Alcohol use and the problems it can cause have plagued modern society for hundreds of years. In fact, the National Institute of Health (NIH) determined that 25.8 percent of people engaged in binge-drinking in the past month, along with 6.3 percent of people engaging in heavy alcohol use in the same time period. The NIH has also determined that of the people who suffer from alcohol use disorder, only 7.3 percent of adults age 18 and older sought or received any treatment for their alcohol-related issues.
The nature of alcoholism is such that it can become a habit that is difficult, and even dangerous, to break on your own. It is a substance that is readily available and legal to purchase and consume for people who are 21 and older.
In this article we will discuss how alcohol use can turn into alcohol dependency, the consequences it can have on your health, and ways in which you can start on a road toward living alcohol-free.
When Alcohol Use Becomes Alcohol Dependence
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) estimates that 17 million American adults suffer from alcohol use disorder. It’s important to realize that these types of disorders do not happen overnight, they typically develop gradually over the course of different stages.
The first stage of alcohol use involves a general experimentation with alcohol. Typically exhibited by young adults exploring newfound freedom to purchase alcohol, they may try different types in order to test their own limits. These types of drinkers may not drink on a regular basis, but when they do drink, they consume very large amounts of alcohol at one time. This phenomenon is known as binge-drinking.
The next stage occurs when general experimentation becomes more frequent. Rather than drinking to excess occasionally, a person may begin drinking every weekend. An increase in habitual alcohol consumption may occur for many reasons including alleviating stress, drinking out of boredom, drinking as an excuse to be social, or to combat negative feelings like sadness or loneliness. At this stage, alcohol use often gets tied to positive emotions and the person may drink just to feel good in general. As this increase in drinking continues, the risk of developing a psychological and physical dependence is increased as well.
Problem Drinking and Alcohol Dependence
As alcohol use progresses, it can quickly become “problem drinking.” This term refers to the stage in which a person starts to experience the negative consequences of their alcohol use. They may experience mental and physical symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and physical sickness from heavy drinking. Many drinkers during this stage are more likely to drink and drive and experience legal troubles as a result of their alcohol use.
Problem drinking quickly turns to alcohol dependence. At this stage, a person is dependent on alcohol but not necessarily addicted, however, their relationship with alcohol has overtaken their normal routine. The person may be aware of the negative consequences of their alcohol use, but no longer has control of their drinking.
Alcohol dependence means that a person has developed a tolerance to drinking. This means that they will have to drink more often, and in higher amounts, than they did before in order to achieve intoxication or the desired effects of alcohol use. Naturally, an increase in alcohol intake means a greater risk of damaging effects on the body.
The final stage in the progression of alcohol use is physical addiction. At this stage, drinking becomes less about pleasure and more about avoiding the effects of withdrawal. People suffering from a physical alcohol addiction are often inconsolable until they start drinking again. Compulsive behaviors are very prominent and people with an alcohol addiction often drink whenever and wherever without much consideration for societal norms.
Health Benefits When You Stop Drinking
Anything more than moderate alcohol consumption can cause some unwanted, negative effects on the body. Over time, heavy alcohol use can begin to take a serious toll on a person’s mental and physical health. As a substance that lowers inhibitions, it can cause a person to be more impulsive and exhibit poor judgment, along with risky or even dangerous behavior. Some examples of this may include the increased likelihood of driving while impaired and an increased risk of self-harm or suicidal behavior.
Heavy alcohol use over time can have profound effects on all systems of the body. Luckily, many of these effects are reversible if a person ceases alcohol use and takes better care of their mental and physical health.
The body sees alcohol as a toxin that must be filtered out of the body. It is the liver’s job to do this. The liver of a typical adult is able to metabolize alcohol at a rate of one ounce per hour. Any more than that, and the liver will be unable to keep up. Over time and heavy alcohol use, alcohol can kill liver cells, leading to a liver scarring known as cirrhosis. Along with this, long-term heavy alcohol use can lead to a condition known as fatty liver disease, making the liver unable to function as it should.
Heavy alcohol use increases the likelihood of heart complications such as blood clots and high levels of fat and cholesterol in the blood. The toxicity of alcohol also damages and weakens the heart muscles over time. This makes it very difficult for the heart to pump blood efficiently. When it can’t pump out enough blood, the heart begins to expand to hold the extra blood. This causes the heart muscles to become thin and enlarged. Eventually, the heart muscle and blood vessels may stop functioning properly due to the damage and strain cause by heavy alcohol use.
Brain and Nervous System Issues:
Alcohol affects the communication pathways of the brain. This leads to loss of balance and coordination, as well as difficulties in thinking and speaking clearly and making decisions. Heavy drinking can also lead to serious mental health issues such as depression and dementia. Heavy alcohol use over a prolonged period of time can also cause nerve damage that can stay around even after a person sobers up.
Anemia occurs when not enough red blood cells are produced to distribute oxygen throughout the systems of the body. It can lead to inflammation, ulcers, difficulty healing, and other issues. Heavy drinkers are also much more likely to skip meals or keep an irregular eating schedule, leading to a deficiency of iron in the body. Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells.
There have been many clear links made between heavy alcohol use and many types of cancers. Any part of the body that comes in contact with alcohol is at an elevated risk, including mouth, throat, larynx (voice box), and esophagus. It can also lead to cancers in the organs of the body such as the liver, stomach, intestines, and even increase the risk of breast cancer.
How To Quit Drinking and Regain Your Health
Deciding to quit anything that has been an unhealthy habit for a long time is an admirable goal. No matter how admirable the goal of quitting drinking may be, this does not mean it will suddenly be achieved overnight. Like anything that has life-changing ramifications, it will take time.
For most people who have suffered from alcohol use disorder for a long period of time, the road to sobriety will be difficult but not impossible. While millions of people may suffer from unhealthy alcohol use habits, few of them will ever seek treatment or support from professionals. Taking part in a proper alcohol use treatment program can mean all the difference between success in recovery and relapse. At Denver Recovery Center, our compassionate, trained, medical professionals are here to help anyone who is serious about quitting and achieving long-term recovery.
If you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, the first thing that may need to happen is detoxification. A detox program will rid your body of whatever substance has taken over. This involves stopping all use of the drug, which is one of the hardest things to do for someone who is suffering from alcohol use disorder. However, once this process is complete, you can begin your rehab program. The goal of our rehabilitation programming is to help you learn more about your addiction and acquire techniques to avoid relapse through holistic and evidence-based treatment.
Be Prepared With a Plan
The best way to achieve lasting recovery is by developing a plan of action. By reading this article, you’ve already started the process of educating yourself about all of the options available to help you quit alcohol. By learning your own drinking patterns and triggers, you can better learn to avoid them in the future.
Treatment at Denver Recovery Center will hold your hand through the process of learning exactly what causes your desire to drink. This can help you avoid the potential triggers that can lead to relapse.
A Strong Support System Is Key
Next, it is important to build a strong support system around you as you begin the process of recovery. While alcohol’s effects as a “social lubricant” may have led to addiction in the first place, human connection can also be the key to kicking the habit for good. Many people who are seeking treatment have suffered through conflicts with family and friends, and feel disconnected from potential supporters of positive change.
Free Time and Newfound Motivation
After not drinking for a period of time, a wonderful thing starts to happen. Time that was once dedicated to drinking or recovering from drinking is now wide open to explore new hobbies and activities. Along with this, quitting drinking leads to more restful sleep and an increase in overall physical and mental energy during the day.
There’s a saying that goes, “Idle hands are the devil’s playthings.” People tend to get into more trouble and do bad things when they have nothing to do. It’s true in regard to addiction as well. During downtime, people may feel the strongest urges to drink again. Keeping the body active and the mind engaged can be key to forming new habits that are the foundation for recovery.
A person seeking a life free of alcohol may also find that new hobbies may lead to the companionship and sense of comradery that drinking once brought them. The goal is to retrain your brain to replace bad habits with healthy activities.
Denver Recovery Center Is Here To Help
Your battle with alcohol addiction is not one that you have to face alone. At Denver Recovery, we can help you stop drinking by utilizing both holistic and evidence-based treatment programs. We provide the support and guidance that you need to overcome alcohol addiction once and for all. Some of the programs and services that we use to help you achieve your goals include
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Family therapy
- Outdoor therapy
- Individual counseling and group therapy
- Outpatient rehab programming
Reach out to us right away at (844) 602-3175 for more information about our approach to treating alcohol use disorder.
- What is the best way to stop drinking?
One of the best approaches to quitting drinking is to seek treatment at a licensed addiction treatment facility. These types of programs can help you learn new ways of coping with the struggles of everyday life without using alcohol.
- What happens to your body when you stop drinking?
After a month of no alcohol, the systems of the body that were damaged by drinking begin to repair themselves. This can lead to increased energy, weight loss, better and more restful sleep, improved immune system function, better digestion, healthier skin, and a decrease in anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
- How can I stay motivated to stop drinking?
One of the best methods to remain motivated to stop drinking is to build a sober support system around yourself. Support groups can help connect you with like-minded people who are focused and committed to maintaining lasting success in recovery.