Alcohol misuse can quickly spiral out of control. When someone suffers from alcohol addiction, it can have noticeable negative impacts on many important aspects of their life. Not only can it lead to various physical health problems, but it also can negatively impact a person’s mental health.
There are a variety of reasons why a person may choose to start drinking, but once the drinking becomes habitual, it can be incredibly difficult and even dangerous for them to stop drinking on their own. Without professional alcohol addiction treatment, the person may see the damaging effects of drinking grow worse and lead to lasting consequences.
For adults in the United States, it can be difficult to find activities or events where alcohol isn’t sold or available for consumption by anyone who wants it. Despite alcohol’s popularity in American culture, for many, drinking can become a slippery slope that ends in harmful dependence and addiction.
Vertava Health is here to help educate you about the harmful cycles of alcohol addiction as well as your options for treatment and recovery. Our alcohol treatment center in Massachusetts offers a variety of programs to address the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of alcohol addiction to help you or your loved one find lasting success in sobriety.
What Is Alcohol Addiction, or Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?
It’s important to note many people still use the term “alcoholism” to refer to the condition in which a person has a negative relationship with alcohol. This is not a formal, clinical term but rather one that people often use in everyday conversation to describe when a person’s drinking habits have started to cause significant negative consequences. The current medically preferred term is “alcohol use disorder,” or AUD.
As described by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disorder characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health hazards.”
While alcohol may not get the same amount of media coverage some other substances receive, alcohol use disorder remains a large issue in Massachusetts and the United States as a whole.
The NIAAA also reports that close to 15 million Americans suffer from an alcohol use disorder, but only about 7% will seek any sort of treatment for the issue. Approximately 5.8% — or 14.4 million — adults in the United States ages 18 and older had AUD in 2018; this includes 9.2 million men and 5.3 million women.
Adolescents can be diagnosed with the disorder as well, and research found that in 2018, an estimated 401,000 adolescents ages 12-17 were determined to have AUD. Many of these people need treatment programs to help them quit.
What Are the Signs of Alcohol Addiction or AUD?
It’s very likely that a person is suffering from AUD if their drinking habits have started to negatively affect multiple important aspects of their life. Alcohol addiction is not always the easiest condition to recognize from an outsider’s perspective. To help with this, here are some behavioral patterns that may suggest a person is struggling with AUD.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) states that anyone who meets 2 of the 11 following criteria within a 12-month period may be diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder. Here are some questions to consider to help determine whether you or a loved one may be suffering from a problem with alcohol.
In the past year, have you:
- Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended?
- More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
- Experienced a craving — a strong need or urge — to drink?
- More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
- Found that drinking, or being sick from drinking, often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
- Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
- Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you wanted? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
- Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not actually there?
If any of these symptoms are things you or a loved one has experienced, your drinking habits may already be cause for concern. The more symptoms you’ve experienced, the more likely it is you’ve become physically dependent on alcohol and will need medically supervised detox.
Vertava Health Massachusetts understands the issue of AUD and the best approaches to treatment. Our goal is to set you up with all the tools you need to find long-term success in recovery.
Alcohol Use Disorder and Its Impact on Health
A person who drinks occasionally will most likely not experience any severe, lasting health effects if they are generally healthy. It’s a completely different story when we’re discussing someone who is a habitual heavy drinker. After a prolonged period of habitual drinking, the effects of alcohol on health start to become apparent.
Someone who is suffering from AUD can expect to experience many different harmful health effects as a result of their drinking habits. Alcohol can negatively impact many different systems of the body and potentially cause:
The liver’s main function is to work as a filter for the blood, removing any harmful toxins, including alcohol. The liver is only able to effectively process the equivalent of one alcoholic drink per hour (1 ounce of 80-proof distilled spirit, 12 ounces of regular beer, 8-9 ounces of malt liquor, or 5 ounces of table wine).
When a person drinks too much, too fast, the liver is unable to keep up and effectively filter the blood. This leads to alcohol intoxication (getting drunk). The residual alcohol circulates throughout the bloodstream, causing damage to any cells it comes into contact with all around the body.
Over time, alcohol can permanently damage liver cells, leading to a scarring of the liver known as cirrhosis. Long-term heavy drinking can also cause fatty liver disease, leaving the liver permanently unable to function at full capacity. When the liver is unable to effectively act as a filter for the blood, it can lead to a whole host of different serious complications.
Alcohol consumption can cause many different issues with the heart and circulatory system, such as high blood pressure. Studies of long-term heavy drinkers have shown they are more likely to develop cardiovascular issues and are at an increased risk of dying from heart disease.
One of the most dangerous heart conditions caused by alcohol consumption is called cardiomyopathy, or a weakening of the heart muscles caused by alcohol. Long-term, habitual heavy drinking weakens and thins the muscles of the heart, affecting its ability to pump blood.
When the heart can’t pump blood efficiently, the lack of blood flow can disrupt all of your body’s major functions. This can quickly lead to heart failure and other serious, life-threatening conditions.
Brain and Nervous System Issues
Alcohol is what is known as a central nervous system depressant. This means it slows down the functions of the nervous system and has a sedative effect. Drinking alcohol has disruptive effects on the neural pathways of the brain, deeply impairing the way the brain communicates with the body.
This is the cause of impaired motor control, slurred speech, and memory problems associated with heavy drinking. Heavy drinking has also been linked to an increased risk of seizures.
According to the American Cancer Society, drinking is one of the most common preventable risk factors for cancer, along with tobacco use and excess body weight. Alcohol consumption accounts for about 6% of all cancers and 4% of all cancer deaths in the United States.
Because alcohol causes damage to any cells it comes into contact with, habitual heavy drinking can lead to an increased risk of throat, mouth, esophageal, and liver cancers.
There are many more health issues that can be caused by long-term, habitual drinking. Some of these include infection, anemia, gout, intestinal and digestive issues, and sleep abnormalities.
Effective Alcohol Treatment in Massachusetts
At Vertava Health, our alcohol rehab center in Cummington, Massachusetts, offers a variety of evidence-based and comprehensive alcohol treatment programs to help clients stop drinking and regain control of their lives.
Because we recognize recovery occurs in many ways, clients follow an alcohol treatment plan that is tailored to their unique situation and needs. After an initial assessment, our dedicated addiction specialists will help not only determine the appropriate level of care but also outline treatment programming that best addresses the client’s unique needs.
With the goal of long-term sobriety in mind, clients will start building a foundation for success immediately.
Treatment for AUD Starts with Detox
For most clients at our alcohol rehab facility in Massachusetts, the first step in their recovery will be a medical detox. Especially because quitting alcohol “cold turkey” can be dangerous and even life-threatening, our physician-supervised staff is available 24/7 and will help ensure this process is as safe and comfortable as possible.
In some cases, we use a process called medically assisted detox. This process involves the use of certain medications in an effort to relieve some of the painful or uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. This stabilizes the person, getting them ready for recovery.
Detoxing at our facility also provides clients with emotional support when alcohol cravings become intense. This companionship not only greatly increases the client’s chances of successfully completing this process but also helps to prepare them for the next step in treatment.
Therapy Is the Next Step in Treating AUD
A step down from detox, residential addiction treatment involves clients living at our facility in Cummington and participating in a full schedule of individual and group treatment services. This type of programming is intensive and removes clients from triggering home environments.
More-flexible programming that allows clients to live at home or at a sober living facility is also available. Our care team will help determine which alcohol treatment program is right for you or your loved one at every stage of the recovery journey.
While the level of care determines the frequency of treatment, much of the programming is similar. Patients in our Massachusetts alcohol addiction programs will participate in:
- Individual behavioral counseling
- Evidence-based treatment methods
- Support groups
- Educational and skill-learning groups
- Aftercare support planning
- Co-occurring disorder (mental health) treatment as needed
Because addiction is a complex issue, our treatment for AUD will involve several methods that are designed to address the physical and mental aspects of addiction. Individual counseling allows clients to explore the root causes of their drinking and tackle mental health concerns, while group programming helps clients build their support system.
Together, these different programs and treatment methods help clients create a strong foundation for lifelong sobriety.
Reclaim Your Life at Vertava Health – Massachusetts
At Vertava Health Massachusetts, we believe it is never too late for someone to begin their recovery from alcohol use disorder or alcohol dependence. Admitting you or a loved one needs help for drinking can be scary, but it will take you one step closer to a healthier and happier future.
Contact us today at (844) 906-0978 to learn more.
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What can you do to stop drinking?
Because of the nature of alcohol addiction, anyone whose drinking has progressed to the point of addiction should never attempt to quit drinking on their own as it can be extremely dangerous. The best way to quit drinking is to seek help from a licensed addiction treatment facility.
What is the most effective treatment for alcohol dependence?
The most effective treatments for alcohol dependence start with medically supported detox. From there, medical professionals will work with you to determine which next step will be most effective for you and your unique situation.