA, LCADC, CCS, is the Clinical Director for North Jersey Recovery Center. Brian is a compassionate leader with a desire to see others exceed, and who believes that people want to work hard at something they find meaningful and believe in. He is a strong addiction services professional with degrees in Psychology Addiction Studies, and Pastoral Counseling.