Alcohol can be found at many events, from a drink with dinner to an evening of drinking with friends. Legal for those over 21, easy to purchase, and often socially acceptable to misuse, alcohol presents unique challenges for the treatment of alcohol use disorder.
The way people use alcohol affects their risk of developing an alcohol addiction, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). In 2019, almost 15 million people in the USA had a diagnosable alcohol use disorder. Because people use alcohol in many ways, alcohol dependence or misuse is different for each person. Although alcohol cannot be purchased legally until age 21, use among underage drinkers has increased steadily.
Not everyone who uses alcohol recreationally will develop a problem. However, even moderate alcohol consumption may have physical health effects, especially on the liver, which people should discuss with their doctor if they regularly consume the substance.
What is Alcohol?
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, meaning that it slows down or inhibits functions of the brain and nerves that control signals all over the body. Because alcohol depresses these functions, things like balance and memory may be impaired when an individual drinks.
Tolerance for alcohol varies significantly between people. Body mass and other physical features may act as a factor, but genetics also play a role. For example, some people who do not process alcohol in the body may have a defective gene and cannot make an enzyme that helps the body metabolize alcohol.
Alcohol and its breakdown products can cause damage throughout the body. Even if not often, people who drink heavily may experience significant liver damage with each bout of heavy drinking.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that 24,000 people died of alcohol-related liver disease in 2019, and not all had an alcohol use disorder. The damage that alcohol does to the liver may be compounded if the person already deals with a health problem like Hepatitis C.
Alcohol use involves three factors resulting in increasing dependence:
People who misuse alcohol may develop tolerance, meaning they do not get the same results from the same amount of alcohol or have to drink more to achieve the same effect.
Tolerance can drive substance abuse by causing people to keep increasing their use. People will develop a tolerance to almost any substance they use or consume regularly.
When a person develops physical dependence, they become used to operating with alcohol in their system.
The individual may experience uncomfortable symptoms if they do not consume their usual amount of alcohol. Physical dependence occurs when the brain has adjusted to the central nervous system effects of alcohol and works overtime to keep things running. Without alcohol, the brain now has nothing to suppress its function and reacts too strongly.
When a person is diagnosed with substance use disorder, they need to drink even when it can cause problems or put them in risky situations.
However, many people who struggle with substance use disorder relating to alcohol do not reach this point. Many people have heard the term “functioning alcoholic,” which suggests the person has a problem with abusing alcohol but manages to hide it and function in daily life.
Many people have encountered some of the short term effects of alcohol, which may include:
Long-term effects may include:
The tolerance and dependence the brain has developed for alcohol may be the most severe effect of long-term use. When a person struggles with heavy and chronic alcohol abuse, the brain makes drastic changes to keep them alive. Often, these individuals can tolerate a blood alcohol level that would cause alcohol poisoning in another person. If the alcohol suddenly gets taken away, the brain has nothing to calm it down, and the person may experience severe withdrawal symptoms and possibly death.
How Does Alcohol Treatment Work?
Alcohol detox must always be monitored by clinically trained professionals. Some people downplay their alcohol use, so staff must treat each person as if they have the same risks. If alcohol withdrawal does not receive medical treatment, an individual can experience seizures, abnormal brain activity, and possibly death.
With proper treatment, professionals can manage alcohol detox safely.
For people at risk of seizures or other severe effects, benzodiazepines can provide support. These medications also depress the central nervous system, helping to protect the healing brain. They require careful use, though, since benzodiazepines are a substance with high addiction potential. After the initial detox period, people with alcohol use disorder usually do not require medications, although a doctor should always make this determination.
How Does Everlast Treat Alcohol Addiction?
Everlast Recovery Centers knows that people recovering from a severe alcohol use disorder need the support of our round-the-clock care while they adjust to the detox process. Our residential treatment provides the opportunity to offer effective therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and others as needed.
Residential treatment at Everlast also provides a comfortable, safe environment with no temptations or alcohol triggers.
This gives people time to adjust to interacting with others while sober as well as build better social skills.
Everlast provides the most comfortable and caring detox and residential treatment available. We prepare people for outpatient treatment after their residential treatment is complete. Aftercare can also be complemented by 12-Step groups or other recovery support programs that help to increase recovery outcomes. With Everlast, you can be sure to find a successful recovery journey.