Understanding Alcoholism

What are the treatment options for alcohol use disorders?

For many people, consuming alcohol is simply a pleasant way to unwind. People with alcohol use problems, on the other hand, drink excessively, putting themselves and others in danger. 

When does excessive drinking become a problem?

Moderate alcohol consumption—no more than two drinks per day for males and one for women and elderly persons — is relatively safe for most adults. (A “drink” is defined as 1.5 ounces of spirits, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer containing 0.5 ounces of alcohol.

Alcohol abuse is a drinking pattern with severe and recurring negative repercussions. Alcohol abusers may miss important school, work, or family obligations. They may have legal issues due to drinking, such as frequent arrests for driving while inebriated. They may have relationship issues as a result of their drinking. People who have alcoholism, also called alcohol dependence, can no longer control how much alcohol they drink. It makes no difference what type of alcohol is used or how much is consumed: alcoholics frequently cannot stop drinking once they begin. Tolerance (the need to drink more to attain the same “high”) and withdrawal symptoms occur when drinking is abruptly discontinued. Some withdrawal symptoms include nausea, sweating, restlessness, irritability, tremors, hallucinations, and convulsions.

Even though people pay more attention to severe alcoholism, even mild to moderate alcoholism does a lot of damage to the person, their family, and the community as a whole. 

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What factors contribute to alcohol-related disorders?

Problem drinking has several reasons, including genetic, physiological, psychological, and social variables. Each cause does not affect everyone in the same way. 

Some alcoholics drink too much because of things like being impulsive, having low self-esteem, and wanting to be liked. Some people drink to deal with or “medicate” their emotional difficulties. Peer pressure and the fact that alcohol is cheap and easy to get are two social and environmental factors that can significantly impact. Poverty and physical or sexual abuse also raise the likelihood of developing alcoholism.

Some people are predisposed to alcoholism due to genetic causes. Contrary to popular belief, being able to “hold your liquor” puts you at greater risk — not less — of developing an alcohol problem. However, a family history of alcoholism does not inherently predispose offspring to the same issues. Similarly, the lack of family drinking problems does not necessarily protect children from developing these issues.

When people start drinking excessively, the problem can spiral out of control. Heavy drinking might produce physiological changes that make drinking more necessary to alleviate discomfort. Alcohol addicts may drink to help or prevent withdrawal symptoms.

What are the consequences of alcoholism?

Some studies show that small amounts of alcohol may be good for the heart, but most experts agree that drinking too much can harm your health.

Memory loss, hangovers, and blackouts are all short-term impacts. Long-term consequences of heavy drinking include stomach problems, heart problems, cancer, brain damage, severe memory loss, and liver cirrhosis. Heavy drinkers also have a significantly increased risk of dying in car accidents, homicide, and suicide. Even though men are much more likely to become alcoholics than women, women’s health suffers more even when they drink less.

Problems with alcohol also harm mental health. Alcohol misuse and alcoholism can exacerbate pre-existing diseases like depression or cause new ones like severe memory loss, depression, or anxiety.

Alcoholism does not only harm the drinker. Children and spouses of heavy drinkers may have to deal with stress and domestic violence. Children may be abused or neglected physically or sexually and develop mental health problems. Women who drink alcohol while pregnant put their foetuses at risk. Alcohol-related accidents and assaults can hurt or kill relatives, friends, and strangers.

When should you seek help?

Individuals frequently conceal their drinking or deny that they have a problem. How can you know whether you or someone you know is in danger? 

Friends or relatives expressing concern, being annoyed when people criticise your drinking, feeling guilty about your drinking and believing you should cut back but being unable to do so, or needing a morning drink to calm your nerves or alleviate a hangover are all signs of a problem.

Some people who have drinking issues work hard to overcome them. These folks can generally recuperate on their own with the help of family members or friends. Those who are addicted to alcohol, on the other hand, are frequently unable to stop drinking via willpower alone. Many people require outside assistance. They may need detox under a doctor’s care to avoid dangerous withdrawal symptoms like seizures. Once people are stabilised, they may need help overcoming psychological difficulties related to problem drinking.

There are various approaches available for treating alcoholism. There is no single approach that is optimal for everyone.

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How can a psychologist help you?

Psychologists who know how to treat alcoholism and are qualified to do so can be very helpful in many ways. Before the drinker seeks help, a psychologist can help the family or others strengthen the drinker’s motivation to change.

A psychologist can start by looking at what kinds of problems the drinker has had and how bad they are. The evaluation results can help the person with a drinking problem decide what treatment to get and can also encourage the person to get help. People with drinking problems have a better chance of getting better if they get help as soon as possible.

Psychologists can assist clients in addressing psychological difficulties related to problem drinking by using one or more of the numerous types of psychological therapies available. Psychologists pioneered several therapies, including cognitive-behavioural coping skills treatment and motivational enhancement therapy. 

Other therapies include 12-Step facilitation approaches, which enable people with drinking problems to use self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

These therapies can help people stop drinking more, figure out what makes them want to drink, learn new ways to deal with high-risk drinking situations, and build social support networks in their communities.

Many people who have alcohol problems also have other mental health issues, such as severe anxiety and depression. Psychologists can also diagnose and treat these “co-occurring” psychological problems. A psychologist may also be significant when coordinating the services that an alcoholic gets from different health specialists as part of their treatment.

Psychologists can also provide marriage, family, and group therapy, which can be beneficial in the long run for healing interpersonal connections and treating problem drinking. Family relationships impact drinking habits, and these relationships frequently shift during a person’s recovery. The psychologist can assist the drinker and significant others in navigating these difficult transitions, teach families about problem drinking and how to support family members in recovery, and refer family members to self-help groups such as Al-Anon and Alateen.

Because a person may relapse and return to problem drinking, it is critical to have a trustworthy psychologist or other health professionals to discuss and learn from these situations. Therapists can help in making an individualized relapse prevention plan.

Psychologists can also refer patients to self-help organisations. Even when formal therapy has ended, many seek additional support by remaining involved in such organisations.

Alcohol-related problems have a significant impact on functioning and health. However, the odds for long-term problem resolution are favourable for those who seek support from appropriate sources.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism, call Freephone 0800 140 4044

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