If you’ve never known a person who abuses or is dependent on alcohol, or if you yourself are in denial over having a problem with alcohol, you may not understand why an entire month is devoted to bringing information to light about alcohol abuse and addiction. Unfortunately, alcohol abuse, or alcoholism is a common issue in the United States, which is why Alcohol Awareness Month is so important to many people. In 2013, 16.6 million adults ages 18 and older had an Alcohol Use Disorder. That same year, only about 1.3 million adults received treatment for an Alcohol Use Disorder at a specialized facility. Sadly, nearly 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
Common signs of alcoholism:
- Feeling guilt or shame about drinking habits.
- Lying about or hiding drinking habits.
- Needing to drink in order to relax or cope with situations, problems.
- Blacking out while drinking, or drinking more than intended on a regular basis.
- Giving up other activities in order to drink.
- Continuing to drink even though it’s causing problems in life marriage, health, legal, etc.
- Alcohol is becoming or has become the focus of life.
- Drinking or being sick from drinking interferes with responsibilities.
- Experiencing negative physical symptoms (withdrawal) when not drinking.
If you, or someone you know, are showing any of those signs above, it’s important to realize that alcohol abuse is a very real problem, with a multitude of negative consequences. While it’s important that you do not enable someone, or join them in drinking, it’s also important that you do not threaten, punish, or bribe. You cannot force someone to stop drinking. It simply isn’t going to get someone to stop drinking. There are alcohol treatment options available, but a person needs to be ready and willing to accept help in order for recovery to be successful.
The Effects of Alcoholism
There are multiple types of effects that alcoholism has on an alcoholic. Health, social and legal issues are almost guaranteed to someone who is suffering from alcohol abuse or dependence.
Health complications of Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol has a negative effect on your liver, brain, and really every other organ in your body. Overuse of alcohol can lead to:
- cancer – esophagus, throat, liver, and/or breast
- heart problems – cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, stroke, high blood pressure
- liver diseases – fatty liver, hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis
- lowered immune system, which makes someone an easier target for pneumonia and tuberculosis
Alcohol affects the brain’s communications pathways, interfering with how the brain works. It changes a person’s mood & behavior, making it more difficult to think clearly or impacting coordination.
Social Complications of Alcohol Addiction
Alcoholics are more likely to get divorced, be involved in domestic violence, be unemployed, or live in poverty. Alcohol abuse can cause emotional trauma for your family, friends, and children. Having a dependence on alcohol can cause damage to emotional stability, a person’s career, their finances, and their relationships. It’s not limited to family either. Coworkers or colleagues may feel used or hurt by your actions. Alcoholism doesn’t discriminate. It impacts everyone who has a relationship with the addict.
Legal Complications of Alcohol Addiction
We all know that drunk driving can lead to car accidents, so why does it still happen? Alcohol lowers inhibitions which can lead to a person taking risks that they normally may not take. It can also lead to violent behavior, suicide or homicide.
Getting Help for Alcoholism
An alcoholic expressing denial over drinking problems is the biggest obstacle to recovery. They will do anything to rationalize drinking or underestimate how much is consumed. They may blame others for their problem or they may give excuses to delay addiction treatment. It never seems like the right time to do things you don’t really want to do. When they do realize that they need help, though, don’t wait. Contact an addiction treatment center for help today. Don’t lose the chance for a successful recovery.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.