Liquor stores sprout up like weeds in almost every town and city, and many states allow booze to line the shelves of grocery stores and convenience shops. Those who avoid stores that sell liquor might still be asked if they’d like a cocktail or a glass of wine when they head out to dinner at a fancy restaurant, and work-related parties might be filled with waiters who walk by with trays filled to the brim with glasses of all sorts of liquid refreshments. It can seem as though alcohol is almost everywhere, all the time, and yet people with alcoholism might feel as though they simply can’t get enough of it. No matter how much they’re served, they may feel as though they always want more.
An alcohol-related issue like this strikes about 18 million people in the United States, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Having this disease can be lonely indeed, especially when the person who has alcoholism is surrounded by others who seem to have no difficulties with the idea of drinking recreationally, but there are treatments available that can help. The key is to ensure that the person recognizes the disorder and agrees to get help for it.
A Slow and Steady Onset
Few people who have alcoholism set out to develop the disease. They might think that they’re drinking only to help them deal with social situations, or they might feel as though they could stop drinking at any time. But the way alcohol works within the brain can lead to a dependent state, and that might lead to addiction.
Alcohol is a sedating drug that crosses from the digestive tract to the bloodstream in mere minutes. People who take in a bolt of alcohol often report feeling sleepy or calm, as though the worries of the day seem to slip and slide away into nothingness in no time at all. As the alcohol continues its work, it slows down electrical activity in the cells of the brain, further increasing the relaxation a person might feel. If a person like this keeps drinking regularly, these sleepy brain cells might become accustomed to a slower pace, and soon, they might be incapable of functioning at top speed. These cells need alcohol in order to function properly.
This state is known as dependence, and for those who drink, it’s serious. If those sleepy cells are asked to function at a normal rate because the person stops drinking, they can awaken much too quickly and erupt into seizures.
People may also experience:
- Sensitivity to light and sound
Some people who have these symptoms feel as though they simply must return to drinking, as the misery they feel is just too hard to ignore.
From Dependence to Addiction
While people who are dependent have a physical need for alcohol, those who qualify for an alcoholism diagnosis have symptoms that are yet more severe. These people have lost control over when and how they drink, and they might continue drinking even as their lives begin to unravel around them. Arrests, complaints, ill health and even lawsuits might not stop them from picking up the bottle.
It’s commonly believed that people like this continue to drink because they love their substances and can’t live without them. While it’s true that many alcoholics do love the taste of alcohol, many more drink because they have a deep psychological need to do so that transcends any feelings about desire. They must keep drinking, even though they may not even like to drink anymore.
An alcoholism issue like this is serious, and it can even be fatal. It makes sense then that people would want to know what causes such an issue and what could be done to prevent these problems from taking place. Unfortunately, some of the factors that can lead to an alcoholism issue can’t really be controlled. Genetics, for example, might play a role for some people.
Researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism conducted dozens of studies on the course of addiction and determined that about half of the risk present could be attributed to genetic factors. Some genes seem to make alcohol taste just a little bit better, while others seem to provide people with a bit more punch when they drink. These little genetic tweaks could make alcohol a little more enticing and rewarding, and that could make people dive into drinking heedlessly, where someone who didn’t enjoy the stuff might be able to exert a tad more self-control.
Going through an intensely stressful time of life, while feeling as though no one else could listen or understand, might also place people at a greater risk for alcoholism. The drug is just too tempting to use when times are tough, and people might find it all too appealing to drown in the bottle as their lives increase in complexity. A drink after dinner might seem soothing, but it might quickly morph into four drinks after dinner, and then six drinks at work, and then 10 drinks a day. It’s just too easy to let things get crazy, and alcoholism might swiftly follow.
Recovery Is Possible
People who develop drinking problems might feel as though they’re isolated and completely alone, but in reality, treatment programs really can make a big difference. For example, the National Institutes of Health reports that those who enter treatment programs for their alcohol use disorders are four times more likely to stop drinking when compared to those who attempt to quit on their own. A formal program is capable of helping people to really see the consequences of their addiction, and it might help them to turn the corner.
In a formal program for addiction, clients are provided with:
- Therapy sessions conducted by a licensed mental health professional
- Skill-building sessions designed by a counselor or therapist
- Support group meetings that revolve around the resolution of addiction
- Medical management, as needed, so sobriety doesn’t come with physical danger
Some people get this help in a series of outpatient sessions that stretch over a period of months. Others choose to enroll in intensive programs that last for several weeks, and only then do they begin to work in an outpatient setting. Either method could be an appropriate way to deal with an addiction issue.
In general, according to a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, the type of care should be tailored to the type of addiction the person has. Those who have advanced cases of alcoholism that have impacted almost every aspect of their lives would need intensive, residential care in this model, while those who are new to drinking and who have just lost control might do well in outpatient settings. It’s a personal choice only the family can make, however, and the answer might vary from family to family.
People who have alcoholism may feel as though they’re the only ones in the world who have ever struggled with drinking. In reality, many people choose to enroll in care for their alcoholism troubles. For example, in the Treatment Episode Data Set conducted in 2010, more than 744,000 people enrolled in treatment programs due to a primary case of alcohol addiction. Those who choose to get care certainly won’t be alone, and the help they might get could be profound.
At Black Bear Lodge, we offer comprehensive care for people who have alcoholism, and we’d love to tell you more about our treatment model. We can outline the therapies we use, along with the science that backs up those choices, and we can help you make the decision between residential care and outpatient options. We can even schedule a tour of our facility. Just call us to get the conversation started. We have admissions coordinators available around the clock to take your call.