Alcohol Dependency & Addiction
Alcohol is one most commonly abused substances in the UK today. As a legal and (widely) socially accepted drug on most civilizations, the risk of descending from normal or average alcohol consumption into unhealthier and often dangerous drinking habits is an increasing trend.
With more than half of the adult population admitting they regularly drink alcohol in a recent national survey, it is safe to say that consuming alcohol is an activity that has become part of everyday life in this current society.
In fact, in the past decade, the amount of people who claim they drink alcohol on a weekly basis has increased by more than 25%. This is due to the accepted notion that alcohol, despite being one of the most easily accessible drugs on the market, is a normalized substance that can often be consumed in moderation.
To understand alcohol addiction, it is important to break down what experts state are the different stages/ mentalities surrounding alcohol consumption.
These stages can be distinguished between the following categories:
According to the UK’s leading alcohol awareness organization, regularly consuming less than 14 units of alcohol a week constitutes a normal, moderate intake of alcohol.
14 units or less a week will keep the risks associated with alcohol damage to a minimum, and experts advise to spread this amount over 3 separate days or sessions.
The term ‘abuse,’ ‘misuse,’ and ‘dependence’ are used interchangeably to indicate an abnormal relationship to a substance. However, ‘dependence’ and ‘abuse’ are two medically different terms.
Consuming more than 14 units per week on a regular basis, or ‘binge-drinking’ large amounts of alcohol during one session is a form of alcohol abuse.
According to NHS research, 3% of women in the UK show signs of alcohol misuse, while almost 1 in 10 men do. However, this figure does not include those who may be suffering from a dependency without even realising it, let alone admitting it or seeking support.
Alcohol abuse over a long period of time can not only lead to a variety of health problems but social and relational issues too. These include divorce or unemployment as a result of missed working days or longstanding commitments due to being drunk or hungover.
Regular alcohol abuse can also lead to an increase in promiscuity, thus resulting in unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.
More gravely, alcohol abuse increases an individual’s tolerance to the substance, meaning their intake gradually increases in order to feel the full effects. This more often than is a slippery slope that leads to alcohol dependence and addiction.
Dependence or addiction is when someone grows dependent on the substance and feels strong compulsions to drink on a regular basis. When someone is dependent or addicted they fall under the medical category of ‘alcoholic,’ meaning they cannot function without drinking alcohol, and feel unable to stop even if there are serious repercussions when they do so.
Signs of addiction or dependence involve drinking to excess regularly, periods of blacking out, drinking alcohol as soon as they wake up, and suffering from withdrawal symptoms when their drinking habits have been halted for whatever reason.
While alcohol abuse is a serious issue in which drinking is a big part of someone’s life, dependence is when alcohol becomes the sole and pivotal sustenance in someone’s life. A big sign is when a heavy drinker needs an excessively large amount of alcohol to achieve the same level of drunkenness as before.
Are You Drinking Too Much?
National health experts state that 2-3 units per day for women and 3-4 units for men is the advised amount that the average person can drink each day.
Although this measurement is widely known and recognized, many still exceed the advised daily limit without even realising it.
2-4 units average out at one small glass of wine or one-half pint of low percentage lager – anything more than this is likely to take you over the recommended daily amount and could begin to damage your health.
Everyone is different and some people may feel that they can ‘handle’ more alcohol than others but this does not mean that there is less or no damage to the internal organs.
Alcoholism and alcohol dependency can affect anyone, which is why it is so important that everyone considers the effects that alcohol can have on their body and take steps towards a healthier future.
Many people still believe that those suffering from alcohol dependency are always drinking or drunk – but it is important to remember that this is generally not the case at all.
Alcoholism or alcohol dependency can vary in intensity and severity from case to case, which is why it is important to keep a close eye on the amount of alcohol that you, or a loved one, consume on a regular basis.
If you are concerned about your own alcohol consumption or that of someone you love, call us today on 0800 088 66 86 for a free assessment and advice on your drinking habits.
Why Do People Turn to Alcohol?
Alcoholism or alcohol dependency is a result of many subjective issues and events in a person’s life. The direct causes of alcohol abuse are still being researched.
Some common reasons why people turn to alcohol include:
It is widely excepted that people whose parents have had problems with alcoholism are significantly more likely to have problems themselves.
While researches have not identified the specific genes that result in alcohol addictions, there are genes and brain chemicals that are associated with it.
There are various environmental factors that have been correlated with alcoholism. For example, close proximity to places where alcohol is sold is considered to increase your chances of partaking in large amounts of drinking.
Additionally, the number of alcohol advertisements someone sees and their income are related to alcohol consumption.
Social factors such as culture, religion, and work environment can lead to either more or less drinking. For example, if your religion is very against drinking, you are less likely to partake in the act.
On the other hand, if everyone at your work goes out for drinks every day, you are more at risk for developing alcoholism.
Psychological factors such as depression or anxiety can increase the chances a person turns to alcohol. Alcohol can give an immediate and short term sense of relief to various mental health issues, so people use it to cope.
Despite the fact that alcohol makes it worse in the long run, people quickly become dependent and then develop an addiction.
Physical Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol is a depressant to the central nervous system and acts on receptors in the brain which slows down our cognitive abilities. This is why people who are intoxicated often display poor coordination and slurred speech.
However, long-term alcohol misuse and dependence can lead to more serious physical health problems than what initially appears on the surface when intoxicated. These include:
- Repeated blackouts
- Sleeping problems
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Itching of the skin
- Erectile dysfunction
- Appetite changes
- Poor balance
- Tingling or numbness in arms/legs
- Chronic fatigue
- Problems focusing
- Memory loss
Emotional Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
Although a common conception is that alcohol ‘perks up’ drinkers and makes them more lively, this is only the case after the first couple of drinks.
The ethylene in alcohol interrupts the natural dopamine functioning in the brain, and it has been proven that increased alcohol consumption exacerbates pre-existing mental issues or disorders.
The stress that alcohol puts on the nervous system and the brain can be exhibited in the following ways:
- Shame and guilt: Often, especially when sober, people who suffer from alcohol abuse or addiction feel incredible shame and guilt for their behaviour. Because of this, they often try to hide the fact they have a problem
- Anxiety: Someone with an alcohol addiction may be afraid that someone will find out about their problem or afraid of the effects of their addiction
- Sadness: The chemical effects of alcohol can cause sadness and depression, but people may also feel sad when they feel as if they cannot stop drinking
- Anger: Someone with an alcohol addiction may feel angry at their situation or themselves, and they can channel that anger towards those around them
- Frustration: Alcoholics may feel frustration at the state of their life or if they have tried to quit and can’t
- Discouragement: Often the feeling as if they cannot stop drinking results in feelings of discouragement
- Hopelessness: Sometimes alcoholics lose all hope of recovery, which can worsen their addiction and drinking
Behavioural Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
Common signs that someone is abusing or addicted to alcohol include the following behavioural tendencies or actions:
- Loss of control: When people drink a larger amount, for a longer period of time than they originally intended or when people cannot stop even though they would like to
- Risk-taking: When drinking, a person may partake in activities or situations that are dangerous. This could include but is not limited too, driving while drunk or having unprotected sex
- Prioritizing drinking: when someone treats drinking as more important than other things
- Neglecting obligations: Someone may ignore responsibilities at work/school or with friends and family to drink
- Drinking despite consequences: When drinking impacts health or relationships, they continue to drink anyway
Other Risks of Alcohol Addiction
Other risks of alcohol addiction include:
- Accidents and injury – 1 in 10 visits to A&E are due to alcohol-related problems
- Violence and antisocial behaviour
- Unsafe sex – this leads to unplanned pregnancies and STI’s
- Loss of possessions
- Fired or suspended from work or school
Because alcohol is processed in the liver, when it is consumed in large quantities, the toxins can damage the liver. When the damage is caught early, it can be repaired, but when the damage builds up, organ failure and death can occur.
Inflammation of the pancreas or pancreatitis is another common health problem and it can be a result of chemicals being released due to alcohol. In fact, 70 percent of people with pancreatitis, drink excessive alcohol.
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can increase the likely hood of having certain cancers such as mouth cancer, esophagus cancer, larynx cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer, colon cancer, rectum cancer, and breast cancer.
Large amounts of alcohol can lead to ulcers and gastrointestinal problems. result in digestive problems such as stomach ulcers, heartburn, acid reflux, and gastritis. With enough damage to the digestive system, someone may even have internal bleeding.
When someone drinks too much, their immune system begins to weaken due to a drop in white blood cells. This makes a person more susceptible to illnesses such as tuberculosis or pneumonia.
When people drink, it alters the way the brain receives neurotransmitters and can result in brain damage. This means that there are significant changes in a person’s cognitive function, moods, and reactions.
Osteoporosis is a loss of bone mass that increases the risk of fractures. People who drink in large quantities are more likely to have a weak skeletal system.
Drinking large quantities of alcohol elevates blood pressure, which over long periods of time can damage the heart and has been known to result in heart disease.
In order to understand the effects of alcohol on the body, below is a breakdown of how the quantity of units of alcohol relates to physical health:
- 1-2 Units: heart rate elevates, blood vessels expand; people usually become more talkative and feel warmer
- 4-6 Units: The nervous system is affected. Judgment is affected, and people become more reckless and uncoordinated
- 8-9 Units: Reaction time slower, vision blurred, speech slurred
- 10-12 Units: this amount of alcohol is toxic and can result in various health problems
- More than 12: a person may fall into a coma, and functions like breathing, heart rate, and gag reflex are inhibited
Treatments For Alcohol Abuse
At ADT Healthcare we offer a variety of treatments and programs to help you on your road to recovery. If you or a loved one are struggling with any of the signs and symptoms associated with alcohol abuse listed above, we can help regain your life and take control.
Listed below are therapy options for you to consider:
Most people, when they are getting over an addiction, have to go through a process called detox. This is the time period where all the remnants of a substance leave a person's system.
Usually, when someone is going through detox, they will go through withdrawal. The only way to guarantee detox is done safely is it for it to be done with the guidance of a medical professional, often in a treatment center.
There are two main kinds of intensive treatment for people with addictions: inpatient programs and outpatient programs. An inpatient program is the most intense as a person stays at a care facility with 24/7 access to support and medical care.
Outpatient is less intense as the person does not stay overnight; rather, they go to a facility for several hours a day, several days a week. The benefit to outpatient is the person can still partake in other responsibilities such as school and works. However, some people need the freedom from all distractions that an inpatient program offers to recover.
- CBT stands for cognitive behavioral therapy, and it is a type of talk therapy that focuses on actions and solutions to help a person cope and avoid relapse. Often the goal of inpatient and outpatient treatment plans is to get a patient to the point where they can rely on CBT alone.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective approach for preventing relapse. This method helps patients develop essential skills that support their long-term recovery from cocaine—including their ability to recognise triggers. It allows them to discover and understand situations where they might use cocaine, and helps them avoid these and cope more effectively.
Group therapy is when a professional counselor works with a group of people to help them learn coping skills and share what they are going through.
When someone is going through recovery for alcohol addiction, a doctor may prescribe medications for various reasons. The doctor may give medications to treat co-occurring disorders, decrease the severity of cravings, or lessen the effects of harmful withdrawal symptoms.
Life When Sober
Some people can wonder what life will be like and how they will function once they are sober. It may be hard in the beginning, but through any of the above treatment options, a person will learn coping mechanisms that will actually make coping with life easier. Additionally, a person will be better equipped to maintain their health, work responsibilities, and relationships.
After detox, a person can choose to use any of the above treatment plans, depending on what works best for them. However, it is vital that a person uses some type of treatment after detox to decrease their chances or relapse.
Ready To Get Help?
Call us now on 0800 088 66 86 for a free assessment and start your recovery today. We offer confidential and immediate support, followed by expert advice suited to your individual requirements.