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According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), nearly 6% (3.3 million deaths) of all deaths around the world each year are due to alcohol use or misuse. The dangerous effects of abusing alcohol are far-reaching and can range from disease, personal health risks, and death to the breakdown of family relationships and friendships, legal trouble, and harmful social consequences.
Alcoholism is a severe type of alcohol abuse. A person with alcoholism cannot manage their drinking habits. Also called alcohol use disorder, alcoholism can be organized into mild, moderate or severe categories. Each category has certain symptoms and could present hazardous side effects. Alcohol abuse can get out of control if left untreated.
Generally speaking, a person likely has a drinking problem if alcohol use causes undesirable issues or consequences for them. Those struggling with alcohol abuse or alcoholism frequently feel like they can’t function normally without drinking alcohol. This could cause a wide range of issues as well as impact:
The serious side effects of alcoholism can become worse and cause damaging complications the longer the disease is left untreated.
Determining if a person’s drinking habits constitute a diagnosis of alcoholism is not an easy matter. Each person’s effects will vary since drinking is commonplace in many cultures. However, if you find you use alcohol to cope with difficulties or forget problems, you put yourself at risk for developing a dependency on alcohol. This dependency can lead to potentially dangerous situations.
You might have a problem with drinking if you:
Alcoholism can cause or complicate a variety of physical and mental health issues, including:
Abusing Alcohol can:
Pregnant women who consume alcohol pose great danger to their unborn child, potentially causing them to experience various health issues like:
Many people have a predisposition to abuse alcohol and develop alcoholism. The risk factors that increase the probability of having alcoholism include:
Alcohol problems can stem from a combination of environmental influences and biological tendencies.
Research from the NIH suggests that certain inherited genes raise the probability of developing an addiction to alcohol. Though genetics alone cannot account for a person’s alcohol abuse, genetics can increase the likelihood of abusing alcohol, especially when coupled with other environmental risk factors such as trauma or inappropriate exposure to alcohol at an early age.
Some racial groups like Native Alaskans and Native Americans have a higher risk than others of alcohol addiction. Those with a family history of alcohol abuse or who closely associate with people who drink heavily have a higher risk of developing drinking problems.
You can break alcohol treatment down into three phases. These consist of:
With inpatient rehab, you’ll be in an intensive treatment program where you’ll check into a facility for a certain amount of time. Generally, inpatient treatment lasts 30, 60 or 90 days.
With outpatient rehab, you’ll participate in a rehabilitation or recovery program, but you can continue on with your day-to-day life.
Recovering from alcoholism is simpler when you have a support team on your side to lean on for comfort, encouragement and guidance. If you don’t have adequate support, it’s too easy to fall back into the same alcohol abuse pattern when things get a little tough.
Your ongoing recovery will depend on you learning healthier coping strategies, continuing mental health treatment and making better choices when coping with the challenges of life. To stay free of alcohol for the long-term, you will also need to face the underlying issues that caused you to abuse alcohol in the first place.
If somebody you love is struggling with a drinking problem, you might be experiencing numerous painful emotions, including fear, shame, anger and self-blame. The issue might be so overwhelming, it seems simpler to ignore it and go around pretending nothing is wrong. Yet, denying the problem will only bring more harm to you, the loved one with the drinking problem and other family members in the long run.
Whether you suspect you or someone you love is struggling with an alcohol-related issue, call your doctor. Alcoholism isn’t a sign of poor character or weakness. It’s a true disease where you can receive treatment. And, the sooner you receive treatment, the easier it will be to treat alcoholism.