The problem of alcohol addiction does not occur for everyone who drinks this substance. In fact, alcohol is widely used here in the UK, with most adults drinking it to some degree. However, what must be mentioned is the fact that most people only ever drink alcohol in moderation. They will have one or two alcoholic drinks on occasion and that is enough for them. But there are some who regularly abuse alcohol, putting their health at risk and increasing the chance of developing crippling addictions that can destroy their life. The question of how alcohol addiction happens is one that many individuals wonder about, particularly if they feel they have been drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. It is important to consider what alcohol addiction is before looking at how alcohol addiction happens.
There are some who believe that alcohol addiction is not an illness. They think it is something that happens to those who have no willpower or who are weak. This is not true. Alcohol addiction, like any other addiction, is a recognised illness of the brain. Regular continued abuse of the substance can lead to structural changes in the brain that can eventually affect a person’s ability to think clearly or make good decisions.
Nobody chooses to be an alcoholic – it is never a choice. The decision to drink alcohol in the first instance may be a choice, but making that decision does not mean the person has chosen to become an alcoholic. Why would they?
Alcohol addiction occurs gradually over time and most affected people do not even realise they are in trouble until it is too late. At that point, they are already in the grip of addiction and are struggling to break free.
Alcohol addiction is not an illness that appears suddenly one morning without any warning. However, those who do develop this type of addiction often do not realise they are in dangerous territory. What frequently occurs is that the person will be slowly increasing their alcohol consumption without noticing.
While he or she may once have made a conscious decision to drink alcohol, their consumption now becomes habitual. He or she will reach for a bottle of wine after work or have a glass of whisky at night while watching TV. It is just something that is done without even thinking about it.
The first time a person drinks alcohol, he or she will probably notice a rush of warmth and a feeling of contentment and happiness as the effects of the alcohol take hold. If the individual likes these feelings, he or she may want to drink again.
The body can process about one unit of alcohol per hour. Those who drink more than this amount will start to feel the effects of the chemicals. The more the person drinks, the more effects he or she will notice. This is known as intoxication, and there are some people who drink for this reason only. They like the feeling of being ‘drunk’.
If an individual begins to drink more often, he/she may notice that it takes longer for them to get drunk. The person needs more alcohol to achieve the feelings he/she desires. This is because their body has built up a tolerance to the effects of the alcohol and requires a greater amount to feel the ‘buzz’.
The temptation to increase the consumption of alcohol will be strong, but the more he/she drinks, the more his or her body adapts to it and begins to crave it. After a while, the affected individual has no choice over their need to drink. He or she will drink even when they do not want to because their body is craving it. The person is compelled to drink and may spend most of their time either drinking or thinking about drinking. At this point, he or she cannot quit even if they want to because they have an addiction.
Most people who have a problem with alcohol will not want to consider the possibility that they could be an alcoholic. They have their own idea of what an alcoholic is and they are sure that they do not fit this profile; and maybe they do not. But what they don’t realise is that not all alcoholics look and act the same way. Addiction does not discriminate – it affects people from all walks of life, no matter what their gender, age, race, or religion is. It does not affect only those from deprived backgrounds or those with little money. They only thing that all alcoholics have in common is a need for help and the fact that they could end up dead early if they do not get that help.
Do you have a problem with drinking? Or are you convinced that you can stop whenever you like? You would not be the first alcoholic to feel this way. Most addicts are sure they are not like other addicts and convince themselves that they are not so bad. What you need to think about are the similarities that you have with other alcoholics and not the differences. This means analysing your drinking habits to see if you could be in trouble and in need of help. There are certain things you should think about that will give you a greater idea of whether you could have a problem or not.
For example, think about how often you drink and whether you make a conscious effort to do so or not. Most people with a drinking problem will drink without even thinking about it – it is just something they do. They also have no control over their alcohol consumption. That means that once they start, they are unable to stop. They may promise themselves that they are not going to drink but then find themselves doing so anyway.
Another indicator that drinking is a problem is if you feel guilty whenever you drink. Or if you are trying to hide your consumption from those you love. Those who do this usually know deep down that their alcohol habits are far from normal, but many are in denial and do not want to face up to the truth of their situations.
You should also think about how you act when under the influence of alcohol. Do you do things that you would not normally do? Do you take unnecessary risks when drunk? Do you wake up with little or no memory of things you did the night before? Or do you feel guilty or ashamed about the things you have done the night before? If you can relate to any of this then you may need help for an alcohol addiction.
The effects of an alcohol addiction can be devastating – not just to the individual but also to those close to him or her. Most alcoholics will suffer health problems that are directly linked to their alcohol consumption. It is not possible to continuously abuse alcohol without feeling the negative effects.
Problems directly linked to alcohol addiction include the following:
Alcohol abuse is one of the leading contributors of poor health in the UK. It is also one of the top three causes of premature death. Nevertheless, it does not just affect the health of the individual. This is an illness that can tear families apart and can destroy the lives of people who have never abused alcohol themselves.
Living with an alcoholic can be incredibly tough. Those who live their life under the influence of alcohol can become quite unpredictable in their behaviour. They may become verbally or physically abusive towards their family members and friends, which can be very upsetting for their loved ones.
Relationships with friends also suffer, particularly when the alcoholic shuns people in favour of drinking or borrows money to pay for alcohol and never pays it back. This type of behaviour can place a strain on once strong friendships.
Without treatment for alcohol addiction, these problems will only get worse. Those who fail to accept help will inevitably continue with their addictive behaviour, which can lead to long-term physical problems, some of which may be irreversible.
For most, it will be necessary to complete an alcohol detox before being ready to accept help for the other issues associated with their illness. An alcohol detox is the process that is designed to tackle the physical side of the addiction.
Patients must give up alcohol and be free from it before they can begin rehabilitation. It is worth noting that an alcohol detox occurs naturally as soon as the person stops drinking. The body will automatically begin the healing process when it realises that no more alcohol is arriving. It will work hard to expel all remaining toxins, but this can result in various withdrawal symptoms occurring.
An alcohol detox can be a complicated process, particularly for those who have been drinking heavily for many years. It is not possible to predict the intensity or the type of symptoms that a person will experience before the detox begins, so most people would be safer and much more comfortable detoxing in a special detox facility that is staffed by fully trained professionals with experience of the process and a knowledge of how to react in the event of an emergency.
To achieve a long-term successful recovery from alcohol addiction, it is important to incorporate all three elements of the process into your recovery plan. This means completing a detox and following on with rehabilitation and aftercare.
Rehabilitation programmes for alcohol addiction are typically inpatient or outpatient based. It is generally accepted that most affected individuals would benefit from an inpatient programme because of the intensive and structured approach to recovery.
Inpatient programmes take place within a dedicated clinic where the patient will stay for the duration of their treatment. For most people, programmes run for about six to eight weeks. Nonetheless, for more complex cases, such as dual diagnosis or for patients dealing with more than one type of addiction, longer programmes might be necessary.
Patients can expect a distraction-free environment where they have no access to temptations or triggers. They will spend most of their day in treatment, which could include individual counselling, group therapy sessions, or family therapy sessions. With little or no free time and no access to the outside world, they will be forced to address the complex issues that have caused their addictions. They will live in the clinic with other recovering addicts and will be encouraged to share their experiences and stories in order to inspire and motivate each other to succeed.
Clinics providing inpatient programmes are usually staffed by fully trained professionals who work tirelessly to help patients overcome their addictions. These individuals want to ensure that patients are given all the help they need to achieve long-term success.
The benefits of inpatient programmes can never be underestimated. They offer the most time-consuming approach to addiction recovery and their intensity gives patients a fantastic springboard towards long-term success. However, they are not suitable for everyone. There are some who just cannot be away from home for any length of time. It could be that they have young families and have no one to look after them. Or it may be that they have work commitments that would result in a loss of income if they were away for several weeks.
For these individuals, the alternative is the outpatient programme, which is less intensive but is also very effective in terms of successful recovery. Outpatient programmes do not require overnight stays. Patients instead attend regular counselling, which could be daily or weekly, depending on the provider. As such, these programmes tend to run for longer than inpatient programmes.
The type of treatment programme that is suitable for each individual will depend on their own needs and circumstances. For those with plenty of support at home, an outpatient programme will work very well. Nevertheless, those who are close to a relapse and those who have a chaotic home life may struggle with this type of programme.
If you would like more information on how alcohol addiction happens, alcohol addiction in general, or the types of programmes available to treat the illness, please call us here at UKAT today. We can provide helpful advice and information to those who want to beat addiction, or to family members who are concerned about a loved one. Please call now via our dedicated helpline.