“Addiction begins with the hope that something ‘out there’ can instantly fill up the emptiness inside” – Jean Kilbourne.
Alcohol Addiction Is A Disease And Not A Habit Which Person Can Just Overcome With Willpower
For many people, alcohol is a way to relax, to have some fun, to sit with friends and reminisce about old times, to deal with stress or just occasionally enjoy a drink or two. At the time when you are drinking, you may feel good, relaxed and able to forget your tensions but the repercussions of alcohol intake are many.
- Have you or your loved ones felt that you should cut down on alcohol?
- Have people been taunting or criticizing you for your alcohol intake?
- Have you at any time felt guilty about your drinking habits?
- Have you been hiding your drinking or abstain from drinking in front of your loved ones so that they don’t know?
- Have you had alcohol first thing in the morning, just to feel better or to calm down your nerves?
- Is having a drink in the morning, your remedy to get rid of a hangover?
If your answer to even one question is ‘Yes’, then you have a problem. People are of the opinion that one is under stress either at work or home and that’s why they are having alcohol and it’s just a matter of willpower and they will stop. What people don’t understand is that if it were a matter of willpower or in their hand, they could have stopped but when an individual finds himself/ herself, unable to stop, they are treading towards addiction.
Some people may very well be able to control their drinking habits and may know when to stop and they do, but for others holding themselves back and keeping their word on not having another drink may be very hard. Having excess amounts of alcohol and not being able to stop is an actual disorder, when your alcohol intake increases, it makes certain changes in your brain which makes it hard to abstain or quit.
The Mayo Clinic states that “Alcohol Use Disorder (which includes a level that’s sometimes called alcoholism) is a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect, or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking".
SYMPTOMS OF ALCOHOL USE DISORDER:
Alcohol Use Disorder is defined as a problematic pattern of drinking that results in two or more of the following situations within a 12-month period:
- Drinking more or for a longer period than intended.
- On more than one occasion feeling the need or attempting to cut down or stop drinking.
- Spending a lot of time drinking, or recovering from the after-effects of alcohol.
- Craving or thinking about wanting a drink or having the urge to use alcohol.
- Failing to fulfil major work, school, or home responsibilities due to drinking.
- Continuing to drink even though it is causing relationship troubles with your family or friends.
- Prioritizing drinking by giving up or cutting back activities that were important to you, or gave you pleasure.
- Drinking before or during situations that are physically dangerous—while driving a car, operating machinery, swimming, or having unsafe sex.
- Continuing to drink even though drinking is making you feel depressed or anxious, is linked to another health problem, or results in having memory blackouts.
- Developing a tolerance for drinking—needing much more than you once did to get the desired effect from alcohol, or not experiencing the same effect when drinking the same amount of alcohol.
- Withdrawal, as characterized by having withdrawal symptoms (trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, a seizure, or sensing things that are not there).
- Alcoholism, or alcohol dependence, used to be considered the most severe form of alcohol abuse.
The DSM V integrates alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence, into a single disorder called alcohol use disorder (AUD) with mild, moderate, and severe sub-classifications.
- Mild: The presence of two to three symptoms.
- Moderate: The presence of four to five symptoms.
- Severe: The presence of six or more symptoms.
CAUSES OF ALCOHOL USE DISORDER:
- GENETICS: The risk of alcohol use disorder is greater when your close relatives have the condition as well.
- ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS: Alcohol use disorder can be caused due to stress, peer pressure, the individual may use alcohol as a coping mechanism.
- EMOTIONAL FACTORS: The risk for abusing alcohol also increases if individuals use drinking to deal with and avoid problems, divert their mind from thinking about their problems, dealing with stress, anxiety, fears and mood swings.
- DEPRESSION AND OTHER MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS: People who have Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Mood Disorder, etc., may also have problems with alcohol and other substances.
IMPACT ON YOUR SAFETY:
The Mayo Clinic states that excessive drinking can reduce your judgment skills and lower inhibitions, leading to poor choices and dangerous situations or behaviours, including:
- Motor vehicle accidents and other types of accidental injury, such as drowning.
- Relationship problems.
- Poor performance at work or school.
- Increased likelihood of committing violent crimes or being the victim of a crime.
- Legal problems or problems with employment or finances.
- Problems with other substance use.
- Engaging in risky, unprotected sex, or becoming the victim of sexual abuse or date rape.
- Increased risk of attempted or completed suicide.
- DETOXIFICATION: Detoxification involves abstaining from alcohol and flushing out the traces of alcohol in a controlled and supervised facility. The detoxification process takes about four to seven days and it is also important to examine the individual for other conditions. Depression or other underlying mood disorders should be evaluated and treated as these conditions often play a role when it comes to Alcohol use disorder.
- REHABILITATION: After the detoxification process, it is also important for the individual to undergo rehabilitation programs which will help them deal with abstinence and continue being in an alcohol-free environment.
- TREATING CO-OCCURRING MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS: Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Mood Disorder and other such mental health conditions contribute towards the development of alcohol use disorder. Treating these conditions is also a priority, once the symptoms of these conditions are taken care of, the intake of alcohol also tends to decrease.
- MEDICATION: Three oral medications— Disulfiram, Naltrexone, Acamprosate—are currently approved to treat alcohol dependence. In addition, an injectable, long-acting form of naltrexone is available. These medications have been shown to help people with dependence reduce their drinking, avoid relapse to heavy drinking, and achieve and maintain abstinence. Naltrexone acts in the brain to reduce the craving for alcohol in those who have stopped drinking. Acamprosate is thought to work by reducing the symptoms, such as anxiety and insomnia, that may follow lengthy abstinence. Disulfiram discourages drinking by making individuals feel sick if they drink alcohol.
- THERAPY: Behavioural interventions go a long way when it comes Alcohol use disorder. Behavioural therapies like REBT and CBT help to a great extent. REBT can provide positive reinforcement strategies that encourage continuing with sobriety. CBT helps people evaluate and correct negative thought patterns and behaviours that lead to addiction. When it comes to alcohol, Family therapy also helps, the family is educated about what exactly is alcohol use disorder and with the help of therapy, attempts are made to improve the functioning and communication of the family and attempts are made to reduce triggers of alcohol.
- ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS: Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship of men and women who once had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, nondenominational, a political, and available almost everywhere. There are no age or educational requirements. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem. A.A. members share their experience with anyone seeking help with a drinking problem; they give person-to-person service or “sponsorship” to the alcoholic coming to A.A. from any source. The A.A. programme, set forth in our Twelve Steps, offers the alcoholic a way to develop a satisfying life without alcohol.
Once you have started your treatment, you need to make sure that you make some lifestyle changes that would help you in continuing your abstinence from alcohol and help you in leading a healthier life.
- Avoid triggers that earlier would draw you to alcohol.
- Avoid meeting people who would encourage you to drink.
- Adopt a healthier form of living, in terms of healthy foods and exercise.
- Seek help if required, if you feel the urge to drink or if you feel you may slip up, share this information with your loved ones or with a professional so that they can help you.
- Follow up regularly with your treatment.
“A man who drinks too much on occasion is still the same man as he was sober. An alcoholic, a real alcoholic is not the same man at all. You can’t predict anything about him for sure except that he will be someone you never met before” – Raymond Chandler.
“Alcohol is a very effective dissolving agent. It dissolves families, marriages, friendships, jobs, bank accounts and neurons, but never problems.”
“When you become a slave to a substance and are unable to stop without help. The substance takes the brain hostage and the addict has lost the power of choice. This is a disease.”