Why Do Alcoholics Drink?

Why Do Alcoholics Drink?

People who drink moderately may be able to say no to alcohol. They may go days, weeks, months, or even years between having a drink.

However, an individual who struggles with drinking may find it hard to avoid alcohol consumption. They may drink alcohol compulsively every day.

When someone suffers from alcohol addiction, drinking becomes a major part of their life, even if they want to stop drinking. This can lead some people to question why those with an alcohol use disorder drink.

There is no simple answer to why alcoholics drink. It varies depending on the individual, and there are many possible answers. 

Some people are more susceptible to addiction genetically. Others may experience mental health disorders and are more likely to self-medicate with alcohol. Some individuals may fall into bad habits easily.

Alcohol addiction is not a one-size-fits-all condition. Alcoholics begin drinking for various reasons. However, alcoholics generally continue to drink because they develop alcohol dependence and become physically addicted to it.

Physical Factors of Alcoholism

Here are some of the physical factors of alcoholism:

Intense Alcohol Cravings

As people develop alcohol dependence, it is normal to experience urges or cravings for alcohol. This refers to a wide range of thoughts, physical sensations, or emotions that push you to drink, even if you do not want to.

Those with intense cravings may experience an uncomfortable pull in two directions or sense a loss of control when it comes to alcohol.

Drinking to Prevent Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol addiction is a diagnosable brain disease. It is characterized by a specific set of symptoms. It is also a chronic, relapsing disease.

This means that while recovery is possible, a recovering alcoholic must work hard to beat the disease.

Recovering alcoholics often experience challenging withdrawal symptoms that make it easy to relapse. In many cases, those suffering from alcoholism relapse to prevent alcohol withdrawal symptoms. 

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

A more severe form of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens can lead to:

Neurological Factors of Alcoholism

Here are some of the neurological factors of alcoholism:

How Alcohol Changes Your Brain 

With time, consistent drinking can change the brain. The brain can end up responding differently to the outside world than it usually would. 

One of the parts of the brain known to adjust from long-term drinking is the prefrontal-striatal-limbic circuit. This area of the brain controls emotions, decision-making, and stress. It can be affected following long-term drinking.

Alcohol abuse can also adversely affect the ventral striatum part of the brain. The feel-good chemical dopamine stops working well in this part of the brain.

People with drinking problems also have fewer brain cells than usual in the prefrontal cortex and orbitofrontal cortex part of the brain. This is the area of the brain responsible for decision-making.

Specific Chemical Imbalances in the Brain

The neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals, of people struggling with heavy drinking, can differ from other peoples. Drinking alcohol causes a change in the way certain brain chemicals function, leading to imbalances.

Drinking particularly affects gamma-aminobutyric, otherwise known as GABA. Alcohol consumption depresses the central nervous system by increasing the levels of GABA.

Heavy drinking also affects the glutamate chemical. Alcohol consumption suppresses the levels of the chemical, which stimulates the central nervous system (CNS) under usual circumstances. As a result, the central nervous system is further depressed.

Dopamine is another chemical that is affected by heavy drinking patterns. This chemical is part of the brain’s reward system. It is triggered by alcohol consumption, leading to a feel-good state and a desire to continue drinking.

Drinking alcohol also increases the level of serotonin. This chemical links to a sense of well-being and a good mood. 

With consistent drinking, the brain becomes used to chemical imbalances. As a result, individuals need to consume larger amounts of alcohol more frequently to reach the same good mood and sense of well-being they once experienced.

With ongoing heavy drinking, the brain continues to adjust to alcohol. When someone has an alcohol tolerance, they can experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they are not drinking because their brain chemistry has changed.

Emotional Factors of Alcoholism

Here are some of the emotional factors of alcoholism:

Drinking to Suppress Negative Emotions 

Some people turn to drink as a coping mechanism to help them deal with a difficult situation.

Unfortunately, drinking alcohol is a coping mechanism in which the long-term adverse effects significantly outweigh the temporary benefits.

These negative effects include but are not limited to:

People may use alcohol to deal with:

Drinking to Cope with Stress

Many people deal with stress by turning to alcohol. Drinking alcohol may result in temporary positive feelings and relaxation. 

However, problems usually occur when stress is ongoing, and someone tries to deal with it by consuming more alcohol.

Drinking to Numb Mental Health Issues

Some people use alcohol to manage symptoms of a mental health issue. This is known as ‘self-medicating.’ Individuals may be aware that they have a mental health problem but do not know a healthier way to cope with it and turn to alcohol instead.

Someone may also have an undiagnosed mental health issue and use alcohol to try to deal with it. During the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns and economic issues, many people ended up self-medicating mental health issues arising from the spread of the virus.

While self-medicating mental health issues may provide some relief in the short-term, it only worsens problems in the long-term. Regular self-medication can lead to alcohol addiction, a worsening of mental health disorders, and increased health problems.

Other Risk Factors of Alcoholism

Other risk factors may increase your risk for developing an alcohol substance abuse disorder. 

Some known risk factors include:

Can Alcoholism Go Away on its Own?

In most cases, alcoholism does not go away on its own. However, though there is no easy ‘cure’ for an alcohol use disorder, the condition is treatable. 

Ongoing treatment from healthcare providers and continued recovery efforts can help manage an alcohol use disorder and prevent relapse.

Can Alcoholism be Prevented? 

Yes, alcoholism can be prevented. Preventing alcohol addiction starts with you. If you worry that you are becoming a problem drinker, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of alcohol addiction.

First, recognize your triggers. What triggers your alcohol consumption? 

Is it a specific time of day? Or do you desire a drink after a hard day at work? Understanding what actions, emotions, or people encourage you to drink helps you determine ways to limit your alcohol consumption or avoid drinking altogether.

It is also essential to surround yourself with a reliable, positive social network of friends and family where alcohol is not a significant factor. Spend time with positive people who make you feel good about yourself and do not pressure or encourage you to drink.

Discovering new hobbies, making new friends at social events, and finding people and activities that make you happy may help you limit your alcohol consumption and prevent addiction.

Getting Help for Alcoholics (Treatment Options)

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, there are various addiction treatment options available. Reaching sobriety is entirely possible, no matter how long or how much you have been drinking.

There are several initial first steps when it comes to recovering from substance use disorders like alcohol addiction. These include:

These steps must be taken for long-term sobriety. Recovering alcoholics may also find additional treatment options like support groups helpful.

Alcohol Substitutes

Healthy Alcohol Substitutes: How to ‘Wind Down’ Without The Risks of Alcohol 

You might want to find a non-alcoholic alternative if you’re accustomed to drinking heavily or using alcohol as a relaxation tool. Moderate alcohol consumption is assumed safe for most people, but too much or too frequent drinking poses a variety of health problems.

But if cocktails after work are a habit or your social circle often enjoys beers together, what can you do to fill the gap?

Alcohol alternatives are an option. Non-alcoholic beverages allow you to enjoy the social aspects of drinking without any of the physical effects of alcohol. And finding other ways to manage stress and wind down without a drink allows you to give up or cut back on drinking and barely notice a chance.

Risks of Long-Term Alcohol Use

If you only drink alcohol occasionally, the risks of drinking might never cross your mind. But if you’re a long-term drinker, you’re someone with a health reason for giving up alcohol, or you’re a heavy drinker and you want to change, it’s important to know the risks of long-term alcohol use.

Long-term heavy use of alcohol damages your body’s organs, including your:

  • Liver
  • Brain
  • Pancreas
  • Kidneys
  • Heart
  • Stomach

How much damage heavy drinking causes varies from person to person. Some people can drink heavily all their lives and never develop any serious health problems. Some develop an addiction to alcohol. Others never develop an addiction but their health is damaged.

Too much alcohol, especially over many years, negatively impacts just about anyone who engages in the behavior. There are both negative physical and mental health effects.

Alcohol Substitutes in Social Settings

One of the most popular options for giving up alcohol without sacrificing your social life is to switch to non-alcoholic substitutes. These drinks look like regular alcoholic cocktails, so nobody even questions whether you are drinking or not. For example:

Non-Alcoholic Sparkling Drinks

Mixing sparkling water with juices, fruit concentrates, or bitters is a great way to mimic the experience of drinking alcohol without any of the effects.

Club Soda

Club soda is an ingredient in many alcoholic cocktails. Order it with a twist of lime and nobody but you will know you are drinking something non-alcoholic.

“Mocktails”

Mocktails are copycat recipes of regular alcoholic cocktails without the alcohol. Sometimes mocktails are called “virgin” drinks. You can order many drinks this way, including virgin daiquiris and margaritas. Some establishments also offer their own mocktail recipes that utilize all of the same ingredients in cocktails without alcohol.

Alcohol Substitutes at Home

Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented beverage made from black or green tea that provides many health benefits. Most people drink it because it offers benefits for gut health, but it also makes a great cocktail substitute. 

It’s lightly effervescent, can be put over ice, mixes well with a variety of fruits, and in some cases, provides the slightest buzz. Some kombuchas include an alcohol disclaimer on their label.

Zero Alcohol Spirits

Shrubs are made from vinegar and are a great zero-alcohol spirit. Some bars and restaurants offer a menu of shrub non-alcoholic drinks just as they would alcohol cocktails. You can also buy zero-alcohol spirits for drinking at home. Some brands include:

  • Seedlip
  • Kin Euphorics
  • Abstinence
  • Arkay
  • Lyre’s
  • MeMento
  • Proteau
  • Ritual
  • Sanbitter

Alcohol-Free Wine & Beer

In addition to giving you an alcohol-free alternative, non-alcoholic wine and beer offer a variety of other benefits, including:

Non-alcohol drinks offer many of the same benefits you get from an occasional glass of wine or beer without the alcohol content.

Some of the best brands of non-alcohol or low-alcohol beers include:

Some of the best brands of non-alcoholic or low-alcohol wines include:

Healthy Lifestyle Changes to Drink Less

Lifestyle changes help you change your drinking habits for several reasons. In addition to providing an alternative activity to drinking, these activities also help you better manage stress and improve your overall health. 

If you are ready to make lifestyle changes to help you drink less, you might want to:

Establish an Exercise Routine

Going to the gym instead of happy hour after work is a great way to reduce drinking. Not only does this occupy the time you would otherwise spend drinking, but it also helps improve your overall health. It also helps you change your frame of mind about fitness and drinking. 

Many people find that once they commit to an exercise program that helps them lose weight, they no longer want to ingest the empty calories of alcohol.

Eat a Healthier Diet

Similar to establishing a fitness routine, making dietary changes alters your perspective on drinking. When your focus is putting healthier foods in your body, you’re less likely to want to drink high-sugar beverages like alcohol.

Participate in Alcohol-Free Activities

There are endless things you can do that have nothing to do with drinking. Sometimes, the best way to reduce alcohol consumption is to just do something else. Some of the most popular alcohol-free activities include:

  • Sports
  • Hiking
  • Crafting
  • Antiquing
  • Games

If you like some of the social aspects of drinking, but you don’t want to drink alcohol, consider substituting a different beverage that also has the “ritual” behavior that many enjoy while drinking. For example, meeting a friend for high tea gives you the feeling of a special occasion without alcohol.

Meditation & Deep Breathing 

If you use alcohol to help you relax, you have plenty of other options. Learning to meditate is a great way to get the same relaxation naturally as you do from alcohol. If you aren’t ready for full-blown meditation, start with deep breathing exercises.

Get Enough Sleep

Many people feel less-than-their-best because they are sleep-deprived and don’t even realize it. This is especially true if heading to the bar is a habit several times a week. 

If you want to reduce alcohol consumption and increase sleep (and get better sleep), commit to getting to bed by a certain time most nights a week.

Therapy (Learn How to Reduce Self-Critical Behaviors)

If you drink to deal with self-esteem issues or to feel better in awkward social situations, therapy can help you reduce negative thinking and improve how you feel without alcohol.

Tips: How to Avoid Drinking Too Much Alcohol

If you believe you are drinking too much, you can cut back without eliminating alcohol forever. 

If you want to limit drinking, consider:

Treatment for Alcohol Misuse & Addiction

If you try to limit alcohol consumption (or stop entirely) and are unsuccessful, treatment is an option. Many people recognize they need treatment when their attempts to stop drinking on their own do not work. For some, the decision to seek treatment comes after loved ones speak to them about a problem.

There’s no single factor that applies to everyone when it comes to needing addiction treatment, but if you’re considering treatment, it’s likely worth pursuing. 

If alcohol use has interfered with your everyday life, if you find yourself prioritizing alcohol over other things in your life that were once important, or if you failed at changing your drinking habits, treatment can help.

Alcohol misuse and addiction treatment is available in a variety of forms, including:

Alcoholism Kills

What is Alcohol (Ethanol)?

Alcohol, also known as ethanol, ethyl alcohol, and grain alcohol, is a clear, colorless liquid. It is the principal intoxicating ingredient of alcoholic beverages such as wine, beer, and distilled spirits. 

In addition to alcoholic drinks, ethanol is used in a variety of other ways as well. It is a common ingredient in hand sanitizers and disinfectants due to its efficacy in killing microorganisms. 

Nearly all gasoline in the United States contains ethanol, typically in a mixture made up of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline.

Historically, alcohol has been consumed in line with social activities and gatherings. It has also been used in religious and non-religious rituals, in foods, and as a form of medicine. Alcohol consumption in cultures around the world predates all of written history. 

Although previously used for therapeutic purposes, this is no longer the case in most of the world due to its intoxication effects. Ingesting alcohol ultimately leads to the substance entering the bloodstream and affecting the brain. 

Ethanol’s chemical structure and solubility in water produces intoxicating effects when it comes in contact with some areas of the brain.

Side Effects & Risks of Drinking Alcohol

There are numerous side effects and risks that come with drinking alcohol. 

Depending on factors such as the amount of alcohol ingested, the length of time between drinks, and the physical condition, alcohol can directly cause:

In addition to these short-term effects, there are many more long-term side effects and risks associated with consuming alcohol.

Continued use and misuse of alcohol can lead to various health problems, including:

Is Alcohol The Deadliest Drug of All?

Alcohol is one of the deadliest drugs in the world, if not the deadliest of them all. While some studies list alcohol behind tobacco as the second most lethal drug, there are reputable reports from respected institutions that claim alcohol is in fact the deadliest drug of all. 

Alcohol is three times more harmful than cocaine or tobacco, and, depending on the study cited, kills more people than all drugs combined. 

A big part of why alcohol is so deadly is that it also greatly harms those that have not ingested it. Alcohol can lead to the death of innocent bystanders through impaired driving and other accidents. It also plays a significant role in violent altercations, as more than 40% of violent crimes involve alcohol in the United States. 

Why is Alcohol So Deadly?

There are many reasons why alcohol is so deadly. Alcohol is easy to obtain, easy to use, and directly causes a variety of diseases when misused. 

Even light to moderate drinkers are at an increased risk of developing at least seven different types of cancer. Alcohol can be a direct cause of: 

  • Breast cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Throat cancer
  • Other types of cancer (to a lesser degree)

It is also a major cause of fatty liver disease, cirrhosis of the liver, and alcohol hepatitis.

Alcohol poisoning, also known as an alcohol overdose, can be common, especially in younger people. As little as one night of binge drinking can result in drinking more than the liver and body can handle. This can become deadly if not treated swiftly and properly. 

Likewise, even though alcohol is the deadliest drug, it is legal in the United States and many other countries globally. Legal substances can cause just as much damage, or even more, than illegal substances.

This may be because of how easy it is to reach alcohol. Most people do not even consider alcohol a drug because of its acceptance and accessibility in our society.

Lastly, secondhand events that stem from alcohol are potentially as problematic and deadly as the examples listed above. Car accidents caused by driving under the influence (DUI) are a major cause of preventable accidental deaths worldwide.

Drunken injuries, toxic relationships, and property destruction can all have deadly outcomes fueled by alcohol.

Alcohol-Related Deaths Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol use is responsible for more than 95,000 deaths in the United States each year. This equates to 261 deaths per day, which is more than all other drugs combined. 

More than half of all alcohol-related deaths are attributable to drinking too much over time. Many of these deaths come in the form of cancer, liver disease, and heart disease directly caused by alcohol consumption. 

However, the short-term effects of consuming large amounts of alcohol over a short period are almost as deadly. This accounts for deaths due to alcohol overdose, poisoning from mixing alcohol with other harmful substances (drug overdoses), suicide, and vehicle crashes involving an intoxicated driver.

CDC’s alcohol-attributable deaths showed that more than 70% involved men and more than 80% involved adults aged 35 or older. Alcohol-related death rates varied across the country, from 21 per 100,000 residents in New York and New Jersey to 53 per 100,000 residents in New Mexico.

How to Prevent Alcohol-Related Deaths

Given that the most common form of preventable death is due to alcohol, there are many ways prevention can occur. There are actions that individuals can do to ensure these deaths are prevented and actions and plans from states and communities. 

Actions that you can take include:

Actions at the state or community level that can be done include:

Treatment Options for Alcohol Addiction

Fortunately, there are numerous options for alcohol addiction, regardless of your location or the severity of your addiction. The first step in treating any alcohol addiction is to undergo a detox to rid the body of this harmful substance. 

If you have a physical dependence on alcohol, a medically supervised detox is likely necessary. This is for safety and efficacy, as professionals can treat the harmful withdrawal effects that accompany the removal of alcohol from a body that has become dependent on it. 

After detox, you may want to explore whether an inpatient or outpatient treatment program would be best. Additionally, many people benefit from attending 12-step programs to treat the root causes of addiction. 

If you or a loved one is suffering from alcohol addiction, reach out to your doctor or healthcare provider to discuss your treatment options.

How to Quit Drinking Alcohol on Your Own

How to Quit Drinking Alcohol on Your Own

Quitting drinking can be challenging, regardless of how often you consume it. 

For some, it is difficult to give up alcohol in certain social settings, even if drinking leads to feelings of depression or guilt afterwards. For others, alcohol has become such an ingrained part of everyday life that physical dependence is developed. 

While everybody’s relationship to alcohol is different, there are things that can be done to help overcome alcohol use disorder and quit drinking. 

Some severe cases may require medical supervision to address withdrawal symptoms, most cases of alcoholism can be overcome on your own.  

5 Self-Help Tips to Quit Drinking Alcohol on Your Own

Below are five self-help tips that may assist in quitting alcohol on your own:

1. Identify your triggers

Triggers for wanting to drink alcohol can be embedded in social situations or in response to physiological feelings. It is crucial to identify any situations or feelings that make you want to drink. 

Common triggers can include: 

2. Figure out how much you drink

Some of us may not be aware that we are overdrinking. Figuring out how much you actually drink will help determine if you have a drinking problem and improve your perspective.

It is essential to be honest with yourself when figuring out how much you drink. On a night of binge drinking, it can be easy to lose track of how much alcohol you have consumed. 

Try your best to accurately determine the amount of alcohol you are consuming over a period of time. This will help you figure out how much you drink overall. 

3. Set your drinking goals

Whether you want to quit drinking altogether or cut back, it is important to set specific goals and stay within their parameters. Being concise and having a set plan will help you to stick to your goals and not over-consume. 

Write your goals down, so you know exactly what they are. This will also help you to follow them better. Setting goals is one of the most important aspects of a smart recovery plan for any type of substance abuse.

4. Start writing in a journal

Journaling can be a great release. It has been shown that using a journal is a very helpful tool for reaching your goals. In your journal, you can keep track of how much you are actually drinking (making it harder to hide behind any potential denial). 

You can also keep track of your:

Doing this can help to keep you on the right track. It can be a useful tool to reflect upon how far you have come or what you still may need to work on. 

The simple act of writing causes us to think about our goal and helps us stick to it. It also helps with mental health, which can further assist in quitting drinking from a psychological perspective.  

5. Tell friends and family

Tell your friends and family about your goals for drinking. It can help a great deal to have their support. When you tell people about your goals, you may be more likely to stick to them. You will have others who will help to keep you accountable. 

If you tell your friends and family about your triggers, they will also be able to help you deal with or avoid them. Having people to talk to when you are struggling can make a huge difference as well. 

6. Prepare for change

The saying “what doesn't challenge you doesn't change you” holds true in this instance; reaching your goal may not be easy, but it is possible. Being prepared is critical. To change your drinking habits, you will have to alter your current mindset and lifestyle. It is vital to have a game plan for how you will avoid or cope with potential triggers. 

You will need to make reaching your goal a priority, whether it involves one significant change or a series of small changes over time. Deciding to quit or cut back on drinking will likely mean there will be some lifestyle changes. If this seems scary or daunting, just remind yourself that change is good, especially when it leads to a better quality of life. 

How to Know if You’re Addicted to Alcohol

It can be hard to spot the signs of alcohol misuse. There is no exact formula to know if you are misusing alcohol. You should start by looking at the amount, frequency, and reasons you consume alcohol. 

Alcohol misuse is common yet tricky to detect. If you suspect you have a problem, it is best to begin to take steps to remedy it before it escalates into a significant issue. 

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) can range from mild to severe, which is true for alcoholism as well. Binge drinking, the act of consuming a large quantity of alcohol in a short period, is also a sign of alcohol misuse.

Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Some common signs of AUD include:

Look Out For Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

There are three potential stages that a person in withdrawal may experience:

Other Signs of Alcohol Misuse

There are several other signs of alcohol misuse, including:

Is it Safe to Quit Drinking on Your Own? 

It can be safe to quit drinking on your own in many cases, though the body can quickly become dependent on alcohol and need it to function correctly. 

A hangover is actually an acute symptom of alcohol withdrawal. If you suspect that your drinking is becoming a problem, it is imperative to try to remedy the situation before the body becomes dependent on it. 

If you want to quit drinking on your own, start by slowly cutting back on alcohol consumption. If you experience any concerning signs of alcohol withdrawal after trying to lower your alcohol intake, it is best to seek professional help. 

You are also more likely to be successful in becoming sober if you seek help from friends, family, or a support group.

Should You Quit “Cold Turkey” or Just Drink Less?

Whether you should quit “cold turkey” or just drink less will depend on the severity of your AUD. In severe cases of alcoholism, quitting “cold turkey” can cause significant trauma to the body, including death. 

If you are able to cut back on your drinking without experiencing any alarming alcohol withdrawal symptoms, you may be able to slowly wean yourself off your alcohol consumption. 

If you feel that your AUD is severe, quitting should be done with the supervision of a medical professional that can safely help the body detox. If your alcohol consumption is light to moderate, but you feel it has become a problem in any area of your life, you can usually attempt to quit cold turkey. 

People who have been misusing alcohol may be able to redirect or redefine their relationship with alcohol by merely drinking less. 

When someone with a more severe AUD decides to quit drinking, it is typically an “all-or-nothing” situation, and they will need to stay away from alcohol completely to become alcohol-free. They will not be able to simply drink less.

When You Shouldn’t Quit Drinking on Your Own

If you have alcoholism and develop severe withdrawal symptoms, professional treatment at a rehab facility is necessary. Alcohol addiction treatment for heavy drinkers or those with physical alcohol dependence should not attempt to quit drinking on their own. 

Medically supervised detox programs are essential for anyone unable to quit drinking on their own. This is typically followed by inpatient or outpatient treatment plans to address the root causes of alcohol addiction. 

Alcoholics Anonymous or other 12-step programs that involve family members and friends are also available for continued care on the road to recovery.

If you or a loved one is in need of treatment options for alcoholism caused by heavy drinking, seek immediate medical advice from a local healthcare provider.

Why Do People Become Alcoholics?

Alcoholism is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption often leads to addiction, known as alcoholism. 

Nearly 6% of American adults and 2% of American adolescents suffer from an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Around the world, over 107 million people are estimated to have an alcohol use disorder.

If someone you know or a loved one has a drinking problem, you may wonder why some people become alcoholics and others don’t.  

Numerous factors account for why some people are at a higher risk of developing alcoholism, including genetics, psychological, social, and environmental factors.

Why Do Others Not Become Alcoholics?

Some people can consume alcohol even in large amounts without developing an addiction or alcoholism. The reason that some people can drink alcohol without developing alcoholism is because of their unique biology, background, and other factors.

Developing alcoholism has nothing to do with willpower. Alcoholism is not a “bad habit”, it is a disease that can impact anyone – regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, body type, or personal beliefs.

To avoid developing alcoholism, people should consume alcohol responsibly and understand the risks of developing an alcohol use disorder.

9 Risk Factors of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

  1. Gender

Gender affects a person’s rate of problematic drinking and their likelihood of experiencing alcohol-related consequences. 

Men face inherent risks when it comes to alcohol consumption that are different from the dangers that women face. Men tend to start drinking earlier than women, which can contribute to the development of alcoholism. Men are also more likely than women to participate in binge drinking, which can lead to addiction. 

One study of people seeking alcoholism treatment showed that men also displayed problematic drinking behaviors (including regular intoxication and a loss of control over drinking) earlier than women.

While men are more likely than women to develop alcoholism, women face other alcohol consumption risks, including an earlier rate of intoxication and various health consequences. 

  1. Family History 

Alcoholism has often been described as a “family disease” because it affects the family as a whole and individually.

However, alcoholism also runs in families. It is not uncommon to have multiple members of one family who struggle with alcohol addiction. Studies show that genetics and social factors cause family members of alcoholics to be more likely to develop alcohol dependence. 

Children of alcoholics are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than others, even if they are not raised with an alcoholic parent.

  1. Genetics 

A large percentage of a person’s overall risk of developing alcoholism is due to their genetics. 

Studies show that genetics are responsible for about half of a person's risk for AUD. While researchers are still learning which genes impact alcoholism, some genes have been identified, including two genes of alcohol metabolism, ADH1B and ALDH2, that have the most substantial known effects on risk for alcoholism. 

Studies have identified other genes in which variants impact risk for alcoholism or related traits, including GABRA2, CHRM2, KCNJ6, and AUTS2.

  1. Mental Health Issues

Individuals who suffer from one or more mental illnesses are more likely to develop alcoholism. Alcoholism is a common comorbidity with mental illnesses, meaning that it is more likely to appear in patients with a mental disorder. 

Approximately one-third of alcohol users have a mental illness. 

People with mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder, are more likely to resort to alcohol and drugs to cope with mental illness symptoms. Mental disorders can be made worse by alcohol use, which perpetuates the cycle of dependency.

  1. Age 

A person’s age can influence their likelihood of developing alcoholism. Young people who begin drinking at an early age are 50% more likely to become alcohol dependent as adults than people who wait until after age 18 to start drinking.

Older adults are at an increased risk of developing alcoholism. Older individuals often develop alcoholism for the first time later in life, known as late-onset alcoholism.

  1. Impaired cognitive function 

People with cognitive impairment are at an increased risk of developing alcoholism. Impaired cognitive function can cause young people to make choices that favor immediate gratification, such as binge drinking, leading to an alcohol use disorder. 

Impaired cognitive function is one reason why teenagers often experiment with alcohol consumption and develop problematic drinking habits. In addition to the peer pressure faced by teenagers, their brain and cognitive abilities are not fully developed at such a young age, which can cause them to make impulsive decisions concerning alcohol.

  1. Environment 

A person’s environment impacts their risk of developing alcoholism. Someone who is often near alcohol is more likely to drink and develop unhealthy drinking habits, whereas individuals who are not often exposed to alcohol are more likely to abstain.  

Studies show that people who live near establishments that sell alcohol are more likely to drink.

  1. Abuse or trauma

People who have suffered abuse or trauma in childhood are more likely to engage in alcohol or substance use later in life. Many individuals who have suffered abuse turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, a habit that later develops into a full-blown addiction.

  1. Chronic Stress

People who work stressful jobs or live in stressful environments are more likely to develop alcoholism. High-stress situations make individuals more likely to turn to alcohol to cope with their stress in their daily lives. 

Chronic stress exposure leads to ongoing alcohol use and eventually addiction.

How Do You Know if You’re an Alcoholic (Signs)?

Knowing the risk factors for alcoholism helps to identify if you are more susceptible to developing the disease. To diagnose alcoholism, doctors evaluate patients using criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

The signs that you may have alcoholism include:

Even experiencing one of these symptoms of alcoholism should be a cause for concern. If you are experiencing two or more of these symptoms, you should get an evaluation from a medical professional who can diagnose whether you have an alcohol addiction.

Can You Become an Alcoholic Later in Life?

Even if someone has never had any alcohol consumption issues, they can still develop alcoholism later in life.

Alcohol use is becoming more common among older persons. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), older adults are now drinking alcohol more than ever. 

In one study of older persons aged 60 to 94 years, 62 percent of the subjects drank alcohol, and researchers reported heavy drinking in 13 percent of men and 2 percent of women.

Research has found that approximately one-third of older alcoholic persons develop a problem with alcohol in later life.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Addiction

Most people with alcohol addiction benefit from treatment. 

Unfortunately, less than 10% of alcoholics undergo any form of therapy. Receiving treatment can increase an individual’s chances of successfully overcoming AUD.

Treatment options for alcohol addiction include inpatient, outpatient, detox, or partial hospitalization treatment programs. The right treatment for an alcoholic depends on their individual needs and the severity of their addiction. 

To find alcohol addiction treatment, talk to a medical professional who can diagnose your addiction and recommend the right treatment for you.

Drinking Beer Every Day

Is it Normal to Drink Beer Every Day?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommends no more than three to four drinks per day. Other guidelines provide similar advice and acknowledge that a small amount of alcohol each day is safe.

But is it normal to drink alcohol every day? Does daily consumption of beer put your health at risk?

A daily drinking habit might be an indication of a brewing problem. People who feel the need to drink every day have a higher risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD). In some cases, daily drinking indicates AUD has already developed.

This is true even if you are not drinking to the point of severe intoxication. Some people assume that daily alcohol consumption is fine as long as they are not drunk every day. However, this isn’t the case for many people.

Alcohol affects your body and daily intake of alcohol increases your risk for certain health consequences. Drinking beer every day might not mean you are an alcoholic or that you have a problem with drinking. But in terms of your physical health, it’s a habit you likely want to curb.

If you find you are unable to drink less and not consume beer daily, the inability to break the habit could indicate a more serious problem.

What Happens to Your Body if You Drink Beer Every Day? 

Daily beer consumption affects your body in a variety of ways and causes health problems, including:

Weight Gain and Beer Belly

Beer increases caloric and carbs intake and might prevent fat burning. It also contains phytoestrogens, which may increase the risk of storing belly fat.

Increased Risk of Heart Disease

Excessive alcohol consumption causes a spike in heart rate, which is especially dangerous for people with existing heart conditions and high blood pressure

A 2018 study published in the April issue of The Lancet found that people who had 10 or more drinks per week died of cardiovascular disease one to two years earlier than people consuming five drinks or fewer per week. 

Having 18 drinks or more per week cut life expectancy by four to five years.

Damages the Liver

Excessive alcohol intake overworks the liver, which gradually damages it and leads to liver disease. Initially, it leads to cirrhosis and increased fat in your liver. Eventually, it causes liver inflammation and the accumulation of scar tissue.

Nerve Damage

Long-term excessive beer consumption can lead to alcoholic neuropathy. Nerve damage is associated with long periods of drinking too much, as well as nutritional deficiencies caused by over-drinking.

Memory Problems

Heavy alcohol consumption causes memory lapses. This can occur after one night of binge drinking. Long-term heavy drinking can also lead to permanent memory loss and dementia.

Sexual Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction has a higher prevalence in those who drink excessively.

The damage caused by daily alcohol consumption varies from person to person. The severity of the damage also varies based on your gender and other factors.

How Much Beer is Too Much? 

Guidelines exist to help people determine how much beer is healthy to consume. Unfortunately, these are general guidelines and don’t apply to everyone. 

For starters, the guidelines are intended to help otherwise healthy people with a low risk of developing a problem with alcohol. 

For men, the NIAAA recommends no more than four alcoholic beverages per day and no more than 14 per week. 

For women, the recommended amount of alcohol consumption is lower at three or fewer drinks per day and no more than seven per week.

Many medical experts believe it’s better to take a more personalized approach to alcohol consumption. The general guidelines are helpful for some people. However, as you get to know your body better and how it responds to alcohol, you might find the guidelines too liberal. 

Your threshold for alcohol consumption varies based on:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Medications
  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Drinking experience and habits

Does Beer Have Any Health Benefits?

Despite the risks someone faces as a heavy drinker, beer offers a variety of health benefits when consumed in moderation. For example:

Beer Boosts Your Daily Nutrient Intake

Beer contains more B vitamins, folate, niacin, phosphorus, and protein than wine. It offers the same amount of antioxidants as wine. It also contains fiber and prebiotics.

Beer Might Lower Risk of Diabetes

A study published in the journal European Association for the Study Diabetes determined that moderate drinkers were less likely to develop diabetes than people who never drink. 

Male beer drinkers had less than a 20 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

Beer Might Improve Heart Health

Wine is the usual choice for boosting heart health, but beer offers similar benefits. One American Heart Association study found that moderate drinkers had the slowest decline in HDL (good) cholesterol.

Beer Might Make You Smarter

Researchers from Loyola University in Chicago found that moderate drinkers had a 23 percent lower risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s. 

Some believe this is linked to beer’s ability to raise good cholesterol which is beneficial for brain health.

Beer Might Reduce Inflammation

One study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research found that hops, which are found in beer, have anti-inflammatory properties

How to Drink Less Beer 

Whether you want to reduce how much beer you’re drinking because you are concerned about addiction or solely because you want to improve your physical risks, there are several things you can do. 

For example:

Signs You Have a Drinking Problem

Recognizing when drinking beer everyday has developed into a drinking problem is challenging for some people. 

Some of the signs you have a drinking problem include:

How to Find Help for Your Alcohol Problem

If you’ve tried to cut back on drinking and you’ve been unsuccessful, it’s likely time to seek professional support. There are many treatment options available. For instance:

It doesn’t matter if you’ve developed alcohol use disorder (AUD) or you’re not sure how to reduce your alcohol consumption despite wanting to do so. There is nothing wrong with seeking treatment and feel as if you cannot control your drinking on your own.

Ways to Stop Drinking

How Do I Know if I Need to Quit Drinking Alcohol?

The easiest way to know if you need to quit drinking alcohol is to try to stop. If you are successful in limiting alcohol intake, you might not need to stop long-term. You might choose to stop drinking or curb your drinking, but if you’re able to so, it’s unlikely you have a problem with alcohol use. 

If you choose to stop drinking, most experts recommend at least a three-day alcohol sabbatical. If you experience withdrawal symptoms or your life is dramatically affected, it’s a sign you have a problem. 

Another way to determine if it’s time to cut back on or stop drinking alcohol is to assess your life. 

Self-reflection helps you determine if you are happy with the status of things or if you want to change. If your friends and family express displeasure with your alcohol consumption or your work or school life are suffering, it’s a sign of a problem. 

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) occurs when you cannot control how much you drink. It’s a brain disorder, and requires more than just willpower to overcome. However, you don’t need AUD to know that it’s time to quit drinking alcohol. For some, controlling their alcohol consumption is an important factor in avoiding AUD.

6 Ways to Stop Drinking

Here are six ways to stop drinking alcohol:

  1. Seek counseling and self-reflect to determine the reason you drink.
  2. Spend time with people who do not drink and avoid friends with whom you spend time drinking.
  3. Make it difficult to access alcohol. Get rid of alcohol in your home and avoid liquor stores and bars.
  4. Seek inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, or attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings.
  5. Reshape habits that were linked to drinking. For example, if you usually stop by a bar for happy hour, plan an alternative after-work activity. 
  6. Attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or other support groups that offer peer support.

9 Ways to Reduce Alcohol Use

Here are nine ways to reduce, or cut back on, alcohol use:

  1. Commit to reducing alcohol use in writing. List the reasons why you want to cut back and refer to the list for motivation.
  2. Set a limit goal. For example, commit to changing your drinking habits and have no more than two drinks per week or drinking only one day a week. Or approach this strategy from the reverse and schedule alcohol-free days.
  3. Journal about your drinking for a few weeks. Keep track of when you drink, how much, what you’re doing, and how you feel before, during, and after drinking.
  4. Don’t keep alcohol at home. This will naturally reduce cravings and urges to drink.
  5. Drink slowly. Set a time for how long it will take you to sip a drink and try not to finish a drink sooner than this time.
  6. Counter each alcoholic drink with water, soda, or juice. This can also help reduce alcohol cravings. 
  7. Schedule activities that don’t revolve around drinking. Instead of meeting friends for a drink, go for a walk, see a movie, or play sports.
  8. Let friends and family members know you’re cutting back on alcohol intake. Also, ask them to support your efforts.
  9. Avoid places and people that test your willpower. Try to go places that do not encourage drinking. 

Setting Goals and Preparing for Change

Once you have decided to quit drinking, the next step is making clear drinking goals. It is best to be as specific, realistic, and clear as possible.

For example, your drinking goal may be to quit drinking entirely before a specific date. Or, your goal may be to stop drinking alcohol on weekdays, starting on a certain date. You may decide to limit weekend drinking to no more than three drinks per day or five per weekend in total.

Consider whether you want to stop drinking altogether or just cut back. If you aim to reduce your drinking, determine which days you may drink alcohol and how many beverages you will allow yourself to have per day. Try to dedicate at least two days per week when you will not drink at all.

Decide when you want to stop drinking or start drinking less, too. It may be immediately, or you may decide to try in a week. Set yourself a specific quit date.

How to Accomplish Your Goals

Once you have set your goals to either stop or reduce your drinking, write down some ideas on how you can accomplish these goals.

Some examples:

Seeking Support

Whether you decide to beat your alcohol addiction by going to rehab, attending therapy, or taking a more self-directed approach, support is essential. Do not try to quit drinking alcohol alone.

Recovering from an alcohol use disorder is much easier when you have people you care about to lean on for comfort, encouragement, and guidance.

Support can come from various people, including family members, friends, other recovering alcoholics, healthcare providers, and counselors. Be sure to lean on members of your support team. Having the support of friends and family is invaluable during recovery.

If you are reluctant to turn to your friends and family because you have let them down before, consider attending couples counseling or family therapy.

Make an effort to build a sober social network. If your previous social life involved alcohol, you might need to create some new connections. It is essential to have sober friends who will support your recovery journey.

Consider taking a class, volunteering, or attending events in your community to meet new people who can support you. Make meetings a priority and join a recovery support group, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Spending time with people who understand what you are experiencing can be very healing.

You can also benefit from listening to group members' shared experiences and learning what others have done to achieve sobriety.

Maintaining Sobriety

While becoming sober is the essential first step, it is just the start of your recovery from alcohol addiction or heavy drinking. While rehab or professional treatment can put you on the road to recovery, you will need to create a new, meaningful life where you do not drink to maintain long-term sobriety.

To stop mood swings and deal with alcohol cravings, focus on eating right and getting plenty of sleep. Exercising is also essential. It releases endorphins, reduces stress, and promotes emotional well-being.

Surround yourself with positive people who want the best for you. The more you are invested in your community and other people, the more you have to lose. This helps you remain motivated on the path to recovery.

Be sure to develop new activities and interests while in recovery. Seek new hobbies, volunteer activities, or other work that presents you with a sense of meaning and purpose. When you are doing things fulfilling, you will feel better about yourself and find drinking less attractive.

Make an effort to continue treatment, even when you are sober. Your chances of remaining sober are higher if you attend a support group like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), have a sponsor, are involved in therapy, and/or are undergoing an outpatient treatment program.

Try to deal with stress healthily. Alcohol misuse often occurs as an attempt to manage stress. Look for healthier ways to keep your stress level in check. This may include exercising, meditating, or practicing breathing exercises.

Managing Alcohol Cravings

When you are battling alcohol cravings, there are some techniques you can use to manage them.

Try speaking with someone you trust, such as your sponsor, a family member, or a friend. You can also try to distract yourself until the urges pass. Consider going for a walk, listening to music, running an errand, or finishing a task.

Remind yourself of the reasons you do not want to drink. When you are craving alcohol, it is easy to remember the positive feelings of drinking and forget the negatives. Remind yourself of the negative long-term effects of heavy alcohol consumption and how it will not make you feel good, even in the short-term.

Accept the urge and let it ride out instead of trying to fight or ignore it. This is called ‘urge surfing.’ Think of your desire as an ocean wave that will soon crest, break, and disperse. When you ride out the craving, you will soon see that it passes more quickly than you think.

How Long Does it Take to Quit Drinking?

The length of time it takes to quit drinking varies from person to person. Some people decide to quit cold turkey and never drink alcohol again. Others decide to give up alcohol temporarily and do so with short-term success. Success is often based on whether or not no longer drinking alcohol is a big change.

However, if someone has AUD or is addicted to alcohol, quitting drinking is a long process. 

In general, it takes about 6 to 24 hours to detox from alcohol (or up to 10 days in extreme cases). The symptoms you experience when you give up alcohol vary depending on how much and for how long you drank. Giving up alcohol long-term for a heavy drinker with an addiction is a life-long process. 

As an alcoholic, maintaining sobriety is a daily effort. It’s important to remember that heavy drinkers require medical supervision when giving up alcohol.

What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Drinking?

How your body responds to a lack of alcohol depends on how long and how much you’ve been drinking when you stop. For some, there will be little to no physical response. They might feel exactly the same or they might feel a little more energetic or hydrated.

But for long-term drinkers, stopping drinking triggers a variety of side effects. 

If the body is addicted to alcohol, detox and withdrawal symptoms are likely. These include:

Delirium tremens (DTs) are a serious and potentially fatal response to alcohol withdrawal. Symptoms of DTs include:

Can I Quit Drinking On My Own?

Maybe. If you aren’t addicted to alcohol, you should be able to not drink on your own. 

It’s important to recognize that not being able to stop when you want to do so is a sign you have a problem. If you try to stop and you’re unsuccessful or you experience signs of withdrawal, it’s important to seek medical attention.

If you aren’t addicted and you wish to stop, the following tips can help with your effort:

  • Avoid scenarios in which you tend to drink
  • Replace alcohol with other drinks
  • Replace drinking time with other activities
  • Create and stick to a routine that doesn’t include drinking
  • Schedule exercise on a daily basis
  • Let other people know you are trying to stop drinking
  • Figure out which activities other than drinking help you manage stress and make sure you’re doing them

These tips can help people long-term with AUD, but additional medical support is also needed. Stopping drinking when you have an addiction is not about willpower. You should not feel ashamed or embarrassed to seek help if you are unable to stop drinking on your own.

When to Seek Alcohol Addiction Treatment (& Options)

Knowing when to seek alcohol addiction treatment is an important part of a successful recovery. Some signs that substance abuse treatment might be needed include:

The sooner you get help for alcohol use the less likely you are to suffer long-term consequences. 

There is no right or wrong time to seek treatment. If you believe you need help, you should seek help.

Treatment options for alcohol abuse and addiction include:

How Drunk Am I?

Why Does Alcohol Make You Drunk?

You get drunk when you consume alcohol faster than your body can break it down.

Even though alcohol affects everyone differently, the way it is broken down by the liver is the same for everyone. 

More specifically, as you drink alcohol, the liver starts breaking it down. An enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase breaks alcohol down to acetaldehyde. This chemical is further broken down into acetic acid. 

However, if you drink too much alcohol, your liver will not be able to break it down quickly. This causes you to feel drunk. 

Heavy alcohol consumption can be dangerous and lead to alcohol poisoning and even death. If you’re wondering, “How drunk am I?” you can use a breathalyzer or try a field sobriety test to check. 

If you or someone you know is too drunk, it’s wise to stop drinking sooner rather than later, though it’s not easy to make that decision while under the influence.

How Many Alcoholic Drinks Does it Take to Get Drunk?

How much alcohol it takes to get drunk differs for everyone based on a number of factors. These include: 

Generally speaking, once your blood alcohol content or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches a certain level, you’re drunk. Your BAC is expressed as the weight of ethanol (measured in grams) in 100 milliliters of blood. In most U.S. states, a .08 percent BAC is the legal limit for drivers who are at least 21 years old, which is the legal drinking age. 

What Does it Feel Like to be Drunk?

Being drunk can feel different for different people. But many of the signs and symptoms are the same across the board. Here are a few signs and symptoms that you’re drunk:

Typically, you’ll feel varying symptoms depending on how drunk you actually are. The drunker you get, the more and worse symptoms you’ll have. 

The Difference Between Being Tipsy and Drunk

Being tipsy and drunk are similar but they’re not the same. While you may feel a sense of euphoria while tipsy, you will still have control over your mental and physical responses. 

However, when you’re drunk, you start to lose your senses more and your inhibitions diminish. How you behave depends on how drunk you are.

What are the Different Stages of Being Drunk?

Here are nine different stages of being drunk:

1. BAC .02 to .03

If your BAC is .02 to .03, you may feel a little more relaxed, euphoric, and outgoing. You may feel a bit lightheaded, but you won’t have lost your coordination yet.

2. BAC .05 to .06

At a 0.05 to a 0.06 BAC, you’ll feel warmer and even more relaxed and outgoing. You may experience some minor impairment of your reasoning, and you may exaggerate your behaviors (talking louder, acting bolder, etc.). 

Your emotions will also feel intensified. This means your good mood will get better but your bad mood could get worse. 

3. BAC .08 to .09

At a .08 to a .09 BAC, you’ll believe that you’re functioning better than you are in reality. For example, you may start to slur your speech and rock off balance. Your motor skills will become impaired, and your vision and hearing will also diminish. 

This BAC level affects your judgment, and you may feel like you’re wearing “beer goggles.”

4. BAC .10 to .12

Once your BAC hits .10 to .12, you’ll experience serious motor coordination impairment and will have a significant loss of judgment skills. You may slur your speech, lose your balance, have trouble seeing and hearing, and react slower. You may also become louder and belligerent.

5. BAC .14 to .17

At a .14 to a .17 BAC, you’ll have significant motor impairment, a lack of physical control, a major loss of balance, and a very difficult time seeing or hearing clearly. You may even blackout at this BAC.

6. BAC .20 to .25

At a .20 BAC to a .25 BAC, your mental, physical, and sensory functions are super impaired. You’ll start to feel significantly confused and may need help to walk or stand. If you injure yourself, it’s common that you won’t feel the pain or do anything about it. 

You may feel nauseous and vomit at this level and, because your gag reflex is impaired, it’s easy to choke. Blackouts are likely. 

7. BAC .30

At a .30 BAC, you’ll have very little comprehension with all of the symptoms of lesser BAC levels, but worse. At this point, it’s likely that you pass out.

8. BAC .35

The .35 BAC level is the level of surgical anesthesia, which means that coma is possible and you may stop breathing. 

9. BAC .40

At a .40 BAC, you’ll probably be in a coma as the nerve centers that control your heartbeat and respiration slow down. At this level and beyond, death due to respiratory arrest is also possible.

Dangers of Alcohol Intoxication

Alcohol intoxication is a danger for many reasons. Not only is an intoxicated person a danger to themselves, but they’re also a danger to those around them. For example, about 55 percent of domestic abuse perpetrators were drinking alcohol before the assault.

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning and even death. In fact, an estimated 95,000 people (about 68,000 men and 27,000 women) lose their lives from alcohol-related causes every single year. In 2015 alone, alcohol-impaired driving deaths accounted for 10,265 fatalities (29 percent of all driving deaths overall).

If you or someone you know is in danger, reach out for help immediately.

Other Side Effects of Alcohol Use

While drinking alcohol can feel like a lot of fun in the moment, there are some serious side effects of which to be aware. Other longer-term side effects of alcohol use include the following:

How to Sober Up From Alcohol (Addiction Treatment)

There is no way to “sober up fast,” and, unfortunately, the journey to sobriety can be dangerous on one’s own. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be severe, so it’s important that you seek addiction treatment to help you along the road to recovery.

Fortunately, alcohol addiction treatment is readily available. Reach out to your local inpatient or outpatient rehab center, or contact support groups in your area.

Medication to Stop Drinking

Can I Take Medications to Stop Drinking Alcohol?

There are various medicines available to help people stop drinking. However, there are currently only three medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat alcohol addiction and alcohol dependence.

How Do Medications Help Treat Alcoholism?

The three FDA-approved medications for alcoholism treat the disorder in different ways. 

Disulfiram and Campral are best used to treat people in recovery.

Naltrexone blocks the euphoric feelings and effects of intoxication. It enables people with alcohol use disorders to reduce alcohol consumption, stay motivated to take the medication, remain in treatment, and avoid relapses. 

Three Best Medications to Help You Stop Drinking

There are three FDA-approved medication treatment options to help you stop drinking.

  1. Antabuse (Disulfiram)

Antabuse, otherwise known as disulfiram, was the first medication approved for treating alcohol dependence. The medicine works by causing an intense adverse reaction when someone taking Antabuse drinks alcohol. Most people taking Antabuse will vomit after a drink of alcohol. 

However, Antabuse does not reduce a person’s craving for alcohol, and it does not treat any alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

The medication was first produced in the 1920s for use in manufacturing processes. The alcohol-aversive benefits were first understood in the 1930s. Workers in the rubber industry who were exposed to tetraethyl thiuram disulfide fell ill after consuming alcohol. 

In 1948, Danish researchers were looking for treatments for parasitic stomach infections. They discovered the alcohol-related effects of disulfiram when they fell ill after consuming alcohol. The researchers started new studies on using disulfiram to treat alcohol addiction.

Soon after, the FDA approved disulfiram to treat alcohol dependence. Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories first produced the medication under the brand name Antabuse.

At first, disulfiram was given to patients in large doses to make patients extremely sick if they drank alcohol. However, some patients experienced severe reactions, including some deaths. Antabuse was soon prescribed in smaller quantities to treat alcoholism.

  1. Naltrexone (ReVia)

Naltrexone is a medication used to treat alcohol cravings. It sells under the brand names ReVia and Depade. An extended-release monthly injection form of the medication sells under the trade name Vivitrol.

The medicine works by blocking the high individual's experience when they consume alcohol, take opioids such as heroin, and consume stimulants like cocaine. 

Naltrexone was first produced in 1963 to treat addiction to opioids. In 1984, it was approved by the FDA to treat addiction to drugs including heroin, morphine, and oxycodone. During this time, it was marketed by DuPont under the brand name Trexan.

In the 1980s, animal studies showed that naltrexone also reduced alcohol consumption. Human clinical trials were executed in the late 80s and early 90s. These trials proved that the drug could decrease alcohol cravings. They can also lessen relapse rates in alcoholics when combined with psychosocial therapy.

The FDA approved naltrexone to treat alcoholism in 1994. DuPont then renamed the medication ReVia.

  1. Acamprosate (Campral)

Acamprosate is a medication sold under the brand name Campral. It is the most recent medicine approved for the treatment of alcohol use disorder in the United States. The drug works by reducing the physical discomfort and emotional distress people typically experience when they stop drinking.

In 1982, French company Laboratoires Meram produced acamprosate to treat alcohol dependence. It was assessed and tested for safety and use from 1982 until 1988, when it was approved for use by the French government to treat alcohol use disorder.

Acamprosate was first sold under the name Aotal®. For over 20 years, acamprosate was widely used throughout Europe for treating alcoholism. It was approved for use in the United States in 2004.

In 2005, acamprosate was marketed in the United States under the brand name Campral. The company Forest Pharmaceuticals currently owns Campral.

Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcoholism 

There are various benefits of medication-assisted treatment for alcoholism.

Medication-assisted treatment for alcohol dependence curbs the cravings for alcohol. Every patient who becomes sober faces a risk of drinking again, whether in 48 hours or 48 years. When you try your best to recover from alcoholism, medications like ReVia and Campral can help you resist the urge to drink by making alcohol less appealing.

Medicines for alcoholism also give patients an incentive to remain sober. Antabuse does not have a high compliance rate. But it helps some people remain sober by making the experience of drinking alcohol extremely undesirable.

Alcoholism is a challenging addiction to fight. However, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can provide psychological support to patients. When you are attempting to remain sober through your recovery, medication can give you a sense of reassurance that you are doing your best to battle the addiction.

Anti-anxiety medications can also help recovering alcoholics deal with fear and edginess. 

Do These Medications Have Any Risks? 

Medicines for treating alcoholism may come with some risks and side effects. Speak with your doctor for medical advice as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

Some of these side effects may go away during treatment as your body becomes used to the medication. Your health care professional or doctor may tell you methods for preventing or reducing some of these side effects.

How Can I Get Prescribed Medications to Stop Drinking?

Detox is the first stage in treating alcoholism. During detox, alcohol is completely flushed from the body. Withdrawal symptoms typically reduce within one to two weeks after starting the detox. However, this could take longer depending on the severity of a patient’s alcohol dependence.

Following detox, patients can focus on other areas of the recovery process. This may include therapies and counseling.

When alcohol detox is treated in a licensed inpatient treatment center, medications are often prescribed to reduce uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. The medicines help keep a patient's body chemicals in balance. They also reduce the risk of severe complications during the detoxification process.

During detox, a medical professional will administer the medicine and monitor the results. If alcohol dependence treatment leads to unwanted side effects or adversely affects the detox process, another medication may be used.

What OTC Medications Can Help Treat Alcoholism?

There are some OTC medications and supplements that can help treat alcoholism. However, depending on the severity of alcohol addiction, one should consider alcohol withdrawal under medical supervision. The side effects of detoxification, such as seizures, can be dangerous and life-threatening.

If you do decide to undergo detoxification at home, the following withdrawal medications and supplements may help:

Kudzu Extract

Kudzu extract is a herbal remedy that may help minimize alcohol cravings and reduce heavy drinking episodes. Kudzu extract originates from the root of a Japanese plant. 

L-Glutamine

L-glutamine is an amino acid that the body naturally creates. Significant amounts of alcohol can affect how l-glutamine is synthesized and absorbed in the body. 

Adding l-glutamine back into the body while trying to quit drinking can regulate your system’s chemistry. This can help manage alcohol cravings and lift your mood.

L-glutamine, when taken with other amino acids, may help to reduce the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. For the best results, L-glutamine should be taken as a supplement along with a multivitamin.

Can I Detox From Alcohol Without Medications?

Many people consider detoxing from alcohol without medication at home. They may believe an at-home detox makes the difficult situation of detoxification easier to deal with. There is usually no other place more comfortable, controllable, and safe-feeling than an individual’s home.

Detoxing at home without medication can be dangerous. This is especially true for those who do not understand the risks that come with alcohol withdrawal.

Detoxing at home without medication is possible. However, treatment programs at a professional rehab facility are the safest. They are the best-recommended method for addressing alcohol misuse and addiction. Withdrawal from alcohol is not easy, and not everyone can do it alone.

How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?

What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal occurs when a person suddenly stops drinking alcohol after prolonged and heavy use.

Long-term alcohol users expose their brains to alcohol so often that the brain adjusts to compensate for the sedating effect of the chemicals. An alcoholic’s brain produces serotonin and norepinephrine in higher quantities than a non-alcoholic’s brain. If that person stops drinking suddenly, their brain is overstimulated with too much of these naturally occurring chemicals.

About one in every 20 alcoholics experience delirium tremens (DTs), which is the most dangerous risk of withdrawal syndrome.

Symptoms & Dangers of Alcohol Withdrawal 

Sudden stoppage of alcohol after long-term, heavy intake causes changes within the body that trigger a variety of withdrawal symptoms, including:

How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last? 

Alcohol withdrawal occurs in stages and each stage has risks including some that are life-threatening. The risks increase based on how long a person has been drinking and how much they drank, as well as their biological disposition and whether or not there are any co-occurring disorders. The stages are as follows:

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3

Not everyone experiences every one of these symptoms, but most heavy drinkers experience a combination of many of them. Each stage of withdrawal, especially the third stage, is uncomfortable at best and dangerous at worst. It’s extremely important to seek professional medical attention when you are detoxing from alcohol after heavy long-term use.

Alcohol Withdrawal: Timeline of Symptoms

6 to 12 Hours

Within six hours after your last drink, you’re likely to experience vomiting, abdominal discomfort, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.

12 hours to 1 day

Within 12 to 24 hours after your last drink, you’re likely to experience sweating, problems sleeping, headache, nausea, and mild anxiety.

1 to 2 days

Within a day or two after your last drink, you’re at risk of hallucinating, experiencing memory loss, having a racing pulse and irregular heartbeat, and possibly having a seizure.

2 to 3 days 

Within two to three days after your last drink, you’ve reached the peak of withdrawal. Delirium tremens (DTs), hallucinations, seizures, fever, extreme agitation, and confusion are common during this stage.

3+ days

You are at risk of still experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms for up to 10 days after your last drink. These include delirium, severe blood pressure spikes, and intense cravings. You might sweat heavily and have a fever. Withdrawal symptoms are potentially fatal and it’s important to detox under professional medical supervision.

Does Memory Come Back After Quitting Drinking? 

Many heavy drinkers experience memory loss. They don’t remember things that occur when they are drinking and their memories aren’t as sharp as they would have been had they not been heavy drinkers. This is because excessive alcohol intake damages the brain. Stopping heavy use of alcohol might reverse some memory loss, but there are no guarantees an alcoholic’s brain will ever fully recover.

Can Your Body Go into Shock When You Stop Drinking? 

Yes, the body can go into shock if a long-term heavy alcohol user stops drinking. This is due in part to the change in the release of certain neurotransmitters when the brain is no longer exposed to alcohol. It doesn’t know what to do with the sudden change and it goes into shock. The risk of shock is one of the main reasons alcoholics should seek substance use treatment at a medically supervised treatment center.

How to Safely Detox From Alcohol

The only safe way to detox from heavy, long-term alcohol use is addiction treatment at a center with professional medical supervision. Detoxing from alcohol is a dangerous process and makes your body extremely vulnerable. 

Changes occur with the brain during the hours and days that follow heavy alcohol use that must be monitored by a medical professional. Detox is an excruciating process for many people, but the right treatment can make things a bit easier and increase the odds of successful long-term recovery. Medically supervised detox and treatment ease many of the mental health symptoms and other discomforts associated with the process. Successful, medically supervised detox increases the odds of successful long-term recovery.

Detox is the first step in recovery. It’s one of the most difficult phases of recovery, but it’s also one of the most important. 

Alcohol Withdrawal: Common Questions and Answers

Can I detox from alcohol at home?

It is not safe to detox from long-term, heavy alcohol use at home. Your brain and body are extremely vulnerable to a variety of risks when you stop alcohol consumption and begin detox. Medical supervision ensures that any emergencies are dealt with appropriately and as quickly as possible. 

Programs are available on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Once you’ve completed the initial detox and critical phase of withdrawal, you can begin treatment and seeking help from support groups.

What happens after 2 weeks of no alcohol?

If you’re a heavy drinker who regularly consumes alcohol and you stop, you’ll feel much better after two weeks. The worst detoxification symptoms usually last about three to five days. After that, you’ll begin to feel better, though your body will still crave alcohol. Some people experience unpleasant physical symptoms such as acid reflux or heartburn, due to their history of heavy drinking, but the most severe symptoms are in the past.

Can alcohol permanently damage your brain?

Yes. Heavy drinking damages your brain. Over time, some of the damage might repair itself but rarely is your brain ever the same. Heavy drinking to the point of alcohol dependence affects all of your body, from the brain to the central nervous system to individual organs. In many cases, this damage is not repairable.

Will my body repair itself after I stop drinking?

It depends on several factors, including what damage was done, your overall health, how long you were a heavy drinker, and how much alcohol you consumed while drinking. Some of the damage done does repair itself. 

For example, alcohol is damaging to the liver, but the liver is capable of repairing and even regenerating. However, it’s impossible to predict how well you’ll recover from heavy drinking, so whether or not your body can heal itself shouldn’t be a consideration when you are deciding whether or not to drink a lot. The longer and more intense your alcohol abuse the lower your odds of complete repair.

What is acute withdrawal?

Acute withdrawal is the first stage of alcohol withdrawal. Acute withdrawal occurs within two weeks after you stop using alcohol. The health conditions you experience during this time tend to change frequently and are unpredictable. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to seek professional medical care during withdrawal.

Acute withdrawal symptoms include rapid heartbeat, nausea, sweating, convulsions, shivering, and heart palpitations. A person in the acute withdrawal phase has a high risk of relapse. Most treatment programs focus on detoxification during this period and transition to recovery once the acute withdrawal phase has passed.

What are delirium tremens?

Delirium tremens or DTs is a psychotic condition that occurs during withdrawal from alcohol. The condition triggers hallucinations, tremors, anxiety, and disorientation.

What are the first signs of liver damage from alcohol?

It’s impossible to know for sure if heavy, long-term use of alcohol has damaged your liver without a doctor examining the organ. However, the early signs of liver damage include fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, and unexplained weight loss.