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Popular, social, and legal, alcohol is the most commonly abused drug. While many individuals can enjoy one or two drinks socially, for millions more, alcohol is incredibly addictive. As the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States, 17.6 million people (one in every 12 adults) suffers from alcohol abuse or dependence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Millions more engage in risky, binge drinking behaviors. Alcoholism is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the United States. Excessive alcohol use increases the risk for dementia, stroke, unintentional injuries (e.g. traffic fatalities and firearm injuries), certain types of cancer, liver disease, and premature death.

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Understanding Alcoholism

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system and affects brain chemistry, impacting the brain’s ability to control thought processes, behavior, speech, and emotion. Alcohol also increases the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates the brain’s reward center, creating positive emotions that encourage individuals to keep drinking. Drinking makes you less inhibited and increases sexual urges, but it also makes you clumsy, decreases reflex time, sexual performance, and increases sleepiness.

Alcoholism is a chronic and progressive disease that includes the inability to control drinking, being preoccupied with the use of alcohol, continuing to use alcohol when it causes problems, increasing tolerance to alcohol (physical dependence), and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly stop drinking. Alcoholism lasts an individual’s entire lifetime; even if an individual has not been drinking for a long time, he or she can still suffer a relapse.

Research shows that alcoholism is hereditary. However, simply because an individual has parents or siblings who are alcoholics does not automatically mean that he or she will also become an alcoholic. Additionally, it is possible to develop alcoholism even if no one else in the family has a drinking problem. Lifestyle is a critical factor for the development of alcoholism.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

The four main symptoms of alcohol addiction are craving (a strong urge or need to drink), loss of control (inability to stop drinking), physical dependence (withdrawal symptoms including nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety) and tolerance (needing increased amounts of alcohol to feel its effects). You or a loved one may have a drinking problem if you feel guilty or ashamed about drinking, lie to others/hide drinking habits, need to drink in order to cope with stress or feel better, regularly drink more than intended, black out or forget what you did while drinking, or have friends and family members that are concerned about your drinking habits.

Tolerance is the first major warning sign of alcoholism; the second is withdrawal. If you need a drink to steady the shakes in the morning, drink to relieve withdrawal symptoms, or want to quit drinking but you can’t, talk to an alcohol addiction specialist to learn more about your treatment options.

The good news is that alcoholism can be treated. Both counseling and medication are effective treatment options for helping an individual successfully stop drinking and take the first steps to long-term sobriety.

Overview of Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse

Effective alcohol abuse treatment options include the following:

Inpatient: Inpatient treatment programs require an individual to live full time at a treatment facility for a fixed period in order to complete the program. This period may be one, two or three months. Staff members and patients are part members of the same therapeutic community and work together to help change an individual’s behavior, especially when an individual has a long history of alcohol abuse.

Outpatient: During outpatient treatment, an individual visits the treatment center to participate in a variety of different treatment programs. Treatment typically includes counseling, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing and multidimensional family therapy. The goal of these therapies is to address the root causes for addiction and provide individuals with the necessary tools to avoid or cope with situations that are likely to result in alcohol abuse.

Twelve Step: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a 12-step program based on Christian principles that helps individuals stop using alcohol. AA’s guiding principles include the acceptance that one cannot control one’s addiction or compulsion and the recognition that a higher power gives strength. An individual’s sponsor (an experienced member) helps program participants examine and acknowledge mistakes that were made due to alcohol abuse. The 12-step program is frequently included as part of both inpatient and outpatient treatment options.

Dual Diagnosis: Dual diagnosis is a condition in which an individual is diagnosed with two or more disorders or illnesses. These conditions frequently occur at the same time, and often interact to worsen the course of both, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Dual diagnosis treatment programs will address both alcoholism and any co-occurring disorders.

Non-Twelve Step: Non-twelve step treatment programs focus on holistic treatment techniques to provide a secure, safe and supportive environment for recovery. The goal of holistic treatment programs is to not only support an individual during the recovery process, but to also heal the individual’s mind, body and spirit through activities that increase mindfulness, such as yoga, meditation or equine therapy.

Luxury: Luxury treatment centers are not just for the rich and famous; these treatment centers emphasize an integrated approach to care that includes medical detoxification, dual diagnosis treatment, customized therapy options and transitional living/continuing care. The goal of luxury treatment centers is to address both an individual’s physical addiction to alcohol as well as the emotional trauma underpinning this addiction.

Faith Based: Faith-based treatment centers provide spiritual foundation and guidance for individuals who are struggling with alcohol abuse. Faith-based centers approach addiction from a spiritual or religious point of view; adding God or another higher power will fill the void in an individual’s life and remove the need for addictive behavior.

Wilderness: Wilderness treatment programs are located in peaceful natural habitats, such as in the mountains, and closely integrated with the natural world. Wilderness treatment programs often include challenge components, such as a rope course or backpacking, which helps individuals build confidence and supports long-term sobriety. Can Help You Find the Right Treatment Center

Contact to get started todayThe right treatment center is essential to helping you successfully begin your journey to sobriety. With thousands of treatment centers across the United States, finding the right treatment center for your needs is not easy. The recovery specialists at can help. These caring, compassionate and experienced individuals are here to help you take the first step towards long-term recovery. Contact to get started today.

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