Understanding Alcohol Abuse and Treatment Options

Today life can be stressful; from being in constant communication with others via cell phones and social media to money and family issues, the pressure many feel today can be overwhelming. Finding ways to cope and relieve stress can often lead to unhealthy habits and behaviors. One of the most common ways to ‘relax’ is having a drink or two. However for millions of Americans, this initially innocent coping mechanism can become a bad habit and then turn deadly when it spirals out of control into alcohol abuse.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA,) alcohol abuse or alcohol use disorder is defined as having more than a certain amount of alcoholic drinks in one occasion; for men this is five or more drinks, for women four or more. A ‘drink’ can be any type of alcoholic beverage: beer, wine, liquor, etc..

When a drinker crosses the line between what is normal social drinking and what is an addiction, certain consequences can begin occurring. For many legal troubles, issues at work or school, struggles in relationships with family and friends are part of this. Once a dependency to alcohol sets in, there can be numerous physical ailments, many serious, that take place. Unless help in a suitable alcohol treatment program is sought, these health issues can eventually lead to death.

Excessive use of alcohol can cause serious health problems:

  • Brain damage
  • Liver damage
  • High blood pressure
  • Stomach issues
  • Heart disease
  • Pregnancy and fetal issues for pregnant or nursing mothers

According to SAMHSA 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH,) about 17 million of the current 139.7 million alcohol users age 12 years or older could be classified as having an alcohol use disorder.

If you or someone you love is struggling with an issue with alcohol, or think you may be, life can seem daunting. Alcohol addiction can be overwhelming, just like addiction to drugs, alcohol abuse is more common today than ever and the issue continues to grow.

Sometimes with alcoholism as opposed to illicit drugs, it’s difficult to know if a true problem exists. Family and friends of the loved one often struggle with understanding alcohol abuse and knowing if their loved one truly suffers. Since alcohol is legal and so commonly consumed by people of all backgrounds, religions, races, education levels, and socio-economic backgrounds, it can be difficult to know when there really is a problem.

What once was ‘social drinking’ often takes a more serious and dangerous turn. For not only the family of the person with the alcohol problem but often the person themselves, understanding the nature of the issue can be a challenge.  When trying to decide if there truly is an issue, looking at few of the most common signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder (AUD) can be helpful. Keep in mind you don’t need to have all of these signs to have an issue. Only you, or the person in question, can really know if they are struggling with alcohol use.

Signs of Alcohol Abuse

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH,) if you see some or all of the following signs of alcoholism, there may be a problem with alcohol and alcohol treatment is advised.

  • Spending a lot of time drinking alcohol
  • Drinking more than you plan to drink on several occasions or regularly
  • Trying to cut down how much you drink but are unable to do so
  • Feeling sick after drinking (having a hangover)
  • Craving alcohol or feeling strong urge to drink
  • Neglecting responsibilities (work, family, school, etc.) to drink or from feeling ill from drinking
  • Being in dangerous situations you otherwise would not be in when drinking (such as driving, being in dangerous areas, spending time with questionable people, taking risks, etc.)
  • Increasing the amount you drink to achieve the same effect
  • Continuing to drink despite problems it causes with family, friends, work, etc.
  • Feeling shaky, irritable, anxious, sleepless, etc. when not drinking
  • Experiencing blackouts or not remembering what you did when you were drinking
  • Cutting back on activities you enjoy to spend more time drinking
  • Drinking during activities where others may not be drinking (work, school, family activities, etc.)
  • Continuing to drink despite the onset of health issues

If you, or someone you love, are experiencing some or all of these signs, there may be an issue with alcohol abuse. There are stages of alcoholism and ‘degrees’ of the disease. The severity of the alcohol use disorder—mild, moderate, or severe—is dependent upon how many of the above criteria are met. For example, if you or someone you loved relates to one of the items on this list, the diagnosis may be mild however, if you relate to all of these signs, you may have a more severe problem with alcohol.

Whether the issue you or your loved is experiencing with alcohol is mild, moderate, or severe, the feelings are very much the same. Sadness or depression, feelings of loneliness or isolation, shame, guilt, anger, and many more bad feelings often go hand in hand with an alcohol use disorder or alcoholism.

As previously mentioned, since alcohol is legal and a very commonly consumed substance, it may be hard to decide if there really is a problem. Also, based on these reasons, it can be very challenging to stop drinking alcohol since it’s so readily obtainable and commonly consumed in many social situations.

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol use, you may feel overwhelmed, sad, and disillusioned. Don’t despair, the good news is there are many alcohol treatment centers and alcoholism treatment programs that can and will help. In fact, according to the NIH, one third of those who receive treatment for alcoholism show no further alcohol use disorder symptoms one year later.  There is help and there is hope!

Types of Alcohol Rehab Programs and Alcohol Treatment Centers

When it comes to rehab for alcoholism, it’s vital to find the right fit for you or your loved one. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are 88,000 deaths from alcohol annually. An alcohol rehab center can be the first step in preventing one more fatality from this deadly disease.

Addiction to alcohol doesn’t discriminate. For that reason, there are just as many alcohol rehab centers options as there are types of people in need of rehab for alcohol. Statistics show that getting help in the appropriate alcohol rehab center is significant in recovery, recovery that lasts.

Sadly, many in need of rehab for alcohol or drugs won’t get it. According to the NSDUH, only 8.9% of people aged 12 years or older who needed treatment for alcohol received it. That leaves a lot of untreated alcoholism and people needlessly suffering through life. If you or your loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, get help today and let the healing begin.

Recovery is defined by SAMSHA as a process of change in which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives and strive to reach their full potential. SAMSHA has set forth four pillars that are seen as fundamental for successful recovery. These are health, home, purpose, and community.

Foundations of Recovery

Health—managing the disease (addiction) and taking steps to ensure continued physical and emotional good health.

Home—having a stable, safe place to live on a long term basis.

Purpose—being actively engaged in meaningful and fulfilling daily activities such as a job, school, family, volunteering, etc..

Community—establishing and maintaining positive social relationships that support recovery.

When in the grips of addiction to alcohol or drugs these basic tenants may seem unattainable. However, with the right drug and alcohol rehab, these foundations will become a reality and a life beyond your dreams will be in reach.

The first step is to find the right alcohol treatment center and program for you. All you need to get started is hope….

When seeking treatment for alcohol use disorder, there are certain factors to consider. You’ll want to find a treatment center that offers certain services. Some of the most important aspects of an effective treatment program should include the following evidence-based treatments:

Characteristics of Evidence-based Treatment Programs

  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Medication
  • Support services (both while in treatment and aftercare programs)

According to SAMSHA, evidence-based treatment programs are those programs which show positive outcomes through high quality research.

It’s also important to find a treatment center that can meet you or your loved one’s specific needs. Many times there is a co-occurring mental health issue which needs to be treated as well. In fact, according to the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (NSSATS,) 45% of Americans who seek substance abuse treatment have been diagnosed with a mental health issue as well.

Inpatient Alcohol Rehab

As mentioned, there are numerous types of alcohol rehab centers with varying levels of care. Inpatient treatment is one of the most two most common with outpatient being the other.

Inpatient or residential treatment centers for alcohol is a treatment program in which the person seeking help lives at the center while receiving alcohol treatment. Most inpatient treatment programs last between 30 and 90 days.

One of the most common first steps in treatment for an addiction to alcohol is detox. Detox most commonly occurs at an inpatient treatment center or medical facility. The detox phase of treatment is the first vital step and is very important to be medically supervised.

Many times, after the detox phase, when the person is physically stable, he or she goes into residential or inpatient treatment at the same treatment center. And while detox is a crucial first step, it’s important to realize that this is only the first step in recovery. The other parts of the treatment program are essential in long lasting recovery.

One benefit of an inpatient treatment program is that it allows the person struggling with the alcohol use disorder to focus solely on recovery for the period of time they are in the treatment facility. Not only are the stressors from daily life kept at bay for a time, so are the temptations. Here are a few more benefits of inpatient treatment programs:

  • Secure, stable environment which is sober
  • Medical and psychiatric monitoring and support
  • 24/7 access to medical staff and counselors
  • Intensive individual and group therapy
  • Decreased chance of relapse with temptations, stressors not there
  • Supportive environment to reestablish often strained family relationships
  • Community of others experiencing the same challenges and staying sober

Many people who are considering treatment options are concerned with the cost of alcohol rehab. However, with the Affordable Care Act insurance providers are now required to cover costs for mental health and substance abuse treatment. Some rehabs are private pay only but there are alcohol and drug rehabs with effective treatment programs who will accept insurance. Be sure to talk to your insurance provider to determine where you can go.

Outpatient Alcohol Rehab

Seeking treatment for alcoholism can be overwhelming and scary. Facing the thought of being away from work, school, family, and friends can be even more intimidating. If you simply can’t get away from these obligations, there are outpatient treatment options which can also be an effective first step in recovery.

Outpatient treatment programs vary in levels of care. There are intensive outpatient programs (IOP) which generally run three to four hours per day, most days of the week. These programs allow the individual to continue to meet work or school responsibilities while getting treatment.

There are also partial hospitalization programs. These usually take place at a hospital or alcohol treatment center. The person attending this type of program will not be able to continue school or work responsibilities while in treatment. The main difference in this program is that the individual in treatment can live at home while receiving care.

What to Do Next

Are you ready to take the next steps in seeking help for alcohol addiction? Reaching out to your doctor can often be the first step. They can guide you in finding the best alcohol treatment programs near you. You can also simply search ‘alcohol rehab near me’ to find a list of treatment centers in your area. Another good resource is your local twelve step or Alcohol Anonymous programs. You can also search online to find more information on these effective programs.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, or you think this may be the case, don’t despair. There is help and there is hope. Millions have been exactly where you are now and have successfully recovered from alcohol use disorder and are living happy, productive lives today.

Take the first step to recovery now!