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All About Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse

What are alcoholism and alcohol abuse? If you're a heavy drinker, and you've been drinking for some time, you may wonder if you have a problem. Many people drink heavily, and they do so frequently, yet they're unaware if they're alcoholics.

It's so important for you to understand what alcoholism is, and what it means to abuse alcohol. Once you understand, you'll be able to get a clearer picture of your own alcohol use.

This information will help you find out if you are an alcoholic in need of treatment.

Alcoholism Statistics and Facts in the United States

Alcoholism is a serious problem in the U.S., and it has been for quite some time. Once you see the alcohol statistics in our country, it's easy to see that something needs to change.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that:

  • In 2015, more than 86% of everyone ages 18 or older has had at least one drink.
  • More than 70% reported drinking at some point during the last year.
  • 56% of people report drinking at some point during the last month.
  • During that same year, close to 27% of people admitted to binge drinking during the last month.
  • 7% admitted that they had drank heavily during the last month.
  • More than 15 million adults had an alcohol use disorder.
  • This accounted for 9.8 million men, and 5.3 million women.
  • Only 1.3 million adults received treatment for an alcohol use disorder.
  • Thus, the vast majority of alcohol use disorder cases go untreated.
  • Among young people, 623,000 between the ages of 12 and 17 had an alcohol use disorder.
  • Only 37,000 young people received treatment for an alcohol use disorder in 2015.

In addition, about 88,000 people die from an alcohol-related incident each year. This makes alcohol the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

The misuse or abuse of alcohol is costly to our economy as well. In 2010, alcohol abuse cost close to $250 billion. Clearly, something needs to change. Today, alcoholism and alcohol abuse are more prevalent than ever before.

Making a change to these dangerous patterns begins with knowledge. The more you know about alcoholism and alcohol abuse, the better. With proper knowledge, you may be able to avoid becoming a part of these statistics.

It's important to know the alcoholism definition in order to understand what it is. Alcoholism is a disease that is characterized by the continual use of alcohol. Alcoholism is also habitual, and chronic.

When someone suffers from alcoholism, the consumption of alcohol interferes with their daily life. It causes problems with work, school and socialization. For many people, alcoholism also interferes with physical and mental health.

While people always make a choice to begin drinking, alcoholism itself is a disease. Once it sets in, it requires alcohol addiction treatment for recovery to take place.

It's also important to understand the alcoholic definition. You may have been wondering, what is an alcoholic? It's possible that you've been curious about your own alcohol use for quite some time. You've wondered if it classified you as an alcoholic.

A person is an alcoholic if he or she suffers from an alcohol addiction, or alcoholism. However, drinking a large amount of alcohol does not mean you are an alcoholic. It is a warning sign of becoming an alcoholic in the future.

Some experts believe that once you are an alcoholic, you will always be an alcoholic. This is a topic that has been debated for quite some time. The fact is that once you are an alcoholic, you are always at risk of returning to alcoholism. This has been proven time and time again.

Alcohol Addiction

What is Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol abuse is very different from alcoholism or alcohol addiction.

Sometimes alcohol abuse and alcoholism are used interchangeably. However, they do mean different things.

It's possible to participate in alcohol abuse without being, or becoming, and alcoholic. When you abuse alcohol, you are misusing it, and not drinking responsibly. Unfortunately, people do this all the time. They believe that there's no harm in drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. This is because the perception of alcohol is that it is much safer than many other substances on the market.

What are the Signs of Alcohol Abuse?

You may be abusing alcohol without realizing it. It's possible that you're just not sure how much alcohol is too much. If you are participating with alcohol abuse, you are most likely going to show some signs of it.

Some common signs of alcohol abuse include:

  • Not being as interested in activities you once enjoyed doing
  • Not being as involved with your favorite hobbies
  • Having some trouble at work, or at school
  • Becoming somewhat socially isolated
  • Occasional feelings of restlessness
  • Becoming depressed

If you have experienced any of these, you may be abusing alcohol.

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Does Abusing Alcohol Mean You're an Alcoholic?

If you are abusing alcohol, that does not mean that you're an alcoholic. This is important for you to know. Even so, it does put you at risk for becoming an alcoholic.

Alcoholics are not made overnight. It takes more than one evening of binge drinking or heavy drinking to result in alcoholism. However, the more you participate in these behaviors, the riskier it is.

Alcohol addiction or alcoholism will result from alcohol abuse if you do it long enough. It may seem as though you have your drinking under control. Most people feel in complete control of their drinking behaviors. What they fail to realize is that alcoholism could always be just one drink away.

It's difficult to say how long it takes for someone to go from alcohol abuse to alcoholism. For some people, it might take a few weeks. For others, it can take months, or even years. By taking the right steps early on, you don't ever have to find that out for yourself.

What is Alcohol Dependence?

Alcohol dependence is very much like alcoholism. Once you are struggling with alcohol dependence, you exhibit certain types of behaviors.

People who are alcohol dependent may find that they tend to go for a certain type of alcoholic beverage. They may stick to one brand, or they may just want to drink wine every night.

They also exhibit drink-seeking behaviors. This means that they will only go to events where alcohol is being served. They may surround themselves with others who drink so that they feel more comfortable.

People who are alcohol dependent may also drink to avoid going through withdrawal. They know that they have an alcohol problem, and that without it, they'll experience certain symptoms. Going back to drinking after giving up alcohol is also a sign of alcohol dependence.

How do You Know if You Have an Alcohol Addiction?

It's not always easy to know if you have an alcohol addiction or not. Most people who drink feel as though they're in control of their alcohol use. They may know that they drink too much, but they still feel as though their consumption is under control. This might be the way that you feel as well.

You can get a better grasp on whether or not you have an alcohol addiction by answering some questions. The following are questions that a professional might ask you about your alcohol use.

  • Do you ever feel like you need to cut down on how much or how often you drink?
  • Have you ever felt annoyed when people criticize your drinking?
  • Has drinking ever made you feel bad or guilty?
  • Do you feel like you need to drink first thing in the morning to steady yourself?
  • Do you continue drinking even when you know it's making you feel depressed or anxious?
  • Do you continue drinking even though it's contributing to a health problem?
  • Do you frequently drink more alcohol than you thought you would?
  • Do you feel an urge to drink alcohol?
  • Do you ever crave alcohol?

It can be difficult to face some of the answers to these questions. Still, they need to be asked. If you can answer "yes" to more than one of them, you most likely have an alcohol addiction. If so, it's a condition that needs professional treatment.

Alcoholism Symptoms You Should be Aware of

There are certain signs you can look for in your own life that can tell you if you're an alcoholic. If you notice even one of these signs, it's possible that you're struggling with alcoholism.

Some common alcoholism signs include:

  • Neglecting your responsibilities at home or at work because you'd rather drink.
  • Drinking alcohol in situations when it may be dangerous, such as drinking and driving.
  • Having legal problems that are related to your use of alcohol.
  • Drinking alcohol even when it is causing you to have relationship problems.
  • Drinking because it helps you to relax or forget about the stressful events of the day.

It's very easy to go from alcohol abuse to alcoholism. If you can relate to any of these, you may have already gone down that path.

If you are still not sure, there is a way to get more information about your own alcohol use. You may find it to be very helpful to take an alcoholism quiz. This quiz will ask you some difficult questions, but be honest. You'll get your results right away, and they will guide you as to what your next steps should be.

One of the issues is that most people don't know how much alcohol is too much. This means that you could be inadvertently drinking too much just from lack of knowledge.

According to Harvard Health, moderate drinking is acceptable for both men and women. For men, this means consuming one to two standard drinks per day. For women, it means consuming one standard drink per day.

A standard drink means:

  • One 12 ounce beer
  • One 5 ounce glass of wine
  • One 3.5 ounce glass of fortified wine
  • 1.5 ounces of 80 proof spirits

Of course, this is a standard. There are those for whom even one drink per day isn't a good idea. This can include people who take blood thinners, or who have high blood pressure. It could also include people who have problems with their balance.

Anything over these accepted amounts is considered to be heavy drinking. Heavy drinking can lead to alcoholism when it is engaged in often enough. Also, binge drinking is a behavior that neither men, nor women should ever engage in. This is true even when binge drinking only occurs once a month.

Alcoholics frequently suffer from a number of different medical issues, and even mental problems. Excessive alcohol use is dangerous, and yet, alcoholics are usually unwilling to stop drinking.

If you are an alcoholic, you are at a very high risk of:

  • Mood and behavioral changes
  • Heart problems, such as cardiomyopathy and arrhythmias
  • High blood pressure
  • Suffering from a stroke
  • Liver problems, such as cirrhosis or alcoholic hepatitis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancer of the mouth, throat, liver and esophagus
  • A weakened immune system

Your health is important. Every drink you consume brings you closer to any one of the issues on this list.

There are other devastating consequences of drinking alcohol excessively, as well. When you drink too much alcohol you may:

  • Become very confused
  • Make poor decisions
  • Experience slurred speech
  • Experience reduced inhibitions
  • Have memory problems
  • Fall into a coma
  • Having breathing problems
  • Get into a car accident if you decide to drive
  • Participate in risky behaviors
  • Become violent

There are just so many risks associated with drinking too much alcohol. It's possible that you have even experienced one or more of these in the past. If you have, it's so important for you to stop drinking.

How to Help a Loved One Who is an Alcoholic

If you have a loved one who is an alcoholic, your heart probably breaks for that person. Alcoholism can be a hard topic to bring up with someone you love.

Even so, it's important to talk about the problem. You should be aware that discussing alcoholism with an alcoholic is likely to be met with defensiveness.

Your family member may become angry, and even refuse to talk with you about it.

When you bring it up, be prepared with research. Talk about the effects of alcoholism, and state the fact that you're concerned. If nothing changes, you may want to consider an intervention as your next step.

Sometimes those loved ones battling alcoholism are teenagers. Far too many parents have to deal with this problem under their own roofs. If this is your situation, it's important that you know what to do.

It might help you to follow these guidelines:

  • Be clear about the rules and consequences of drinking
  • Find ways to monitor your teen's activity
  • Encourage and expose your teen to other, healthier activities and hobbies
  • Talk to your teen about underlying issues that may be causing them to drink
  • Get help from an outside resource who can advise you on your specific problem

Alcoholics should never stop drinking on their own. Alcohol is a powerful drug that is often misunderstood. If you are an alcoholic, your body has gotten used to having alcohol regularly. This means that you will go through withdrawal when you stop drinking.

You may think that you know exactly what alcohol withdrawal is. However, it is much worse than what you experience when you wake up in the morning. Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous, and it can have devastating, and even fatal consequences.

Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

When you stop drinking, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin very quickly. On average it takes between six and twelve hours to begin feeling the effects of withdrawal.

Some common alcohol withdrawal symptoms you may experience include:

  • Feeling anxious or nervous
  • Shakiness or tremors in your hands
  • Excessive sweating
  • Feeling nauseous and vomiting
  • Insomnia and other sleep problems
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Painful headaches
  • Feeling tired all the time

Some people experience even worse alcohol withdrawal than those symptoms listed above. It's possible that you could also be at risk for developing delirium tremens.

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Alcoholism and the Risk of Delirium Tremens

Delirium tremens is a condition that can occur when you stop drinking alcohol. Some people are more at risk for DTs than others.

You might be at risk for DTs if you:

  • Have been drinking alcohol excessively for ten years or more
  • Have gone through alcohol withdrawal before
  • Are an alcoholic who has suffered a head injury in the past
  • Don't eat enough food when you stop drinking
  • Drink a large amount of alcohol in excess for a period of several months

The symptoms of delirium tremens can begin very abruptly, and without warning. They usually start within 96 hours. However, they have been done to begin as long as 10 days after the last drink.

Some common symptoms of delirium tremens include:

  • Experiencing delirium, or sudden confusion
  • Having tremors throughout your body
  • Abrupt mental changes
  • Feeling the need to sleep for long periods
  • Experiencing hallucinations (visual, auditory or tactile)
  • Being very sensitive to light, touch and sounds

The DTs is an emergency situation. If you experience them, getting medical help immediately is crucial. Delirium tremens can become fatal if not treated right away.

How is Alcohol Addiction Treated?

After going over this information, you may have found that you're an alcoholic. If you are, alcoholism treatment is essential for you to stop drinking safely.

Alcohol addiction is treated first by going through alcohol detox. This is a process that will help to calm your withdrawal symptoms. It may even help you avoid going through the DTs.

After alcohol detox, a period of alcohol rehab is needed. This will help you to recover from the psychological part of your addiction.

Do you have additional questions about alcohol abuse or alcoholism? Contact us.

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