Think you have to go to a drug dealer to get a potentially lethal drug? Think again. The leading cause of addiction in America isn’t cocaine, marijuana, or even opioids. It’s the substance that you drink at every wedding, use in every toast, and can buy in just about every store—alcohol. One in eight Americans is an alcoholic. Alcohol claims more lives than any other drug, and than all other drugs combined, killing nearly 90,000 Americans each year. Alcohol addiction can kill you, and it can ruin your life even if you manage to survive. But there’s hope for recovery. Here’s what you need to know about this deadly disease.
Like all drug addictions, alcohol addiction is fundamentally a brain disease. The brain becomes dependent on alcohol, and convinces the body it needs this dangerous drug to survive. And thus begins the process of upending one’s life for alcohol.
But unlike other addictions, alcohol addiction is socially acceptable. Most Americans drink. They even make jokes about unhealthy behavior related to alcohol. Binge drinking is common, even accepted, on college campuses across the nation.
So when this addiction becomes normalized, it can become a lot harder to detect that you have a problem. Most alcohol addicts go for years before seeking treatment. So in this regard, most people seeking alcohol treatment are sicker, more addicted, and need more intensive treatment than those seeking treatment for other diseases.
When you abuse cocaine, it’s easy to avoid cocaine for the rest of your life. But alcohol is everywhere—at family functions, weddings, even at church. So giving up alcohol requires significant self-control. You must know your triggers for drinking, and know how to manage them. You’ll also probably have to continually remind others that you no longer drink, and that you don’t want to drink. That requires significant willpower, and a willingness to dig deeply into your own psyche to understand why you drink.
Concerned you might have an alcohol problem? It’s important to know that addiction brings with it significant denial. Not only is it hard to accept that you have an addiction. Addiction also changes the way your brain processes information, making it difficult to detect the signs of addiction.
If you think you might be an addict, consider what might happen if you stopped drinking. Would you experience withdrawal? Struggle? If so, you’re probably an addict. Consider also how friends and family feel about your use of alcohol. If they have expressed concern, you may be an addict. Some other signs of addiction include:
• Drinking every day.
• Drinking to feel normal.
• Not feeling drunk when you drink.
• Drinking to deal with stress.
• Drinking alone, or to fall asleep.
• Spending most of your time drinking, or with people who drink.
• Binge drinking regularly.
• Using alcohol as a way to escape the stress of daily life.
People with chronic alcohol addiction need both addiction care and help to manage the physical health effects of addiction. Though all addicts experience withdrawal, some alcoholics experience a dangerous form of withdrawal called delirium tremens. For both typical and atypical withdrawal, IV infusions of NAD, a vital coenzyme, can make the process easier. Addicts with a long history of alcohol abuse may need to seek inpatient care to address the potential health effects of quitting drinking.
But detox and withdrawal are just the beginning. Alcohol can affect everything about a person’s life. This means that alcoholics must address the underlying cause of their addiction, in addition to identifying and finding ways to manage their triggers for use. Some strategies that can help include:
• Therapy, both to help with stress and any history of trauma, and to help addicts find strategies for coping with temptation.
• Group support, to reassure people in recovery that they aren’t alone.
• Lifestyle changes, such as exercise and healthy eating. Replacing alcohol with a healthier addiction can make a significant difference in well-being.
• Health care to address the aftereffects of alcoholism. Many addicts suffer from liver failure and chronic health problems. Supporting them with these symptoms can reduce the risk of a relapse.
Addiction is hard. Alcohol can ruin lives. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you’re ready to build a better life for yourself, we can help. Call us today!
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