Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

Alcohol Abuse and Addiction: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Last Updated: February 15, 2023

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Alcohol abuse and addiction can lead to social, emotional and physical issues in someone’s life, but treatment is available to help those with signs of alcohol addiction.

Alcohol Abuse Statistics and Facts

In the U.S., alcohol is the most widely used and abused substance among adults. In 2019, a study completed by ​​the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that: 

  • 85.6% of adults over 18 have consumed alcohol
  • 25.8% admitted to binge drinking in the past month.
  • 15 million adults have alcohol use disorder (AUD). 
  • 7.3% of adults with AUD received treatment for AUD in a treatment center. 

Alcohol abuse is prevalent in the U.S., but the rate of alcohol abuse in Ohio has become alarming in recent years. In 2014 the Behavioral Health Barometer reported an annual average of about 95,000 adolescents aged 12–17 (10.3% of all adolescents) used alcohol in Ohio in 2014–2015. Of all adults, 19% reported binge drinking habits which can lead to long-term alcohol issues. 

Alcohol Abuse vs. Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction may sound the same, but they are two elements of the more significant problem. Alcohol abuse may look like continued excessive drinking despite negative consequences or using alcohol to self-medicate. Someone may abuse alcohol even after it causes physical and/or mental harm. Alcohol addiction or alcoholism involves frequent periods of alcohol abuse and the inability to control the amount or frequency of alcohol consumption. Alcohol addiction can also occur when someone develops a physical or emotional dependence on alcohol.

Risk Factors for Alcohol Abuse

Numerous risk factors can impact someone’s potential for alcohol abuse or addiction. These can include:

  • Genetic
  • Physiological
  • Environmental

People who suffer from mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety or other mood disorders are also at a high risk of developing an addiction or alcohol abuse. Alcoholism can also run in families. If you have family members who have abused alcohol, this could indicate you have a higher likelihood of doing so. However, it does not mean you are destined to become an alcoholic.

Other factors that may impact alcohol abuse can include:

  • Stress
  • Life events
  • Poor life satisfaction
  • Trauma 
  • Pre-existing psychiatric disorder (Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder and Personality Disorders)

How Much Is Too Much?

How do you know if you are dependent on alcohol and abusing it? To help determine if you are drinking too much alcohol, it is important to look at how much and how quickly it’s being consumed and how often that consumption level is occurring. Drinking too much or too often can lead to alcohol abuse, then alcohol dependency, then alcohol addiction, otherwise known as alcoholism. While alcohol abusers often use alcohol to excess, alcoholics are also physically and psychologically dependent on it.

According to the NIAAA, heavy drinking can occur in different ways, including binge and chronic drinking. Binge drinking involves four drinks in one sitting for women and five for men, while chronic heavy drinking involves more than eight drinks per week for women and more than 15 drinks per week for men.

Signs of Alcohol Addiction

Many signs of someone suffering from alcohol addiction can exist. It is important to look at physical, psychological and behavioral symptoms to identify alcohol addiction. Signs of alcohol addiction can include:

  • Bloodshot eyes 
  • Appetite changes
  • Sleep pattern changes
  • Lack of personal grooming or looking unkempt 
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Tremors, slurred speech or impaired coordination
  • Interpersonal relationship difficulties
  • Secretive or suspicious behaviors
  • Frequent legal trouble, accidents, illegal activities or driving under the influence of alcohol
  • Neglecting responsibilities 
  • Financial problems
  • Life revolves around the next time they can consume alcohol
  • Abandoning enjoyable activities(hobbies, sports and socializing) to use drugs
  • Continuing to drink alcohol regardless of negative consequences 
  • Mood swings
  • Increased irritability
  • Changes in personality

Recovery is possible.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, help is available. Call to speak with a Recovery Advocate about treatment options today.

The Effects of Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

The overuse or abuse of alcohol can damage aspects of someone’s life if left untreated. Physical, emotional and social consequences can occur with continued alcohol abuse. 

The Physical Consequences 

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can lead to serious physical consequences. Alcohol use is linked to more than 200 diseases. It can lead to health problems and mask symptoms of other problems. Physical health issues can include:

  • Hepatitis
  • Gastritis
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancers, including mouth, ovarian, prostate and breast cancer
  • Seizures
  • Diabetes
  • Anemia
  • Dementia
  • Gout
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

On a short-term basis, alcohol can lead to slower reactions, memory and balance problems, trouble with hearing, anxiety and restlessness. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse can also cause errors in judgment that lead to illness or injury, such as unprotected sex or driving under the influence.

The Emotional Consequences 

There are numerous consequences of alcohol abuse, and not all are physical. For those suffering from pre-existing mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, alcohol can be a way to relax and manage everyday stresses. However, serious emotional consequences of overusing alcohol exist. You may do something you regret or neglect your responsibilities. While under the influence of alcohol, you have more of a propensity to take risks, and your judgment is clouded. This leads to more stress and anxiety and, in turn, more alcohol.

The Social Consequences

People often drink for social reasons. Going out for a drink or having a drink with dinner is commonplace, but excessive drinking is socially unacceptable. Unfortunately, people often drink to increase their positivity, make social events more enjoyable, reduce discomfort and avoid social rejection.

Alcohol abuse can lead to withdrawing from your friends and family as you try to hide the extent of your illness. Your relationships could suffer from your behavior or inappropriate public behavior. If you drive under the influence, you could lose your driver’s license and even your job if you show up to work drunk, forget about work or misbehave. While alcohol loosens inhibitions and may make you feel good at the time, there is the distinct possibility that you are damaging your social ties by drinking.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse

Many treatment stages for alcohol abuse exist, and it is important to find a treatment center that offers a continuum of options. When you are struggling with the overuse and abuse of alcohol, you can take advantage of the following programs and therapies at centers like The Recovery Village Columbus. These include:

  • Medical Detox: In this first step, your body gets rid of substances under medical supervision for a safer and more comfortable experience.
  • Inpatient TreatmentThis requires living at an alcohol rehab center. The recovery program during this time involves treatment for about 30–45 days, with therapy and nursing staff who monitor patients 24 hours a day. It includes individual and group therapy, medical care and a focus on self-awareness and skills for recovery.
  • Partial Hospitalization Program: Once you have moved through the residential care program, you can progress to partial hospitalization. The program offers more independence than inpatient care and helps you transition to life in recovery. 
  • Intensive Outpatient Program: Patients continue their care with fewer hours per week as they transition from life at the facility to life at home.
  • Outpatient Treatment: Clients live at home and schedule treatment sessions according to individual needs. Clients at this level can schedule their care around work schedules and child care, if necessary.
  • Dual diagnosis care: When someone has a co-occurring mental health disorder and substance use disorder, it is important they receive treatment to address both for better outcomes.  
  • Aftercare: Clients build a relapse prevention plan with their therapists before ending their care at The Recovery Village Columbus, which may include additional therapy through Nobu (our mental wellness app), support groups, and other recovery resources.

Ready to start your recovery?

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