Alcoholism is arguably the most widely used legal substance in American society. The latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that more than 86% of American adults have had alcohol at one point during their lifetime.
People drink alcohol in times of celebration, in times of mourning, and even to relax after a day of work. While this can be a safe practice if done in moderation, some people’s drinking habits ultimately develop into alcoholism. According to the US National Library of Medicine, alcoholism is a disease that causes:
- A strong impulse or craving to drink;
- An inability to stop drinking once it has started;
- A physical dependence that comes with withdrawal symptoms, if it stops, and;
- A build-up of tolerance and a need for more alcohol to feel the same.
Alcohol abuse is a pervasive problem throughout the county. Data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shows that more than 15 million adults older than 18 years of age in the US have alcohol use disorder (AUD). This is roughly 6.4% of people in that age population. Additionally, around 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year.
Knowing the warning signs and behaviors of people who are addicted to alcohol can help you determine if they have a drinking problem. Once that is established, you should consider contacting a substance abuse counselor in Kentucky to help you devise a plan for your loved one.
How Much Alcohol is too Much Alcohol?
Trying to determine if a loved one is drinking too much is not always an easy task. For the majority of people, moderate alcohol use is not harmful. Binge-drinking and heavy alcohol use are the top causes for concern when it comes to evaluating alcohol behavior. Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that elevates the blood alcohol concentration levels to 0.08 m/dL. This is roughly equal to four or five drinks during one occasion for women and men, respectively. Heavy alcohol use is defined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration as binge drinking on five or more days during the past month.
Signs of Alcoholism to Watch For
If you believe a loved one is battling with alcoholism, it is important to catch the problem early and to connect them with a substance abuse counselor in Kentucky as soon as possible. Here are a few tips to help you determine if they are struggling with this disease:
- Observe the quantity of alcohol. People build a tolerance to alcohol when it is abused in large quantities over an extended period of time. If you observe your loved one drinking increasingly more alcohol to get the same effects, there is a good chance alcoholism is at play.
- Consider the time spent on alcohol. If your loved one spends a large amount of time trying to get alcohol, drinking it, or recovering from the effects, they may be dealing with alcoholism. Drinking early in the morning to start the day or drinking heavily before bed in order to sleep are also problematic signs to watch for.
- Find out if they lie about alcohol. If you catch your loved one lying about their drinking habits, it is possible they have alcoholism. This is because people with normal drinking habits do not feel the need to hide their behavior.
- Pay attention to their interest level in things that aren’t alcohol. If your loved one seems to be distancing themselves from family, work, and recreational activities in favor of drinking alcohol or because of the effects of alcohol, there is cause for concern. Drinking alcohol excessively often means other responsibilities are shirked and old hobbies become ignored.
- Decide if they disregard the consequences that arise from drinking. Prolonged alcohol abuse is typically associated with negative consequences, so if your loved one continues to drink heavily despite harm being done to social or interpersonal relationships, alcoholism may be at play. They may also get in trouble with the law, through charges of public intoxication or driving while under the influence.
Health Consequences of Drinking Too Much
Besides the immediate safety issues that come up as a result of being drunk, there are some long-term health consequences to be concerned about. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems over the long term. The risk for mental health issues like depression and anxiety also increases with prolonged heavy drinking.
How to Address Alcoholism Once Recognized
If you recognize alcoholism in your loved one, the best way to help them is to encourage them to seek help at an addiction treatment facility. A primary care clinic may also be helpful, but it is important to note that the process of alcohol detoxification, unlike detox from other substances, can be deadly. Delirium tremens can cause people withdrawing from alcohol to experience restlessness, confusion, or irrational feelings, while also causing physical symptoms like fever, hallucinations, or seizures. This typically occurs among people who drink 4 to 5 pints of wine, 7 to 8 pints of beer, or 1 pint of liquor each day over the course of several months. Delirium tremens, if left unattended, can lead to cardiac arrest and death.
The path to wellness and a life free of substance abuse can look different from person to person, but it all starts with admitting there is a problem and seeking help. Addiction is a chronic disease, not unlike diabetes or heart failure. It requires lifelong treatment and management. Finding a behavioral health clinic near you in Kentucky as soon as possible can help your loved one start their journey to recovery and the rest of their life.