Alcoholism Rehab Guide: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Alcohol can play a central role in our social lives, particularly when we are young. Even though we know that cutting down on drinking is better for our health many of us are reluctant to change our habits.

What Is Alcohol Addiction?

The term ‘alcohol addiction’ describes a strong, often uncontrollable, desire to drink. There are varying degrees of alcohol dependence and they don’t always involve excessive levels of drinking. You do not have to be drinking to black out every time to be drinking at a level that could affect your long-term health.

Despite the fact that alcohol is legal, alcohol addiction works in much the same as any substance addiction. Alcohol is actually considered the most dangerous of all the drugs in the UK, rating higher even than heroin and crack-cocaine.

Alcohol addiction can be described as compulsive drinking, despite negative consequences, and a genuine desire to stop. Without proper support alcohol addiction can be progressive and result in painful and difficult consequences in all areas of your life.

Alcohol addiction is often described as a family disease, as the consequences of alcoholism tend to ripple out. At Banbury Lodge we treat alcohol addiction as an individual illness, but we will also help you to recover in the context of your family, through family group therapy.

Facing alcohol addiction alone can be a daunting prospect, but having professional help and a supportive community at Banbury Lodge will greatly increase your chances of achieving and maintaining sobriety and emotional wellbeing.

Signs and Symptoms

If you’re worried that you may be becoming addicted to alcohol you may benefit from looking out for these signs and symptoms:

  • Preoccupation with where you will get your next drink. Planning social, personal and professional events around alcohol.
  • Having an irresistible compulsion to drink despite negative consequences and being unable to stop once you have started.
  • Suffering from withdrawal symptoms, such as shaking, nausea, and anxiety which stop once you drink alcohol.

There is not one type of person who is guaranteed to become an alcoholic and there is also not any one type of person who is immune to developing alcohol addiction. There may be factors that make it more likely that your drinking will go over the edge in to addiction. Alcohol addiction may be more likely if you have grown up in a family where addiction is present – this may be due to genetic factors or to environmental ones. Additionally stressful events, such as bereavement or financial difficulties can also trigger drinking as a coping mechanism, which can then lead on to addiction

People who are addicted to alcohol have higher rates of other psychiatric disorders the general population. Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis and other co-occurring addictions are often intertwined with the primary alcohol addiction. This can lead to a cycle of ‘self- medicating’ feelings with alcohol, which then exacerbates problems further.

Long Term Effects

Being addicted to alcohol can cause a wide range of serious health problems. Drinking alcoholically can significantly raise your chances of developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease and liver disease.

Alcohol addiction can also lead to persistent emotional and mental health difficulties, like depression and anxiety. This can be exacerbated by the consequences of alcohol addiction which tends to isolate us from loved ones, friends, and sometimes from society generally.

Effects on Physical Health

The fact that alcohol is legal sometimes leads people to believe that it is not that detrimental to your health, but this is not the case. Some effects of drinking addictively are very serious and are not reversible.

Long-term effects of alcohol addiction can include:

  • Cancers – Alcohol can be linked to at least seven types of cancer. There have been several studies into the links between excessive alcohol consumption and the risk of developing bowel cancer.
  • Diabetes – is a common, life-long condition that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or the insulin it does produce doesn’t work properly. Drinking to excess, for example, can contribute to individuals becoming diabetic. When diabetes is not well managed it can cause serious health complications including heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, nerve damage and amputations.
  • Heart disease – Drinking heavily and over a long period of time can increase your risk of developing heart disease. This is because, drinking at this level can increase high blood pressure which is one of the most important risk factors for having a heart attack or stroke. Heavy drinking actually weakens the heart muscle, cardiomyopathy can cause premature death, usually through heart failure. Additionally binge drinking can make your heart beat irregularly.
  • Liver disease – There are two types of liver disease. Acute liver disease develops over a few months whereas chronic liver disease is damage that accumulates over a number of years. There are lots of different causes of liver disease, one of which is drinking alcohol addictively.

Effects on Mental Health

Alcohol is appealing because it has a positive effect our mood, albeit a very temporary one, often people experience a sense of relaxation and a letting go of inhibitions when they start drinking. Even these initial effects though are very unpredictable, though we may have the intention to just relax alcohol is almost as likely to induce feelings of

  • Depression
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety

Unfortunately alcohol is linked with a wide range of mood disorders such as;

  • Depression and
  • Suicidal ideation.

Alcohol is a depressant, which means it can disrupt the chemical balance in our brains impacting our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. People in the UK who experience anxiety or depression are twice as likely to be heavy or addicted drinkers. For some people, the anxiety or depression came first and they’ve turned to alcohol to try to ‘self-medicate’. For others, drinking came first and the alcohol addiction is the primary cause of their anxieties.

Drinking addictively can also have a negative impact on your relationships with your partner, family and friends. It can also impact on your productivity at work. These issues can contribute to overall depression.

Alcohol addiction is linked to

  • Suicide
  • Self-harm
  • Psychosis

Alcohol can make people lose their inhibitions and behave impulsively, so it can lead to actions they might not otherwise have taken – including self-harm and suicide.

According to the NHS in Scotland, more than half of people in hospital because they’d deliberately injured themselves said they’ve drunk alcohol immediately before or while doing it. 27% of men and 19% of women gave alcohol as the reason for self-harming.

Addictive drinking can cause psychosis, a severe mental illness that is accompanied by hallucinations and delusional thinking. Psychotic symptoms can also occur when addicted drinkers detox suddenly, without appropriate treatment, and develop a condition known as ‘delirium tremens’ – symptoms include body tremors and confusion.

Key Facts about Alcohol

Key Facts published in 2017

Hospital admissions – narrow measure

  • There were 339 thousand estimated admissions related to alcohol consumption in 2015/16. This is 3 per cent higher than 2014/15 and 22 per cent higher than 2005/06.
  • Blackpool had the highest rate at 1,160 per 100,000 population. Kingston upon Thames the lowest rate at 390.

Hospital admissions – broad measure

  • There were 1.1 million estimated admissions related to alcohol consumption in 2015/16. This is 4 per cent more than 2014/15.
  • Just under two-thirds of patients were male.
  • Blackpool had the highest rate at 3,540 per 100,000 population. Isle of Wight had the lowest rate at 1,400.

Drinking Prevalence

  • 57 per cent of adults reported drinking alcohol in the previous week in 2016 which is a fall from 64 per cent in 2006. This equates to 25.3 million adults in England.
  • Those who drank more than 8/6 units on their heaviest day in the last week fell from 19 per cent to 15 per cent.

Deaths

  • In 2015, there were 6,813 deaths which were related to the consumption of alcohol. This is 1.4 per cent of all deaths.

Prescriptions

  • The number of prescription items dispensed in 2016 was 188 thousand which was 4 per cent lower than 2015 but 63 per cent higher than 2006.
  • The total Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) was £4.87 million. This is 24 per cent higher than in 2015 and more than double the level ten years ago.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 3.3 million deaths per year are caused by the harmful use of alcohol – that’s 5.9 percent of all annual deaths. Shockingly, that works out as 1 person every 10 seconds.

What these statistics point to is that fact that if you are struggling with alcoholism, you are certainly not alone. At Banbury Lodge we know that you can recover from alcohol addiction.

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I An Alcoholic?

The key to understanding if you are an alcoholic is considering how your drinking is impacting your life, your relationships, and your overall wellbeing. If you are struggling in these areas, and have been unable to stop or control your drinking, it may be time to seek some help.

Some questions to consider:

Are you able to moderate your drinking?

Are you able to stop drinking entirely for a while?

Do you find yourself drinking even though you had planned not to?

Do you suffer withdrawal symptoms when you don’t have a drink?

Do you find your self drinking in secret or hiding bottles around the house?

In sum alcoholism can be described as a condition in which the sufferer continues to drink alcohol despite negative consequences, and despite a genuine desire to stop. Facing alcohol addiction alone is a daunting prospect, but having professional help and a supportive community of peers around you will greatly increase your chances of overcoming your alcoholism.

How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?

Everyone reacts differently to alcohol.  There are a few factors which will have an impact on how alcohol affects you, such as your height, weight and gender. How much you’ve eaten, and how well rested you are can also play a part in how alcohol affects you on any given day.

The alcohol unit guidelines

To minimize the health of drinking alcohol, the UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMO) have released l alcohol unit guidelines to provide guidance on how many of units of alcohol are safe to consume. The CMO advises that is safest if you do not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis. This advice is not to be interpreted as though it is safe to drink those units all on one night out, the 14 units are meant to be spread out over the week.

If you have crossed the line from social drinking to addictive drinking you may find it impossible to control your drinking. If this is the case it may be best that you are abstinent from alcohol entirely, it may sound like a scary prospect but by taking one day at a time it is eminently doable.

CQC Report