Alcohol use is often seen as a societal norm in the United States and many people underestimate its dangers. Having a high tolerance for alcohol is something that should raise concern because it could indicate an alcohol use disorder or alcoholism. Alcohol can put you at greater risk for health problems such as cancer, heart disease, and liver disease, and also impairs your thinking and memory. Furthermore, alcoholism affects the entire family and can contribute to social, emotional, financial and legal problems.
Some people use alcohol as a way to relax and unwind, while others use it to feel more outgoing and less inhibited in social situations. While it can be a temporary fix, it does not resolve underlying issues and can actually lead to more problems. Entering into an addiction treatment program, like Crossroads, can help you to address these issues and develop healthier coping skills and routines. In recovery, you will begin to see how much better you feel when not under the influence.
How Addictive is Alcohol?
A recent study found that alcohol is the second most addictive substance behind heroin. Alcohol increases dopamine production in the brain which alters the brain’s reward system. Things that might normally bring you pleasure and satisfaction no longer have as strong an effect. Instead, your body craves alcohol to satisfy this need. Once you develop a dependency on alcohol, it can quickly spiral into alcoholism making it even harder to quit drinking on your own. Even if you want to, the changes in your brain make it more difficult without professional treatment and ongoing support. However, it is possible to overcome alcoholism and once again derive pleasure from things other than alcohol.
What are the Causes of Alcoholism?
Both genetics and environment play a role in causing alcoholism. There is not one single factor that determines if you will become addicted or not. Prolonged or excessive drinking can put you at a higher risk of developing alcoholism due to the changes that it creates in the body and brain. Since every person and situation is different, there is no way to know for sure who will struggle with alcoholism and who will not.
People start drinking for a variety of reasons from boredom and experimentation to peer pressure, anxiety and self-medication. Being aware of risk factors can make you more alert to signs that may indicate your drinking is becoming problematic. If you do have a family history of alcoholism, it can make you three to four times more likely to develop a problem yourself, but being proactive can help you to overcome these odds.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of alcoholism can enable you to get yourself or a loved one the help they need to overcome addiction. Oftentimes people are in denial that they have a problem, especially if they have not noticed any major impact on their career, health or personal life. If there are problems, they may try to downplay the severity or make excuses to cover them up.
One major sign of alcoholism is being unable to control your drinking on your own. You may have tried to stop before but been unsuccessful or only lasted for a few days. Ultimately the urge to drink becomes too much to handle on your own. However, addiction is not a matter of willpower. The way that alcohol changes the brain makes it difficult to stop without professional help from an addiction treatment facility.
Some other signs and symptoms to be alert for include:
- Continuing to drink despite negative effects on health, employment or relationships.
- An increased focus on drinking and lack of interest in other activities that were once enjoyable.
- Engaging in risky behaviors or decision making after drinking.
- Blacking out or having difficulty remembering what you said or did while drinking.
- Developing a high tolerance for alcohol and requiring a larger amount to feel the same effects as before.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as nausea or vomiting, sweating, rapid heartbeat, hallucinations, anxiety or agitation after a period of not drinking.
Alcoholism Statistics in the United States
It is estimated that more than 17 million people in the United States have an alcohol use disorder. This does not include the millions more who engage in drinking behavior that puts them at increased risk of developing alcoholism in the future. Alcoholism typically affects more men than women, but both genders are at risk. It is also a condition that does not only affect adults, but children as well. In 2012, there were around 855,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 who struggled with alcoholism. The younger a person is when they start drinking, the higher risk they put themselves at for developing an alcohol use disorder.
Many people underestimate the dangers of drinking since it is legal in the United States for those ages 21 and older. However, statistics show that alcoholism is a serious problem with serious consequences if left untreated:
- Alcoholism is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the United States.
- Each year approximately 88,000 deaths are attributed to excessive alcohol use.
- Only a small fraction of those who could benefit from addiction treatment actually seek help from a drug and alcohol rehab center. In 2012, approximately 1.4 million adults sought treatment, but this only accounted for about 8.4 percent of those in need.
Get Treatment for Alcoholism at Crossroads
Fortunately, alcoholism is a treatable condition. Crossroads offers gender-responsive, customized treatment plans to meet your individual needs. Through a combination of therapy, counseling, wellness services, holistic care, and ongoing support, you can learn to overcome or manage the underlying issues that contributed to your alcohol use. You will develop the skills and strategies necessary to reduce risk of relapse and achieve the goals that you set for yourself.
Crossroads can help you to remember who you wanted to be and regain control of your life. Do not let alcoholism put your future in jeopardy.Contact Crossroads to learn more about how our residential and outpatient services can support you in living a healthier life and focusing on recovery.