The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism conducted a survey to better comprehend the current alcohol-related trends across the country. Participants aged 18 and older, female and male, answered a series of questions pertaining to daily alcohol consumption. Of those who admitted having one drink daily, 48.2 percent of the respondents were female and 28.7 percent were male. Individuals confessing to having two drinks per day comprised 29.9 of the female volunteers and 29 percent of the males. When asked if they consumed more than three drinks on a daily basis, 21.9 percent of the female participants and 42.3 percent of the male responded yes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15,990 people die every year from liver disease related to alcohol consumption. Statistics also indicate that the number of alcohol-induced deaths, not related to accidents, homicides, or suicides was 25,692. Alcoholism not only involves alcohol abuse, but additionally entails physical dependence.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Dependence
Alcohol Tolerance – Tolerance means that individuals must consume more alcohol before feeling the desired effect. Signs of tolerance include needing more than one drink to feel inebriated or to relax. This person may typically consume more alcohol than other people and not become intoxicated.
Lifestyle Changes – Activities that once brought enjoyment or satisfaction are no longer important. Schooling or work are not priorities. Relationships change. Alcoholics often lose the desire to spend time with family or friends.
Life Centers around Alcohol – Drinking, thinking about drinking or recovering from being drunk consume daily existence.
No Control of the Habit – Alcoholics drink more than desired, for longer periods of time than anticipated. Though not intending to drink or attempting to limit the number of drinks consumed, the addicted person has no control. Individuals may recognize the destructive effects of the habit, but remain helpless to initiate change.
Withdrawal – When suffering from alcohol addiction, the individual must continue drinking to ward off withdrawal symptoms. Some of the many withdrawal symptoms that alcoholics experience include:
- Appetite loss
- Excessive perspiration
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shaking or trembling
During detoxification, symptoms may progress severely and include agitation, fever, confusion, and hallucinations or possible seizure activity.
Denial – Individuals addicted to alcohol go to great lengths to hide or rationalize the affliction. They lie to themselves and to others by underestimating the amount of alcohol consumed, trivialize negative behaviors or any consequences associated with being drunk. They insist that everyone is exaggerating the problem. Addicted people often blame a host of other problems for the need to drink. Denial remains one of the largest obstacles to asking for and receiving the help needed to overcome alcoholism.
Extent of Denial
A false sense of control – The alcoholic convinces him/herself that they can quit drinking at will. However, this is not true. Furthermore, in most instances the addicted individual has no desire to stop.
Addicted people believe that the problem affects no one else. However, alcoholism affects everyone around the person on a daily basis.
Alcoholism means drinking every day. Some may also believe that because the drinking is restricted to beer or wine, alcohol addiction could not possibly occur. Alcohol dependency is not conditional upon frequency or beverage of choice. The fact that a person needs to drink regardless of the consequences indicates addiction.
Alcohol consumption has not affected daily life. Many alcohol addicted individuals remain highly functional by attending school, holding jobs, and providing for loved ones. Over time, the effects of excessive alcohol dependence take a physical toll on the body.
Drug abuse and drinking are not the same. Alcohol is considered a chemical substance. Having a dependent relationship with alcohol is an addiction. The symptoms of alcohol addiction are very similar to those experienced by someone addicted to drugs.
Need for Professional Help
Chronic alcoholism poses a risk to every system in the body. Many suffer from vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition. Cardiovascular effects include the possibility of developing hypertension or an irregular heartbeat. As the liver assumes the responsibility for eliminating alcohol from the body, individuals endure liver damage that may include cirrhosis or cancer. Alcohol also affects thought processes. Studies suggest that 10 to 15 percent of alcoholics attempt suicide.
The possibility of suffering life-threatening symptoms during withdrawal increases the need for seeking professional treatment at an inpatient facility when serious about overcoming the dependency. Staffed by trained personnel, the centers address the emotional, psychological, and physical health needs of clients during the treatment process.