According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 25.8% of Americans 18 years and older reported they participated in binge drinking over the past month. Does binge drinking represent one of the signs of alcohol addiction? The answer lies in thousands of research studies that reveal all the details about alcohol addiction and abuse of drugs.
One thing remains certain among experts in the healthcare community: Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is defined as a disease that requires participating in an intensive treatment regimen.
What is AUD?
AUD, which also is referred to as alcoholism and alcohol addiction, represents a disease that negatively impacts health, relationships, and career growth. Researchers have conducted numerous studies to discover the cause of alcoholism, but the consensus among healthcare experts is that no single cause typically contributes to the development of AUD. Genetics, behavioral, and psychological factors can all contribute to the development of alcohol addiction.
The signs of alcoholism vary depending on the severity of the disease. Some alcoholics drink throughout the day, while others binge drink for a few days and then remain sober for a few days more before engaging in another binge drinking session.
What are the Common Signs of an Alcohol Addiction?
The signs of alcoholism can be hard to detect. Some alcoholics do a great job of hiding the symptoms of alcohol addiction. However, some of the common signs of AUD include an increase in the amount of alcohol consumed and the frequency of drinking alcohol throughout the day. Drinking at the wrong time of day, such as having a cocktail first thing out of bed in the morning, is another common sign of alcohol addiction. The strong desire to be in environments where alcohol is present, whether it is a bar or someone’s home, can indicate a sign of alcoholism.
Easier to recognize signs of AUD include a dramatic decline in work performance, apparent symptoms of health issues, or the deterioration of personal and professional relationships. For example, an alcoholic might decide to socialize with other alcoholics and, in turn, shun long-time friends at work and in the community. Someone who tries to hide a drinking problem by lying or concealing alcohol also demonstrates a sign of alcohol addiction.
Extreme signs of alcoholism involve dealing with legal issues associated with alcohol use and going through a divorce because a spouse can no longer handle the emotional issues that define an alcohol addiction.
What are the Causes of Alcoholism?
Intensive research over the past decade has uncovered some interesting data concerning what causes alcoholism. Genetic, behavioral, and psychological factors all can play a role in developing an alcohol addiction. Researchers have especially concentrated on linking genetics with AUD. The genetic link to alcoholism involves studying the function of the areas of the brain over time that regulate pleasure, judgment, and the ability to control behavior. Research has expanded to focus on other possible factors, including age, gender, and social status.
What are the Risk Factors of Alcohol Addiction?
Although an alcohol addiction can begin at any age, it often starts for people in their 20s and 30s. Starting to drink at an early age, especially binge drinking represents a high-risk factor for developing AUD. Family history, which researchers use to link genetics and alcoholism, also can be a risk factor for the development of alcohol addiction. Some alcoholics use alcohol as a crutch when they experience mental health issues such as depression, acute anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Mixing alcohol with the medications prescribed to treat mental health issues frequently exacerbates any behavioral problems an alcoholic exhibits. People that have suffered from a lengthy history of traumatic events are vulnerable to developing AUD.
One of the lesser-studied risk factors for the development of an alcohol addiction concerns the role social and cultural forces play. For example, people who have close relationships with friends who have started binge drinking are more likely to follow the lead of their friends and binge drink as well. Peer pressure can significantly impact how often and how much someone drinks alcohol.
What are the Health Ramifications of AUD?
Alcohol addiction can produce several negative health consequences. The most common harmful health consequences of alcoholism are developing heart disease or liver disease. Alcohol addiction also can adversely cause the following health issues:
· Loss of bone mass
· Diminished vision
· Birth defects
· Sex drive
· Weaker immune system
Many alcoholics take unnecessary risks that place them and other people in danger of sustaining serious injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 29 people living in the United States lose their lives every day because of drunk driving. The CDC has also linked alcoholism with an increase in suicides and homicides.
Because of the severe adverse health impacts of developing AUD, detecting and treating the disease as early as possible is essential.
What are the Treatments Available for an Alcohol Addiction?
Treating alcoholism can be frustrating and challenging for healthcare professionals and the people who suffer from the disease. The person who suffers from AUD has to want to get sober before any treatment plan can succeed. Recovering from an alcohol addiction represents a lifetime process that frequently includes bumps along the way.
Drug and Alcohol Rehab
Drug and alcohol rehab represents the most common form of treatment for alcoholics. The person suffering from AUD can complete treatment sessions as an inpatient or an outpatient, depending on the severity of the addiction. Inpatient programs last between 30 days and one year to generate positive results. Outpatient treatment typically provides daily emotional support while the person suffering from AUD continues to live at home.
Support groups for alcoholics fall into two categories: a 12-step program and a program that does not follow a series of steps. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the most popular 12-step program to treat an alcohol addiction. Support groups that do not follow the 12-step treatment model for alcoholism include Sober Recovery and SMART Recovery.
Other treatment options for AUD include counseling, drug therapy, and changes in nutritional consumption. A physician might prescribe medications to alleviate specific symptoms of alcoholism, such as developing the shakes or suffering from headaches. Counseling is often used as a complementary type of treatment or a treatment program for people that have completed a drug and alcohol rehab program.
If you or a loved one suffers from alcohol addiction, you have access to several resources that help educate you about the disease. Here are a few websites that present helpful information about alcoholism and how to treat it.
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Treating an alcohol addiction during the early stages of development is the key for someone to beat the disease. Combining several treatment plans usually results in more recoveries than depending on one treatment plan to eliminate the risks associated with alcoholism, and the support provided by friends, family members, and other alcoholics trying to get clean is a vital element of a successful treatment plan for AUD. If you’re interested in learning more about alcohol addiction and treatment options available to you, reach out to the Covenant Hills Treatment team at 844-268-8412.