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Alcoholism: An Overview


What is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction or alcoholism is often considered to be a ‘bad habit’ but it is rather a very serious mental health condition. Psychological, genetics and environmental factors play crucial roles in the development of the disease.

Alcohol problems arise from neurological changes which means that the behavioral patterns of the patient may not be in their control, much like any other mental health disorders.

Alcohol addiction is said to have occurred in an individual when they binge drink or consume heavy quantities of alcohol and have trouble staying sober for a long time. If a person suffers from social, relationship or workplace problems due to their alcohol consumption, then seeking help is necessary to recover from the illness.


Symptoms of Alcoholism

Alcohol problems are very difficult to recognize. As opposed to substance abuse problems that are clearly visible among people, recognizing alcoholism is tough. One of the primary reasons for such problems is the wide availability of alcohol and how it is an accepted social drink in many cultures.

To diagnose a person with alcohol addiction, doctors need to understand whether the person wants to have a few drinks now and then or has a real problem. Here are some of the symptoms to look out for:

  • The increase in alcohol consumption quantity or frequency of use
  • High tolerance for alcohol, or lack of “hangover” symptoms following consumption
  • Drinking at inappropriate times or for no particular reason, such as first thing in the morning, or in public or workplaces
  • Hanging out with friends and in groups that also take part in heavy drinking or a sudden change in friends’ circle
  • Avoiding contact with close friends and family
  • The increased dependency on alcohol to function normally in life
  • Excessive lethargy, wanting to stay home, depression and other emotional issues
  • Legal problems and trouble managing work leading to slack in performance

The social consequences of alcoholism only worsen with time, hence the best way to treat someone of the diseases is by recognizing the early symptoms and committing them to get help.

Causes of Alcoholism

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) or alcohol addiction can stem from a variety of factors. After long periods of heavy drinking, the brain of the individual starts to rely heavily on alcohol to produce certain chemicals.

One of the main effects of drinking is neurochemical changes in the brain. It becomes difficult for the individual to quit alcohol leading to several alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Here is how several factors play a role to give rise to serious cases of alcoholism:

  • Biological factors:

Genetics and physiology have a huge role to play in the development of alcoholism. According to recent studies, scientists have recognized as many as 21 genes in different chromosome regions that might be responsible for the development of alcohol addiction. If these genes are passed on to the younger generation in the family, then the chances of developing alcoholism later in life can increase substantially.

Apart from genetics there are certain chemicals in the brain that can increase the possibilities of alcohol abuse. Some individuals can limit their consumption of alcohol but for others with different physiological composition of the brain, can produce an impulse to keep going. 

  • Environmental factors:

Scientists have found that there are certain environmental factors that can also influence and individual drinking habits and develop alcohol problems. Some of the factors might be their close proximity to stores and pubs, being economically affluent and coming from families and friend groups that consider drinking as a relaxing pastime. 

  • Social factors:

Children who have been a victim of alcohol abuse very early age are susceptible to developing the same alcohol problems as adults.

  •  Psychological factors:

Different individuals deal with their life situations differently, their coping mechanisms are different from each other and also depends on the current situation and environment.

As alcohol tends to bring pleasure to the brain and the effects of drinking seems to calm the nerves, people might depend on it to cope with anxiety, stress and depression.

Risk Factors for Alcoholism

There are various risk factors that might contribute to the individual developing alcohol addiction later in life. Having these risk factors in life does not necessarily mean that the person will develop alcohol addiction but in most of cases, it tends to stem from these particular social aspects listed below:

  • Starting to drink at an early age: Teenagers in high school and young adults in their early 20s often intend to binge drink as part of their social habits. Individuals who developed the habit of drinking at such an early age may develop alcohol addiction over time if they do not limit their habits.
  • Being exposed to alcoholism at the family level: Children and teenagers who grow up in a household where drinking is a common habit or if they get exposed to a family member or a parent who is a victim of alcohol abuse then there is an increased likelihood of the child to develop an addiction to alcohol later. This is because the children tend to find solutions to their issues by consuming alcohol as they have observed in adults.
  • High levels of stress: Professionals with long working hours under extreme stress and responsibility, can develop habits of drinking alcohol in order to help them sleep.
  • Continuous drinking for a long period of time: People who started drinking early in their life and continue the habit for a long period develop alcohol abuse problems. Since they are drinking regularly, it is easy for them to miss out the signs of developing this mental disorder. In such cases, the individuals tend to develop high tolerance for alcohol which means the body needs the same level of alcohol to function normally as it would have done otherwise.
  • Peer pressure: One of the most important risk factors for people developing alcoholism issues early in life is peer pressure. Teenagers and young adults often give in to alcohol drinking habits in order to fit into a certain group of friends.


Effects of Alcohol Addiction on Family

The social consequences of alcoholism are very adverse especially in a family setting. The patient with alcohol addiction slowly starts to lose control of their actions as the situation worsens.

As significant behavioral changes start to be seen, family members or close friends might be able to notice. This leads to confrontation, followed by troubles in maintaining personal relationships at home. 

How does alcoholism affect families?

Alcohol and family problems go almost hand in hand. Alcoholic parents tend to be impulsive and unstable. Their parenting skills start to degenerate with the increase in their addiction.

The effects of drinking is such that alcoholics tend to interact with children in inconsistent ways whilst sending mixed signals to children. The children also grow up in an environment where alcohol is an accepted part of life, thus increases the risk of them taking up underage drinking. 

It has been seen that the social consequences of alcoholism is such that children with alcoholic parents tend to have more academic problems than others their age. Heavy drinking might also lead to domestic violence with children often being the victim of such incidents.

Such violence aids in development of trauma, causing psychological disorders as they grow up, generating fear among them to develop intimate relationships in their adulthood. The emotional functioning of the child also may be damaged for life. 

Alcohol Addiction is an expensive disease. This means, to keep drinking, the individual needs to spend a substantial amount of money throughout his addiction periods. This leads to further problems at home regarding financial issues. Alcoholics also tend to lose their job over low performance which also hits families with financial problems.

How Is Alcoholism Diagnosed?

Early diagnosis of alcohol addiction goes a long way in ensuring that the patient does not develop further complications of the disease later in his life. The following diagnosis test and methods are carried out to confirm alcohol abuse problems:

  • The doctor might ask questions about drinking habits and will have to speak to family and close friends
  • The patient would also be required to take part in several lab tests and imaging tests 
  • Complete physical examination of the body is also done during the diagnosis process
  • Doctors will also be required to perform a comprehensive psychological examination

Treatment Options for Alcohol Addiction

What happens when you stop drinking?

Before we talk about all the treatment options, let us discuss what happens if you stop drinking alcohol suddenly? This leads to a condition called alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Withdrawal is common among all patients of addiction. When a person suddenly stops drinking after a long time, the body seems to take time to adjust to the new change.

The symptoms are similar to the ones people have when they drink for the first time. Prolonged exposure to alcohol makes the body and the brain of the patient dependent on the substance, the frequency of drinking and the pattern.

Initial consumption of alcohol can agitate or irritate the central nervous system. Alcohol has a specific sedative effect on the brain which suppresses certain neurotransmitters so that the person can feel at ease after drinking.

Due to prolonged drinking, the brain and the entire central nervous system becomes dependent on alcohol produced chemicals. When the patient suddenly stops drinking the brain scrambles to adjust to the new chemical in balance in the body.

There can be various ways to deal with alcohol addiction problems. The main problems that arise in the path towards alcohol treatment and getting rid of the addiction is the process of dealing with alcohol withdrawal syndrome. After a long period of alcohol consumption, the body requires crucial alcohol addiction treatment to get back to normal state. 

During the withdrawal period, the patients are likely to suffer from nausea, headache, vomiting and stomach ache issues. Severe cases may lead to anxiety issues and patients might experience hallucinations and seizures which sometimes lead to death. So, the main focus of alcohol treatment gets shifted to alcohol withdrawal treatment to help the patient reduce the symptoms and get back to normal life easily. 

Alcohol addiction treatment procedures might include:

  • Detoxification in an alcohol rehabilitation program: 

Alcohol rehabilitation treatment facilities are basically inpatient programs to help with alcohol addiction and prevent their withdrawal symptoms easily. An alcohol rehabilitation program can last anywhere from 30 days to 1 year depending on the severity of the condition.

Sometimes alcohol rehabilitation treatment can also be done outpatient, that is, at the home of the patient but under strict medical care. During the detoxification stage, the alcohol withdrawal treatment is medically managed and can take anywhere between 2 to 7 days.

  • Learning skills and establishing a strict alcohol addiction treatment plan: 

This alcohol rehabilitation treatment plan often requires the help of specialists. The idea is to set a recovery goal and the patient is given self-help manuals and is advised to take part in counseling activities.

  • Psychological counseling:

This part of the alcohol treatment comprises counseling sessions and attending self-help groups. Attending ‘Alcoholics Anonymous groups can help patients understand the psychological factors that lead to alcohol addiction. Other counseling techniques involve couples therapy and family counseling activities. Mental support from the health care provider and family of the patient can help them recover faster.


Myths and Facts About Alcohol Addiction

There are several misconceptions about alcoholism that might lead to the development of serious conditions later. Let us discuss some of them in detail.

Myth – It is okay to get drunk once in a while

Fact – Binge drinking is one of the most serious risk factors that can lead to long term complications like liver and heart diseases. It also increases the risk of cancer. If individuals have four or more drinks (women) and five or more drinks (men) then there is a high chance of this habit developing into a risk factor for alcohol addiction.

Myth – Moderate drinking is safe and does not carry any risks

FactModerate drinking might be considered to be safe upto certain degrees but it does not mean that the habit is entirely risk-free. For certain categories of individuals, this habit might lead to serious issues. These categories include:

  • Pregnant women or those who are trying to get pregnant
  • People who are responsible for working with heavy machinery
  • Individuals with heart failure or pancreatic diseases
  • Patients of stroke 
  • People with medications that are known to interact with alcohol
  • People who have a family history of alcohol addiction

Myth – Wine or beer cause less damage than hard liquor

Fact All types of alcohol ultimately have the same ingredient and are as much responsible to cause alcohol dependence as others. Moreover, different types of drinks have different standard measurements which mean that ultimately they have the same quantities of alcohol.

Myth – Drinking is not a problem as long as the person does not feel the necessity to puke

Fact – The more drinks a person can consume at one go mean that they are developing high alcohol tolerance. Developing alcohol tolerance is a bad sign and is a very serious risk factor. This means that without alcohol the person might not be able to do tasks that a sober person can in the same circumstance.

Myth – Coffee can help sober up quickly after alcohol consumption

Fact – One of the wider known myths that coffee can help people sober up or that it is the answer to how to get rid of alcohol from the body is false. Coffee contains a stimulant called caffeine which helps the individual stay awake and alert. It does not help with the processing of alcohol in the body. The only right way to deal with a hangover is to let the body get the time to break down the alcohol components.

Myth – Alcohol helps to cheer people up 

Fact – A lesser-knownas fact about alcohol addiction is that alcohol does quite the opposite than cheering people up. Although it might help people develop pleasurable feelings during drinking, alcohol is actually a depressant. This means, its mode of action is to slow down the activities in the brain. 


Risks and Complications

There are several other diseases associated with severe alcoholism. These health complications include the following:

  • Development of ulcers
  • Diabetes
  • Bone loss
  • Birth defects in cases of drinking during pregnancy
  • Heart and liver disease
  • Sexual health problems
  • Increased susceptibility to cancer
  • Suppresses immune functions
  • Vision complications

Alcohol addiction is a treatable disease and is also avoidable. With early diagnosis and proper help, patients can recover, reduce the risk of the aforementioned complications and go on to live a healthy life.


The Road to Sobriety

Early treatment of alcohol yields the most effective results. If you’ve been wondering how to quit alcohol? or how to stop drinking alcohol? The only solution is seeking timely help and intervention. Close family and friends should keep an eye on the patient to help them stay away from destructive behaviors even if that means cutting off financial assistance. 

Here are some lifestyle changes that the patients should consider on their road to sobriety:

  • Eat healthy: Patients should change their food habits and consume a nutritious, balanced diet
  • Exercise and practise meditation and yoga
  • Change the social situation and stay away from people and situations that might lead to a relapse


Getting Help For Alcohol Addiction

It can be really stressful to deal with Alcoholism or have a loved one dealing with the illness. Seeking help and support are essential to help patients lead functional lives. If you are staging an intervention for a loved one with alcoholism, ensure you follow these guidelines. 

  • Make sure the person is comfortable and does not feel threatened.
  • Close family members or a partner should lead the conversation.
  • Do not include anyone who may be mistrusted by the individual.
  • Calmly take them through the options available such as a residential treatment facility or alcohol addiction treatment centre
  • Reassure them that seeking help will help them lead a fuller and happier life.
  • Make sure they feel supported and not isolated. 
  • Use positive language and ensure that they feel loved and appreciated.

Cadabams is India’s leading Alcohol and De Addiction Rehab for Alcoholism and other associated problems. Visit our residential treatment facility for a guided tour of our Alcoholism treatment centre. 

Call us on our mental health helpline +91 96111 94949 for further details or Alcoholism related emergencies. 

Why Cadabams?

Our team of psychiatrists are experts in psychosocial rehabilitation, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) ), interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT), and family-focused therapy that has proven to be highly effective in treating Alcohol Dependence. We have over two decades of expertise in handling the most complex and severe cases of Alcoholism.

Luxurious Living

At Cadabams, we provide clean, modern, fully furnished accommodations with all the necessary creature comforts.

Modern Amenities

Kitchen and dining hall, laundry facilities, indoor games area, yoga and meditation hall, outdoor games area for cricket, badminton, Round the clock psychiatrist and counsellor support, 24×7 ambulance on demand.

Healthy Cuisine

Our everyday menu is curated by Dieticians aimed at providing healthy and nutritious and tasty meals to satisfy everyone’s palate.

Entertainment Options

Recreation facilities such as TV, sports, gym, picnics and outings and more.

Dependences is an overwhelming desire to drink alcohol and developing of withdrawal symptoms upon stopping.

Symptoms observed on stopping alcohol

A person needs help if found with the following

Accepting that there is a problem with drinking alcohol is the big step to recovery.

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