Alcohol addiction can feel impossible to treat and overcome—for the person struggling and their loved ones witnessing it. In the past people thought the answer to end alcohol abuse was for the person to come to their senses and simply stop drinking. Now we understand that addiction is a brain disease and that the key to treatment lies in a multi-faceted approach that incorporates therapies that address their unmet physical and psychological needs, which may have been fueling their unhealthy dependence on alcohol.
Alcohol use disorders can come in many forms. No two people experience alcohol dependency in the same way, which is why personalized treatment with one-on-one counseling from psychologists who specialize in substance use disorders is key to recovery. Treatment for alcohol dependency needs to offer people healthy coping mechanisms to replace drinking because recovery is a long and challenging road to walk. In some cases, medications can help people recovering from alcohol addiction in an evidence-based approach called medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
Addiction treatment should consider the whole person, addressing what challenges they have been struggling with in body, mind, and spirit that caused them to begin using alcohol to deal with these issues. By addressing the underlying causes of the addiction, providing new strategies for managing stress, and healing the body from the effects of alcohol, a person can turn over a new leaf and begin living their dream life in recovery from alcohol addiction.
Signs of Alcohol Addiction
People who drink heavily on a regular basis may become dependent on alcohol to deal with problems or stressors in life. Often this dependence is learned at an early age as they watch other adults or people around them use alcohol to numb pain or avoid issues that arise in life. In other cases, people may begin using alcohol to self-medicate when they are dealing with other issues, they cannot solve like underlying mental health conditions or a traumatic experience they haven’t recovered from.
Some signs of alcohol dependency may include:
- Requiring excessive alcohol to feel drunk
- Intense urges or cravings for alcohol
- Difficulty controlling alcohol consumption
- Continuing to drink despite negative consequences
- Drinking impacts relationships at work and home
- Each day revolves around drinking
- Needing alcohol to get through a day
- Drinking in secrecy
- Attempts to cut back or stop drinking have failed
If a person drinks regularly, especially if they are consuming large amounts of alcohol, their body will become physically dependent on it, producing more of certain neurochemicals in the brain to compensate. If the person doesn’t drink or has less alcohol than usual, their body will automatically produce these neurochemicals because it has adjusted to receiving a certain amount of alcohol.
As a result of the body’s reaction, the person may experience a range of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- Intense alcohol cravings
- Trembling or shakiness
- Brain fog or trouble focusing
- Feeling irritable or anxious
- Heart palpitations
- Nausea or vomiting
- Confusion or disorientation
Not everyone will have all withdrawal symptoms, but some people may develop severe alcohol dependency withdrawal with symptoms after suddenly stopping alcohol use and could have a condition called delium tremens, which requires immediate medical attention. It is best to consult a medical professional when cutting back on alcohol consumption if there is a history of heavy drinking.