Alcohol addiction is a disease marked by the craving for alcohol and the inability to stop drinking, even when it causes extreme personal or social harm. Signs of alcohol addiction include drinking more often than expected, wanting to quit drinking but not being able to, developing an alcohol tolerance, feeling withdrawal symptoms when quitting, letting personal and professional responsibilities falter in favor of drinking and spending an extreme amount of time trying to obtain and drink alcohol.
Psychological, genetic, and behavioral factors can contribute to having the disease.
It is important to note that alcoholism is a real disease. It can cause changes in the brain and neurochemistry, so a person with an addiction to alcohol may not be able to control their actions.
Alcohol addiction can show itself in several ways. The severity of the illness, the frequency with which someone drinks and the alcohol they consume varies from person to person. Some people drink heavily throughout the day, while others drink heavily and then stay sober for a time.
Regardless of what the addiction looks like, someone generally has an alcohol addiction if they are heavily dependent on drinking and cannot stay sober for an extended period of time.
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Risk factors for alcohol consumption
Alcohol use may begin in adolescence, but alcohol use disorder most often occurs between the ages of 20 and 40, although it can occur at any age.
Constant consumption over time
Frequent heavy drinking over a long period of frequent compulsive drinking can lead to alcohol-related problems or alcohol use disorder.
Start at an early age. People who start drinking, especially compulsively, at an early age have a higher risk of developing alcohol abuse.
Studies indicate that people who have lived with an alcoholic relative are more likely to develop this addiction themselves. Although until now this data was supported by learning/education theories, the latest studies seem to point more to the genetic hypothesis, which maintains that the presence of certain genes would increase an individual’s predisposition to develop addictive behaviors such as alcoholism.
People with a history of emotional problems or other trauma are at increased risk of alcohol use disorder. Negative emotions such as anxiety, sadness, loneliness, low self-esteem, or anger are often found in the origin and maintenance of this disease since the patient uses alcohol to flee from them. Alcohol consumption provides the patient with a pleasant sensation that should be achieved by doing activities of his liking such as reading a book or watching a movie, enjoying the company of family and friends, practicing his favorite hobby … At the other extreme are those people who employ alcohol frequently to accompany positive emotions (such as celebrations, gatherings with friends, partying, etc.). Social tolerance for excessive alcohol consumption in these situations reinforces these inappropriate behaviors, and the “occasional drinker” is ultimately at a significant risk of becoming an alcoholic.
Social and cultural factors
Poor relationships with a partner or family, financial problems, pressure from friends to drink, etc., can also act as precipitators or maintainers of alcohol dependence. In this sense, some people also start their consumption pattern to overcome the problems they have when relating to others, such as shyness or lack of social skills (for example, they drink to disinhibit themselves or to feel more likable when it comes to knowing to a person or join a new group), as well as to face someone who does not know how to express something that bothers them.
Symptoms of alcohol addiction
There are many signs and symptoms that could indicate the presence of an alcohol problem. Additionally, because alcoholism is a progressive disease, these symptoms often worsen gradually if the person does not receive the necessary treatment.
- Intense desire to drink alcohol.
- Lack of control over alcohol consumption referred to both the need to start drinking and the inability to stop or reduce this consumption.
- Abstinence syndrome when not consumed, characterized by intense physical discomfort that the patient tries to alleviate by drinking.
- Tolerance, the individual needs to consume more alcohol to achieve the same effects.
- Interference in everyday life
A progressive abandonment of other sources of pleasure appears personal aspects are neglected, work or academic performance decreases, or long time is spent to obtain alcohol or recover from its effects.
- Physical damage caused by alcoholism.
Alcoholism generates a multitude of damages in the organism. chronic gastritis, poor appetite, hepatitis, or liver cirrhosis.
(such as liver damage or malnutrition), psychological (depression, anxiety), cognitive decline.
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Treatment for alcohol abuse
Most people with alcohol use disorder can find help with some form of treatment. Because alcoholism is a multicausal disease, its treatment should follow a multidisciplinary approach that integrates the work of several professionals specialized in Alcohol addiction. Current treatments for alcoholics do not affect dependence, but rather a consumption and the decision to consume.
There are several phases in the treatment of alcoholism and the first is the recognition of addiction by the patient. When he stops drinking, he manifests the withdrawal syndrome, which must be adequately treated and which, depending on the degree of dependency, may require the patient to be admitted to hospital. This phase is known as detoxification.
During this stage, a group of specialist doctors ensures that the withdrawal period can be overcome in the best possible way. It is a stage of physical monitoring and that with professional, pharmacological, and therapeutic help, it seeks to eliminate the effects of alcohol on the body.
Detoxification of alcohol use disorders involves the use of two types of pharmacological interventions:
1. Sedative drugs:
their administration is aimed at preventing or reducing the appearance of SAA. Includes benzodiazepines, clomethiazole, antidopaminergic, and antiepileptic drugs.
2. Supportive treatment:
in order to restore hydro electrolytic homeostasis and deficits in salts and vitamins associated with alcohol consumption.
- Rehabilitation and therapeutic process
The factors that lead the patient to alcohol consumption are identified in order to replace them with positive habits and to keep them from drinking. The objective is for the patient to remain abstinent for the rest of his life.
Psychotherapeutic, psychopharmacological and psychosocial interventions are required, including individual or group therapy, relapse prevention program, pharmacotherapy, family or couples psychotherapy, coordination with self-help groups, follow-up from primary care, specialized care, social services, and general internment units, and specific for dependency.
Behavioral treatments are based on the fact that alcohol dependence is an acquired behavior, a direct consequence of a series of factors that motivated the beginning of alcohol consumption, which in many cases are also related to the permanence of the habit. Therefore, its objective is to modify this behavior by acting on the individual, with the collaboration of family and friends. The influence of patient support on social networks will play a crucial role in the rehabilitation of alcoholism.
Everything learned during the previous phases of treatment is applied in daily life in order to reincorporate the patient to a productive life.