- 1 Alcohol addiction is a mental illness
- 2 Alcohol addiction: general
- 3 Alcohol addiction: causes/risk factors/addiction prevention
- 4 Alcohol addiction: appearance/symptoms/course
- 5 Alcohol addiction: examinations & diagnosis
- 6 Alcohol addiction: therapy & rehab/life after withdrawal
Alcohol addiction is a mental illness
Alcohol addiction (alcohol addiction) is a mental illness that gradually develops over the years. Although most adults drink alcohol in this country, alcohol consumption only leads to addiction in some people. Learn everything about the causes of alcohol addiction, therapy and rehabilitation here.
Alcohol addiction: general
Alcohol addiction is the physical and psychological dependence on the chemical substance ethanol. In USA, alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine and schnapps are an integral part of culture and socially recognized. In USA, more than 95 percent of adults occasionally drink alcohol. 9.5 million show drinking behavior that goes beyond the normal level of alcohol consumption. 1.3 million are alcohol-dependent. 10 percent of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 say that they drink alcohol at least once a week. In 2013, every USA consumed an average of 9.7 liters of pure alcohol. Addiction can affect young and old people, men and women alike. However, men are affected three times more often than women.
Alcohol addiction: causes/risk factors/addiction prevention
Causes of dependency
Drinking the same amount of alcohol makes some people addicted, others not. The causes lie in a genetic predisposition, the reasons for alcohol consumption and the social environment. Alcohol lightens the mood in smaller quantities, reduces inhibitions and promotes the willingness to communicate. This is why many people already have positive experiences with alcohol, sometimes in adolescence. There is a higher risk of addiction if alcohol consumption was already normal in the family and a means of overcoming the problem. Group pressure among friends also plays a role, especially among young people. Traumatic experiences, especially in childhood, favor the development of alcoholism.
Prevention of alcohol addiction
Only through complete abstinence can you safely prevent alcohol addiction. If you want to consume alcohol, you should take a few precautionary measures: The amount of drinking should be as low as possible and not increased. Experts assume that the consumption of more than 12 grams of alcohol per day (for women) and 24 grams of alcohol for men can be classified as “risky consumption” and represents an addiction risk. For comparison: 0.33 liters of beer correspond to around 13 grams of alcohol. Drinking should not be used as a remedy for frustration, inhibition or fear. Alcohol should not be drunk at least two days a week. The most important measure is to get help in good time if you have questionable consumption (your own or that of friends and family)Seek advice or a doctor.
Alcohol addiction: appearance/symptoms/course
Development of addiction
The transition from regular alcohol consumption to addiction is fluid. A tolerance develops over time: more and more alcohol is required to experience the pleasant effects. Signs of physical dependence (withdrawal symptoms) gradually appear when alcohol is not consumed. Since alcohol activates the reward center in the brain, there is psychological dependency and a strong desire to consume alcohol again. After all, it’s all about alcohol. Interests and social life are neglected.
Acute effects of alcohol consumption
Larger amounts of alcohol cause perceptual disorders, speech disorders (“Lallen”) and coordination disorders. In the worst case, alcohol poisoning can lead to death from circulatory failure or respiratory arrest. Mentally, alcohol consumption leads to disinhibition, which can lead to complete loss of control. This increases the likelihood of criminal offenses, accidents or rash actions under the influence of alcohol. During pregnancy, alcohol can cause physical and mental damage to the unborn child.
Symptoms of chronic alcohol abuse
Alcohol also acts as a cell poison. Regular and excessive alcohol consumption leads to
- Liver damage,
- Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and pancreas,
- Cardiovascular disease,
- Brain damage.
Alcohol abuse also increases the risk of cancer in the mouth, throat and esophagus. Withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, tremors and restlessness occur. The risk of anxiety and depression increases. Social exclusion, family problems and the loss of friends or a job are also common consequences of alcohol addiction. Typical signs of alcoholism are hiding alcohol and drinking secretly.
Alcohol addiction: examinations & diagnosis
If you suspect alcohol addiction, the doctor first clarifies the typical symptoms and behaviors in a conversation: How often do you drink? How often do you think about alcohol? Have you ever reduced alcohol consumption and how did you do? What does alcohol do to you? Do you have physical symptoms such as sleep disorders, tremors, sweating? Additional information is provided by certain blood values, such as liver values. If the suspicion hardens, a referral to specialized specialists or clinics usually takes place.
According to international criteria, there is an addiction if three of the following apply:
- Strong desire for alcohol
- No more control over the amount of drinking
- Withdrawal symptoms occur when no alcohol is drunk
- The amount of alcohol consumed increased continuously (development of tolerance)
- The focus is on alcohol, other interests are neglected
- Despite the negative consequences, those affected do not stop drinking
Alcohol addiction: therapy & rehab/life after withdrawal
The goal of any therapy and rehabilitation for alcohol addiction is to achieve long-term abstinence or at least a severe reduction in alcohol consumption. Compared to other diseases, the treatment of addictions is always lengthy. In most cases, acute therapy is followed by rehab, which helps those affected to live permanently without alcohol.
Phases of therapy for alcohol addiction
Therapy for alcohol addiction can be divided into four phases:
- Contact phase: Here the focus is on advice and medical examinations. Those affected must recognize the alcohol problem themselves and find an internal motivation for the therapy.
- Withdrawal phase or reduction phase: To achieve abstinence, those affected must first be weaned from alcohol as part of a withdrawal. In order to be able to intervene medically in the event of withdrawal symptoms, this phase usually takes place in the hospital. If the person concerned does not want withdrawal (yet), a medically controlled reduction in the amount of drinking is possible.
- Weaning phase (rehab): After the acute detoxification further hurdles have to be overcome. Specialist clinics support those affected on an outpatient or inpatient basis to cope without alcohol in everyday life. This phase can take several months.
- Aftercare phase: Returning to everyday life is always difficult for those affected. They are often faced with earlier fears and problems. Regular discussions in addiction outpatient clinics, with specialists, counseling centers or in self-help groups can give psychological motivation to abstain .
Rehabilitation for alcohol addiction
Rehabilitation in alcohol addiction means outpatient or inpatient care during the weaning phase. It usually lasts between 8 and 16 weeks.
Measures in rehab
Therapeutic measures take place either in individual discussions or in groups. In behavioral therapy, those affected learn strategies to overcome the urge to drink alcohol. Accompanying medicinal treatment, relaxation techniques and movement therapies can support the treatment. The primary goal is to avoid relapse. In addition, the handling of risk situations is trained (psychological pressure, attending celebrations or restaurants, arguing with the partner). The triggers and backgrounds of the addiction are worked out. Partner or family talks give relatives the knowledge of how to support those affected and how to counteract alcohol consumption.
When choosing the clinic, you should pay attention to your individual requirements. There are rehabilitation clinics where you can carry out pre-vocational measures and receive extensive support for professional reintegration. Other clinics offer extensive creative and musical activities, sports or alternative healing methods that support therapy.
Opportunities and benefits of rehab for alcohol addiction
Alcohol addiction cannot be “cured”. Most of those affected manage to give up alcohol consumption and become “dry” through rehabilitation. Experts recommend rehab after withdrawal. This is particularly effective when it is carried out in a clinic. 85 percent of all patients who only do detoxification without subsequent weaning will relapse again. Rehabilitation improves the chances considerably. A year after weaning treatment, around 70 percent are still abstinent.