Substance use disorder is a disease that many Americans struggle with daily. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that 1 in 12 American adults had substance use disorder — around 18.7 million individuals. This staggering number and reports of addiction continue to increase in the U.S. for various substances. Alcohol is the most commonly consumed substance.
Individuals who use alcohol may struggle with substance use disorder, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD). This disease is a chronic and common medical condition that describes the compulsive need to use alcohol for various reasons.
One of the most significant steps that a person struggling with alcohol use disorder can take is to find treatment options for their condition. Thankfully, there are numerous treatment options available for those wanting to find their path to recovery and live a life of sobriety.
People reference alcohol use disorder in various ways, including the term alcohol addiction. Alcohol use disorder describes when people have difficulty controlling their ability to stop alcohol misuse even when they understand it’s negatively impacting numerous parts of their lives. Alcohol use disorder will affect a person’s personal, work and school life and other aspects of their routine or well-being.
Seeking treatment for yourself or someone you care for alcohol use disorder is the best thing someone can do. People can look out for the various signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder if they suspect that they are struggling or someone they care for needs help. A medical or mental health professional diagnoses people with alcohol use disorder. These professionals will consider the symptoms or signs of alcohol use and determine their condition on the addiction spectrum. The addiction spectrum ranges from mild, moderate and severe.
The signs and symptoms of alcohol use can impact a person’s physical health, mental health and behavior. Each aspect of a person’s overall health is essential throughout a lifetime, and substance use or alcohol use disorders severely impact each category.
The most common signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder include:
The physical and mental symptoms of alcohol use disorder can show almost immediately after a person begins using alcohol. Alcohol has immediate effects, and most Americans are aware of these effects and how you can point them out in a person. Severe situations of alcohol use disorder can cause significant damage to a person’s physical or mental health. Some individuals who struggle with alcohol use disorder also battle mental health conditions, like depression, anxiety and other issues before or in combination with their addiction.
Behavioral symptoms are a common indicator of alcohol use disorder. Noticing various changes in someone’s behavior, whether that be participating in risky activities, quitting hobbies or having trouble maintaining relationships, these problems can be apparent in people with alcohol use disorder. While it’s easy to tell with some people, others may do a good job at hiding their addiction. They don’t want to hear how they can get help or are embarrassed by their actions, so they do their best to cover up their condition.
Exhibiting multiple symptoms or signs may indicate that a person is struggling with alcohol use disorder. This label can be a wake-up call for some people, while others may ignore the facts. Alcohol use disorder is a disease that impacts brain function and a person’s ability to control their alcohol intake. When a person recognizes these symptoms in themself or has a loved one that cares to look out for their well-being, it can lead them down the right path that includes finding treatment and becoming sober.
Alcohol dependence destroys lives. Get the support you need to help yourself or your loved one break free of alcohol addiction.
With years of studies on alcohol use disorder and numerous medical professionals treating patients with this condition, there is still no clear answer on what causes the disease.
Addiction appeals to the section of the brain that handles pleasure, and the feelings of euphoria and relaxation that people feel when they consume alcohol impact this part of the brain. Alcohol consumption signals the brain to release dopamine, a chemical that turns on the brain’s reward system. A person will begin to feel good when they drink and crave the positive feelings they experience from drinking. This cycle can motivate a person to continue drinking and allow alcohol use disorder to develop.
A person’s risk for alcohol use disorder greatly depends on the amount of alcohol they consume, how often they drink and how quickly they drink. The more a person drinks, the stronger their tolerance grows, and they’ll require more alcohol to continue their positive feelings. People who have alcohol use disorder will start to prioritize drinking over other life activities, which can begin the start of their addiction.
The process of someone’s addiction can vary based on numerous life factors. Certain lifestyles and influences can increase a person’s risk of developing alcohol use disorder.
Some factors that can impact a person’s risk for addiction include:
There are other risk factors that impact the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder.
Genetics can have the most significant impact on someone’s risk for developing alcohol use disorder. Individuals with parents who also struggle with substance use disorder can have a genetic predisposition to alcohol use disorder and are more likely to develop the condition.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), half the responsibility of increasing the risk of alcohol use disorder is genes. Genetics can impact the way people metabolize alcohol, impacting their want to drink alcohol because of the effects they experience.
A person’s mental health conditions can impact their risk of developing alcohol use disorder or addiction. Examples can include problems like depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and other conditions. People may turn to alcohol as a form of self-medicating for these mental health problems.
Individuals who have a history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse may have an increased risk of developing alcohol use disorder. These types of abuse or trauma in a person’s past can impact their likeliness of using alcohol. Trauma in early childhood is linked to developing alcohol use disorder and other mental health problems.
Individuals exposed to alcohol use early on in life can increase their risk of developing alcohol use disorder. A child’s environment growing up has a significant impact on numerous aspects of their life, including the decision to use alcohol. An unstable or oppressive environment can push one to cope with alcohol.
Parental support, peer pressure, family customs and friend groups influence a person’s risk of developing alcohol use disorder. Examples of social forces include falling to the pressure of binge drinking in college or growing up in a neighborhood with more exposure to drugs, alcohol and violence.
Alcohol consumption can lead to numerous short-term and long-term health effects. When a person is suffering from alcohol use disorder and is regularly consuming large quantities of alcohol, they may begin to notice the short-term effects first. The long-term effects will become apparent if they continue this habit and refrain from seeking treatment.
People who participate in any type of alcohol consumption may experience these health effects. Regardless of a person’s level of alcohol intake, it’s essential to stay informed on the potential health issues that can arise from consuming alcohol.
People with alcohol use disorder can experience the short-term effects almost immediately. These short-term health effects impact a person’s mental and physical health.
When a person begins drinking over the recommended drinks per hour, and factors in their metabolism rate by their age, gender, weight and other factors, their blood alcohol levels will increase and start exhibiting symptoms of alcohol consumption.
The short-term effects of alcohol on a person’s body include:
When a person continues to drink throughout their life excessively, they can begin to develop lasting health problems that stem from drinking alcohol. Some of these conditions are irreversible or life-threatening.
Long-term effects can impact all aspects of a person’s physical or mental health. Some of these health effects are more commonly known than others, and all can have severe implications on a person’s health.
The long-term health effects that are a result of alcohol use disorder or regular excessive drinking include:
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The long-term effects of alcohol impact vital parts of a person’s body. Major organs like the heart, liver and lungs all are essential to continue a healthy life, and neglecting them with excessive drinking may lead to significant damage.
There are a few major parts of the body that excessive alcohol consumption can impact significantly.
The heart can receive a significant amount of damage from regularly consuming alcohol. A person suffering from alcohol use disorder is a risk for long-term effects on the heart, including:
Alcohol is absorbed directly into the bloodstream after consuming it, allowing the alcohol to make its way to every part of the body.
Alcohol use can damage the stomach lining by wearing it down. As you drink alcohol, the stomach creates more acid to digest it. More stomach acid can contribute to the formation of ulcers in the stomach.
Other ways alcohol can cause damage to the digestive system include altering nutrition absorption, breakdown, storage, transportation and excretion. These issues can cause people to have trouble gaining all of the nutrients they require.
The organ that can receive significant health effects from excessive drinking is the liver. Liver damage is typically a well-known consequence of alcohol consumption. A person’s liver can become scarred or inflamed over time because of alcohol use. Other conditions that a person may develop include fibrosis, alcoholic hepatitis, fatty liver and cirrhosis.
Alcohol use can impact the pancreas by prompting the organ to produce harmful substances. This can increase the risk of pancreatitis, which is the swelling of blood vessels and inflammation of the pancreas. This hinders the digestion process.
Consuming high amounts of alcohol can lead to an imbalance of calcium in a person’s body, an essential nutrient for maintaining healthy bones.
Excessive alcohol consumption may also mess with vitamin D production, which aids in calcium absorption in the body. Low calcium levels may increase a person’s risk of osteoporosis.
Alcohol use may increase a person’s risk for reproductive system problems. These issues can include irregular menstruation for women or erectile dysfunction for men.
People who consume alcohol during pregnancy may experience complications including stillbirth, miscarriage or having a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome.
According to the National Cancer Institute, research shows a strong connection between consuming alcohol and cancer. The data shows that the more alcohol a person consumes over time, the more likely they will develop alcohol-related cancer.
Some of the alcohol-related cancers include:
Alcohol acts as a depressant to the brain. While it causes some individuals to experience a sedating condition, others can experience more energizing conditions under certain circumstances. Functions that the brain controls like breathing, memory, thought, speech and movements can be affected by alcohol consumption. Other mental changes that can be affected include sleep changes, mood swings and learning difficulties.
Professionals often diagnose alcohol use disorder with other mental health problems, like anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.
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People can seek out various types of alcohol use disorder treatment that best fits their needs and lifestyle. Standard options people think of include the 12-step program or inpatient rehabilitation, but thanks to years of research, people can find a solution that will best help them reach sobriety.
Treatment options should be tailored to each person, and understanding the various alcohol treatment options available can help people seek the best type of help for their alcohol use disorder.
The first place a person can go to seek treatment is their primary care provider. These medical professionals can provide excellent resources on treatment facilities in the area and tailor their recommendations to their knowledge of a patient’s medical history and lifestyle. A primary care provider can also help evaluate the patient’s overall health, drinking pattern and address if medication treatment would be helpful for alcohol use disorder treatment.
A treatment option that medical professionals administer is a medicinal treatment. There are currently three approved medications in the United States for alcohol use disorder. Only health professionals or primary care physicians prescribe these medications. Medication treatment can be complete by itself or in combination with other types of treatment and therapy.
All of the approved treatment medications are non-addictive and work by offsetting changes in the brain from alcohol use disorder.
Behavioral treatments, also known as alcohol counseling, are successful because they get into the patient’s mind to learn why they started using alcohol and how to shift their lifestyle to involve no alcohol. These treatments are run by health professionals and strive to help people develop skills that help stop drinking, set goals, build a support system and learn healthy coping strategies for drinking triggers.
People can participate in various types of alcohol counseling. Some styles mesh better with some patients than others, and a primary care provider or medical professional can help decide which option is best for the patient.
The different types of behavior treatments include:
Peer-supported groups like 12-step programs and Alcoholics Anonymous are helpful methods for people who want to quit drinking or stay sober from alcohol. In combination with other treatments, like medication or behavioral therapy, these support groups are a useful treatment option for patients struggling with alcohol use disorder. Many of these treatment groups are totally anonymous for the patient’s safety and confidence.
Alcohol use disorder treatment features different stages that work to help make the process successful. While every patient should have a treatment plan created specifically for them, most treatment plans follow these three stages.
After quitting any substance, a person may begin to experience symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal describes the combination of mental and physical effects that a person feels after refraining from the substance they commonly use. The symptoms people experience from withdrawal vary in severity depending on a person’s addiction or alcohol dependency. It’s a widely unpleasant process that makes reducing or quitting alcohol a challenge.
A medical professional oversees the process of detoxification and helps patients conquer withdrawal symptoms, sometimes with medication.
After a patient completes detoxification, they’ll move on to their primary treatment stage. This process can involve various treatment or counseling options that help people find healthy ways to cope with their new lifestyle.
One of the treatment options includes inpatient therapy. Inpatient therapy happens in a place where people recovering from alcohol use disorder live and complete treatments with around-the-clock supervision. This residential treatment option is beneficial for those recovering from severe alcohol use disorder or who want a well-rounded treatment option before getting back to normal life.
Another option is outpatient treatment therapy. This treatment option is beneficial for people who don’t need intensive treatment or still need to complete personal life obligations, like work, school or child care and need a more flexible treatment process.
After completing treatment for alcohol addiction, people will slowly start getting into their new everyday routine. Addiction is a lifelong disease, and people must continue maintaining their sobriety and find ways to continue improving their lifestyles. A helpful way to accomplish this is by joining support groups or continuing to see a therapist. Both options continue to encourage people to stick on their path of recovery and provide a much-needed support system that they can trust.
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After knowing the adverse effects of alcohol use disorder on a person’s life, reaching out for help is the next necessary step. Treatment can bring numerous benefits into a person’s life and impact their overall health and well-being.
If someone is looking for more reasons to seek out treatment for their alcohol use, there are many different benefits that getting help can provide to a persons life:
Do you still have more questions about alcohol use disorder treatment? There is a lot of information surrounding the disorder. Knowing everything you can helps you feel confident in your treatment plan.
The three medications that are approved to treat many aspects of alcohol use disorder include:
The cost of treatment varies on the level of treatment a person is receiving for alcohol use and their insurance coverage. Insurance can cover many forms of alcohol addiction rehab.
Alcohol affects each person differently. Many people can heavily drink alcohol without ever becoming addicted to the substance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around nine out of 10 adults who drink heavily are not dependent on alcohol. Various aspects like genetics, environment, community and culture all play a role in a person’s likelihood of developing alcohol use disorder.
The types of medical professionals that provide treatment for alcohol use disorder include:
Taking a step toward recovery is the best decision a person can make when struggling with alcohol use disorder. You can find a high-quality alcohol addiction rehab in Chicago, Illinois, by reaching out to Gateway Foundation. We provide various types of treatment options for alcohol use disorder and other substance use. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs and services.