What Is Alcohol Abuse & Addiction?
Alcohol abuse is the misuse or overuse of beer, wine, or mixed drinks. You keep drinking even if it causes you problems. You may drink until you get drunk. Over time, drinking too much alcohol can lead to your body needing the alcohol. This is called dependency.
Alcohol dependence is also called alcoholism. This means your brain and body are physically addicted to alcohol. You have a strong need or cravings to drink alcohol. You cannot stop or limit your drinking once you start. You may have signs of withdrawal if you stop drinking. You need to drink more to get the same effect. Problems with alcohol happen when you drink too much, too fast, or too often.
A drinking problem can change all parts of your life. Drinking too much alcohol can cause problems in your family, your home, and with your job or school. It can also cause problems with your financial, physical, and mental health. It can cause social and legal problems. You may injure or harm yourself or others if you are drunk.
When Does Alcohol Addiction Become A Problem?
- Drink more or longer than you planned
- Want to cut down or stop and you are not able to
- Spend a lot of time drinking and feel sick after drinking
- Have trouble at home or with family, job, or school from drinking
- Still drink even with these problems
- Still drink even if you feel depressed, nervous, or have another medical problem
- Give up things you like to drink instead
Does Alcohol Addiction Treatment Work?
There are many treatment programs to help you quit. You may need counseling and medicines. You may be treated in a special recovery center, or you may go to a program while living at home. It may help you to join a support group.
After you get out of treatment, you will need a good support plan to help keep you sober. Your focus will be on not drinking and working on how to live without alcohol.
Who’s At Risk For Alcohol Addiction?
Women, older adults, people with mental health problems or other addictions are at a higher risk for very serious health problems because of their drinking. Talk with your doctor to learn about your risk.
- Ask your doctor what you need to do when you go home. Make sure you ask questions if you do not understand what the doctor says. This way you will know what you need to do.
- Start treatment by keeping a visit with your doctor. The doctor will talk to you about your drinking and help you to make a treatment plan. Your doctor may ask you to see other specialists, such as a mental health doctor, psychiatrist, social worker, or alcohol counselor.
- Stay sober. Get involved with a 12-step program to help. Plan ahead so you know what to do when you want to take a drink. Ask your doctor, a sponsor, support group, family, and friends to help.
Should I Speak To Family & Friends About My Alcohol Abuse & Addiction?
Yes, telling your family and friends about your problem will help many ways such as...
- They can help you avoid alcohol during your recovery.
- Try to be honest about your problems and how you feel. Tell them that your craving for alcohol is constant. Decide who you may call for help if you are having a difficult time.
- Counseling for families may help you and your family to solve problems at home.
What Are Some Tips To Help Me Deal With My Alcohol Abuse & Addiction?
Learn how to cope with stress.
- Take a slow deep breath, soak in a warm bath, listen to soothing music, or do some fun activities.
- Make some changes in your daily habits and get a new routine. Avoid people you used to drink with. Find friends who do not drink.
- Do things that you enjoy. Try gardening, walk with your pet, or talk with family or friends.
Choose a healthy lifestyle.
- Eat a healthy diet. This includes eating whole grains, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables.
- Exercise and be active. When you are fit, you may have less anxiety, low mood, and stress.
- Get the right amount of sleep. This may be hard at first.
Find ways to stay sober:
- Find new things to do. You may be tempted to drink because you have nothing else to do. Find a job or part-time job that you enjoy.
- Join a support group. Take part in support group activities. It may help to have people you can lean on for comfort, encouragement, and guidance.
- Do volunteer work. Get involved in community events.
- Play sports, join a club, find an exercise program.
Your doctor may ask you to make visits to the office to check on your progress. Be sure to keep these visits. Be honest with your doctor about your progress or problems at home.
The doctor may order drugs that are not addictive to:
- Prevent withdrawal signs
- Reduce cravings for alcohol
- Treat nutrition problems
Physical activity may not be limited. Doing certain activities may help you keep away from alcohol.
- Bleeding from your stomach
- Brain damage like memory loss, confusion, or loss of coordination
- Liver damage
- Pancreas damage
- Cancer of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, and breast
- Heart damage
- High blood pressure
- Fetal alcohol exposure if you are pregnant. No amount of alcohol is safe for pregnant women to drink. Your child may have brain damage, problems with learning or behaving from your drinking.
- Avoid places, people, or situations that bring up thoughts of drinking. Avoid going to bars and clubs.
- Do not hang out with friends you used to drink with. Mingle with people who do not drink and who can support your recovery.
- Do not keep alcohol at home, in your car, or at work. Throw away all alcohol. If handling the alcoholic beverages triggers a craving, have a friend or family member remove them for you.
- Signs of alcohol withdrawal. These include not thinking clearly, shaking, seeing or hearing things that are not there, irritable feeling very nervous, or fast heartbeat. Go to the ER right away.
- You drank alcohol. Starting to drink again may be a problem. Getting treatment once may not be enough.
Before going home, make sure you are able to do these:
- I can tell you about my condition.
- I can tell you what my plan is for staying sober.
- I can tell you what I will do if I am shaking or feeling nervous or irritable.
This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your healthcare provider. This is only a brief summary of general information. It does NOT include all information about conditions, illnesses, injuries, tests, procedures, treatments, therapies, discharge instructions or lifestyle choices that may apply to you. You must talk with your health care provider for complete information about your health and treatment options. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to accept your health care provider’s advice, instructions or recommendations. Only your health care provider has the knowledge and training to provide advice that is right for you.
You must talk with your health care provider for complete information about your health and treatment options. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to accept your health care provider’s advice, instructions or recommendations. Only your health care provider has the knowledge and training to provide advice that is right for you.
Video Interviews With Mental Health Experts
National Institute of Mental Health
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration SAMHSA
National Council On Alcoholism And Drug Dependence NCADD