Alcohol Rehab

Alcohol addiction, also called alcoholism, refers to a chemical and emotional dependency on alcohol that causes a person to drink compulsively despite the harmful consequences. For instance, if frequent drinking is starting to cause health issues and you continue to use, it could point to an addiction. Because alcohol is so prevalent in American culture and around the world, alcoholism has been a deeply rooted problem for centuries. Today, it continues to pose a serious threat to many people.

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According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 86 percent of people over 18-years-old drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime. That’s significantly more than any other psychoactive drug, especially one used recreationally.

Not everyone who drinks becomes addicted to alcohol or struggles with a substance use disorder. Still, the prevalence and overall acceptance of alcohol in the culture could explain the prevalence of alcoholism in the United States.

Struggling with an addiction to alcohol? Request a call from an addiction professional today and get started on the road to recovery!

Struggling with an addiction to alcohol? Request a call from an addiction professional today and get started on the road to recovery!

Does Its Legality Mean It’s Safer Than Other Drugs?

Some may assume that because it is legal for most people to buy and consume alcohol freely, it means that it is safer than prescription and illicit drugs. While it is regulated and less unpredictable when compared to street drugs like heroin and cocaine, alcohol’s effects can be dangerous, even rivaling some illegal drugs.

When abused, alcohol can cause significant medical complications, intoxication that impairs driving, and physical dependence. Alcohol has been linked to serious diseases that affect different parts of the body including multiple types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, dementia, depression, and a host of other illnesses.


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that drinking had led to as many as 88,000 deaths between 2006 and 2010. As of 2015, the CDC estimates that there is an average of six deaths each day caused by alcohol poisoning. Plus, binge drinking has become so common that it’s almost a rite of passage among college students and young adults. As many as one in six U.S. adults binge drinks four times every month, which means 17 billion binge-drinking events occur annually. Binge drinking doesn’t guarantee deadly effects or even the development of alcoholism. A considerable number of college-age young adults binge drink multiple times but never develop a problem with alcoholism. 

It does, however, increase the risk of serious consequences, including:

  • Fatal car accidents
  • Risky sexual behavior
  • Violence, like assault, suicide, or homicide
  • Contracting sexually transmitted diseases
  • Chronic diseases
  • Memory and learning problems
  • Alcoholism and chemical dependence

In many cases, frequent drinking does lead to alcoholism and physical dependence, which can cause serious long-term consequences if it’s not addressed. Alcoholism is a disease that is difficult to overcome without help, and withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism, there is help available.

How Alcoholism Works

Alcoholism is a disease that affects the limbic system of the brain, which is closely tied to reward and motivation. As a disease, it’s complex and chronic, and it can be incredibly difficult to overcome. In fact, addiction is defined by its nature of causing impulsive drug use and cravings that are hard to control. Addiction often starts with abuse that leads to dependence. Alcohol, like all psychoactive drugs, affects your nervous system’s communication pathways. More specifically, it’s a central nervous system depressant, which means it causes the nervous system to slow down, producing a calming feeling.

Depressants like alcohol typically work by affecting gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, which are responsible for regulating excitability in the nervous system, causing anti-anxiety, hypnosis, sedation, and relaxation. Alcohol works by binding to these receptors and increasing the efficacy of your naturally occurring GABA. When you drink a moderate amount of alcohol (one drink between one and two hours), your liver can process out the psychoactive chemical before it reaches your brain. If you drink more than that, your liver can’t handle it, and it gets into your bloodstream and reaches your brain.

Excessive drinking can cause euphoric effects that trick your limbic system into thinking that drinking alcohol is an important life-sustaining activity. 

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Other activities that activate your limbic system include eating, finding comfort, and positive social interaction. Alcohol and drug euphoria offer the same reward triggers only they are much more intense. Your reward center will respond by causing cravings and compulsions to seek out alcohol.

Signs of Alcoholism

Though the disease is chronic, alcoholism has several warning signs as its developing. Addressing it early can facilitate more successful recovery outcomes. Alcoholism often starts with repeated alcohol abuse. Binging is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as drinking more than four drinks for women and five drinks for men within two hours. This will bring your blood-alcohol level to 0.08 g/dL, which is enough to impair your reasoning skills, depth perception, and peripheral vision.

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Excessive drinking and repeated binging can lead to chemical dependence. The first sign of dependence usually is a growing tolerance. You might notice the amount of alcohol you can drink is growing. This is not because your liver is processing more; it’s because your brain is getting used to it and might even be learning to counteract its effects. Dependence will cause you to stop using alcohol purely for recreation. You may feel you need to drink to feel normal. If you are drinking alone or in the morning before starting your day, it’s a red flag.

If you are worried about a friend or family member, some signs can point to a possible alcohol abuse disorder, including:

  • Drinking more than planned
  • Trying and failing to cut back or stop
  • Drinking alone
  • Drinking in the morning
  • Often feeling sick or hungover
  • A decline in work or school performance
  • Drinking despite consequences like a DUI
  • Hiding alcohol around the house
  • Lying about drinking

If you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone else, there are treatment options available to help address an alcohol use disorder, and all of them can lead to lasting recovery.

How Is Alcoholism Treated?

Alcoholism may be a chronic and complex disease, but it can be treated with evidence-based therapies and experienced medical and clinical professionals. Treatment for alcoholism usually starts with medical detoxification. Alcohol, like other central nervous system depressants, can cause potentially deadly side effects during withdrawal.

Repeated abuse of alcohol forces your brain to adapt to the presence of alcohol. It may start to produce excitatory effects to counteract the effects of the alcohol, which continue to be suppressed.

When you stop drinking, the excitatory chemicals in your brain come back dramatically, causing an overactive nervous system. This can cause anxiety, restlessness, nausea, vomiting, irritability, confusion, seizures, and a serious medical complication called delirium tremens (DTs).

In medical detox, you will be treated and monitored by medical professionals to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms and avoid potentially dangerous medical complications.

After detox, clinicians will help you find the next level of care that’s right for you. If you have become addicted to alcohol, it will take more than a week of detox to recovery effectively. Addiction treatment involves several levels of care, from inpatient/residential services to outpatient treatment. During treatment, you will work through a treatment plan that you create with your primary therapist. This may include a variety of therapy options like individual therapy sessions, group therapy, behavioral therapies, and others.

The purpose of these therapies will be to help you achieve sobriety. You may learn to identify triggers, develop strategies to avoid relapse, and address any underlying issues like a mental health problem.

Start the Road to Recovery Today

If you or a loved one is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, there is help available that might be able to lead you to lasting recovery.

Learn more about your treatment options at California Highlands Addiction Treatment Vistas by calling (888) 721-5606 to speak to an addiction treatment specialist. Addiction may be a chronic disease, but you don’t have to go through it on your own.