Nearly 14 million Americans – 1 in every 13 adults – struggle with alcohol abuse or alcoholism. And several million more engage in binge drinking and other problematic drinking behaviors that have the potential to lead to alcoholism later in life.
And alcoholism doesn’t just affect the individual. 53% of men and women in the United States report that one or more of their close relatives has a drinking problem, which can cause serious emotional and financial problems within the family system.
Alcoholism is defined as “an addiction to the consumption of alcoholic liquor or the mental illness and compulsive behavior resulting from alcohol dependency.” In other words, it’s the inability to stop drinking, even when you want to. It’s the complete physical, mental and emotional addiction to the substance of alcohol.
Alcoholism is, at the core, a brain disease. When a person abuses alcohol for an extended period of time, their brain undergoes
adaptive changes to continue functioning despite the presence of alcohol within the body. While these changes allow the alcoholic to continue functioning, the consequence is that certain abnormalities occur in the brain when alcohol is removed.
Because of these abnormalities, abstaining from alcohol causes physical pain, discomfort and intense cravings for alcohol. These feelings motivate the person to continue drinking to avoid these uncomfortable side effects. This kind of motivation, which is based on avoidance as opposed to reward, is called negative reinforcement.
In addition to cravings, many alcoholics also develop a physical dependence on alcohol. After prolonged alcohol abuse, the body will actually begin to need alcohol to function, and if alcohol is withheld, will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms typically occur between 6 and 48 hours after the last drink and include anxiety, agitation, tremor, elevated blood pressure, and in severe cases, seizure or death.
Treatment for Alcoholism
Behavioral therapies are a crucial part of any alcoholism treatment plan, as they offer people strategies for coping with their alcohol cravings relapse prevention strategies and tools to help them deal with relapse if it occurs. The best treatment programs for alcoholism take an individual approach to treatment and provide the combination of therapies that will best suit the individual clients’ needs.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism, treatment might be the answer. At Turning Point Treatment Center, our individualized treatment plans, highly qualified staff and personalized approach to recovery have a proven track record of success. For more information on alcoholism treatment at Turning Point Treatment Center, please contact us.