Great Oaks Recovery Center - Houston drug rehab - alcohol rehab center - texas addiction treatment facility - alcohol and drug detoxification


Alcohol Addiction: Risks, Consequences, and Treatment Options

Alcoholism, or alcohol addiction, can impact anyone. Some people are predisposed to the development of addiction while others may consume alcohol without this risk. Alcohol addiction can occur as a result of many underlying factors, including mental health disorders, genetic disorders, and environmental causes.

Like any other disease, alcoholism requires careful treatment. It can worsen over time, creating numerous health challenges, including organ failure and cognitive function decline. When someone develops a physical dependence on alcohol, it becomes difficult for them to stop drinking on their own, no matter how much willpower and determination they have. That’s when seeking treatment is essential.

How Common is Alcoholism?

Alcohol use disorder, another term for alcohol addiction, occurred in 14 million people over the age of 18 in 2019, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.  In 2018, only 7.9 percent of people with this disorder received treatment for it, making it one of the most undertreated diseases.

Binge drinking is another type of alcohol use disorder. It occurs when a person consumes a significant amount of alcohol in a short period of time. For men, that’s typically 5 drinks in 2 hours and for women, it’s typically 4 drinks in two hours. In 2019, 25.8 percent of those over the age of 18 reported engaging in binge drinking, with 6.3 percent stating they engaged in heavy alcohol use in the previous month.

Could You Have an Alcohol Addiction?

Because drinking alcohol is a common part of life in most circles, it can be difficult to pinpoint the development of an alcohol use disorder. Some of the most frequent signs of alcohol addiction include:

  • Drinking more and more often
  • Avoiding contact with friends and family, drinking in isolation
  • Needing to drink alcohol daily and feeling as if it is necessary
  • Onset of depression or anxiety when not drinking
  • Drinking at work, in the early morning, or while driving

Addiction and dependence often happen together. When dependence occurs, a person is unable to stop using alcohol without feeling intense headaches, insomnia, anxiety, or other physical withdrawal symptoms. They also have intense cravings.

Some people are functional alcoholics. That means they consume alcohol often but are able to go to work or school, participate in most activities, and meet responsibilities. In this case, alcoholism is defined as consistent and compulsive consumption of alcohol. Over time, this can worsen, especially as the need to drink more alcohol increases.

What Are the Risks of Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol is readily available, so many people believe it must be safe to consume. Yet, there are many health consequences to overconsumption. Initially, these may include intoxication (feeling drunk), but they can also include:

  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Diabetic onset or worsening
  • Ulcers
  • Vision changes
  • Birth defects in pregnant women
  • Increased cancer risk
  • Poorly functioning immune system
  • Liver and kidney damage

Addiction can also impact everyday life. It can interfere with relationships and work responsibilities. It also encourages reckless behavior, such as engaging in unprotected sex or driving while intoxicated.

When Should a Person Seek Help for Alcohol Addiction?

It’s not necessary to wait until alcohol use is out of control before seeking help. Those who feel compelled or drawn to having a drink several times a week may benefit from alcohol addiction treatment. Other signs you may need help include:

  • Drinking to deal with emotions or trauma
  • Intense cravings that limit your ability to stop
  • Trying to stop drinking but failing to do so
  • Feeling intense pain or agitation when not consuming
  • Development of health problems

While alcohol addiction is damaging to health, especially over the long term, most of that damage can be treated if a person seeks out help. The sooner help is available, the less likely these risks will impact lifespan or quality of life.

How Is Alcohol Addiction Treated?

Alcohol addiction treatment begins with an assessment. That assessment determines the psychological and physical needs of a person with an alcohol use disorder. Some people with dependence and a long history of alcohol consumption benefit from a detox program followed by residential treatment. Others may benefit from treatment on an outpatient basis. 

The goal of any level of treatment is to break dependence so you don’t feel like you have to drink. Treatment also improves mental health by addressing any underlying depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or stress. It can provide both individual and family therapy, as well as holistic therapies, like nutritional therapy, to help the body and mind rebuild and restore. 

Great Oaks offers the tools and resources to help you find treatment for alcoholism and to support your loved ones throughout the process. If you are worried that you or a loved one may need help with alcohol use, we’re here to offer support.