In the United States, alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance.
For many people, an occasional drink is harmless, but for millions of others, alcohol sends them down a dark path.
One in every 12 adults in the US – that’s nearly 18 million people – will be diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder during their lifetime. There has been a great deal of research conducted to answer the questions surrounding alcohol addiction.
Consequences of Alcohol Addiction
Drinking alcohol has varying effects on different people.
Common short term effects of alcohol include:
- Flushed skin
- Inability to concentrate
- Increased blood pressure
- Lowered inhibitions
- Passing out
Alcohol use is linked to over 200 different health issues according to the WHO. When a person regularly partakes in alcohol use over time, this excess drinking can result in long-term problems like:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Difficulty learning
- Memory loss
- Reduced gray and white brain matter
- Various types of cancer
In addition to these physical effects, many people will experience other effects in their lives as a direct result of their excessive alcohol consumption. Some of these things will include:
- Impaired relationships
- Lack of employment
- Mental health disorders like depression and anxiety
- Money troubles
- Setbacks in school
As you can see, there are many reasons to be careful when it comes to alcohol, but for some people, it isn’t that simple.
What is Alcohol Addiction?
Addiction is a serious illness that can cause irreparable problems for people. It’s important to understand that addiction is not simply an issue of willpower. Addiction is classified as a disease. Alcohol addiction ends in death for 88,000 Americans each year according to the Center for Disease Control.
When someone is addicted to alcohol, they will experience the use of alcohol in a different way than someone who is not addicted. Alcohol addiction can appear with signs and symptoms such as:
- An increased tolerance for alcohol
- Attempting to hide the alcohol or to hide while drinking
- Changes in relationships
- Denying that a problem exists
- Depression, lethargy, emotional issues
- Drinking at odd times (at work, first thing in the morning)
- Drinking more in quantity, and drinking more often
- Financial and professional problems
- Heavy dependence on alcohol to function normally
- Loss of job
- Loss of interest in hobbies
Stages of Addiction
There are several stages of alcohol addiction. It rarely comes on suddenly, but rather builds over time.
The American Psychiatric Association offers a guideline on how to determine the level of severity of alcohol addiction. Looking through these 11 factors can help determine whether a person is experiencing early, problematic, severe, or end-stage alcohol addiction.
Many people who drink alcohol start young, with social drinking. Over time, this social drinking can become binge drinking which is problematic.
While many people won’t progress past this stage, the repeated binge drinking puts them at risk for developing an alcohol use disorder and alcohol addiction.
Men who take more than 4 drinks a day or 14 drinks a week, and women who take more than 3 drinks a day and seven drinks per week are considered at high risk for problematic drinking and alcohol addiction.
When someone moves beyond the social aspect of drinking and begins to drink heavily or drink for the sake of drinking, things begin to take a turn. At this point, many people develop an attachment to alcohol and are at an exponentially higher risk for addiction.
In this stage of addiction, the person drinking tends to start losing control over things in their life whether at school, work, or home.
This is also the stage where withdrawal symptoms become an issue when the person is unable to drink for a while.
When a person has become accustomed to alcohol, their tolerance to it grows quickly. They will soon need much more to get the same feelings they are used to. At this stage, most people are becoming obsessed with alcohol and their drinking problem is obvious to friends and family.
Physical and mental changes will become more apparent at this point, too. Health conditions will appear or be exacerbated by chronic alcohol use.
Withdrawal symptoms will also be much more pronounced. Going without alcohol will cause the person with the drinking problem to feel shaky, nauseated, fatigued, and more.
At this point, the alcohol is running the show and most people no longer have the will to try and stop drinking. After years of chronic alcohol use, the withdrawal symptoms will be excruciating, and the person will likely drink just to remain pain-free.
Many end-stage health problems are likely to be occurring as well. Cirrhosis, brain bleeds, and more can lead to death at this point. Additionally, alcohol tolerance is so high at this point that alcohol poisoning is a real concern.
What To Do Next?
No matter the stage of alcohol addiction, there is hope.
If you recognize that you are on a journey down the dark path to alcohol addiction, we want to help you turn things around.
At Landmark Recovery, we have the skills, knowledge, resources, and staff to assist you in your recovery from alcohol addiction. Call us today so that we can help you determine what your options are at 888-448-0302.
Choose Recovery Over Addiction
We're here 24/7 to help you get the care you need to live life on your terms, without drugs or alcohol. Talk to our recovery specialists today and learn about our integrated treatment programs.