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Alcohol Use and Addiction

Understand the dangers of alcoholism and the options for treatment and recovery.

Alcohol Addiction Facts and Stats

The following are several facts that everyone should know about alcohol addiction.

  • Alcohol addiction is a disease that is caused both by biological and environmental factors.
  • There isn’t necessarily an alcohol addiction definition, but there are criteria, which is listed in the DSM-5.
  • Both alcohol intoxication and withdrawal cause unfavorable and even life-threatening symptoms.
  • The 2019 NSDUH study on alcoholism estimated that 14.5 million people ages 12 and older had an AUD.
  • According to the CDC, more than 95,000 people die every year due to alcohol-related causes.
  • Out of the 21.6 million people aged 12 or older who needed alcohol addiction treatment in the previous year, 12.2% (2.6 million) received treatment at a specialty facility in the past year.

Many of those suffering do not get alcohol addiction help, which is unfortunate. As more research is available and interventions become more widely used, the general population of alcohol addicts will be able to get the help they need.

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Signs and Causes

As stated above, the cause of alcohol addiction is multifaceted. Epigenetics plays a role.

Epigenetics is the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes are reversible and do not change your DNA sequence, but they can change how your body reads a DNA sequence, (CDC).

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    Physical alcohol addiction will not necessarily happen to anyone who drinks excessively. Someone who has a biological predisposition to alcoholism and is affected by certain environmental factors can easily become addicted.

    The signs of alcohol addiction are similar to any substance abuse. They include:

    • Blackouts or memory loss
    • Mood swings and irritability
    • Hangovers
    • Change in appearance, personality, or daily habits
    • Isolation or withdrawal
    • Depression or anxiety
    • Making excuses

    The common signs are also listed within the DSM-5 criteria for alcohol use disorder.


    Alcohol addiction can have unfortunate consequences on the addict and those around them including friends, family, and co-workers.

    Being addicted to alcohol can put a strain on someone’s physical, mental, and emotional health, as well as negatively affect their family system and their career.

    The effects of alcoholism can range from mild to severe. Effects can surround money, health, wellness, career, residence, religion, culture, loved ones, trust, goals, the future, and much more.

    These typically get so bad that alcohol addiction rehab is recommended.


    The technical diagnostic term for alcoholism is alcohol use disorder (AUD) and under the DSM-5, there are specific criteria a person must meet to be diagnosed. Anyone meeting any two of the 11 criteria during the same 12-month period can be diagnosed.

    1. Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?

    2. More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?

    3. Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?

    4. Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?

    5. Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?

    6. Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?

    7. Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, to drink?

    8. More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?

    9. Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?

    10. Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?

    11. Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?

    If someone meets two or more of these alcohol addiction symptoms, then they may need to look into going to an alcohol addiction recovery center.

    Treatment and Therapy

    Alcohol addiction recovery oftentimes requires inpatient treatment. Those suffering from alcoholism have a priority to detox their bodies from alcohol and toxins before starting a treatment program, which is done under the supervision of licensed professionals. Detoxing cold turkey at home can be dangerous and even life-threatening.

    Alcohol addiction programs are ubiquitous in the United States, as addiction has become quite a problem for many.

    The components involved in alcohol addiction therapy include individual and group therapy sessions, appointments with psychiatrists, physicians, and nutritionists, along with family therapy and support groups.

    The alcohol addiction recovery process is similar to those in drug abuse programs.

    Eventually, patients will step down to outpatient services and aftercare.


    According to a 2019 national survey, 14.1 million adults ages 18 and older had alcohol use disorder (AUD).

    Alcohol abuse in the United States is excessive; therefore, medication-assisted treatment for alcohol use is commonplace at alcohol addiction treatment centers.

    The most typical medications used to treat alcohol use disorder are:

    • Acamprosate
    • Disulfiram
    • Naltrexone

    Alcohol medication-assisted treatment is a must for individuals who are not able to successfully move through a treatment program without having severe withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

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    After an addict has successfully stepped down from an alcohol addiction rehabilitation center, aftercare is the next important step.

    Aftercare is a broad term for what a treatment team and patient plan for before treatment at a center end so that they can be set up for success afterward.

    There are various types of alcohol addiction recovery aftercare programs to choose from. Each individual must tailor their plan according to their needs, location, and resources available.

    Relapse is much less likely when a solid aftercare plan is created and followed through with. Recovering addicts are more likely to focus on their recovery when they have a plan in place and additional supports at home and out in the community.

    An alcohol and addictions resource center can help individuals learn more about and create an effective aftercare plan.

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