Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Learn more about getting help for alcohol addiction

If you are asking yourself, “Am I an alcoholic?”, you are likely struggling with some degree of alcohol use. The signs of alcoholism include an inability to control your drinking, withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop drinking, and continued cravings to drink even when it negatively affects your life. 

If you have a problem with alcohol, there are many treatment programs available to help. With some assistance, you can achieve sobriety and sustain it for life.

What is Alcohol?

Alcohol is produced when yeast ferments (breaks down without oxygen) the sugars in various foods. For instance, wine is the result of sugar in grapes, and vodka is made from the sugar in potatoes.

Alcohol is categorized as a “sedative-hypnotic” drug. In other words, it acts as a depressant to the central nervous system at high doses. At lower doses, alcohol can act as a stimulant, creating temporary feelings of euphoria and talkativeness. However, over drinking can cause drowsiness, respiratory depression (where breathing becomes slow, shallow, or stops entirely), coma, or even death.

How is Alcohol Taken?

Alcohol is consumed through a variety of different beverages that can include wine, beer, and spirits. When it comes to beer, the alcohol content varies from as little as 2 percent to as much as 8 percent. Wines can contain anywhere from 8 to 14 percent alcohol content. Hard liquor, such as vodka, rum, and tequila, generally contain between 40 and 50 percent alcohol.

The History of Alcohol

Alcohol can be dated back to civilizations from all around the world. Fermented beverages can be dated back to Egyptian civilization. There’s even evidence of an early alcoholic drink being produced in China around 7000 B.C. In India, an alcoholic beverage by the name of sura, distilled from rice, was in use between 3000 and 2000 B.C.

Moving into Greece, one of the first alcoholic beverages to gain popularity was mead, a fermented drink made from honey and water. Several Native American civilizations produced alcoholic beverages in pre-Columbian times. There are countless collections of information regarding the creation of alcohol in earlier centuries.

Causes of Alcohol Abuse

No single situation or condition is necessary or sufficient to result in the development of an alcohol use disorder in any person. Instead, a combination of these factors probably triggers alcohol abuse in different people.

It is believed that the cause of any addiction is multifactorial. It includes influences from the following:

  • Genetic makeup
  • Upbringing
  • Peer relations
  • Personal experiences, particularly experiences with alcohol, trauma, or stressful conditions
  • Learning

Consequences of Alcohol Abuse on a Person

Even if consumed in light to moderate amounts, drinking is associated with many health risks. The more alcohol you consume, the greater the risks to your health. For a man, heavy alcohol use is defined as more than 4 drinks a day and more than 14 to 15 drinks per week. For a woman, heavy drinking is more than 3 drinks per day or more than 7 to 8 in a week.

Heavy and even moderate alcohol use is associated with an increased risk to develop the following:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Gastrointestinal issues, such as ulcers
  • Neurological disorders, such as dementia
  • Numerous types of cancer
  • Many different infectious diseases due to a weakened immune system and/or engaging in risky behaviors
  • Injuries due to serious accidents
  • Developmental difficulties in the children of women drank alcohol when they were pregnant
  • Lower levels of life achievement and life satisfaction
  • An increased risk of being diagnosed with an additional mental health disorder like depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorder, and others

Alcohol Effects on Mood

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Alcohol has different effects on mood, depending on the person and the amount consumed. Effects on mood range from a temporary confidence boost to depression and feelings of sadness. Small amounts of alcohol are drunk to lessen feelings of tension, alleviate feelings of anxiety, and to experience temporary relief/euphoria. 

The anxiety-suppressing effect of alcohol is largely due to the function of muscle relaxation and the removal of self-consciousness. Shy people may become more extroverted or bold; well-behaved people become disorderly; the normally calm person becomes verbally or physically aggressive. Alcohol can produce effects on one’s mood that they didn’t expect to feel. The real effect of alcohol consumption negatively impacts sleep patterns, depression, and the risk of suicide.

Short Term Health Effects of Alcohol

In the beginning, the person consuming alcohol may feel relaxed, uninhibited, or giddy. As they consume more alcohol, intoxication can occur. Some signs of intoxication can include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Clumsiness
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Distortion of senses and perception
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Lapses in memory

One of the reasons that alcohol is so dangerous is the risk of getting alcohol poisoning from drinking too much. When the amount of alcohol in the blood exceeds a certain level, this can lead to alcohol toxicity, otherwise known as poisoning. This has many serious consequences.

Signs of alcohol poisoning may include:

  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing
  • Blue tint to the skin
  • Low body temperature
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma

Long Term Health Effects of Alcohol

Did you know that about 88,000 people in the US die from alcohol-related causes every year? Long term effects of alcohol are not only dangerous but can also be fatal.

Some of these health consequences include:

  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cardiomyopathy, or damage to the heart muscle
  • Other cardiovascular problems
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Cancer
  • Immune system dysfunction
  • Osteoporosis
  • Brain and nerve damage
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression

Alcohol impacts every system in the body, which can cause serious health problems throughout the body. Studies have shown that women who drink more alcohol than is recommended regularly are at greater risk of developing liver disease, cardiomyopathy, and nerve damage after fewer years than men who do the same.

Consequences of Alcohol Abuse on Relationships

How Alcohol Abuse Affects Families

Alcohol addiction and abuse can cause chaos in an individual’s family life. Studies have shown that families struggling with alcoholism are more likely to have low levels of emotional bonding, expressiveness, and independence. Furthermore, couples that include at least one alcoholic have more negative interactions than couples that aren’t impacted by alcohol addiction, as stated by research from the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions.

Relationships can become severely broken through alcohol abuse. Trust is the core component of any relationship. Alcoholism breaks trust between two people that takes a long time to recover. Individuals struggling with alcoholism are often in denial about their disease, so they can’t even come to terms with their behavior. This puts a huge dent in the family dynamic. 

How Alcohol Abuse Affects Finances

Addiction is a costly disease. Depending on what kind of alcohol a person drinks and how much they consume, an addicted individual may spend between $300 and $1,000 on alcohol each month. That’s money that can be going towards savings or much more important matters. Indirect costs of alcoholism can include arrests, court fees, and the overall price you pay for unlawful activity. 

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

It takes time for alcohol to leave your system. On average, it takes about one hour for the body to eliminate one standard drink. Individuals who have a higher tolerance to alcohol, such as people with alcohol addiction, may eliminate alcohol more quickly

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Blood?

Alcohol can stay in the bloodstream for up to 8 hours.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Urine?

Alcohol can stay in urine for about 12 to 80 hours.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Hair? 

Alcohol can remain in the hair for up to 90 days.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Breath?

Alcohol remains in saliva for up to 24 hours.

What Factors Affect Alcohol Being Processed? 

How Does Weight Affect Alcohol Abuse?

Like other drugs and medications, an individual’s weight can impact how alcohol is processed. A person who is a lighter weight or who has a smaller body frame will be affected by less alcohol at a quicker rate than someone larger. 

How Does Gender Affect Alcohol Abuse?


Although this doesn’t apply to each individual, alcohol generally stays in a woman’s system for longer than a man’s. This is due to women having a higher percentage of body fat and a lower percentage of body water than men.

How Does Age Affect Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol stays in the liver longer the older an individual is. Blood flow is generally slower, and an older person may be more likely to be taking medication that impacts the liver. These factors cause alcohol to be processed at a slower rate, which can increase the amount of alcohol absorbed into the body.

How Does Food Affect Alcohol Abuse?

Since alcohol is absorbed into the digestive tract, the presence of food in the stomach has a massive impact on the absorption rate of alcohol. Having a full stomach can slow down absorption, thus requiring more alcohol to become intoxicated.

Alcohol Abuse Symptoms and Signs of Addiction

The formal diagnosis of any substance use disorder can only be made by a professional mental health clinician or medical doctor. If you are concerned that you might be struggling with alcoholism, you should consult with your physician or a mental health clinician. Our recovery center offers top-of-the-line medical care to evaluate and treat individuals struggling with alcohol use disorders.

You may have an alcohol abuse issue if you notice two or more of these signs:

  • Your use of alcohol is affecting your ability to function normally.
  • Your drinking is frequently causing you significant distress.
  • You have trouble controlling your drinking, such that you often drink more than you intended to when you first started drinking.
  • You have made frequent attempts to stop or cut down on your use of alcohol but have been unable to do so.
  • You often drink alcohol in situations where it is dangerous to do so.
  • Your use of alcohol has caused you significant problems at work, at school, in your relationships, or other areas of your life.
  • You have given up activities that you used to enjoy in favor of drinking.
  • You have significant cravings for alcohol.
  • You continue to drink even though you recognize it is causing you problems with your physical or emotional health.
  • You have developed significant tolerance to the effects of alcohol, such that you need more alcohol to get the effects you once achieved with lower amounts.
  • You develop withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking.

What is the Next Step to Stop Alcohol Abuse?

Intervention for Alcohol Abuse

An intervention for alcohol abuse is generally done by relatives and friends. The goal is to present their loved ones with the opportunity to accept their problem and make changes before the issue worsens. An intervention can help:

  • Loved ones offer examples of how alcoholism has been destructive in the individual’s and family’s life.
  • Allow concerned loved ones to explain a course of treatment they think will work best.
  • Show an alcohol-dependent individual the negative consequences of their actions if they choose to continue alcohol use.

Alcohol Withdrawal and Detox

What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal?

A tell-tale sign of alcohol dependence is experiencing alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal can be described by the changes the body goes through after a person suddenly stops drinking after long-term alcohol use. Through continued use, both the body and the brain become dependent on drinking frequency and patterns. 

When you quit drinking cold-turkey, your body is deprived of the effects of alcohol and needs time to adjust to functioning without it. The period when your body is adjusting without alcohol causes the uncomfortable side effects of alcohol withdrawal like insomnia, nausea, and anxiety.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline and Duration

The exact timeline of a recovering individual’s withdrawal timeline will vary based on the severity of the addiction. However, alcohol withdrawal symptoms generally follow this timeline:

Six to 12 hours post-ingestion

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Shaking
  • Nausea and vomiting

12 to 24 hours post-ingestion

  • Disorientation
  • Hand tremors
  • Seizures

48 hours post-ingestion

  • Seizures
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Tactile, auditory, and visual hallucinations
  • High fever and excessive sweating
  • Delirium tremens

Medical Detox for Alcohol

If you are starting treatment for alcohol abuse, you will most likely be supervised by a physician in the early stages of your recovery. If you have a moderate or severe alcohol use disorder, you may be placed in a medical detox program. This is because withdrawal from alcohol can be potentially fatal due to the development of delirium tremens (a combination of confusion, psychosis, and seizures that can occur during withdrawal associated with severe alcoholism) or seizures alone. 

Physician-assisted detox programs most often rely on the use of benzodiazepines, administered on a tapering schedule, to control these potentially fatal events. Other medications can also be used as needed.

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

The treatment approach for anyone who is diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder is to first determine the severity of their alcohol abuse. If they are using any other drugs in conjunction with alcohol, and if they have any other diagnosable forms of mental illness. This determination is made as a result of a thorough assessment of the person’s functioning.

The results of the assessment should be used to develop an individualized treatment plan that focuses on integrating the principles of effective substance use disorder treatment with a person’s situation and needs.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

Co-occurring conditions are when recovering individuals experience a mental health disorder alongside an addiction. In this case, dual diagnosis treatment will be required for successful addiction recovery. Addiction often has underlying mental and emotional roots.

Dual diagnosis treatment will include evidence-based methods such as therapy to specifically target the mental health disorder. Mental health disorders can include anything from depression and anxiety to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Inpatient Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

Inpatient treatment, otherwise known residential treatment, offers the most intensive level of care at our recovery center. The length of treatment typically runs anywhere from 28 to 90 days. Each recovering individual must live at our center during treatment. Treatment will consist of a daily structured routine that incorporates a variety of evidence-based therapies. Recovering individuals also have full access to all of our amenities. Those suffering from severe alcohol addiction will benefit the most from residential treatment. 

Outpatient Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

Outpatient treatment for alcohol is ideal for those with obligations such as caring for a child or attending school. We’ll create a schedule tailored to your needs so you can attend treatment and still take care of your responsibilities. 

There are three main types of outpatient programs: partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), as well as standard outpatient programs. All vary in terms of the time and commitment required. The main difference between any of these programs and residential treatment is that the recovering individual can return home after treatment. 

Therapy for Alcohol Abuse

The exact combination of therapies for alcohol abuse will be determined after assessing each unique individual. Therapy will consist of individual, group, and family sessions. These are all evidence-based methods that focus on a different set of issues. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This therapy was created specifically to prevent relapse for people struggling with alcoholism. The focal point of this form of therapy is centered around understanding patterns in thoughts and behavior, as well as creating a toolkit of healthy coping mechanisms. 

Contingency Management: Similar to CBT, Contingency Management consists of understanding personal patterns and forming coping mechanisms that prevent relapse. However, contingency management rewards the individual with items such as vouchers, to reinforce positive behavioral changes.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy: This method of therapy begins with an initial session with several questions, evaluation of personal or behavioral issues that have been caused by alcoholism, and accompanying therapy sessions that build a plan long after treatment is over.

Life-Long Recovery from Alcohol

In addition to the use of medication, behavioral intervention strategies are crucial to recovery. These strategies include substance use disorder therapy (usually cognitive behavioral therapy performed in both individual and group sessions), peer support group participation (such as Alcoholics Anonymous meetings), and other interventions.

Following the completion of a treatment program, you would be expected to remain in recovery-related activities for many years as you remain abstinent from alcohol. Continued participation in sober and supportive activities, such as support group meetings, increases the likelihood of sustained recovery.

Sober Living 

Sober living homes are group homes that are substance-free for recovering individuals. They operate like a co-op, where you maintain the home by contributing to the upkeep of the house by paying rent and doing chores.

AA Meetings

Alcoholics Anonymous meetings centered around the belief of a Higher Power. These meetings have a 12-step approach that focuses on providing a supportive and helpful community during the addiction recovery process. In this environment, recovering individuals have the opportunity to give and get support.  

NA Meetings

NA meetings are open to individuals suffering from all kinds of drug addictions. NA meetings help these drug-dependent individuals receive support in a motivating environment, similar to AA meetings. NA meetings also have the same 12-step approach and faith-based model as Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Smart Recovery Meetings

SMART Recovery Meetings provide a more scientific-based approach compared to AA and NA recovery meetings. SMART Recovery Meetings provide behavioral therapy and counseling. SMART Recovery Meetings are not centered around the belief in a Higher Power. 

Seek Help For Alcohol Addiction Today!

At Footprints Recovery, we’re here to guide you throughout the entire addiction recovery process. We believe that each member of our facility deserves a personalized approach, with their needs being put first. 

Alcohol addiction can be conquered if you take that first step forward in seeking help. You have the power to regain control of your life.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re waiting for your call! 

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