What Is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol addiction or alcohol use disorder, refers to habitual drinking characterized by changes in brain chemistry and an inability to control one’s alcohol consumption. The term generally applies to those who frequently drink to excess, experience increased alcohol tolerance, have trouble limiting their use in the face of adverse consequences, or suffer withdrawal when not drinking. Many alcoholics have trouble quitting due to the dual components of physical cravings and mental obsession, both of which urge the user to drink despite a wish to stop. Anybody who has reached this point will generally require alcohol addiction treatment if they are to stop using.

Dangers of Continued Drinking

Alcohol addiction can lower a person’s life expectancy by as many as ten years, and often leads to other forms of illness. These may include liver failure, heart disease, various forms of cancer, stroke and sexual/reproductive dysfunction. Psychiatric risks include dementia and a form of psychosis often confused with schizophrenia. Continued drinking may also worsen or prolong other mental and emotional disorders such as PTSD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression or even eating disorders such as bulimia. Those who do not seek alcohol addiction treatment may also risk legal issues, job loss, social isolation or difficulty maintaining finances.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Methods

There are many approaches to alcohol addiction treatment. The first step is usually detoxification, often accompanied by medications to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Since detox itself will not treat the ongoing mental obsession, most alcoholics who seek treatment will pursue a longer regimen of care. This may include several avenues of recovery, including work with a therapist and attendance at support group meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery.

Given the widespread availability of alcohol, strong focus on long-term recovery is a highly important component of successful treatment. For instance, some treatment patients may take anti-craving medications, although it is far more common that any medication prescribed will be for co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc. Alcohol addiction treatment also sometimes utilizes holistic forms of care such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture and massage therapy. Finally, treatment centers such as Canyon View offer addiction education, allowing patients to better understand their condition while helping them to form a relapse prevention plan. This combination of tools helps many patients to achieve lasting sobriety long after treatment has been completed.