For many people, alcohol appears to be inextricably linked with social life. Friends meet up for drinks after work, couples get some cocktails during date nights, and some are simply used to ending their day with a glass of wine or a beer – or two – or more. It can be quite hard to identify the lines between occasional and casual drinking, not to mention unhealthy alcohol use.
Generally speaking, whenever a person continues to drink despite experiencing negative health, social, and possibly legal consequences, the person’s drinking can be said to be unhealthy. Whether it takes the form of daily or frequent alcohol use or binge drinking, drinking alcohol excessively raises the likelihood of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD), also known as alcoholism.
Alcohol use disorder is a chronic disease of the brain that is quite common than you may think. In the United States, an estimated 14.5 million people were living with AUD in 2019. According to the CDC, excessive use of alcohol causes nearly 95,000 deaths in the US every year. Fortunately, AUD remains to be a treatable disease. With the use of appropriate behavioral therapies and medication, people can effectively recover from AUD.
At Charleston Pain & Rehab, we have made it our mission to help individuals struggling with alcoholism and drug addiction to regain independence. We always aim to help anyone concerned about their addiction live amazing lives. We offer evidence-based and whole-person treatments rooted in a deep respect for our community’s culture, values, and life experiences. Call us today to get to know us and learn more about how we can help.
What is Alcohol Use Disorder?
Just as with other substance use disorders, alcohol use disorder is a chronic brain disease that can sometimes go into remission and relapse, reflecting changes in the brain. This means that whenever a person with the disorder is trying to abstain, they will still be at a high risk of continuing their unhealthy alcohol intake, even following years of not drinking.
A person with AUD may continue using alcohol even though they know it’s causing health, social, economic, and even legal problems in their lives. It’s important to note that AUD is not caused by a person’s lack of resolve or self-discipline. Instead, it’s a brain disease that can be inherited.
Long-term use of alcohol can produce changes in the brain, causing people to crave alcohol, require greater quantities of alcohol to achieve its desired effects, lose control of their drinking, and experience withdrawal symptoms in case they discontinue the alcohol intake.
Is Binge Drinking the Same as Alcoholism?
Both terms refer to separate but sometimes interconnected forms of alcohol abuse. A person who is considered a binge drinker might not be an alcoholic, and the same is true the other way around. However, both alcoholism and binge drinking can cause considerable health problems.
Binge drinking is not necessarily alcoholism, but a binge drinker can become an alcoholic. In simple terms, binge drinking is consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period. Unlike Alcoholics, binge drinkers usually don’t feel a daily need to drink alcohol. However, when they start drinking, they tend to find it difficult to stop. They also often feel compelled to get drunk to help them socialize.
On the other hand, alcoholism is not defined by a particular number of drinks. It’s a chronic condition characterized by an inability to control drinking, a higher tolerance to alcohol, along with continued drinking despite negative consequences. While binge drinkers might develop alcohol dependence, not all of them do. Some will consume unhealthy amounts of alcohol on the weekends, and still be able to go through the week without drinking.
How Do I Know if I am an Alcoholic?
For a person to be diagnosed with AUD, they must demonstrate at least two of the following 11 criteria within 12 months. The severity of the problem will depend on how many of the criteria you meet. The criteria for diagnosing AUD are:
- Are there occasions where you drank more or for longer than you anticipated?
- Do you spend a lot of time drinking and recovering from its effects?
- Have you tried cutting back on alcohol or stopping drinking altogether but just couldn’t?
- Do you get urges or cravings to drink?
- Do you continue drinking despite establishing that it’s causing you problems with your loved ones?
- Have you noticed that drinking has repeatedly interfered with your home or family responsibilities? How’s your drinking led to work, relationships, or school troubles?
- Have you continued drinking despite it making you feel depressed, anxious, or worsening a pre-existing health problem? Have you experienced a memory blackout and continued drinking?
- Have you found yourself in dangerous situations during your drinking? Some examples include swimming, driving, having unprotected sex, and walking in a dangerous area.
- Have you had to sacrifice activities that you enjoyed before or were important to you so that you could drink instead?
- Have you experienced withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, shakes, anxiety, restlessness, nausea, depression, trouble sleeping, hallucinations, or sweating when the alcohol is wearing off?
- Do you find yourself drinking much more to gain the same effects as your usual number of drinks is having less effect than before?
In case you or your loved one is having any of these symptoms, the pattern of alcohol consumption might be A cause for concern. The more the number of symptoms present, the more urgent it is to change the situation.
Health Risks Associated With Alcoholism
Alcohol abuse can lead to an array of different issues, which may affect your personal and professional life. Prolonged drinking comes with the risk of developing serious health complications and can potentially cause life-threatening consequences as outlined below:
Alcohol is a toxin, and the liver is responsible for flushing it out of the body. However, the liver might be unable to keep up with drinking too much alcohol, too fast. Alcohol may also kill liver cells, and lead to scarring which is referred to as cirrhosis. Long-term alcohol use may also give you fatty liver disease, which is a sign that your liver isn’t working as well as it should.
You might already be aware of the dangers of blood clots and high levels of fats and cholesterol in your body. Alcohol makes you more likely to develop both. Second research has demonstrated that heavy drinkers are more likely to have trouble pumping blood to their heart and may also have a higher chance of dying from heart disease.
Brain and Nervous System Problems
Alcohol generally affects the communication pathways in your brain. It makes it much harder for you to speak and think, make decisions, remember things, and move your body. Heavy drinking may also cause mental issues such as dementia and depression. You might also get painful nerve damage that could linger much longer after sobering up.
Heavy drinking can also lead to pancreatitis, which is a painful inflammation of the pancreas that usually requires hospitalization. The inflammation is usually linked to premature activation of proenzymes to pancreatic enzymes along with continued exposure to acetaldehyde and other similar chemical activities in the pancreas resulting from alcohol injury.
Studies have demonstrated a clear link between heavy alcohol use and many kinds of cancers. Alcohol can damage your mouth, voice box, esophagus, and throat cells. It can lead to cancers in your stomach, liver, intestines, and breast. Alcohol can also help the cancer-causing agents in tobacco and other sources permeate your cells more easily.
This is a type of arthritis that results from a painful accumulation of uric acid around different joints. You can develop gout from eating too much food that’s high in purines, including red meat, alcohol (especially beer and liquor), and shellfish.
Too much drinking will also likely interfere with your immune cells from warding off bacteria and viruses. It can also damage your liver, as mentioned above, which plays a critical role in your immune system by making antibacterial proteins.
Treatments for Alcoholism
Alcoholism treatment typically includes medication as well as therapy and counseling. Most treatment approaches for alcohol use disorder look to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms, reduce or stop alcohol use, and provide the patients with practical knowledge and behavioral skills that can help them quit drinking or maintain a healthy level of alcohol use.
Here are the alcoholism treatment options we offer:
This is an FDA-approved medication meant for use in treating alcoholism. It works by changing the way your brain reacts to the alcohol in your system, essentially blocking the endorphins from attaching to the receptors and blocking the effects of alcohol.
Vivitrol treatment for alcohol addiction takes time – it won’t eliminate alcohol cravings immediately. To reap the full benefits of Vivitrol, you should take it exactly as prescribed. Forgetting or skipping even one injection can significantly reduce the effectiveness of the next dose.
Vivitrol is usually more effective in alcohol addiction treatment when used in combination with a comprehensive addiction treatment program that includes counseling, therapy, and other interventions.
Disulfiram, which is commonly referred to by the brand name Antabuse, is a medication commonly used to treat alcohol use disorders by producing unpleasant side effects along with sensitivity to alcohol. The drug is designed to serve as a deterrent to consuming alcohol. When you take alcohol, the liver converts it into acetaldehyde and then to acetic acid. Antabuse acts as an alcohol antagonistic drug by actively blocking the conversion from acetaldehyde to acetic acid. This creates an uptick in acetaldehyde, which is a toxic substance that causes the person to get ill.
The therapy and counseling programs at Charleston Pain & Rehab are aimed at teaching you how to change your behavior, especially with regard to drugs and alcohol. We work beside you as valuable allies throughout the treatment, and our trustworthy and knowledgeable mental health professionals will be by your side to listen to you and work with you to improve your mental health.
Using evidence-based therapies and treatment approaches, we can help you come up with new ways to solve your problems and teach you how to cope with the different difficulties you might face. We will also work to help you identify and work through any triggers that negatively affect your recovery journey.
We believe that with time, therapy can help you feel a lot stronger in the face of challenges and help build your self-confidence.
What Happens if I Drink While Taking Vivitrol or Antabuse?
Studies have shown no significant interactions or dangers of taking alcohol while on Vivitrol. However, when Vivitrol is being used to treat alcohol use disorder, a patient being treated should avoid consuming alcohol. Only start taking Vivitrol after you’ve stopped drinking for several days.
The FDA approves the use of Vivitrol for people who’ve stopped taking alcohol and people who would be unable to access or take alcohol during their outpatient treatment. Still, the FDA states that drinking alcohol while taking Vivitrol will not:
- Change the regular effects of alcohol usage
- Change the level of intoxication based on the amount of ingested alcohol
- Increase any cognitive issues
- Increase any long-term effects associated with alcohol abuse
- Cause acute illness, unlike disulfiram, which is known to cause headaches, vomiting, nausea, and other symptoms
Choosing the Right Doctor
As part of your alcohol addiction treatment, the doctor you choose will have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your treatment. You can usually spot whether a doctor is credible by checking their credentials. Board-certified doctors and psychologists tend to have the highest expertise in addiction treatment.
Before your first appointment, you also want to talk through the following questions and concerns with the doctor to help you decide if they are right for you:
- Do you have any openings for new patients?
- What kinds of insurance do you accept?
- What’s your rate?
- What kinds of treatment options do you offer? What steps do I need to follow next?
- When can I book the next appointment?
Alcoholism Treatment in Charleston
Charleston Pain & Rehab is committed to providing confidential and high-quality addiction treatment to effect real change. Our clinic allows you and your loved ones to heal from alcohol abuse, and our aftercare program offers long-term support to ensure a long-lasting recovery.
Our programs incorporate evidence-based treatments to help the patients develop their abilities, minimize their addictive traits and behaviors, and recognize their individualism to lead sober, fulfilling, and rewarding lives.