What is Alcohol Use Disorder?
Alcohol Use Disorder, also known as alcoholism, can happen to anyone, anywhere and anytime. Research has tried to determine what causes addiction but there is no definitive answer. In some cases, genes play a role, but there are also psychological and behavioral factors.
There are many different theories on Alcohol Use Disorder with most professionals agreeing that there are biological and genetic components. Addiction to any substance causes changes in the biology of our brains, which in turn has repercussions with our ability to control impulses. There are different levels of Alcohol Use Disorder that range from mild to severe depending on how much alcohol is consumed and how often. Symptoms may include:
- Increased usage of alcohol or quantity
- High tolerance for alcohol and lack of hangover
- Drinking during inappropriate times such as while working or at school
- Avoiding times where alcohol is not present
- Avoiding family members
- The need to consume alcohol everyday
- Hiding your drinking habit or alcohol use
- Depression, increased lethargy or other emotional problems
- Changes in relationships; choosing to be around people that drink heavily
According to healthline.com over use of alcohol can cause many health problems such as heart and liver disease. It can also cause:
- Birth defects
- Bone loss
- Vision problems
- Lowered immune system
- Sexual problems
People who consume large amounts of alcohol can sometimes put others around them at risk for other danger or complications. The Centers for Disease Control cdc.gov says that 29 people’s lives are taken every day due to drunk driving.
Alcohol Intoxication– when the amount of alcohol that is in your bloodstream increases. The higher the amount of alcohol consumed the more impaired the person will be. This causes changes in your body, the feeling of being out of control, behavior problems and mental changes. This can include inappropriate behavior, mood changes, slurred speech, impaired judgement, poor coordination and memory loss.
Alcohol Withdrawal– this happens when you detox or greatly decrease consumption after heavy alcohol usage. It can happen as quickly as a few hours after or as slowly as days later. Symptoms can include sweating, rapid heartbeat, difficulty sleeping, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, anxiety and sometimes seizures.
Drinking and Driving
Driving while impaired is dangerous for both you and others around you. In 2010 an estimated 112 million US adults got behind the wheel and drove. Although rates of drunk driving have improved showing 30% decrease in the last 5 years, it is still a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
Certain groups have a higher chance of drinking and driving than others. Men accounted for 81% of drinking and driving episodes in 2010. Of the episodes that occurred, 85% of those were from binge drinking (5 or more drinks for men and 4 or more drinks for women). The best prevention from drunk drivers is to put on a seat belt while you are in the car. Wearing a seatbelt during a crash has been known to reduce the chance of serious injury by 50%.
Risk Factors for Alcohol Use Disorder
The risk for addiction to alcohol is still unknown but there are factors that may increase the chance that you misuse alcohol and have a chance of developing a problem. It usually begins in your 20’s or 30’s but can start at any age. Known risk factors include:
- More than 12 drinks per week if you are female
- More than 15 drinks per week if you are male
- More than 5 drinks one day during the week (binge drinking)
- Having a parent who is an alcoholic or abuses alcohol
- Depression, anxiety, schizophrenia or other mental disorders
Other factors that could increase the chances include:
- A young person experiencing peer pressure
- Low self-esteem
- Living in a household where alcohol is used frequently
- High stress situations
- Have a close relative or family member with an alcohol disorder
- Experiencing a traumatic event
Family History – Having a family member who has been diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder increases the likelihood that you will be diagnosed with one as well. The closer the relative, the greater the risk. For example, if a parent of a child has been diagnosed with an alcohol disorder there is a greater chance that the child will be diagnosed. If the child has a cousin or other distant relative who has been diagnosed, then they are less likely to be diagnosed.
Other Mental Health Disorders– Being diagnosed with other mental health disorders increases your chances of being diagnosed with an alcohol disorder. Some think it could be linked to “self-medicating” and others believe that the alcohol disorder actually happens before the other mental health disorders are diagnosed. The presence of alcohol abuse can cause further mental health problems to arise.
Trauma or Stress- People who have been through significant trauma or stress are more likely to abuse substances and later be diagnosed with alcohol use disorder. It may or may not be related to the idea of self-medication as a means to help with the situation. Being involved in a sexual trauma, loss of a family member or physical abuse have higher chances among those being diagnosed with alcohol use disorders.
Peer Pressure – Peer pressure can be both overt and inadvertent. It can be a one on one situation where someone offers a teen a drink or encourages them to drink. It could also be a situation where your drink is being refilled without asking, a person buys another drink for the person or gives them a hard time if they choose not to drink anymore. It may also be more inadvertent and social pressure. A group of kids that are considered “popular and cool” all drink alcohol, so in order to fit in, you do too. This is more of a modeled behavior to try in fit into a social group. While adults don’t typically consider themselves susceptible to peer pressure, our culture normalizes drinking to the extent that it is often challenging to avoid situations with alcohol and societal pressure to drink.
In order to get help, the first step is to see your doctor or physician. After an exam, if they believe that you have a problem, they may refer you to a mental health specialist. During the exam they may:
- Ask you about your drinking habits
+ They may want to speak to your family and friends about your drinking problem to assess the situation. Due to confidentiality your doctor should not give out information without your permission first.
- Physical Exam-
+ They may do a physical exam and ask you questions about your health. There are certain physical signs that could indicate a drinking problem.
- Psychological Questionnaire
+ This could include questions regarding your symptoms, thoughts, emotions and behavior patterns.
- Lab tests or Imaging-
+ This may be done in order to check for health problems or damage to your organs. Some lab tests can strongly indicate an alcohol disorder.
Do You Need Detox?
If you need to consume alcohol in order to function at a normal level then there’s a chance you need help. In some cases, you need a professional medical provider to help you during the detox process. It can be life threatening if not done properly.
A treatment program gives you the support and guidance that you need to get through withdrawal. This can mean medication to help ease the negative symptoms that come from withdrawal. Symptoms can last a week ore more but typically are worst during the first 42-72 hours.
Majority of people who have an alcohol use disorder can benefit from some type of therapy treatment. These treatments include medication and/or behavior therapies. For lots of people using both these treatments in combination bodes the best results.
- Disulfiram – causes unpleasant symptoms while you drink alcohol which usually makes people want to stay away from it.
- Naltrexone-blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of certain drugs and has been reported to reduce cravings
- Acamprosate – works by resetting the chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters) to bring them back to a normal state
- Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT)- working either one on one or in a small group this type of therapy helps you understand the reason behind your drinking and what feelings or emotions you have around it. It also assists you in developing coping strategies and ways to deal with the stress which can change your behavior and thoughts that cause you to want to drink.
- Marital and Family Counseling- counseling that involves family and spouses. It helps to repair and improve the relationships you have in your life. Having a strong support system has been known to create a healthier and more successful recovery.
- Brief Interventions- one on one or small group counseling sessions that are short and sweet. It can be up to four total sessions and the counselor will give you information about your alcohol abuse habits and the risks involved. They work with you and help you set obtainable goals to change your behaviors associated with your disease.
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy– a counseling technique that helps people get through their fear of getting treatment and stopping their drug use. It allows the patient to become internally motivated rather than helping them go step by step through the treatment process.
Does Treatment Work?
Everyone has different needs and experiences when it comes to treatment for alcohol use. What works for one person may not work for another. Another factor is the degree to which you are consuming alcohol. It can range from mild to severe, depending on which you fall under. It will determine the type of treatment that is best for you. Some people who fall under severe alcohol use may have withdrawal symptoms during the treatment process and will need a different type of care, usually a medical professional and medically supervised detox.
For most people who are dealing with an alcohol disorder, treatment can help. It is a long and ongoing process and there may be instances of relapse (you start drinking again). The important thing to remember is that even if you relapse, it is just temporary. You must start again and keep trying. Dealing with a relapse doesn’t mean that you are not capable of getting sober. You just must try again and know that the road is a challenging one. It’s important to go back to treatment right away so that you can figure out what the triggers were and try again.
Rehab Treatment in San Diego
AToN Center’s San Diego rehab has experienced professional staff that offer addiction recovery programs specifically tailored to meet the individual needs of each patient.
There is no “one size fits all” solution to alcohol or drug addiction. Each person is unique, and thus has different needs with regard to drug or alcohol treatment.
AToN Center’s luxury rehab provides drug and alcohol rehab programs tailored to suit the individual needs of patients in California and other locations throughout the country While the 12-Step and SMART Recovery® models are effective at alcohol and drug treatment, we believe that clients will benefit more from an approach that integrates the two modalities and incorporates the best practices from each.
And with a comprehensive approach to alcohol and drug rehab, we also provide holistic healing services that include yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and hypnotherapy, among others, to support our clients’ recovery goals at our luxury rehab.
AToN Center’s San Diego rehab is a sanctuary staffed with highly trained psychologists and recovery personnel that offers an addiction recovery program. AToN Center’s high Clinician to Resident ratio (1:2) allows for daily individualized treatment for those seeking respite from problematic drug and alcohol misuse. AToN Center recognizes that a single modality doesn’t successfully meet the needs of every individual that is seeking recovery, therefore we offer a multitude of best practice addiction treatment methods in order to capture the needs of each client, including those with co-occurring mental health diagnoses.
If you are interested in learning more about how AToN Center’s San Diego rehab center (holistic treatment, Non-12 step rehab, SMART Recovery ) can facilitate your recovery from addiction, please contact us today.