Addiction 101

Alcohol Dependence

Understand Dependence and Achieve Recovery

The Road To Recovery for You or a Loved One Starts Here

Alcohol Use Disorder, also commonly known as alcoholism, is serious and powerful. Lifelong recovery is possible through education and treatment.

Alcohol use and addiction have the potential to profoundly damage relationships, and lives and can lead to health problems. Excessive alcohol use and substance use disorder impacts people of all ages and has far-reaching consequences. Despite this, those struggling with addiction can recover with professional support. Whether you struggle with alcohol or care for someone who does, the following materials can help you understand the disease and determine the appropriate next steps. Alcohol dependence is serious, but recovery is possible.

Depending on how much alcohol has been routinely consumed and for how long (months, years, decades), stopping drinking can yield short-term, unpleasant outcomes such as tremors, disturbed sleep, cravings, excessive sweating, feelings of depression, and/or anxiety, restlessness, nausea, etc. The DTs (delirium tremens), a potentially deadly medical condition, can occur between 72 hours and one week after a dependent or heavy drinker has stopped drinking. Over the long term — and as soon as 72 hours or a week for some people — stopping drinking can result in better sleep, weight loss, mental acuity, improved energy, healthier-looking skin, etc.

Alcohol, like all drugs, is a chemical substance that brings about a change in a person's mental or physical state. In small doses, alcohol acts as a stimulant improving confidence, increasing extroversion and talkativeness, elevating blood pressure and heart rate, improving mood, etc. Alcohol in larger doses slows down neural activity and brain functioning, resulting in cognitive impairment, slurred speech, slowed reaction time, uneven or reduced motor skills, distorted perception and judgment, sleepiness, and more.

Alcohol use disorder, what was once commonly known as alcoholism, occurs when an individual develops a physical dependence on drinking alcohol and engages in compulsive alcohol-seeking behaviors such as heavy drinking. It is not known what causes alcohol use disorder, but it results in changes in the brain and body that can result in consistent cravings, and eventually, withdrawal symptoms if alcohol is not consumed.

For anyone dependent on alcohol, safely detoxing from alcohol should only be done under a doctor's supervision. For individuals who are not in danger of a medical emergency or do not have access to medical supervision, slowly tapering down the number of drinks consumed each day over a period of weeks or months can ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings during detox.

Excessive drinking whether in a single sitting (binge drinking) or over time, can have negative effects on your physical and mental health, relationships, job prospects, and more. Long-term alcohol use is associated with an elevated risk of developing chronic diseases and other negative health conditions that include high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, heart disease, and various forms of cancer.

Blacking out is a period of memory loss due to excessive alcohol consumption in a short amount of time. During a blackout, a person can often still move around, talk, and otherwise seem fully conscious and aware of themselves and their surroundings, but they will remember nothing of the blackout later. Blacking out is most commonly associated with binge drinking.

Quitting drinking, even for someone who wants to, can be very difficult because alcohol use disorder (what used to be called alcoholism) is a disease that needs professional treatment. The symptoms of the disease — even in its early stages — include cravings, dependence, increased tolerance, loss of inhibitions, and changes in brain chemistry. All of these realities contribute to why it can be difficult for people to quit drinking.

Many risk factors can contribute to the development of alcohol dependence. Some of these include

  • A family history of alcoholism or other substance use disorders.

  • Peer pressure to drink alcohol or use other drugs.

  • Traumatic experiences, such as child abuse or exposure to violence.

  • Mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety.

  • Stressful life events, such as job loss or relationship problems.

If you are struggling with alcohol dependence, it is important to seek professional help. An evidenced-based treatment plan can help you overcome your addiction and regain control of your life.

Evidence-Based Treatment

At Caron Treatment Centers we provide support to patients and family members on the road to recovery from alcohol use disorder. We provide both inpatient and outpatient treatment so you can live alcohol-free. Contact us today to learn more.

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