Alcohol abuse is extremely common. An estimated 17 million adults in the U.S. struggle with alcoholism, and another 38 million are heavy drinkers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Heavy drinkers include binge drinkers (who in one sitting consume five or more drinks for men, four for women), people who have high weekly consumption of alcohol, and women who drink while pregnant.
Alcohol abuse exacts a heavy toll. It contributes to an estimated 88,000 deaths each year, whether from disease or accidents, and is involved in about 30 percent of driving fatalities. In the U.S., alcohol-related incidents are the third-leading cause of preventable death. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.
Are You at Risk for Becoming an Alcoholic?
There are a number of factors, both genetic and environmental, that influence the likelihood that your alcohol use will turn into alcoholism. If you started drinking at an early age or if your early role models drank excessively, you are at greater risk. Alcoholism is inherited to a degree, and if your family has a history of alcohol abuse, that places you at greater risk of having genetic factors that increase your risk.
Also, if you are under stress or suffer from depression, anxiety or other mental or emotional challenges, you may at some point use alcohol to ease your symptoms, which can grow into chronic alcohol use or alcoholism. Heavy alcohol use is not the same as alcoholism, but it can precede alcoholism. Heavy alcohol use for men, as defined by the CDC, is 15 or more drinks per week on average, and eight or more drinks for women.
What Are the Signs of Alcoholism?
There is no one single sign of alcoholism. When an addiction counselor or therapist assesses you or a loved one for alcoholism, he or she will ask a number of questions designed to establish how much you drink and how much your drinking is affecting your life and the lives or your loved ones. If you’re experiencing just a few symptoms, you might have a minor problem with alcohol. If you’re experiencing four or five symptoms, you could have a moderate problem. If you report more than five, there is a higher likelihood that you’re suffering from alcoholism. Here are some signs of alcoholism:
- You find yourself drinking more than you planned.
- Your drinking has escalated over time.
- You find yourself drinking over a longer period of time than planned.
- You’ve tried to cut back or quit but can’t.
- You spend a lot of time buying alcohol, drinking and then sobering up.
- You get cravings for alcohol or experience other withdrawal symptoms if you stop drinking.
- Your alcohol use interferes with your job, school work or home life.
- Your drinking is causing problems in your relationships.
- You’d rather drink than participate in activities you once enjoyed.
- You drink and drive.
- Your drinking is causing physical or psychological problems.
How Is Alcohol Addiction Treated?
If you or a loved one is drinking too much, help is available. Options include addiction counseling, 12-step groups, non-12-step alternatives, outpatient treatment and inpatient alcohol rehab. Programs and strategies that have been found effective in the treatment of alcoholism include:
Alcoholics Anonymous: AA is based on a 12-step philosophy for getting and staying sober. The model, which has been adapted to many other addictive disorders, is a fellowship of recovering alcoholics who offer support and mentoring.
SMART Recovery®: An alternative to AA, SMART Recovery is a supportive community of individuals who help others manage recovery through education and meetings. It is based on a four-point plan that focuses on sustaining motivation, controlling urges, recognizing and addressing feelings, and achieving balance in one’s life.
Outpatient treatment: For people who are able to abstain from alcohol for a period of time and have a strong support network, outpatient alcohol treatment may be an option. Some programs meet a couple times a week, while more intensive programs are available that meet five full days or evenings per week. An advantage of outpatient treatment is that clients are able to maintain work, school and home commitments while participating in an alcohol recovery program. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.
Residential treatment: Alcohol rehabilitation facilities offer comprehensive treatment for those who need a higher level of care. Most facilities offer some combination of detoxification services, outpatient treatment, residential care and aftercare. The most effective residential programs address both the alcoholism and any underlying mental health issues through individual and group therapy. There are also programs designed to serve specific groups, such as men, women, adolescents and Christians.