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Alcohol abuse involves having unhealthy drinking habits that can go to the dangerous level of alcohol consumption. This is often characterized by drinking too much at a small span of time.

Alcoholism can affect people in all walks of life regardless of sex, race, and socioeconomic status. It does not have any single cause; behavioral, psychological and genetic can all contribute in developing the disease. Alcohol can alter the brain function and chemistry that can lead to severe psychological problems.

The severity of the disease depends on how an individual consumes alcohol. Most people drink heavily throughout the day. Others binge on alcohol for certain days and stay sober for the rest of the week. Nevertheless, alcoholics cannot stay sober for a longer period of time, and relies on alcohol to ‘function normally’.

Alcohol facts:

  •    In the United States alone, 7.2% or 17 million adult Americans aged 18 years old and above suffers from alcoholism.
  •    Out of the recorded alcoholics of 17 million, men are prone to the disease with 11.2 million while women comprise of 5.7 million.
  •    88,000 people die each year because of alcohol-related incidents and are the fourth leading cause of death in the US.

Signs of Alcoholism

Alcohol dependency occurs when an individual builds up a tolerance to alcohol. Alcoholics need more of the substance to get the same intoxicating effects. They eventually become dependent on alcohol which they experience withdrawal symptoms if they cannot consume alcohol.

Signs of dependency:

  •    Unable to control drinking or control how much alcohol they drink.
  •    They drink more alcohol to get the same intoxicating effect.
  •    Experiencing withdrawal symptoms whenever they stop drinking alcohol.
  •    Dedicate a lot of time in drinking sessions or spends time recovering from ‘hang over’. Eventually, giving up previously enjoyed activities or important tasks.
  •    Unsuccessful attempts to cut back on drinking alcohol.
  •    Continuous drinking even if it causes physical problems and in a relationship.

Other symptoms include:

  •    Lying about their drinking habits that may include hiding their drinking sessions.
  •    Having black out sessions, or not remembering what they did during or after their drinking sessions.
  •    Drinking without any preferences of alcohol as long as they can consume the substance.
  •    Feeling guilty after their drinking sessions.
  •    Panicking or worrying that they will not have enough alcohol supply for the day or in the weekend.

Another important factor to know about alcoholism is the amount of consumption. In rare occasions, alcohol plays a part in cultural and even in family traditions. Here are some bases of drinking too much alcohol:

For women:

  •    A standard drink for women is 1 glass of wine, 1 can of beer, 1 or 1 mixed drink. Anyone who surpasses this has a higher chance of developing alcoholism. If a woman drinks 3 alcoholic drink at one time of more than 7 drinks a week is more likely getting the disease.

For men:

  •    If a man consumes more than 4 alcoholic drinks at one time or 14 drinks within a week, he is at risk of developing alcoholism.

What Are the Effects?

Alcoholism increases the risk of having several serious health complications like cancer. Alcohol can severely damage the brain, liver and other internal organs. In some cases, the disease is even associated with homicide, suicide, and vehicular accidents.

Short-term effect of alcohol addiction can cause:

  •    blurred vision
  •    distorted hearing
  •    breathing problems
  •    slow reaction time
  •    slurred speech
  •    reduce brain activity
  •    poor response
  •    decreased self-consciousness
  •    vomiting

Excessive and long-term use of alcohol can even ravage one’s health permanently. Alcoholics would continue consuming alcohol and will only notice its detrimental side effects later in life. Sometimes, these health problems are too late for any medical treatment. Some of these health problems include:

  •    weakened immune system
  •    digestive problems
  •    liver disease
  •    heart problems
  •    neurological complications
  •    increases the risk of cancer
  •    sexual function
  •    vision impairment
  •    diabetes complications
  •    birth defects
  •    bone loss

Psychological Effects

One of the main psychological effects of alcohol shows increases chance of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. A recent study found out that alcoholics show:

  •    Around 15% of alcoholics tend to commit suicide.
  •    Alcoholics have 75% more likely to successfully commit suicide compare to people who are non-alcoholic suicide attempters.
  •    An alcoholic user has a possibility of 5 to 20 times more likely to commit suicide compare to non-alcoholic person.

Other psychological effects of alcohol include:

  •    erratic sleep pattern
  •    sudden changes in mood, behavior, and personality
  •    depression
  •    anxiety
  •    cognitive problems such as attention span problems
  •    motor skills incoordination
  •    hallucinations
  •    panic disorder
  •    delusion
  •    psychotic disorders

Treatment Available

Numerous health care facilities offer different treatment and therapies for alcoholics. Detox and rehabilitation are the most common treatment for an individual who suffers from alcoholism.


Usually, alcoholism treatment starts with a detoxification process, which eliminates all traces of the substance from the body. The process takes about from two to seven days. For severe and chronic cases, detox should be done as an inpatient treatment. Alcoholics need special care under the closed supervision of health care practitioners. In some cases, doctors may administer sedating medication to prevent the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms may include the following:

  •    severe shaking    
  •    agitation
  •    sweating
  •    irritability
  •    confusion
  •    insomnia
  •    tremors
  •    anxiety
  •    nausea
  •    vomiting
  •    headache
  •    an increased heart rate
  •    nightmares
  •    high blood pressure

During substance abuse alcohol suppresses neurotransmitters. Once alcoholic stops their usual alcohol intake, these neurotransmitters are no longer bound, producing brain hyperexcitability.  The event will then cause some of the severe withdrawal symptoms.


Rehabilitation program usually last from 30 days up to 90 days, depending on the severity of the abuse. In a rehab program, experts guide alcoholics on how they will deal with their daily stressors without turning to alcohol. Most people turn to alcohol instead of dealing their problems directly.

Therapists usually tailored fit the program depending on the alcoholic’s profile and need to ensure a full recovery towards sobriety. It may include group or individual sessions, activities, and hobbies to keep their mind busy helping them deal with relapses.

Aftercare support

Maintaining a sober life is as important as stopping the addiction. Aftercare support means sustaining a lifestyle free from alcohol use. A number of support groups are willing to help alcoholics recover from their addiction and manage their cravings.

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