Alcoholism (now called Alcohol Use Disorder) is diagnosed when patients are unable to stop drinking despite consequences stemming from alcohol use like organ damage, legal issues, job loss or relationship conflict. Alcoholism is not defined by how much or how often someone drinks.
Alcohol Abuse vs. Alcoholism
|Severity||Lower (answer yes to 2-3 questions in the assessment)||Highest (answer yes to 6+ questions in the assessment)|
|Dependence||Not necessary physical dependent||Physical Addiction, Causes Withdrawal|
|Frequency||Not necessary daily drinking||Usually daily drinking or long binges|
|Treatment||Outpatient treatment can be successful||Requires medical detox, inpatient rehab|
Alcohol Abuse vs Dependence
- Alcohol dependence – the brain requires alcohol to function. Serious withdrawal symptoms start if alcohol is stopped. Usually means daily drinking and an alcoholism diagnosis.
- Alcohol Abuse – Not all who abuse alcohol are dependent. For example, someone who binge drinks only on weekends struggles with alcohol abuse but is not alcohol dependent.
Causes of Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a disease of the brain. There is not one singular cause, but many factors that contribute to the development of addictions.
The most important risk factors for alcoholism are:
- Genetics: 40-60% of the cause of alcoholism is attributed to genetics. Specific genes have been identified, including alcoholism metabolizers ADH1B and ALDH2 that have the strongest correlation.
- Social: Family and cultural views on alcohol play a role, since the earlier drinking is started, the more likely alcoholism is to develop.
- Mental Health: People with trauma, high stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions are more vulnerable to developing alcoholism.
There aren’t many physical warning signs before damage from alcoholism becomes permanent. Prior to a serious diagnosis, much of the damage is reversible. Stopping drinking will always improve the outcome.
- Age: The average age people have their first drink of alcohol is 17.6. Those who drink before age 15 are more likely to develop alcohol dependence later on in life. The average age for patients seeking alcohol here in 2021 is 35 and ranges from 18 to 65.
More Alcoholism Statistics
There is currently no cure for alcoholism, but the disease can be successfully treated. Living in remission from alcoholism is called addiction recovery.
Recommended treatment timeline:
- Medical Detox (3-10 days): Since cold-turkey alcohol withdrawal can be deadly, vitals and well-being are monitored by a combination of medical professionals to avoid complications.
- Inpatient Rehab (~30 days): Between therapy sessions and medical support, there’s time for reflection and building a support network while away from triggers and temptation.
- Intensive Outpatient Program (45+ days): Addresses the same issues as inpatient rehab but while you live at home without 24/7 supervision.
- Sober living: A house specifically for those coming from rehab to give the ideal blend between treatment and the “real world.”
Three most proven types of therapies for alcoholism:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): Focused on identifying and changing thoughts and emotions to change your behaviour using reasoning.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Focused on changing behavior patterns, as opposed to thinking or talking through issues.
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT): Focused on ways to find peace in a current moment rather than negative thinking about the past or future.
More than 70% of JourneyPure patients struggle with at least one other underlying issue.
Most commonly co-occurring diagnoses are: depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, social isolation, chronic pain and trauma.
Therapies at rehab and IOP must also identify and treat all underlying issues to be successful. This is where many other treatment centers fall short.
Medication for Alcoholism
The following medications are FDA-approved specifically for alcoholism:
- Naltrexone (Vivitrol) is almost always the first choice, and can be given in the form of a monthly shot to ensure compliance.
- Acamprosate (Campral) reduces symptoms of long-lasting withdrawal and cravings, such as insomnia, anxiety, restlessness and generally feeling unwell. It must be taken three times a day.
- Disulfiram (Antabuse) interferes with the body’s ability to absorb alcohol. Instead of feeling “good”, alcohol will cause unpleasant reactions such as nausea and possibly be dangerous. Those who have shown the ability to stay sober for an extended period with recent relapse are ideal candidates.
- Topiramate (Topamax, Qudexy) is an FDA-approved medication for seizures used “off label” to also reduce alcohol cravings due to initial promising research.
Alcoholism Treatment Centers
Highlighted here are JourneyPure alcohol treatment centers in Tennessee and Kentucky that treat people from across the south and midwest.
People travel from across the country to get help at our flagship Tennessee rehab.
Get your happiness back at the top alcohol treatment center in Kentucky.
“You don’t have to pretend to be okay anymore. The Lexington center supported me with compassion.”
“All you have to do is open your mind and be willing to get some help. The Louisville center is the real deal.”
“I walked into to the Elizabethtown center an anxiety-ridden person. I walked out free from anxiety and addiction.”
“I went to the Nashville rehab clinic not believing I could stay sober, but wanting to feel happy. It worked.”
“If you’re looking for alcohol treatment that is in-network and actually works, that’s what they do here.”
“There are quality options for low-income individuals and private health insurance within an hour of Hamilton county.”
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