Alcoholism in America
Despite aggressive marketing campaigns to sell alcohol as a good time and studies that suggest some alcohol consumption could even be healthy, statistics indicate otherwise. About 3 million people die each year because of alcohol, according to a report published by the World Health Organization. Moreover, The Lancet published a study which stated that alcohol was the most deadly of all recreational drugs.
Consequently, alcohol-related deaths are on the rise. USA Today reported that alcohol is killing more people than ever — especially younger people and women. Furthermore, Newsweek reported that America has seen an increase in hard drinking, noting that 40 percent of adults drink excessive amounts of alcohol despite consequences.
With these kinds of numbers, it’s no surprise that alcohol abuse is a problem. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that in 2016, an estimated 6 percent of adults were heavy alcohol drinkers. Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, continues to be a dangerous condition that can wreak havoc on a mind and body.
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The Signs + Symptoms of Alcoholism
To help better understand the signs of an alcoholic, the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” published by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, has a checklist of symptoms to help an alcoholic gauge their drinking behavior. Four to five of the following symptoms suggest signs of an alcoholic:
- strong cravings for alcohol
- spending a significant amount of time drinking
- wanting to quit drinking but not being able to
- drinking even though it causes problems with family, jobs, or relationships
- drinking even though it leads to risky behavior
- passing up on favorite activities in order to drink
- drinking even though it leads to depression or anxiety
- having to drink more to feel the effects of alcohol
- experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit drinking
- drinking more, or for longer periods of time, than intended
Frequent bouts of being drunk along with an established pattern of drinking are early signs of alcohol abuse. Blackout drinking is another early sign that a person has a problem with alcohol. As dependency on alcohol increases, problems become more pronounced and risky behavior becomes more frequent. Missing work, driving drunk, and relationship problems are signs that a person does not actually control their alcohol consumption — instead alcohol controls them.
People who are dependent on alcohol often hide some of their symptoms, and some may simply deny the severity of them. However, there are physical signs that are more difficult to hide.
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The Physical Effects of Alcohol Abuse
People who drink excessively may have an overall pallid complexion with circles under their eyes due to dehydration and poor sleep habits. Some alcoholics suffer from a compromised immune system, which means they may have skin issues such as pimples and cysts. Spider angiomas, which are deep purple or reddish web-like lines, generally appear around the nose and cheeks of many alcoholics. An alcoholic will begin to shake and become anxious if he or she goes too long without drinking.
In the early stages of alcoholism, the liver is the first organ to take a hit. Alcohol-related liver disease usually occurs in stages. Alcoholic fatty liver disease is the first stage of this disease, in which the liver becomes inflamed and will fail to function properly.
As alcoholism advances, alcoholic hepatitis develops. In this stage of the disease, large amounts of fat lead to inflammation and scarring, which results in elevated liver enzymes and liver impairment. Symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis include jaundice, abdominal pain, nausea, and poor appetite.
The final stage of alcohol-related liver disease is alcoholic cirrhosis, in which the liver is so scared, it cannot function.
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What are My Treatment Options?
When alcoholics decide to quit drinking, certain physical signs become obvious. Agitation, headaches, sweating, anxiety, nausea, insomnia, and tremors are common side effects. Seizures, convulsions, blackouts, and hallucinations are also possible, which can lead to dangerous circumstances requiring hospitalization. Because of the possibility of life-threatening episodes, detoxing under medical supervision is often a wise choice.
Detoxification is the process by which doctors and medical staff assist those with a drinking problem in detoxing in a safe manner to help the client prepare for the treatment process where the tools are learned in order to recover for good.
Inpatient treatment is recommended for individuals with moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms. Inpatient facilities monitor patients’ physical symptoms, ensuring they are not in danger.
Outpatient treatment is highly recommended as a continued treatment after a person completes an inpatient rehab program. Outpatient programs allow clients to continue with their normal responsibilities and also receive the continued care that leads to long-term recovery.
Sober living homes offer a stable environment that helps alcoholics get back on their feet. Residents are independent, yet engage in treatment during their recovery. The idea behind sober living homes is that alcoholics have a better chance of recovery when they are not alone.
Support groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous, also offer fellowship and much-needed support to help an alcoholic become sober. Groups meet weekly or daily in just about every major city in the United States. AA members follow a 12-step program that helps them reach sobriety.
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Tackling alcohol addiction alone is risky because withdrawals are real and extremely challenging. The good news is that alcoholics don’t have to face giving up alcohol alone. Launch Centers offers a wide variety of treatment including a 3 phase program that combines partial day, intensive outpatient and outpatient programming with education and vocational components that allow for the best possible results for each client. If you or a loved one needs help to quit drinking, call 1-877-895-3231 to speak with a professional now.