In today’s society, almost everyone has encountered some form of drinking as a social experience. From the portrayal of drinking as a social act in the media, to getting invited out for drinks after work or on a date, to go to “let off steam” at the bar, the language of casual drinking is everywhere.
Unfortunately, such messages can lead to alcohol addiction or exacerbate the symptoms of one who’s already affected. Although regular drinking may seem harmless, it can lead to severe and potentially fatal damage.
What Is Alcohol?
Alcohol refers to ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, which is created from the fermentation of yeast, fruits, or other sugars. Ethanol is an inebriating substance in alcoholic drinks. Alcohol has a psychoactive effect, meaning it impacts your mood and mental processing. Due to these effects, the experience of drinking can feel incredibly pleasant and enjoyable. In fact, the short-term buzz you get when you start to consume alcohol has euphoric effects, such as social ease, relaxation, and a rush of dopamine. This largely contributes to what makes alcohol addictive.
As mentioned, there are many cultural and societal influences shaping the way we view alcohol and drinking. For instance, going out for drinks is often far less about the drinks themselves and more about gathering with friends, having a good time, and letting your guard down due to alcohol’s loosening effects. Unfortunately, this can lead people to fear they won’t fit in if they don’t drink. Both the social push toward drinking and the enjoyable feeling it brings can lead to severe alcohol misuse and dependence.
Is Alcohol Addictive?
Alcohol is a highly addictive substance that affects cognitive processing. Like any addiction, alcohol dependence is triggered in the. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) commonly begins in your brain’s basal ganglia with the feeling of reward that comes from drinking. The desire to pursue these positive feelings leads to repeated drinking — often large amounts over a short span of time.
Eventually, the area of your brain where stress hormones get released, the amygdala, recognizes the lack of positive rewards following a period of sobriety. In response, the brain releases a flurry of negative emotions when you stop drinking or refrain for some time. This pattern of negative reinforcement leads you to seek out more alcohol to feel better, essentially “chasing the high.” A third element of alcohol addiction kicks in once the area responsible for decision-making, the prefrontal cortex, becomes compromised due to cravings for a drink. With stress hormones flooding your body and your judgment impaired, this process is how you can easily and quickly develop a dependence on alcohol.
Signs of Alcohol Abuse
Have you ever questioned whether you or someone you care about is abusing alcohol? To assess the need for alcohol addiction rehab, the first step is to evaluate the presence of an addiction to alcohol. While treatment needs differ for each individual, there are shared symptoms that can help identify signs of alcohol abuse. By recognizing these symptoms, you can gain valuable understanding to determine if seeking professional assistance is necessary.
Common signs of alcohol abuse include:
When considering treatment options for yourself or a loved one, it is crucial to select a reputable alcoholism rehab center that conducts a thorough diagnostic assessment during the intake process. If you are uncertain about whether your loved one may be experiencing an alcohol use disorder, this page offers valuable information to help you make an initial determination. However, it is vital to consult with a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment recommendations for alcohol abuse and addiction.
Levels of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse doesn’t look one specific way. Unhealthy tendencies around drinking can take multiple forms, which are broken down by type and level of severity.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines the levels of alcohol abuse as follows:
Alcohol Use Disorder
Similar to other medical and mental conditions, individuals can be diagnosed with alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD, a chronic brain disorder, is characterized by compulsive drinking, loss of control over alcohol consumption, and experiencing negative emotions when not drinking. These symptoms persist despite negative consequences in various areas of life, including social, occupational, financial, and health aspects.
A licensed medical professional will assess individuals to determine if they have an alcohol use disorder. This assessment involves specific questions aligned with the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which provides comprehensive standards for diagnosis. Depending on the number of criteria met, the disorder may be categorized as mild, moderate, or severe. It’s crucial to acknowledge that regardless of severity, recovery from alcohol use disorder is possible.
Alcohol Use Disorder Levels of Severity
Alcohol Addiction Symptoms
When examining the physical symptoms of alcoho addiction, several significant factors are considered. In the early stages of alcohol dependency, however, these symptoms may not be as noticeable. As an alcohol addiction advances in severity, the signs of alcoholism become increasingly apparent.
Mental symptoms of alcoholism include:
Physical symptoms of alcoholism include:
The symptoms of alcohol use disorder can be physical and psychological, with their intensity varying based on the severity of the condition. When individuals lose control over their drinking, they become compelled by their cravings for alcohol. Due to repeated unsuccessful attempts to cut down or quit drinking, the individual may experience hopelessness or denial. Ignoring the signs of alcoholism builds tolerance, eventually leading to physical dependence on alcohol. Consequently, individuals will encounter a range of mental and physical withdrawal symptoms whenever they attempt to stop drinking.
Similar to the withdrawal experienced with other substances, the severity of alcohol withdrawal can differ among individuals. As a general trend, the duration and intensity of alcohol abuse tend to correspond with the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately, the normalization of alcohol consumption in society often leads people to overlook the signs of problematic drinking and deny the harmful effects of alcohol addiction.
Alcohol withdrawal can be physically and emotionally demanding, and the severity of withdrawal symptoms can differ based on various factors such as age, history of alcohol and substance use, previous experiences with withdrawal, and the peak levels of alcohol in the bloodstream.
Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
Life-threatening alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
It’s important to understand that once a person has reached such a level of alcohol dependency, it’s necessary for them to detox from the substance because of the harm it’s causing to their body. However, people should never attempt detoxification alone due to the life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that may occur.
When an individual who is physically dependent on alcohol attempts to stop drinking, the resulting withdrawal symptoms can vary in intensity from mild to severe. In more severe cases, a potentially life-threatening condition known as delirium tremens (DTs) may occur due to alcohol withdrawal. DTs manifest as alcoholic psychosis, with symptoms such as heightened anxiety, trembling, excessive sweating, gastrointestinal distress, and chest pain. Delirium tremens can induce life-threatening complications, including hallucinations, high fever, and seizures.
Another reason why seeking medical alcohol detoxification is critical is the increased risk of experiencing a potentially fatal grand mal seizure on the third day of detoxification. For this reason, it is crucial to ensure that medical professionals monitor your condition during alcohol detoxification.
Physical Dependency on Alcohol
If you have a physical dependency on alcohol, your body has come to need alcohol and is probably exhibiting symptoms like cravings, high tolerance to many drinks over a short period, and anxiety, shaking, or nausea once your blood alcohol levels decrease. These symptoms are also characteristic of withdrawal; once you reach a physical dependence on alcohol, you are at risk of experiencing life-threatening symptoms if you try to detox alone.
Considering the potential risks of alcohol withdrawal, individuals physically dependent on alcohol must seek professional assistance. Opting for a safe detoxification process within a rehabilitation setting for alcoholism can be life-saving.
Psychological Dependency on Alcohol
Psychological dependency occurs because your brain chemistry is altered to a point where it’s attached to the substance and the way it makes you feel. Classic signs you have a psychological dependency include always thinking about drinking, craving the euphoric or relaxing feelings, and believing you need a drink in order to socialize or unwind.
Over time, both physical and psychological alcohol addictions will have lasting effects, like neglecting personal responsibilities in favor of drinking.
Consequences of Alcoholism
You may think you can continue your drinking habits without damage, or you may feel that you’ll be able to cut back on your own. However, alcohol dependency can quickly turn to poor mental health, declining physical health, and social isolation — not to mention the important work tasks and life requirements that may get pushed to the wayside. Prolonged alcohol consumption can take a severe toll on one’s physical health as well, often resulting in life-threatening health complications such as liver disease and cancer.
The Impact of Alcohol Abuse On Relationships
Alcoholism takes a significant toll on the lives of those affected by it. In fact, abusing alcohol has a whole host of negative impacts on your social, familial, and professional relationships. Alcohol addiction can have a profoundly negative impact on work performance and other professional relationships. Often, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can make it difficult to focus at work or participate in social activities with colleagues. Another common consequence of alcoholism is legal repercussions, including DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) charges and arrests which often result in license suspensions, job termination, and potential jail time.
Families, in particular, bear the brunt when living with an alcoholic. It is common for spouses and children to suffer tremendous emotional hardship due to alcohol abuse. Understandably, it may cause feelings of confusion, anger, hurt, guilt, and fear for those watching their loved one grapple with alcoholism. The grip of addiction has the potential to devastate lives if left untreated.
Mental Side Effects of Alcohol Addiction
In the short term, drinking can disorient you and cause behavioral changes, including poor decision-making (such as wanting to drive impaired or saying things you regret). In the long term, excessive alcohol use can change your cognitive functioning ability, which can lead to memory loss, dementia, and poor neurological control. Alcohol abuse can also lead to psychological health conditions like anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders.
Physical Side Effects of Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol use disorders range from mild to severe, indicated by the consumption of alcohol to an extent that brings distress or harm to the individual or others. Prolonged engagement in problematic drinking behaviors increases the likelihood of experiencing damaging effects on physical health.
In the short term, alcohol can make you dizzy, nauseous, tired, or uncoordinated, as well as cause headaches and distorted vision. In the long term, drinking can severely damage your liver, pancreas, blood cells, and heart. Alcohol abuse has also been shown to cause an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, kidney stones, and malnutrition, amongst other health concerns.
Frequently Asked Questions
About Alcohol Addiction
To help you gain a better understanding of what alcohol addiction is, how it can affect you, and alcohol treatment options, we have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions.
If you have any additional questions about alcohol addiction treatment at Royal Life Centers, call us at 877-RECOVERY.
Alcohol dependency looks different for everyone, but you should consider whether you are binge drinking and/or heavy drinking. Also, ask yourself: Are you drinking a lot each morning or each night, at meals, or with friends as part of your routine?
DTs, or delirium tremens, is a condition of alcohol withdrawal categorized by delirium, hallucinations, shaking, and anxiety (along with other symptoms) because of adjustments in your nervous system when detoxing.
Yes, your brain can heal itself after alcohol abuse, but this process requires a person to detox and abstain from future alcohol use.
Typically, it requires a minimum of 18 months of abstaining from alcohol to achieve complete restoration of certain brain functions and the brain’s structure. However, brain regeneration can start as early as two weeks into recovery. It is important to note that while the brain can partially heal from alcohol-related damage, some of the damage caused by alcoholism may be irreversible.
Yes, alcohol withdrawal is potentially life-threatening due to extreme symptoms as your brain and body adapt to detoxification. It’s important you receive proper guidance and treatment when detoxing from alcohol addiction because of the risk of death.
Alcoholism withdrawal symptoms are generally worse 48-72 hours after drinking. In most cases, the physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal persist for about five or six days when undergoing a professional medical detoxification process.
Post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) can occur alongside the usual withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may appear physical but originate from cognitive associations with alcohol use. PAWS can persist for several months following detox but typically ends after three months.
The prolonged symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can eventually diminish with a comprehensive treatment program. To assist in the healing process, medications can alleviate the physical and psychological effects of alcohol withdrawal. Similarly, education and therapy focused on identifying triggers can provide coping mechanisms to counteract long-term side effects.
There are various medications available to help alleviate symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal. For instance, medical detox facilities often prescribe anticonvulsant medications and mild benzodiazepines (like Librium, Keppra, and Lamictal) to prevent the risk of seizures.
During detox, doctors also prescribe over-the-counter medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen or aspirin) and antidiarrheal medications to combat symptoms like nausea, vomiting, headaches, and muscle pain. Additionally, antidepressants can be used to reduce cravings and help curb depression or anxiety that is often associated with alcohol withdrawal.
Individuals participating in a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program often receive naltrexone (Vivitrol) to help reduce cravings and decrease the pleasurable effects of alcohol. MAT programs can also provide disulfiram (Antabuse) which is a medication that discourages drinking by causing unpleasant physical effects when alcohol is consumed.
No. It is crucial to approach any source claiming to offer a rapid detox from alcohol with skepticism. The ‘rapid detox’ concept is primarily a marketing strategy and does not correspond to a genuinely effective detoxification process.
Contrary to what some programs may claim, the detox process from alcohol is highly individualized and depends on various factors, including a person’s specific reaction to alcohol withdrawal. Elements such as an individual’s biology, medical history, and alcohol abuse patterns influence detoxification.
Therefore, it is impossible to determine an exact duration for detox completion without considering all relevant information and observing the individual’s presentation of withdrawal symptoms. It is crucial to seek professional guidance and support to ensure a safe and personalized detoxification experience.
The duration of a medical detox program for alcohol can vary, typically lasting around four days or more. However, this timeframe depends on the person’s response to eliminating alcohol from their system.
The length of stay in a medical detox program is dependent on various factors, including:
- Personal history of alcohol abuse
- Severity of withdrawal symptoms
- Level of physical dependence
- Volume and frequency of drinking
- Tolerance to alcohol
- Medical history
Rehab for Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol rehabilitation programs typically provide a range of treatment options to facilitate your healing journey. However, it’s important to note that each facility has a unique focus, making it crucial to find a program that aligns with your goals. Effective addiction treatment programs emphasize necessary elements such as medical supervision, psychological counseling, educational resources, and support groups. These components collectively contribute to establishing a solid foundation for a successful recovery.
Choosing the right alcohol rehab center can sometimes be a matter of life or death, highlighting the importance of making the right decision. It is crucial to carefully select a facility that fits your needs when seeking alcohol rehabilitation. Conducting thorough research on the available programs and finding one that aligns with your requirements is paramount.
To begin your search, look for an alcohol rehab program with accreditations and certifications. Ensuring the facility staffs a competent team of professionals and provides a comfortable environment becomes essential in healing. Look for treatment programs incorporating evidence-based practices and holistic wellness services, as these aspects contribute to the program’s overall effectiveness. Discovering a rehabilitation center for alcohol that offers services and features that resonate with your interests and motivation can help sustain your sobriety.
When determining an alcohol rehab program to join, gathering as much information as possible is important to ensure you receive optimal care. While it may require time and effort, finding the right program is worthwhile.
Are you looking for help with addiction? Let us support you on the path to lasting recovery
Alcoholism is a treatable condition, but it requires careful consideration and precautions during the cessation process. Suddenly stopping alcohol consumption can lead to seizures, which pose life-threatening risks. It is vital to undergo a supervised detoxification process with appropriate medical care and medications. In addition to a safe and accredited detox, engaging in a high-quality alcohol dependence rehab program significantly enhances the chances of long-term success.
Alcohol detox is typically broken down into three stages, each characterized by a particular set of symptoms. The first stage occurs roughly eight hours after your last drink, and typical symptoms are anxiety or restlessness, stomach pain, and feelings of nausea. The second stage occurs approximately 24-72 hours from your last drink when withdrawal symptoms are expected to increase; you may face a spike in your blood pressure that raises your heart rate and creates a feverish feeling, along with possible confusion. The third stage can last for the full week after your last drink and is the most dangerous to encounter alone — this is when you’re at risk of seizures, hallucinations, worsened fever, and even death.
The Three Stages of Alcohol Detox
(8 hours after last drink)
(24 to 72 hours after last drink)
(72+ hours after last drink)
It is essential that you undergo your alcohol detox in the care of medical professionals who can monitor your symptoms and assist you throughout the process. During the detoxification process, medical professionals provide the needed 24/7 medical supervision and care, including fluids, vitamins, rest, and sedation to ease the symptoms. Addiction treatment providers also administer medication to prevent life-threatening withdrawal side effects.
After your detoxification, our medical care team will help you transition into the next stage of your recovery through our residential inpatient centers.
Detox Medication for Alcohol Addiction
Medical alcohol detoxification starts when the signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal begin to present, usually within hours of the last drink.
When treating people with alcoholism, it is vital to provide medications that minimally impact the liver. This is because liver damage is a common side effect of alcohol abuse. While an individual’s susceptibility to alcoholic liver damage varies, heavy, long-term alcohol consumption can and often does cause serious liver damage.
While all medications must be processed by the liver, certain medications are less strenuous on the organ. To avoid straining the liver more, addiction treatment centers provide evidence-based, FDA-approved medications such as Librium (also known by its generic name, chlordiazepoxide) to treat the potentially life-threatening effect of alcohol withdrawal.
In doing so, guests can rest assured that their bodies are safely removing the toxins from their systems without the risks of additional liver damage. Not only can guests notice the positive impacts of detox through an improvement in their mood, but also by watching their liver enzyme numbers going down.
Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) services use evidence-based treatment options to assist you on your detoxification and recovery journey. Medications for alcohol use disorder, or MAUD, can reduce cravings for alcohol significantly. These medications can help you better manage any urges or triggers that lead to drinking, and allow you to focus more on the emotional and psychological aspects of recovery.
Recommended medications for AUD include:
Disulfiram, also called Antabuse, is prescribed to help reduce the desire for alcohol. The treatment is effective at discouraging drinking because it creates an immediate negative response toward alcohol, such as nausea, sweating, and headache.
Acamprosate, or Campral, is prescribed during stage two of detoxification because it works to stabilize brain activity that has been affected by alcohol dependency.
Naltrexone, also called Vivitrol or Revia, reduces the urge to drink by removing the element of euphoria from the experience. It can be used in in-patient and out-patient treatment plans.
Those participating in MAT during alcohol detox will work with addiction treatment providers to determine which medication works best for each guest, based on their unique situation and medical history. It is important to note that MAUD does not replace therapy or counseling, but rather works in conjunction with these services to provide long-term support and guidance.
Inpatient Alcohol Rehab
With inpatient alcohol rehab, you will have a personal care team of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists supervising you 24/7 to support you in the highs and lows of treatment. We pride ourselves on providing a safe and nurturing environment that allows each guest to heal at their own pace while we help them create a strong foundation for lasting recovery. Throughout treatment for alcoholism, our highly trained staff helps each individual uncover the underlying issues that led to alcohol abuse, and develop a personalized plan for recovery.
Our residential inpatient program aims to limit distractions and provide a safe, comfortable environment for recovery. In doing so, guests are able to focus on their individualized treatment goals with guidance from our clinical team made up of licensed therapists, medical staff, and addiction treatment professionals.
While staying in our inpatient facility, guests have access to our medical and counseling staff throughout the day as well as:
Along with therapy, residential treatment incorporates ongoing medication management as a part of our medication-assisted treatment and dual-diagnosis treatment services. Throughout your time in treatment with Royal Life Centers, you will also have a case manager help you develop goals and objectives you’ll work towards together.
As you progress in treatment for alcohol, you’ll gain insight and understanding into your addiction and underlying issues, providing you with the tools you need to make lasting lifestyle changes. All of our residential treatment services work to equip you with the skills you need to build a solid foundation of recovery so that you can maintain your sobriety after completing our residential inpatient program.
Therapy for Alcoholism
Therapy for alcoholism always begins with detoxification for all who are deemed able. As the main focus of inpatient treatment programs, the care team will walk you through this difficult first step toward recovery. Once detoxification is complete, therapy options include individual and group sessions, along with a variety of experiential therapy offerings.
During inpatient and outpatient levels of care, guests participate in evidence-based therapy offerings including:
We also offer a variety of complementary therapies to help promote physical and mental healing. From yoga and fitness activities to meditation classes and sound healing groups — our guests have access to many holistic services that encourage personal growth and emotional stability.
Outpatient Alcohol Rehab
Outpatient alcohol rehab offers continuing care services once you have completed your detoxification. These include medication management, therapy, support groups, and additional sober living options.
After completing inpatient treatment for alcoholism, guests can enter our 12-week aftercare program. Held next door at our outpatient facility, Royal Life Centers at Sound Recovery. These lower levels of care smoothly transition guests from inpatient into our partial hospitalization program (PHP) and intensive outpatient program (IOP). While participating in aftercare services, guests are welcome to move into our sober living residences. Guests may also choose to live at home at this point, returning to our facility for treatment throughout the week.
During PHP and IOP, guests are still surrounded by substance use disorder professionals but are able to transition to living with a more flexible schedule that allows for a balance of employment and treatment. Following the completion of our aftercare program, guests can join our traditional outpatient program. This program focuses on continuing to work towards sobriety and provides the necessary tools for maintaining a successful recovery.
We offer weekly support groups, case management, relapse prevention techniques, and life skills training while also helping them find meaningful employment and community service opportunities. Our outpatient program is designed to help guests be successful in their recovery journey and gives them the support they need as they transition back to a home environment. We believe that through understanding, hard work, and perseverance everyone can achieve long-term sobriety.
Recovering from Alcohol Use Disorder
When you stop drinking and start to recover from alcoholism, your mind, body, and spirit will begin to heal. Not long after you stop consuming alcohol, the body begins to try and stabilize itself. Your brain will also undergo a long list of changes to return to a healthy state. Your emotional well-being will likely be up and down for a bit, while all these changes are happening.
The best place to handle these rapid changes is in a safe place such as a drug and alcohol treatment center. During detox and inpatient treatment, you’ll have resources and professionals available to you 24/7 to guide you through unfamiliar or uncomfortable feelings.
How To Stay Sober After Treatment for Alcoholism
The need for addiction treatment doesn’t end after detoxification; we believe that addiction should be treated holistically to successfully walk guests all the way down the road of recovery. Our substance abuse experts will also accompany you through aftercare planning by tailoring your individualized plan to meet your needs, preferences, and goals for recovery.
In general, your recovery will probably be different from your peers. Everyone has a personal process when it comes to getting and staying sober. Learning where or how to build this foundation of recovery can be unfamiliar to those who are new to recovery.
Continuing treatment in an outpatient program and staying in a sober living residence are both great places to start. Participating in these continuing care programs allows you to model everyday life responsibilities to re-experience how to engage with the world while sober. With constant alumni community involvement, you will never feel isolated or alone at any point in the process of sobriety.
Consistent attendance in 12-step meetings and individual therapy can also provide valuable support in your recovery journey. By staying connected to your recovery community you can continue to receive social and emotional support which reduces the risk of relapse and increases the likelihood of long-term success in sobriety.
No matter where you are on your recovery journey, there is always hope for lasting sobriety. With motivation and dedication, you can create a healthy and happy life free from alcohol.
Our Rehab For Alcoholism
Royal Life Centers at The Haven understands the complexities of alcoholism and specializes in helping individuals build healthy and meaningful relationships with themselves and their families as they work through their recovery process. Our programs are designed to rebuild trust between all involved parties and create a safe space to foster honest, open communication. With our team of professionals and a supportive fellowship, you or your loved one can begin the journey to recovery.
Upon entering treatment at our rehab for alcohol addiction, guests begin their recovery journey in our medical detox and residential inpatient programs. At the start of detox, we collaborate with each guest in creating their individualized treatment plan to ensure that it meets their unique needs.
Within our evidence-based therapies, our guests learn how to break the cycle of addiction and gain insight into their thoughts and feelings. We believe in taking a holistic approach to recovery that focuses on healing the body, mind, and spirit. For this reason, our personalized approach to treatment ensures that you get the help you need while navigating early recovery.
We recommend following up your time in alcohol detox and inpatient care with our 12-week aftercare program in Lacey, Washington. The first four weeks are our partial hospitalization program (PHP), which transitions into an 8-week intensive outpatient program (IOP). After the 12 weeks, guests can transition into our outpatient program (OP) for continued care and connection.
If you or someone you know is ready to get help for their alcohol dependence please contact us today. No matter where you are in the recovery process, Royal Life Centers is here to assist you on your way to lasting sobriety. Our admissions team is available 24/7 to answer any questions and address any concerns you may have.
Looking for a Rehab for Alcoholism?
If you or someone who cares about struggles with alcohol use disorder, or an addiction to any substance, please reach out to us to find out more about how we can help. We work with most private insurance policies and we have affordable self-pay rates if you do not have insurance. Give us a call and we will figure out the best treatment plan for you or your loved one.
Because We Care.