Alcohol abuse is one of the biggest public health issues in the United States today. Abuse of alcohol occurs when people drink too much in a single instance or too often or both. Repeated or prolonged alcohol usage can breed alcohol dependency and sometimes addiction. When people using alcohol acquire an addiction, they are said to have an alcohol use disorder. It is estimated that as many as 10% of children in the United States live in a home where one or more adults struggle with alcohol abuse or an alcohol use disorder.
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Signs of Alcohol Dependency
Any time you suspect that you or a loved one suffers from alcohol dependency, it is best to seek professional help. Alcohol dependency often involves a set of signs that indicate when treatment becomes necessary. Alcohol use disorder can be mild, severe, and even life-threatening. Some of the most common signs of alcohol dependency include:
- Unsuccessfully trying to cut back or eliminate alcohol intake
- Experiencing cravings for alcohol
- When alcohol use interferes with family or work responsibilities, often to the point of having negative consequences
- Engaging in risky behavior while drinking that put yourself or others in danger
- Continuing to drink despite side effects like depression, anxiety, or frequent blackouts
- Suffering withdrawal symptoms between instances of alcohol use
Any sign on its own can point to the presence of alcohol dependency. When multiple signs show up at the same time, the need for professional treatment is clear. If you are still in doubt, any primary care physician can conduct a formal assessment for an alcohol use disorder. You can also complete an online assessment offered by the National Institutes of Health.
Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment
After identifying an alcohol use disorder, treatment begins. No matter the severity of an alcohol addiction, recovery is possible. Most addiction treatment providers tackle alcohol addiction through a combination of behavioral therapy, medications, and support groups. Let’s take a closer look at each element of treatment below.
Behavioral therapy is a foundational treatment method for numerous substance abuse and mental health disorders. Therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and contingency management focus on behavior change and the reclamation of healthy patterns and modes of thinking. Many therapeutic options are offered with either an inpatient or outpatient component depending on client needs. In addition, some therapies may be offered in a group setting.
Three medications are currently approved for the treatment of alcohol dependency: disulfiram, naltrexone, and Acamprosate. Disulfiram causes annoying side effects when someone uses alcohol as a deterrent. Naltrexone is best in circumstances where someone is trying to quit heavy drinking as it cuts down on cravings. And Acamprosate supports sobriety in similar ways to disulfiram by deterring alcohol usage and reducing cravings.
Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-step programs have long been mainstays of alcohol addiction treatment. Support groups grounded in honesty, vulnerability, trust, and shared goals of sobriety bring many benefits to those in recovery.
Pursuing Treatment for Alcohol Dependency
Getting help for alcohol dependency begins with an evaluation that determines a patient’s overall health. From there, a clinician will develop a treatment program that takes a holistic view of recovery. The first step in treating an alcohol use disorder is detox. Withdrawal symptoms during detox can be uncomfortable and include:
In most cases, withdrawal symptoms peak at about three days following last use and begin to subside after the first week. Following a successful detox, patients enter an ongoing period of treatment involving therapy, medications, and support groups. Alcohol use disorder and mental health issues like depression and anxiety often co-occur. In that scenario, a person has a dual diagnosis. Treatment will be most successful when it tackles the full range of a patient’s needs, including their mental health.
Don’t let alcohol dependency run your life. Reach out to 855.952.3546 to begin healing from alcohol abuse.