Do you feel like you or a loved one drinks too much?
It’s a common question. Alcohol is the number one drug problem in America and affects millions of people each year. 10% of children live with a parent who has an alcohol problem. And 20% of college students meet the qualifications for Alcohol Use Disorder.
You may wonder if you or your loved one has a problem. You may be unsure of the symptoms of alcohol dependence or what to do when you need to get help. Here is a two-part guide to answer your questions.
Alcohol Dependence Defined
Alcohol dependence is often called “Alcohol Use Disorder” or AUD. This definition of AUD comes from the National Institute on Alcohol Use and Alcoholism:
AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using.
Some of questions a person might ask to break denial are:
- Have you tried to cut down or stop drink but couldn’t?
- Have there been times where you’ve drank harder or longer than expected?
- Have you experienced a craving, an urge to drink?
- Have you found yourself in more dangerous situations when you drink?
- Have you had to drink more alcohol to get the same effect as before?
Withdrawal effects are another sign that someone has AUD. When alcohol leaves the body, it leaves detrimental health effects. For most people, a hangover is the worst they experience. Alcohol dependence makes those effects more severe.
Hands might shake. Extremities might convulse.
Nausea and sweating. Irritability and restlessness.
Answering those questions honestly is the first step to getting help.
Here are four treatment options.
The Addiction Therapist
Your first stop is the addiction therapist. He or she is a mental health professional. They diagnose and treat addiction and alcohol dependence disorders.
Searching for them takes time. Good resources are Health Grades, Psychology Today, your local National Alliance on Mental Illness group, and your primary care physician.
He or she will ask you a series of questions about how much you’re drinking and how it’s affecting you physically, mentally, and emotionally. He or she will ask if you are having any relationship or legal problems from your drinking.
They will then make a recommendation for the best treatment option.
The psychiatrist prescribes pills to combat brain chemistry that influences mental illness and addiction. They, like the therapist, will ask a series of questions.
The psychiatrist may diagnose you with another illness including your addiction disorder. Mental illness and addiction often co-occur and overlap, with one influencing the other.
There are medications which help repair brain loss from substances. You may be prescribed one.
The Rapid Detox Center
Detox, which is short for detoxification, simply means the period when a substance is being removed from a person’s system. Detox can last from a few days to a couple weeks depending on the substance.
A rapid detox center has specialized doctors and medications to reduce the pains from withdrawal. Detox doctors have years of training. Withdrawal is still painful. The body has become dependent on the substance. But a detox doctor reduces the pain to a manageable level.
A note: Never detox alone. Always go to a rapid detox center. Withdrawals from alcohol cause someone who has AUD to hallucinate, shake, have seizures, sweat uncontrollably, and even die. Go to a rapid detox center. It will save your life.
The 60-Day Facility
Detox is not enough for many. A detox center gets people physically clean but mentally and emotionally they may still be dependent. A 60-day facility treats the underlying causes of AUD in a controlled and safe setting.
Some are 12-step facilities but not all are. Find the one that suits your needs.
Alcohol is a dangerous substance that leads to job loss, broken relationships, depression, and legal trouble. If you believe that you or a family member has a problem, ask those questions in the first section, then refer to the second part to get help.
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