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Alcohol Abuse in America
Overcoming an addiction to alcohol can be a long and bumpy road. At times, it may even feel impossible, but it’s not. If you’re ready to stop drinking and willing to get the support you need, you can recover from alcoholism and alcohol abuse—no matter how bad the addiction or how powerless you feel. You don’t have to wait until you hit rock bottom; you can make a change at any time.
Most people with alcohol problems do not decide to make a big change out of the blue or transform their drinking habits overnight. Recovery is usually a more gradual process. In the early stages of change, denial is a huge obstacle. Even after admitting you have a drinking problem, you may make excuses and drag your feet. It’s important to acknowledge your ambivalence about stopping drinking. If you’re not sure if you’re ready to change or you’re struggling with the decision, it can help to think about the costs and benefits of each choice.
How to Know If I Have a Drinking Problem?
Whether or not you can successfully cut back on your drinking depends on the severity of your drinking problem.
If you’re an alcoholic—which, by definition, means you aren’t able to control your drinking—it’s best to try to stop drinking entirely. But if you’re not ready to take that step, or if you don’t have an alcohol abuse problem but want to cut back for personal or health reasons, the following tips adapted from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism can help:
Set a drinking goal. Choose a limit for how much you will drink. Make sure your limit is not more than one drink a day if you’re a woman, or two drinks a day if you’re a man. Now write your drinking goal on a piece of paper. Put it where you can see it, such as on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror.
Keep a “diary” of your drinking. To help you reach your goal, keep a “diary” of your drinking. For example, write down every time you have a drink for 1 week. Try to keep your diary for 3 or 4 weeks. This will show you how much you drink and when. You may be surprised. How different is your goal from the amount you drink now?
Watch it at home. Keep a small amount or no alcohol at home. Don’t keep temptations around.
Drink slowly. When you drink, sip your drink slowly. Take a break of one hour between drinks. Drink soda, water, or juice after a drink with alcohol. Do not drink on an empty stomach! Eat food when you are drinking.
Take a break from alcohol. Pick a day or two each week when you will not drink at all. Then, try to stop drinking for one week. Think about how you feel physically and emotionally on these days. When you succeed and feel better, you may find it easier to cut down for good.
When you drink heavily and frequently, your body becomes physically dependent on alcohol and goes through withdrawal if you suddenly stop drinking. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal range from mild to severe, and include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Stomach cramps and diarrhea
- Trouble sleeping or concentrating
- Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually start within hours after you stop drinking, may peak in a day or two, and improve within five days. But in some alcoholics, withdrawal is not just unpleasant—it can be life-threatening.
The symptoms listed above may be a sign of a severe form of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens, or DTs. This rare, emergency condition causes dangerous changes in the way your brain regulates your circulation and breathing, so it’s important to get to the hospital right away.
Do I Need
If you’re a long-term, heavy drinker, you may need medically supervised detoxification. Detox can be done on an outpatient basis or in a hospital or alcohol treatment facility, where you may be prescribed medication to prevent medical complications and relieve withdrawal symptoms.
The Ajna Center can help you get the level of care you need!
While getting sober is an important first step, it is only the beginning of alcohol recovery. Rehab or professional treatment can get you started on the road to recovery, but to stay alcohol-free for the long term, you’ll need to build a new, meaningful life where drinking no longer has a place.
Cravings for alcohol can be intense, particularly in the first six months after you quit drinking. Good alcohol treatment prepares you for these challenges, helping you develop new coping skills to deal with stressful situations, alcohol cravings, and social pressure to drink.
Alcohol recovery is a process—one that often involves setbacks. Don’t give up if you relapse or slip. A drinking relapse doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that you’ll never be able to reach your goal. Each drinking relapse is an opportunity to learn and recommit to sobriety, so you’ll be less likely to relapse in the future.
What to Expect During Treatment for Alcohol Abuse?
Treatment for alcoholism can begin only when the alcoholic accepts that the problem exists and agrees to stop drinking. He or she must understand that alcoholism is curable and must be motivated to change. Treatment has three stages:
Detoxification (detox): This may be needed immediately after discontinuing alcohol use and can be a medical emergency, as detox can result in withdrawal seizures, hallucinations, delirium tremens (DT), and in some cases may result in death.
Rehabilitation: This involves counseling and medications to give the recovering alcoholic the skills needed for maintaining sobriety. This step in treatment can be done inpatient or outpatient. Both are equally effective.
Maintenance of sobriety: This step’s success requires an alcoholic to be self-driven. The key to maintenance is support, which often includes regular Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and getting a sponsor.
Because detoxification does not stop the craving for alcohol, recovery is often difficult to maintain. For a person in an early stage of alcoholism, discontinuing alcohol use may result in some withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety and poor sleep. Withdrawal from long-term dependence may bring the uncontrollable shaking, spasms, panic, and hallucinations of DTs. If not treated professionally, people with DTs have a mortality rate of more than 10%, so detoxification from late-stage alcoholism should be attempted under the care of an experienced doctor and may require a brief inpatient stay at a hospital or treatment center.
Treatment may involve one or more medications. Benzodiazepines are anti-anxiety drugs used to treat withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and poor sleep and to prevent seizures and delirium. These are the most frequently used medications during the detox phase, at which time they are usually tapered and then discontinued. They must be used with care, since they may be addictive.
Get Sober at The Ajna Center’s Alcohol Treatment Center
The goal of treatment for alcoholism is abstinence. Among alcoholics with otherwise good health, social support, and motivation, the likelihood of recovery is good. Approximately 50% to 60% remain abstinent at the end of a year’s treatment and a majority of those stay dry permanently. Those with poor social support, poor motivation, or psychiatric disorders tend to relapse within a few years of treatment. For these people, success is measured by longer periods of abstinence, reduced use of alcohol, better health, and improved social functioning.
No matter what stage you are in with alcoholism, The Ajna Center is here to help you!!!