Before you impulsively grab the next beer bottle or wine glass, consider the NCADD's definition of alcoholism:
"Alcoholism has little to do with what kind of alcohol one drinks, how long one has been drinking, or even exactly how much alcohol one consumes.
But it has a great deal to do with a person's uncontrollable need for alcohol."
1. Fast Facts
The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD) offers these facts about alcohol:
- Alcoholism is the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the US
- 88,000 deaths are annually attributed to excessive alcohol use
- Excessive alcohol use is responsible for 2.5 million years of potential life lost annually, or an average of about 30 years of potential life lost for each death
- Up to 40% of all hospital beds in the United States (except for those being used by maternity and intensive care patients) are being used to treat health conditions that are related to alcohol consumption
2. Are You Addicted?
Below are a few of the signs of an alcohol and/or drug addiction:
- Loss of Control: Drinking or drugging more than a person wants to, for longer than they intended, or despite telling themselves that they wouldn’t do it this time.
- Secrecy: Going out of one’s way to hide the amount of drugs or alcohol consumed or one’s activities when drinking or drugging; unexplained injuries or accidents.
- Tolerance: Over time, a person's body adapts to a substance to the point that they need more and more of it in order to have the same reaction.
- Withdrawal: As the effect of the alcohol or drugs wear off the person may experience symptoms such as: anxiety or jumpiness; shakiness or trembling; sweating, nausea and vomiting, insomnia, depression, irritability, fatigue or loss of appetite and headaches.
- Continued Use Despite Negative Consequences: Even though it is causing problems (on the job, in relationships, for one’s health), a person continues drinking and drugging.
Do you exhibit any of these signs? Do you feel like you need help?
3. "Recovery brings joy"
While some people are able to recover without help, the majority of alcoholics need outside assistance to recover and finally quit.
If you or a family/friend need immediate help, call your doctor's office or 911.
The following are signs of alcohol poisoning:
- Unconsciousness or semi-consciousness
- Slow respirations (breaths) of eight or less per minute, or lapses between respirations of more than eight seconds.
- Cold, clammy, pale, or bluish skin.
If you or a family/friend is ready to take the first step towards recovery, start with the NCADD's Hope Line, their professional, 24 hour Afflilate Referral line at (800) 622-2255.
4. Treatment Phases
"Because alcoholism and addiction have so many dimensions and disrupt so many aspects of an individual's life, treatment is not simple. Effective treatment programs typically incorporate many components, each directed to a particular aspect of the illness and its consequences."
The phases of treatment are as following:
- Getting started (assessment and evaluation of disease symptoms and accompanying life problems, making treatment choices and developing a plan)
- Detoxification (stopping use)
- Active treatment (residential treatment or therapeutic communities, intensive and regular outpatient treatment, medications to help with alcohol craving and discourage alcohol use, medications to treat concurrent psychiatric illnesses, 12-step programs, other self-help and mutual-help groups)
- Maintaining sobriety and relapse prevention (outpatient treatment as needed, 12-step programs, other self-help and mutual-help groups)
5. Available Treatments
The types of treatment are as following, usually recommended and applied in combinations:
- Behavioral treatments are aimed at changing drinking behavior through counseling. They are led by health professionals and supported by studies showing they can be beneficial.
- Three medications (Disulfiram, Naltrexone, Acamprosate) are currently approved in the United States to help people stop or reduce their drinking and prevent relapse. They are prescribed by a primary care physician or other health professional and may be used alone or in combination with counseling.
- Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs provide peer support for people quitting or cutting back on their drinking. Combined with treatment led by health professionals, mutual-support groups can offer a valuable added layer of support.
Advice for friends and family members: "Caring for a person who has problems with alcohol can be very stressful. It is important that as you try to help your loved one, you find a way to take care of yourself as well. It may help to seek support from others, including friends, family, community, and support groups. If you are developing your own symptoms of depression or anxiety, think about seeking professional help for yourself. Remember that your loved one is ultimately responsible for managing his or her illness."