Alcohol addiction is defined as the physical dependence on alcohol. It is the most severe form of problem drinking, and it can lead to serious health consequences. If you need to drink alcohol in order to function on a daily basis or physically feel the need to drink, then you are addicted to alcohol.
Apart from the almost 18 million people who suffer from these conditions, millions more partake in binge drinking and other risky drinking patterns that can easily lead to abuse and dependence.
Alcohol abuse, including binge drinking, occurs when people consume alcohol in an uncontrolled and dangerous way.
Binge drinking and heavy drinking can lead to severe health issues, including:
Alcohol addiction, or alcoholism, can develop from extensive alcohol abuse. Symptoms of addiction include:
- Increased tolerance
- Compulsive drinking patterns
- Drinking on a regular basis
- Intense cravings
- Physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when alcohol is discontinued
While the exact causes of alcoholism are unknown, this disease is thought to have both genetic and environmental origins.
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Common signs of alcoholism include:
Those who drink excessively may feel guilty about the extent of their drinking and lie to those around them to cover it up. Generally speaking, someone is said to have a drinking problem whenever alcohol consumption is causing problems in their life and they continue to drink despite these problems.
Medical detox is often carried out at the outset of the treatment process, followed by inpatient or outpatient rehab, relapse prevention, and aftercare support programs. Medical detox is the process of withdrawing from an addictive substance in a safe and supportive medical setting, often with the help of medications and supervision from healthcare professionals. A variety of medications can be used to support alcohol detox, including the benzodiazepine drugs Serax and Valium. Other medications may also be prescribed in the later stages of detox and rehab, including naltrexone, Antabuse, and Campral.
While detox helps people to stop drinking in a safe, medical environment, it does very little to address the underlying psychological factors of alcoholism. Rehabilitation programs are designed to do exactly that, with a range of programs available across the United States. Most rehab programs are based on motivational, cognitive, or behavioral principles, with long-term medication treatment also needed in some situations.
Inpatient programs and outpatient rehab services are both available, including day treatment, partial hospitalization, and long-term residential care. Aftercare support programs also play an important role in the rehabilitation process, including sober living homes, 12-step support groups, and SMART Recovery, among other programs.