Quitting Alcohol [What You Need to Know]
Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Sullivan
Alcohol addiction is a rising concern in the United States and more individuals find themselves planning on quitting alcohol consumption.
Nearly 15 million Americans were diagnosed with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in 2018. Among those dealing with AUD, 9.2 million are men, and 5.3 million are women, while over 400,000 are adolescents. There does not seem to be a decrease in AUD diagnoses because many individuals do not seek the proper treatment. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), only 10 percent of individuals facing alcohol addiction seek recovery treatment. Living without alcohol can be done and, more importantly, should be done for the health of yourself and your family. You can achieve a positive and healthy life that you can be proud of through treatment. You can quit drinking alcohol. There are treatment options out there that are both affordable and accessible.
Call us at (385) 327-7418 today to get started on the path to sobriety. We offer personalized programs that fit your needs and help you reach the goal of sobriety. Overcoming any addiction is not an easy task, but you have the willpower to overcome anything. With the right support, treatment, and determination, beating AUD is doable.
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Overcoming Alcohol Addiction
To overcome your addiction to alcohol, knowing the treatment options is crucial. Treatment options are the most successful way to overcome addiction. Firstly, getting a proper diagnosis should be your first step. Discussing your symptoms with a medical professional will give insight into the severity of your addiction. Less severe addiction symptoms will call for different treatment progression than more severe symptoms. At this point, it is important to understand that you have already made the first step to enjoying life without alcohol.
Getting a diagnosis is the first step to properly overcoming your addiction to alcohol. Meet with a doctor to discuss your symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, many doctors will refer individuals to mental health professionals to further diagnose the severity of someone’s AUD. Do not be alarmed if you are sent for a second opinion. They are trying to diagnose your addiction as accurately as possible to get the proper help. When working with a medical professional, Mayo Clinic lists some interactions you will likely encounter.
- Your doctor will question you about your drinking habits, such as how often and how much you consume. They might want to ask family and friends questions as well, but only if you give them your consent.
- The doctor will perform a physical exam to measure your body’s health. Physical signs can help determine an accurate diagnosis.
- Doctors use lab tests and image testing to locate certain abnormalities. Organs damaged from alcohol abuse will show on certain lab tests, helping with a proper diagnosis.
- If working with a mental health professional, a psychological exam will be conducted. Evaluations exist to determine the thinking patterns and emotions that are felt during and after alcohol consumption.
- Doctors use The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to help diagnose mental illness and other mental conditions that could be influencing your addiction.
Finding the Proper Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
Once a medical professional has given you a diagnosis, getting ready for treatment should be the next course of action. There are so many options available, so work with your medical professional to find one personalized to your needs.
Do not go to a treatment center that promotes a “one size fits all” mentality when it comes to quitting alcohol. There are several kinds of treatment options for substance addiction, but alcohol treatment specifically mixes a few for better results.
The Mayo Clinic says that alcohol abuse treatment often includes intervention, individual or group counseling, outpatient programs, or residential inpatient programs. The most common treatment options used for alcohol addiction include:
- Detoxification and Withdrawal – Conducted in a medical center, under close supervision, you would be placed through a detox program to clear your system of alcohol.
- Establishing a Treatment Plan – This involves creating a final goal, changing behavior towards alcohol, using self-help manuals to maintain goal progression, attending counseling, and setting up follow-up treatment care.
- Psychological Counseling – Counseling can be conducted in individual or group settings to approach the problem and devise a solution to change behaviors. Family therapy can also be useful when overcoming alcohol addiction.
- Oral and Injection Medication – Certain medications help create a barrier between the impacts of alcohol and addiction. Some of the most popular oral medications include Disulfiram, Naltrexone, and Acamprosate. All of these oral medications help reduce craving or associate drinking with negative feelings like vomiting and nausea. Vivitrol is an injection medication that performs similarly to Naltrexone.
- Continued Support – Involvement with after-program groups can help manage relapsing and changes to everyday life.
- Treatment for psychological and health conditions – Mental illness and health problems are often amplified while using large amounts of alcohol. Working through psychotherapy and managing personal health after treatment is usually recommended.
- Spiritual Practice – Spiritual involvement has been shown to help reduce relapse after treatment and maintain recovery practices.
Residential inpatient treatment is unnecessary for everyone, but it is worth considering if your addiction is deemed severe enough. Having medical professionals monitor your progress in a formal facility is successful in achieving a life without alcohol.
Be Aware of the Symptoms
Knowing the symptoms of alcohol addiction is critical when determining to see a doctor. Understanding when to approach your doctor could be the difference between living without alcohol and facing severe, long-term consequences. According to the Mayo Clinic, several symptoms should be kept in mind when determining if you should seek the help of a medical professional for treatment.
- Unable to limit your daily alcohol consumption.
- Thinking about reducing alcohol consumption but not making a genuine attempt.
- Spending more time drinking and recovering from heavy drinking.
- Having a craving for alcohol, no matter the time of day.
- Struggling to maintain engagement at work, school, or home due to alcohol use.
- Even after identifying physical, emotional, and mental problems, you continue to drink alcohol.
- Failing to maintain social and work activities due to alcohol consumption.
- Using alcohol at inappropriate times like driving.
- Having an increased tolerance leading to drinking more alcohol to become drunk.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms – nausea, sweating, or trembling – when not consuming alcohol.
Not every symptom will be present, but it is critical to understand how these play a role in your addiction. Acknowledging these symptoms when attempting to go to treatment is a sign that you want to grow and become better. When there’s an addiction problem, quitting alcohol is essential to your long-term wellbeing. Others have pushed past these symptoms and are now happily living without alcohol.
What Alcohol is Doing to Your Body
Alcohol leaves lasting damage to the body, causing long- and short-term problems. It might not feel like anything is wrong now, but the damage from alcohol can catch up in time. It is best to accept help and get treatment now before any damage sets in. Even moderated alcohol consumption can lead to health problems that will be expensive to treat later in life. The NIAAA listed the following alcohol damages to be worth remembering.
- Brain – Alcohol disrupts how information reaches the brain and is saved. Memories will become less clear as alcohol takes a toll on the brain. Additionally, mood and behavior are impacted, making you act differently than before alcohol addiction. Thinking is also more challenging, along with natural motor skills being impaired, even when not under the influence.
- Heart – The heart is heavily impacted by alcohol consumption. Major damage to the heart includes cardiomyopathy or the stretching and drooping of heart muscles. Irregular heartbeats become more common, as well as the chance for stroke and high blood pressure.
- Liver – The liver is likely to become inflamed, causing all sorts of issues. According to the NIAAA, the most common damage includes steatosis, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
- Pancreas – When consuming large amounts of alcohol, the pancreas becomes inflamed, causing digestion issues.
- Immune System – The immune system takes a large hit from alcohol addiction as well. Diseases are likely to target a body with AUD because the immune system will not fight it off. Individuals who abuse alcohol are more likely to get diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than those who do not drink. The body is also more likely to contract an illness within 24 hours of drinking, even for occasional drinkers.
Cancer is the most serious damage that alcohol causes to the body. Different medical associations have found ample proof that alcohol abuse leads to several kinds of cancers. Data presented by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (DHHS) found that in 2009, 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths were alcohol-related. The NIAAA lists some of the most common cancers that have evidence of being alcohol-induced.
- Head and Neck – Locations on the head that are likely to develop cancer are the mouth, throat, and voice box. Evidence provided by the DHHS found that individuals who consume more than 3.5 drinks per day are two to three times more likely to develop cancer in these areas. This is not including individuals using tobacco either.
- Esophageal – esophageal squamous cell carcinoma is the most prominent cancer that is induced by alcohol use. Individuals who lack the proper enzymes to break down alcohol in the body have an even higher risk of developing esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.
- Liver – Evidence has also found that alcohol is an independent cause of liver cancer, specifically hepatocellular carcinoma.
- Breast – Breast cancer is more influenced by alcohol than many people think. Research among 58,000 women with breast cancer found that women who drink around three alcoholic beverages a day are 1.5 times more likely to develop breast cancer. More recently, studies like the Million Women Study in the United Kingdom found that low to moderate alcohol consumption causes a 12 percent increase in risk for breast cancer.
- Colorectal – Colon and rectum cancer also have a high chance of occurring in individuals with over three drinks a day. Those individuals have a 1.5 times more likely chance of developing colon or rectal cancer than nondrinker.
It is important to remember that biology plays a large role in the severity of these effects. Mixing unhealthy genes with large amounts of alcohol will only make the problem worse. Living without alcohol can help reduce the chances of these problems overtaking life. Enter treatment is the best way to overcome alcohol addiction and lessen the possibility of being diagnosed with these problems.
Taking the First Steps to Stop Drinking
Alcohol is a nasty addiction that creates more problems than many are unaware of. The major implications alcohol has on an individual life can be threatening and are not restricted to short-term problems.
Handling AUD is scary, but it does not have to be done alone. You have the strength to stop using alcohol and enter treatment.
Call us today at (385) 327-7418 to get started. Treatment is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it is a sign of strength.
If you want to live life without alcohol, getting help and connecting with like-minded individuals is crucial. We want to be there for you and ensure you succeed on your journey.
The dangers of alcohol abuse can be lessened dramatically by finding the correct treatment and staying dedicated to it. If you feel like drinking has taken control of your life, call us now to get started living without alcohol.
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