Alcohol and Substance Abuse Go Away Hand in Hand in Alcohol Substance Abuse TreatmentOctober 8th, 2012
Despite the media attention on drugs like cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, alcohol is one of the most powerful and common substances abused today, and according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 23 million Americans abuse alcohol or are dependent on alcohol. The causes of alcoholism have been widely studied, but because the X-factor of people is involved, no one can say one particular life experience leads to alcohol addiction. Three interwoven factors play major roles: biology, age, and environment.
Addiction is sometimes linked to genetics. If alcoholism runs in the family, people can be more at risk to developing a full-blown alcohol dependence. Also, a person’s environment strongly influences the habits and behavior of that person. For example, victims of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse can be more susceptible to alcoholism. Finally, although anyone can become addicted to alcohol at any age, people who start drinking early in life are prone to developing alcohol dependence over time.
One, all, or any combination of these underlying factors can cause alcohol abuse and dependence, as well as other, highly individual factors. And people suffering from alcohol dependence can easily lose control of their lives. Alcoholism is relentless, destroying families, careers, and lives. Once alcohol dependence develops, having a few drinks is no longer a good time but a necessity.
Acknowledging the Problem Is the First Step to Recovery
For some people, alcohol abuse can lead to alcohol dependence. Denial is usually the first reaction. Many alcoholics don’t realize just how dependent they are. This denial is why friends and family resort to interventions—to get their loved one to admit to the problem. Recognizing the signs of alcohol abuse is essential before treatment can begin. These symptoms include:
- Unusual changes in behavior, mood swings, and depression
- Decreased productivity at work
- Serious financial problems, legal problems, and DUI offenses
- Isolation from friends and family
- Strange new friends and associates
- Obsession with drinking
- Lying to cover up drinking
- Attending only social functions where alcohol is served
- Violent and abusive behavior
- Hostile denial of a drinking problem
- Increased tolerance to alcohol
Failure to acknowledge the problem can have deadly consequences. Alcohol has killed millions of people over time. Alcohol dependence literally changes the victim’s physical body, from brain chemistry to organ function to alcohol tolerance. Some common physical symptoms of alcohol dependence include memory loss, brain damage, depression, anxiety, shaking and tremors, loss of sex drive, malnutrition, chronic insomnia, liver dysfunction, gastrointestinal diseases, blindness, and increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and cancer. Because an alcoholic has an increased tolerance for drink, there’s an increased risk of alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal.
If all of that were not bad enough, many alcoholics also abuse other drugs, compounding their physical and psychological problems. Alcohol is notorious for loosening inhibitions and hampering judgment, leaving users more prone to trying other drugs. A person with an addictive personality is more likely to become hooked on other drugs as well as alcohol.