People with alcoholism — which may also be referred to as alcohol dependence or alcohol addiction — can no longer control their alcohol use.
Alcoholism is a chronic disease that’s defined as having a strong craving for alcohol, an inability to limit drinking, and continued use despite continual physical, psychological, or interpersonal problems.
When someone is dependent on alcohol, it doesn’t matter what kind of alcohol they consume, or even how much.
Alcohol dependence is characterized by tolerance, or the need to drink more to achieve the same high, and by withdrawal symptoms when drinking is suddenly stopped.
Common alcohol addiction withdrawal symptoms include:
Alcoholism is an illness with multiple causes:
For some alcoholics, psychological traits such as impulsiveness or low self-esteem might trigger inappropriate drinking. While others may drink to cope with emotional issues. Peer pressure, easy availability of alcohol, poverty, and physical or sexual abuse can also increase the risk of becoming addicted to alcohol.
As alcohol dependence continues, it can change the normal function of the parts of the brain that experience pleasure, judgement, and the ability to control behavior. This fundamental physiological change can result in perpetual drinking, because the body begins to crave alcohol in order to restore good feelings and stave off withdrawal symptoms.
The good news about alcohol dependency is that no matter how severe the addiction may seem, most people with an alcohol problem can benefit from some form of treatment. In fact, research shows that roughly one-third of those who begin treatment for alcohol dependency have no further symptoms a year later.
Although 28-day inpatient rehab programs are one of the most common treatment solutions for alcohol-dependent patients, you don’t have to go to rehab to get effective treatment. Other available treatment options include:
This treatment method aims to change drinking behavior through counseling with a qualified health professional. Studies show that behavioral counseling can be beneficial for addressing alcohol addiction.
12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) provide peer support for alcoholics who want to quit or cut back on their drinking. When used in combination with behavioral treatment led by a health professional, such groups can provide a valuable added layer of assistance.
There are currently three prescription medications approved for use in the United States that may help those struggling with alcohol addiction stop drinking, reduce drinking, or prevent a relapse. Such medications may be most beneficial when used in combination with counseling or peer support.
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