According to the Mayo Clinic, Alcohol Dependence is defined as a chronic disease characterized by uncontrolled drinking and preoccupation with alcohol. Alcohol Dependence is very common, nearly three million people worldwide are diagnosed annually. Alcoholism is the inability to control drinking due to both a physical and emotional dependence on alcohol.
Symptoms include repeated alcohol consumption despite related legal and health issues. Those with alcoholism may begin each day with a drink, feel guilty about their drinking, and have the desire to cut down on the amount of drinking.
What Causes Alcohol Dependence
The age of the first alcoholic drink:
Media and advertising:
How the body processes (metabolizes) alcohol:
Effects of Alcohol
The effects of alcohol depend on a range of factors, including:
Amount of fat or muscle
Amount of food in your stomach
How fast you drink
Mental health and emotional state
Other medications and drugs in your system
Tolerance to alcohol
Alcohol poisoning, coma and death
Injuries associated with falls, accidents, violence and intentional self-harm
Intense moods (aggression, elation, depression)
Lack of co-ordination
Loss of inhibitions and a false sense of confidence
Motor vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian accidents
Nausea and vomiting
Long Term effects
Alcohol related brain injury
Cancers – including cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, bowel (in men) and breast (in women)
Cirrhosis and liver failure
Concentration and long-term memory problems
Family and relationship problems
Heart and cerebrovascular diseases including hypertension and stroke
Poor work performance
Problems with the nerves of the arms and legs
Sexual and reproductive problems (impotence, fertility)
Stomach complaints and problems
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) defines Dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance use disorder simultaneously. Either disorder—substance use or mental illness—can develop first. People experiencing a mental health condition may turn to alcohol or other drugs as a form of self-medication to improve the mental health symptoms they experience. However, research shows that alcohol and other drugs worsen the symptoms of mental illnesses. Some common presentations of mental illness with Substance Use Disorder are:
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
The National Institutes of Health describes the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol withdrawal as follows:
Most clients manifest a minor symptom complex or syndrome, which may start as early as six to eight hours after an abrupt reduction in alcohol intake. It may include any combination of generalized hyperactivity, anxiety, tremor, sweating, nausea, retching, tachycardia, hypertension and mild pyrexia. These symptoms usually peak between 10 to 30 hours and subside by 40 to 50 hours. Seizures may occur in the first 12 to 48 hours and only rarely after this. Auditory and visual hallucinations may develop; these are characteristically frightening and may last for five to six days.
Delirium tremens (DTs) occurs uncommonly, perhaps in less than 5% of individuals withdrawing from alcohol. The syndrome usually starts some 48 to 72 hours after cessation of drinking and is characterized by coarse tremor, agitation, fever, tachycardia, profound confusion, delusions and hallucinations. Convulsions may herald the onset of the syndrome but are not part of the symptom complex. Hyperpyrexia, ketoacidosis, and profound circulatory collapse may develop.
Minor degrees of alcohol withdrawal are commonly encountered and individuals can be managed without recourse to specific therapy. However, clients with moderate or severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms often require sedation to prevent exhaustion and injury.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment Programs
Inpatient treatment, is also commonly described as residential treatment or even RTC. This type of treatment is the highest level of care for clients diagnosed with alcohol use disorder. Typically, inpatient drug rehab programs include medical detox services. In addition to being medically monitored, inpatient treatment provides individual and group therapy, nutritional support, wellness and fitness, holistic interventions in a 24 hour per day supervised environment. Inpatient treatment lasts anywhere from 30 to 90 days.
Traditionally,Upon treatment completion from inpatient treatment, most clients step down to outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment is a continuum of care from an inpatient treatment stay. Many clients return to work or their homes while attending treatment anywhere between 3-5 hours per day. Clients are supported to continue to explore relapse triggers, develop early recovery skills and continue with group and individual psychotherapy.
The newest trends in treatment are now embracing utilizing outpatient treatment as a frontline intervention rather than going to an inpatient setting. Often times, clients that choose this option are supported with MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment)
The connections clients make in treatment are amongst some of the most influential connections one can make in life. The shared experience and support can be supported via technology. Telehealth is a modality that allows for continual support and monitoring, access to peer support, care resources and coping skills to ensure that the journey to sobriety is long-term.