Alcohol addiction is a complex condition that affects people from all walks of life. If you or someone you know is battling alcohol abuse, chances are you have many unanswered questions about alcohol and how addiction starts. Keep reading for the answers to the most common alcohol abuse FAQs.
Alcohol Abuse FAQs
What is alcoholism? Alcoholism or alcohol dependence is a disease characterized by four symptoms:
- Uncontrollable cravings and urges to drink.
- Loss of control over drinking.
- Physical dependence or withdrawal symptoms if someone stops drinking.
- Tolerance and the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to experience the same effects.
Is alcoholism a disease? Yes. Despite the controversy, many medical professionals recognize alcoholism as a disease. Alcoholics suffer from a mental obsession, which they’re powerless over. Generally, they develop a craving for alcohol stronger than their willpower to resist the urge to drink. Read more: is alcoholism a disease or a choice? Is alcoholism genetic? Research shows that the risk of developing alcoholism can be inherited. The genes a person inherits play a role in the onset of alcoholism, but so do lifestyle, environment, and other factors. A 2008 study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that genetic factors account for 40-60 percent of the onset of alcohol use disorder. Read more: is alcoholism genetic? Can alcoholism be treated? Although alcoholism can’t be cured, it can be treated. Alcohol abuse treatment programs use counseling, medications, and different evidence-based therapies to help a person stop drinking and address the cause of their addiction. Read more: alcohol addiction treatment and rehab.
What’s considered a drink in the United States? To understand drinking patterns, it’s essential to know what’s considered a drink in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a standard drink is 14 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. For example:
- 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol content).
- 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content).
- 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content).
- 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits or liquor (40% alcohol content).
What does moderate drinking mean? Per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderation drinking means limiting intake to 2 drinks or less per day for males and 1 drink or less per day for females. Read more: drinking in moderation versus abstinence. What is excessive alcohol use? The CDC categorizes excessive drinking and binge drinking, heavy drinking, underage drinking, and any alcohol use by pregnant women. What is binge drinking? Binge drinking is the act of drinking alcohol to the point it brings the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level to 0.08% or more within two hours. This pattern means someone needs to drink 5 or more drinks for males or 4 or more drinks for females on a single occasion within two hours. Read more: is rehab for binge drinking necessary? What is heavy drinking? For males, heavy drinking involves 15 or more drinks per week. For females, heavy drinking means consuming more than 8 drinks per week.
How does alcohol affect the body? Alcohol affects every person very differently. Because alcohol is metabolized by the liver, its health and state will determine how their bodies respond to alcohol levels. In addition, women also have more fatty tissue than men, which will absorb more alcohol, thus experiencing the effects of alcohol more intensely. Read more: how does alcohol affect the body? What disease can alcohol abuse cause? Alcohol abuse and excessive drinking are associated with numerous health problems, including:
- Liver cirrhosis
- Various cancers
- High blood pressure
- Psychological disorders (depression, anxiety, etc.)
- Sudden infant death syndrome
- Alcohol use disorder
Read more: understanding end-stage alcoholism.
Is underage drinking bad for your health? Yes. Various studies have shown that alcohol use by adolescents and young adults increases the risk of fatal and nonfatal injuries. In addition, people who start drinking before the age of 15 are six times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder than adults. Other consequences of underage drinking include increased risky sexual behavior, increased risk of suicide, and cognitive impairment. Read more: the impacts of alcohol on the adolescent brain. Is it okay to drink while pregnant? No. There is no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Women who plan on becoming pregnant or are pregnant should refrain from drinking alcohol. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders have been linked to alcohol use during pregnancy. Read more: can drinking while pregnant be safe? Is it okay to drink when breastfeeding? Ideally, breastfeeding moms should refrain from drinking alcohol. Generally, moderate consumption of alcoholic babies by a breastfeeding woman is up to one drink per day. This limit is not known to be harmful to the infant, but ideally, the mother should wait at least two hours after a single drink before nursing or expressing breast milk.
Alcohol Use Disorder
Do all drinkers have an alcohol use disorder? No. About 90% of people who partake in heavy drinking would not meet the clinical diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder. Alcoholism is a chronic disease, and some of the signs and symptoms include:
- Inability to limit drinking.
- Continuing to drink despite the consequences.
- Needing to drink more to have the same experience.
- Craving alcohol to the point that it interferes with other plans and thinking.
Read more: signs and symptoms of alcoholism. How do I know if I have a drinking problem? If your drinking habits are causing trouble in your relationships, work, or school, it might be a problem. If you are concerned about your drinking habits, it’s best to consult with your health care provider or a counselor. Read more: am I an alcoholic? What can I do if someone I know or myself has a drinking problem? The first step is to reach out to a health care provider to go over your symptoms and struggles. While you might discuss the health effects of your drinking habits, don’t forget to mention your dependency. Reaching out to a substance abuse treatment center can also be helpful. Read more: 5 signs it’s time to go to rehab.
Helping a Loved One
How can you tell if someone has a problem with alcohol? Since alcohol is widely accepted by our society and it’s legal for anyone over 21, it’s difficult to know if someone has a problem with alcohol or not. Besides, many people become what’s known as high-functioning alcoholics and can be functioning members of society. If you believe someone is having trouble with alcohol, try to talk to them about their symptoms and signs to see if they want to receive help. Read more: how to recognize a high-functioning alcoholic? Suppose an alcoholic is unwilling to get help. How can you manage that? This can be challenging. But, remember, an alcoholic can’t be forced to get help except under specific circumstances. Plus, most people will eventually relapse if they’re not ready to get help. Although you might feel hopeless, these are some ways you can help someone with alcohol addiction:
- Stop covering up for their messes to make them responsible for their actions.
- Consider staging an intervention with an addiction specialist.
- Get help from a mental health specialist on how to handle the situation.
- Reach out for help and support from friends and others in your situation.
- Join support groups for family members and loved ones of alcoholics.
Read more: can staging an intervention really work?
Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Does alcoholism treatment work? Yes. About 36% of people suffering from alcoholism recover after one year in one study. Approximately 18% of recovering alcoholics achieved low-risk drinking after a year. Read more: alcoholism addiction statistics and facts to know. What medications help treat alcoholism? Right now, there are three medications – disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate – approved for alcohol dependence treatment. These medications are often included during alcohol detox and the early stages of rehab to help people reduce their drinking, cravings, avoid relapse, and maintain abstinence. Do you need detox to start alcohol addiction treatment? It depends. Some people might not need detox and can complete the withdrawal process in an outpatient setting. However, a detox program is a safest and most effective way to quit drinking for heavy drinkers and people with an alcohol use disorder. Read more: how does outpatient alcohol detox work? How long does alcohol addiction treatment last? There isn’t a specific timeline for alcohol addiction. Some people can complete treatment in a 28-day short-term environment, while others will take months to recover. Nonetheless, the recommended treatment timeline for alcohol addiction is at least 90-days. Read more: how long does alcohol rehab last? How can I seek help for myself or a loved one? If you or someone you know is battling alcohol and drug addiction, reach out to a member of our team at Lighthouse Recovery Institute. Call 866-308-2090 today for a complimentary and confidential assessment over the phone to help you learn more about your state and our programs.