What is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism, also known as alcohol abuse and alcohol dependency, causes strong cravings for alcohol, loss of control, physical dependence, and tolerance. Those suffering from alcohol use disorder drink too much, too often, and in ways that can harm their health and happiness.
Alcoholism can involve problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with drinking, continuing to drink even after it has caused problems, drinking more to get a “buzz,” and having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders, there are several characterizations that could define alcoholism. Some examples include:
- Drinking more or longer than intended
- Wanting to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but could not stop
- Wanting to drink so badly you can think of nothing else
- Cutting down on recreational activities in order to drink
- Continuing to drink even though it was causing health problems
- Drinking more to achieve the effect you want
What is Alcohol?
Alcohol, either ethanol or ethyl alcohol, is the main ingredient in beer, wine, and spirits that cause a person to become intoxicated.
Alcohol is formed when yeast ferments the sugars in different foods. For example, cider is made from sugar in apples; vodka from sugar in potatoes. A drink’s alcohol content is affected by how long the fermentation process lasts. Liquor also goes through distillation, where some of the water is removed, leaving a stronger concentration of alcohol and flavor.
Stages of Alcoholism
While moderate alcohol consumption is not a problem for most, when it gets out of control, you may find yourself on the path toward alcohol addiction. There are five stages of alcoholism.
Stage 1 – Binge Drinking and Occasional Abuse
These drinkers may try various forms of alcohol and test their limits or tolerance. Binge drinking is also common in the first stage. For men, binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks within two hours.
Stage 2 – Increased Drinking
Alcohol consumption frequency increases during the second stage. A person may drink more frequently to alleviate boredom and stress, as an excuse to get together with friends, or to combat loneliness. Stage 2 often involves a more emotional attachment to drinking.
Stage 3 – Problem Drinking
Frequent, uncontrolled consumption causes serious problems. The addict may feel sadder, develop more anxiety, and may start to lose sleep. Relationship issues, decreased social activity, and difficulty conversing with strangers might also occur at this stage.
Stage 4 – Alcohol Dependence
Alcohol dependence involves forming an attachment to alcohol. The individual is aware of the adverse effects, but no longer has control over their consumption. Alcohol dependence may be marked by a higher tolerance. The person may experience withdrawal symptoms such as body tremors, sweating, severe irritability, and nausea.
Stage 5 – Addiction
At this stage, you no longer drink just for pleasure – there is a physical and psychological need to drink. Alcohol addiction can lead to physical cravings and compulsive behaviors, oftentimes drinking whenever and wherever they may desire, including work, school, or their vehicle while driving.
Drinking and driving is a possibility during any stage of alcoholism, but is more common among those in the later stages of alcoholism.
Symptoms of Alcoholism
As alcoholism can develop in stages, the disorder may be mild, moderate or severe, as can be the symptoms.
Symptoms of alcohol use disorder may include:
- Unable to limit the amount you drink
- Wanting to and/or failing to stop drinking
- Spending more time drinking, getting alcohol, or recovering from alcohol use
- Cravings for a drink
- Failing to fulfill your responsibilities at work or home due to alcohol use
- Giving up or reducing social and work activities
- Developing a tolerance to alcohol
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
Those suffering from alcoholism will often go between points of intoxication and withdrawal. Signs of intoxication include:
- Inappropriate behavior
- Changes in mood
- Impaired judgment
- Slurred speech
- Impaired attention or memory
- Poor coordination
- Blackouts (unable to remember time and events)
Effects of Alcohol Abuse
No matter the stage, drinking too much on a single or multiple occasions, can take a serious toll on a person’s health. Alcohol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, which is why it often slurs a person’s speech and causes delayed reaction time in the brain.
Other effects of alcohol on the body:
Liver – heavy drinking can cause liver inflammation, alcoholic hepatitis, fatty liver, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
Pancreas – drinking can cause the pancreas to produce toxic substances leading to pancreatitis, the inflammation of the pancreas that can lead to reflux, pain, and ulcers
Mouth, Esophagus, Throat, Liver, Breast – drinking has been shown to increase the risk of developing cancers in these areas
Immune System – drinking can weaken the immune system making it more susceptible to disease. Chronic drinkers are more likely to suffer from anemia, pneumonia, and tuberculosis.
Alcohol withdrawal is a syndrome that occurs in people who have been heavily drinking for an extended period of time and then suddenly reduce or stop their alcohol consumption. Alcohol withdrawal can occur several hours to days after your last drink.
Symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Hand tremors
- Difficulty sleeping
- Restlessness and agitation
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can rapidly worsen and lead to medical episodes. An appropriate alcohol rehab detox is important and can reduce the risk of developing withdrawal seizures when you enter alcohol addiction treatment.
Stages of Treatment
Making the decision to enter treatment is the first step in achieving sobriety. At Destination Hope, our admissions counselors will determine the treatment option that will work best for you. For some, the first step will be detox in order to be free of drugs and alcohol before entering an alcohol addiction treatment program.
Though Destination Hope does not offer a detox program, we can connect you with a partner medical detox facility to offer the medical treatment needed to ensure the withdrawal process is as comfortable as possible.
As noted above, the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol abuse can be severe, which is why a medically supervised detox should be completed. Detox will allow the body to cleanse itself of all traces of alcohol. The process can take up to 10 days. Alcohol detox can be broken down into three stages:
Acute withdrawal, which includes physiological symptoms, like increased heart rate and blood pressure, profuse sweating, nausea, vomiting, and more.
Early abstinence is the next stage and includes anxiety, low moods, and disturbed sleeping patterns.
Protracted abstinence is the final stage and can include anxiety and a state of unease. Some challenges during this stage can provoke a person to relapse or crave alcohol.
During detox, some prescription medicine may be used to combat withdrawal symptoms. Topiramate can treat and prevent seizures; Acamprosate can reduce the desire to drink alcohol; Naltrexone can help prevent relapse.
Our alcohol rehab programs have been developed to provide sustainable methods of relapse prevention.
The alcohol rehab process will include intensive therapy sessions, including individual, group, and family, nutrition, fitness, and art therapy as well as 12-step meetings, clinically focused treatment, and more. If your alcoholism is linked to trauma or mental illness, our professionals can provide mental health treatment as well as trauma resolution.
Destination Hope offers some of the most unique and successful 30-day, 60-day and 90-day alcohol rehab programs available in Florida. Our aftercare programs are designed to help those who conquered their alcoholism continue to thrive in sober living. Our aftercare can include alumni meetings, counseling sessions, family nights, and recreational activities.
Types of Treatment Available
The goal of alcoholism treatment is abstinence. The first step for alcohol rehab is admitting that alcohol is a problem and agreeing to stop drinking. The person must understand that alcoholism is a disease and can be treated.
For many, alcohol addiction treatment will begin with detoxing. As alcohol withdrawal can produce many medical symptoms, detox should be completed under medical supervision. At Destination Hope, patients are required to be completely free of drugs and alcohol before entering. If you require medical detox, we can connect you with a detox program that can be completed before you enter alcohol rehab at our facilities.
Destination Hope offers 30-60-90 day inpatient programs that have around-the-clock support. Our inpatient alcohol rehab programs include:
- Intensive individual therapy sessions
- Group therapy
- Family therapy sessions
- Nutrition and fitness recommendations
- 12-Step meetings
The alcoholism treatment programs are clinically-focused. Patients will reside in fully-furnished group living quarters with close proximity to beautiful South Florida beaches.
Outpatient programs allow patients to schedule treatment sessions throughout the week. The flexible programs allow individuals to continue their everyday responsibilities while receiving the treatment they need. Participants are required to check into treatment during their allotted time and must meet a certain number of hours each week.
Similar to inpatient programs, outpatient alcoholism treatment programs include therapy sessions, meetings, and counseling sessions. Those who choose outpatient programs must be strong-willed and ready to meet the challenges they must face every moment outside of rehab. Intensive outpatient programs offered at Destination Hope establish defined, measurable milestones to indicate progress.
Counseling is a strong component of any treatment plan as well as aftercare. Counseling sessions allow the patient to focus on the ongoing sources of their addiction. Patients will need to be open and honest in order to discuss future rehabilitation programs, techniques for returning home, and relapse prevention strategies.
Counseling sessions serve as a time to discuss the addiction as well behavioral changes that will help them refrain from drinking.
Patients at Destination Hope will receive individual, group, and family counseling.
How to Deal with Co-occurring Disorders
Co-occurring disorder refers to dual diagnosis. Approximately 7.9 million adults had co-occurring disorders in 2014, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Those with a dual diagnosis are best served through integrated treatment. During integrated treatment, mental and substance abuse disorders can be treatment at the same time, creating better outcomes. Dual diagnosis patients or those suffering from mental health issues may also receive psychotherapy during treatment.
Dual diagnosis treatment at Destination Hope beings with a psychiatric assessment and will include all modes of counseling. When the patient is ready to be discharged, they will be provided with an extensive plan to ensure they thrive after treatment. Furthermore, Destination Hope offers an array of aftercare and alumni programs to help each of our patients.