Do you have someone in your life that you love dearly, but who is struggling with alcoholism? Are you struggling to deal with your alcohol addiction, and feeling helpless? You are not alone. According to a Harvard study, nearly one-third of American adults are excessive drinkers and 10% of them are considered to be alcoholics and fall into substance abuse. Alcoholism does not discriminate. It does not matter what race, creed, or social status you are, alcoholism can affect anyone.
As with any other addiction, alcohol addiction carries with it a number of challenges, risks, and dangers. If you have a loved one who is an alcoholic, it is important to be aware of these dangers and learn how to best deal with them. For cases where you feel you can’t do anything anymore, treatment services from different treatment centers or treatment facilities can help you and your loved ones fight and recover from alcoholism. Seeking treatment may sound like a daunting task, but it is important to remember that you are not alone in this.
What is an Alcoholic?
An alcoholic person is someone who has a problem with drinking alcohol in an uncontrolled or harmful way. They may be unable to limit their drinking, continue to drink even though it’s causing problems in their life, and have a strong, constant craving for alcohol. Unlike moderate drinking individuals, people with alcoholism cannot simply “cut back” or stop drinking without help.
As a standard set by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), heavy drinking is consuming more than three drinks a day for women and more than four drinks for men. Binge drink is defined as consuming four or more drinks within two hours for women and five or more drinks for men. Anything more than such is considered alcohol abuse that is certain to lead to alcohol addiction that might need addiction treatment.
For someone that is drinking excessively but not affecting their day-to-day lives, this case is often addressed as functional alcoholism. Many high-functioning alcoholics are in denial about their drinking problem. Functional alcoholics might be able to maintain their job and social life, but family members often suffer the negative consequences of their drinking. The functional tolerance that high-functioning alcoholics develop can lead to health risks and problems such as liver disease, heart disease, digestive problems, mental disorders, stroke, and high blood pressure.
Symptoms That Your or Your Loved One May Be an Alcoholic
Alcohol misuse can cause a wide range of problems. And the first person to distinguish the symptoms is usually the one who is closest to the individual facing the problem.
Here are some of the signs and symptoms that you should be aware of:
- Noticeable trouble sleeping
- Hiding alcohol from others or drinking alone
- Irritated when being approached while drinking
- Not being able to control consumption
- Alcohol misuse impacting work, school, or home life
- Having a high tolerance for alcohol or needing to drink more to feel the effect
- Storing alcohol in odd places
- Shaking or having withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
- Losing interest in previous hobbies
Some people might also start to experience blackouts, periods while they were drinking when they cannot remember what happened. These usually happen when a person drinks too much alcohol in a short period of time. The problems that are linked to alcohol/substance use disorder are extensive where the physical, mental, and social well-being of the addict, as well as those around them, are affected.
The Impact of alcoholism on the Family
Child and domestic abuse, drug abuse, and relationship problems are often present in a family where alcoholism exists. Heavy drinking causes these and more. A mental health professional or a visit to treatment facilities is often needed for cases like these. In some cases where there are high functioning alcoholics in the family, to outsiders it may seem they have it all together but on the inside the family is falling apart.
Children of Alcoholics
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism, and excessive alcohol use can run to anyone in the family. It does not matter what gender, race, or socioeconomic status a person is. However, some risk factors put people at a higher chance of developing alcoholism.
- A family history of alcoholism
- Stressful life events
- Peer pressure
- Mental health disorders
- Easy access to alcohol
According to the Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization, children of an excessive alcohol user who has exhibited problematic alcohol use have a greater chance of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It has a significant impact on the child’s life and can shape how they view the world, themselves, and others.
Spouse or Partner of an Alcoholic
Family members, including the spouse of an alcoholic, often are victims of the most traumatic issues. The emotional roller coaster that goes along with having an alcoholic in the family can be hard to handle. The lack of stability, fear, and betrayal are some of the reasons.
Due to the unpredictable drinking patterns and habits of an alcoholic, personal life, healthy relationships, and work-life are often disrupted. The result of this is financial instability and job loss as well as domestic violence for the spouse or partner. Not to mention heavy alcohol consumption is expensive and can cause financial instability.
High-Functioning Alcoholic / Alcoholic Use Disorder
Some people struggling with alcoholism are able to still maintain a job, appear normal, take care of their family, and keep up with social obligations. They may not fall into the stereotype of someone who is a non-functioning alcoholic.
In the U.S. alone, 19.5% of adults ages 18 and older suffer from an alcohol use disorder and are categorized as high-functional alcoholics. Though high-functioning alcoholic people are not viewed as the “typical” alcoholic, they are still very much struggling with addiction.
High-functioning alcoholism is a very real and serious problem. It can be difficult to spot because the person may not look like the stereotype of an alcoholic. Just like alcohol use disorders, high-functioning alcoholism can affect the physical and mental health of the person as well as their relationships. A functional alcoholic has a treatable chronic medical disorder due to substance abuse that can result in severe consequences.
The Result of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol is a depressant and slows down the function of your brain and body. When you drink alcohol, it quickly enters your bloodstream and reaches every organ. Let’s see how the organs are affected.
Alcohol increases the risk of heart disease and stroke because it raises blood pressure and reduces HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). It also can cause irregular heartbeat, especially in people who have existing heart conditions. Drinking a lot continuously over a period of time or too much consumption on a single occasion can also lead to:
- Cardiomyopathy — a disease that impairs the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body due to heart muscle enlargement, thickening, or stiffening.
- Arrhythmias — an abnormal heart rhythm that can be life-threatening
- Stroke — occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off. It causes the blood vessels in the brain to burst or become blocked.
- High blood pressure — Probably the most common health problem faced by heavy drinkers.
Another organ that receives a direct hit from alcohol abuse is the liver. The liver processes alcohol and removes it from your bloodstream. When you drink too much, your liver can’t keep up and starts to swell. This can lead to a build-up of toxins in your blood, which can be fatal.
- Alcoholic hepatitis — Symptoms include yellowing of the skin and eyes and increasing size of the belly from fluid accumulation.
- Cirrhosis — Liver scarring that leads to permanent damage. Long-term drinking causes progressively more liver damage, including cirrhosis which prevents the liver from functioning normally.
- Fibrosis — Persons who drink heavily over many years can have this condition in which scar tissue replaces health liver tissue.
- Fatty liver — The abnormal retention of fat in the liver, also called steatosis. It can cause inflammation and scarring in the liver and may progress to cirrhosis.
Your pancreas produces enzymes that help digest food and produce insulin. Alcohol abuse can cause pancreatitis, which is the inflammation of the pancreas. This can be a very serious condition that leads to abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
As alcohol is a carcinogen, it can cause cancer. Alcohol abuse increases the risk of developing cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and breast. According to a new report stated by World Health Organization, 4% of cancers diagnosed worldwide in 2020 will be attributable to alcohol consumption.
Drinking More Alcohol Damages the Immune System
A person having a problem drinking can have more illnesses and in turn give them to family and friends.
As the body weakens, people with alcohol use disorder are prone to picking up infections and illnesses. Heavy drinkers are more likely to develop tuberculosis and pneumonia compared to people who don’t drink alcohol.
Alcohol Abused Leads to Violence
Aside from relationship problems, job loss, financial instability, and health issues, alcohol addiction can also be the start of violence, accidents, and injuries.
These are especially common for young people who tend to drink and drive. Also, the possibility of drug abuse and overdose is increased in people who start with alcohol.
The Treatment Process for Alcohol Use Disorder Saves Lives
According to NIAAA, more than 95,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually. These can be from car accidents, cancer, cirrhosis, and other diseases.
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, it’s important to get help from healthcare professionals, a primary care doctor, or national institutes like NIAAA.
Addiction Treatment Reduces Crime
Heavy drinking often leads to risky behaviors that can result in criminal activities. These include fighting, drunk driving, domestic violence, and sexual assault. Not to mention robbery and other violent crimes which are the most common when under the influence of alcohol.
Percentage of crimes that were committed while under the influence of alcohol:
- 15% of robberies.
- 63% of partner violence.
- 37% of sexual assaults.
- 45% of physical assaults.
- 40 – 45% of homicides.
The Treatment Process Improves Workplaces
According to PubMed, high-risk drinkers are up to 22 times more likely to be absent from work, costing employers millions of dollars every year. Productivity also decreased as they were more likely to have accidents while on the job. With treatment, these rates significantly drop, saving employers a lot of money and making the workplace safer for everyone.
Treatment Services Reduces Healthcare Costs
The cost of alcohol-related diseases and accidents is high, not just for the individual but also for society. In the US, the cost of excessive drinking was estimated at $249 billion. This is a great burden on the healthcare system, but with treatment and prevention, these costs can be significantly reduced.
How to Help Your Loved One Who is an Alcoholic
It is hard to live with someone who is an alcoholic. Alcoholics often put their own needs first, and they are not always considerate of others. Living with an alcoholic can be very stressful, especially if you are the primary caretaker for a family but there is always hope. Here are some things you can do to help your loved one who is an alcoholic:
1. Learn About Alcoholism
Understanding alcohol use disorders or alcoholism and how it affects the brain, body, and behavior can give you a better idea of what your loved one is dealing with and how you can best help them. Observe your loved one’s drinking habits and take note of how much they drink, how often they drink, and what triggers their drinking. This will help you understand their addiction and formulate strategies to deal with it.
2. Find Treatments That Work
There are many different types of treatment available for alcoholism. Some people may benefit from attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or outpatient programs and treatment while others may need more intensive treatment, such as offered at La Hacienda Treatment Center. Always remember that the best treatment program depends on the individual’s needs.
3. Be Supportive
One of the best things you can do for your loved one is to be supportive. Engage in careful conversations with them about their drinking. Listen to what they have to say and let them know that you are there for them. Showing your loved one that you care and that you want to help can make a big difference. You have to understand that alcohol use disorder is something they can’t control. Be empathetic and helpful, not judgmental.
4. Set Boundaries
It is also important to set boundaries with your loved one. Remember that you cannot control their drinking, but you can control how you respond to it. If their drinking is negatively impacting your life, it is important to set boundaries and stick to them. This may mean no longer enabling their drinking or putting up with bad behavior.
5. Seek Help
For someone with an alcohol use disorder, the denial stage is often one of the hardest stages to get through. They may be resistant to getting help and treatment. If this is the case, you may need to seek professional help.
You can consult a doctor or mental health professional to assess your loved one’s condition and develop a treatment plan. Rehabilitation is a big factor in helping people with alcoholism recover. Withdrawal symptoms can be intense for them and can trigger a relapse, so inpatient treatment may be necessary to help them detox safely.
Treatment Centers like La Hacienda Understand Alcohol Addiction
At La Hacienda Treatment Center has successfully treated persons with alcoholism for 50 years. Our treatment team addresses the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of the disease.
Our treatment facility doctors and psychiatrists see patients daily and our nursing staff is available 24/7.
Our clinical team is trained to treat alcohol use disorder as it is described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM). In addition to professional training, many of the counselors understand substance use disorders from life experience.
You are not alone in this. Seeking professional help is always an option, and there are many resources available to help you. Living with an alcoholic might be difficult, but there are ways to deal with it. Take this chance to learn more about alcoholism from this alcoholic blog post and how you can best help your loved one.
Contact La Hacienda’s Admission Team today and they will help you take the next step in addressing alcoholism or other substance abuse problems.
Harvard.edu | Heavy drinkers aren’t necessarily alcoholics, but may be “almost alcoholics”.
Heart | What is Cardiomyopathy in Adults
Mayo Clinic | Alcoholic Hepatitis
cancer.gov | Cancer Alcohol Global Burden
Nih | Alcohol Facts and Statistics
wikipedia | Alcohol Related Crime
NIH | Workers’ drinking patterns: the impact on absenteeism in the Australian work-place