Alcohol is ingrained in American social settings. It’s available at sporting events, concerts, and restaurants – readily accessible to adults age 21 and older and often those who are underage.
While some people choose to abstain for life, more than 14 million adults have an alcohol use disorder.
If you have an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite negative consequences, you may have an alcohol addiction. But, the good news is that no matter how severe your addiction, recovery is possible with alcohol addiction treatment.
What is Alcohol Addiction?
If you can’t stop drinking alcohol, even if it creates problems, leads to emotional distress, or results in physical harm to yourself or others, you may have an alcohol addiction.
Alcohol addiction – also known as alcoholism, alcohol use disorder, and alcohol dependence – is a medical condition caused by frequent or heavy alcohol use. Alcoholism is a brain function disease and requires medical and psychological treatments to control it.
The severity of alcohol addiction differs for each person, and it can develop quickly or over time.
Characteristics that make you more likely to develop alcohol addiction include:
- Frequent consumption of alcohol in large quantities
- Alcohol exposure early in life
- Family history of alcohol use issues
- Presence of mental health issues including grief, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Being a physical or sexual abuse survivor
By avoiding high-risk drinking, you lower the likelihood of encountering problems with alcohol. Medical professionals recommend that women don’t have more than four drinks in one day or eight drinks a week. They recommend men don’t consume more than five drinks in one day or 15 drinks per week.
Causes of Alcohol Addiction
Many factors can play a role in alcohol addiction. It is generally considered a result of genetic, psychological, social, and environmental influences.
Causes of alcohol addiction may include:
- Genetics. You may be more likely to develop alcohol use disorder if you have a family history.
- Cultural Influences. Having parents, close friends, or co-workers who regularly consume alcohol may increase your chances of developing an addiction.
- Mental Health Conditions. Alcohol use disorder can develop as a co-occurring disorder alongside depression, anxiety, bipolar, or other mental health conditions.
- Exposure to Stress and Trauma. You may consume alcohol to cope with high levels of stress and trauma.
- Teenage Alcohol Use. Drinking at a young age can increase your chances of developing an addiction later.
Symptoms of Alcoholism
With alcohol consumption widely accepted in American culture, alcoholism can be difficult to detect in friends and family. It is common for meals, celebrations, and social gatherings to include alcohol. But, if you have more than a few drinks or consistently drink every day, you may have alcohol dependence.
Signs of alcohol addiction include:
- Drinking more than what you plan to or drinking at inappropriate times, like early in the morning or at work
- Spending a lot of time drinking
- Dependence on alcohol to function in everyday life
- Always thinking about your next drink.
- Feeling cranky when you’re not drinking.
- Hiding alcohol or hiding while drinking
- Blacking out or forgetting events
- Consistent hangovers
- Engaging in risky behaviors like driving or having unprotected sex while intoxicated
- Continuing to drink even if it causes distress or harms you or others
- Repeated problems with the law, work, school, or relationships due to drinking
- Inability to cut back
Experts classify alcohol use disorder as mild, moderate, or severe. Mental health professionals base your diagnosis on the number of symptoms you are experiencing. The severity of your alcohol use will help dictate the best alcohol addiction treatment plan for you.
“High functioning” alcoholism is a subtype of alcoholism. It is the most difficult to recognize as the symptoms are less visible. Those with functional alcoholism live seemingly “normal” lives with healthy social relationships. But beneath the surface, it can have the same health risks and negative consequences.
Health Problems Associated with Alcoholism
Mass consumption of alcohol can weaken your immune system, with studies showing that even a single incidence slows your body’s ability to fight infections. Chronic drinking can put you at a greater risk of contracting serious diseases and conditions.
Health conditions linked to alcohol consumption include:
- Accidents and injuries like falls, burns, fractures, or drowning
- Brain damage, including dementia
- Bone loss
- Cancer of the breast, liver, colon, or mouth
- Despair, depression, and suicide
- Erectile dysfunction
- Fetal alcohol syndrome, if exposed to alcohol before birth
- Heart problems
- Liver problems, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis, and fatty liver
- Nervous system problems
- Suppressed immune function
- Vision problems
Treatment Programs for Alcohol Addiction
It is possible to treat alcohol addiction on your own. But long-term success rates are significantly higher for those who seek professional help. For most, some level of medical intervention, therapy, and social and communal support is necessary to overcome alcohol dependence.
Part of the initial treatment for alcohol addiction and recovery is a period of detoxification. A detox helps to cleanse the body of all alcohol. It helps you get past your physical addiction to the substance.
Detoxification can occur at home or in a clinic, depending on your level of dependency. Alcohol detox centers are specialized facilities that provide supervision, support, and medications to help treat withdrawal symptoms.
Detoxing is a crucial first step on the path to recovery. But detoxification alone is rarely sufficient in helping you achieve long-term abstinence from alcohol.
Effective treatment should also involve:
- Addressing the underlying causes of the addiction
- Developing appropriate coping mechanisms
- Learning relapse prevention techniques
- Engaging in support groups
You can do aftercare through a residential program or outpatient clinic.
Residential or Inpatient Rehab Services
Residential and inpatient rehab involves you living in a rehabilitation center 24/7. It offers help for alcohol abuse in a safe, dedicated space. This treatment style allows you to devote your complete attention to your recovery. You’ll also benefit from a regular schedule of intensive therapy.
Greg Kfoury, Vice President of Admissions at Integrative Life Network, said residential treatment has benefits including:
- Separation from alcohol that allows for safety and stabilization
- 24/7 support from qualified professionals
- Community support
- An atmosphere oriented toward recovery
- Higher frequency and variety of therapeutic experiences
Residential-based programs use many therapeutic approaches. Depending on your needs, they may include traditional evidence-based practices and alternative experiential therapies. Inpatient care provides the foundation for your path to recovery. They also promote overall health and wellness to help with relapse prevention.
At Integrative Life Clinic, residential alcohol treatment programs may include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
- Psychiatric support
- 12-step philosophy
- Adventure-based therapies
- Nutritional counseling
Outpatient Rehab Services
Outpatient rehab is a program for those who don’t need a medically-supervised detox. It allows you to continue living at home or at a sober living facility while receiving help for alcohol addiction. Outpatient rehab may also be the next step after a residential program.
Outpatient programs provide a part-time or intensive alcohol abuse treatment plan. They also offer clinical, peer, and emotional support systems through counseling and support groups.
“Outpatient programming can also be very effective for alcohol addiction treatment — especially when clients have undergone initial treatment at a higher level of care, or when the acuity of need does not warrant a higher level of care,” says Greg.
Behavioral Therapies for Alcohol Addiction
Behavioral therapies aim to change drinking behavior through individual and group counseling sessions. These therapies are essential aspects of inpatient and outpatient treatment plans. They’re also particularly helpful in treating co-occurring disorders.
Behavioral therapies used to treat alcohol addiction include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Helps change negative thought patterns, which may lead to drinking. CBT also enables you to identify triggers and learn how to avoid or cope with them.
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy. Improves your willingness to engage in treatment. Helps you feel more motivated to change your drinking behavior.
- Marital and Family Counseling. Allows loved ones to learn about the nature of alcohol dependence and offer support.
- Brief Interventions. Monitoring, education, and self-care advice offered to those with early-stage and mild alcohol addiction.
Question to Ask When Selecting Treatment
If you’re on the lookout for an alcohol addiction treatment center, you’ve already taken the first step to recovery. But now, it’s crucial to find the right treatment center for you.
Gather as much information as you can about multiple programs or providers. Then evaluate and compare your options before making a final decision.
Question to ask when selecting a treatment program:
- What Treatments Are Available? Ensure that you have access to various treatments and therapies to find the ones that work best for you.
- Is Treatment Personalized? Alcohol addiction is unique to every person. The treatment should be personalized to your unique needs.
- What Can I Expect? How intense is the program? What will you do each day? Does it suit your needs?
- How is Treatment Success Measured? How does the provider determine if your treatment progresses as it should and if you’re successful?
- What About Relapse? How does the provider handle relapse? Do they teach relapse prevention techniques? Preparing for this possibility is a vital aspect of addiction recovery.
Treatment for Alcohol Addiction at ILC
Integrative Life Center uses a highly effective paradigm-shifting approach to treating alcohol addiction. Our individualized programs focus on treating the underlying causes of alcohol dependency and the management of the drinking behavior itself.
“Treatment for alcohol use disorder has existed for half a century, and traditional treatment can be effective for some; however, the typical success rates are disappointingly low,” Greg said. “ILC offers a modern, integrative approach that combines the best elements of traditional approaches with cutting-edge trauma-focused and experiential modalities.”
ILC treatment programs start with a comprehensive assessment and evaluation by a qualified clinical addiction professional. We then identify the treatment options best suited to your needs. Our plans consider the severity of your dependence and any behavioral health issues.
If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol addiction, contact Integrative Life Center to learn more about our treatment programs and plans.