Alcohol addiction – When people get bogged down by stressors and challenges of life, they often tend to opt for alcohol as a quick remedy, as having a drink or two makes them feel good. But adopting this habit in one’s regular routine can be considered quite dangerous and lead to devastating health effects. Sometimes, the situation might spiral out of control and push a person toward alcohol addiction.
What is alcohol addiction?
Alcohol addiction or alcoholism or alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a condition in which an individual develops a psychological and physical dependence on alcohol. It is a disease that makes an individual drink even after understanding the negative effects of alcohol on his/her health, personal relationships and other important aspect of life.
The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reveals that around 86.4 percent of the adults consumed alcohol at some point in their lifetime. Approximately 26.9 percent said that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month.
Many people believe that consuming alcohol can work wonders for their mental health. However, singer Bob Marley contradicts this perception when he says, “Herb is the healing of the nation, alcohol is the destruction.” While it may seem difficult to decide the wrong and the right here, a number of statistics substantiate the fact that alcohol can lead to dangerous effects on an individual’s health and the status of alcohol addiction in America is severe. Some of these include:
- An estimated 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die due to alcohol-related causes every year.
- In 2014, driving fatalities caused due to alcohol-impairment caused around 9,967 deaths (31 percent of overall driving fatalities).
- In 2010, alcohol misuse cost around $249.0 billion to the U.S. Out of this, around three-quarters of the total cost is related to binge drinking.
- Around 33.1 percent of the 15-year-old teenagers said that they have had at least one drink in their lives.
- Approximately 5.1 million individuals in the age group of 12–20 years reported binge drinking in the past month.
Warning signs of alcohol addiction
Although the exact causes of alcohol addiction are not identified, many factors are known to increase its risk. Some of these include excessive peer pressure, low self-esteem, high-stress level, genetics or others.
There are certain common warning signs of drug and alcohol addiction that one can look for to overcome the problem on time. To make it easy, mentioned below are some of the symptoms that signify the presence of alcohol addiction in an individual:
Supporting someone with alcohol dependence:
Alcohol dependence and addiction can affect anyone from any age group or section of the society, but not all accept its presence and seek support with alcohol addiction. Attaining recovery will not be a tough task for people who are mentally prepared and ready to accept the suggestions shared with them. The real trouble arises in helping an addict in denial, as he/she is not at all receptive and pays no attention to the tips and suggestions shared with them. But, helping someone with alcohol addiction is extremely important as any sort of delay may exacerbate their condition.
Some of the common ways of supporting someone with an alcohol problem are as mentioned below:
- Be aware: Educating oneself about the intricacies of alcohol addiction, such as effects on mental and physical health, its causes and treatment, can help one attain a better position to offer help to the one in need.
- Offer compassion: Being compassionate toward a loved one who is affected by alcohol addiction is a great way to open the lines of communication and help him/her feel confident in expressing his/her emotions.
- Prepare yourself with concrete examples: Supporting someone with alcohol addiction is not as easy as it may seem to be. It is important to be prepared with some concrete real-life examples to substantiate what you say about alcohol addiction and convince him/her to seek help.
- Avoid being judgmental: One must never try to shame a person addicted to alcohol as doing so might instigate him/her to use more of it.
- Remind him/her of your presence: Constantly remind the individual concerned that you are always on his/her side so that he/she continues working toward recovery.
- Accompany him/her to therapy sessions: Joining him/her for his/her therapy session is one of the most effective ways to help him/her stay calm and feel less afraid of the sessions.
- Lead by example: Offering help to someone addicted to alcohol requires one to stay sober so that the individual concerned is not demoralized or rethinks over his/her decision to attain recovery.
- Adjust your expectations: Attaining recovery is a time-taking process. Therefore, it is impractical to expect an instant recovery of any individual addicted to alcohol.
- Do not blame him/her: Blaming him/her for the things undone irritates the person and may even trigger him/her to abuse the substance at a much severe level.
- Let him/her know its negative effects: Being aware that his/her habit of drinking is spoiling the environment may deter him/her from drinking.
- Offer benefit of doubt: At times, it is good to offer the benefit of doubt to an individual who is addicted to alcohol as this might help you in winning his/her trust and confidence instantly.
- Do not get affected by his/her actions: The things he/she does or says do not define the ‘real’ him/her. Knowing this may safeguard you from being affected by their actions and words beyond repair.
- Avoid talking to him/her when he/she is drunk: Having a discussion at a time when the individual concerned is under the influence of alcohol does not make any sense as he/she may not be able to comprehend things.
- Drinking is not a stress-buster: Alcohol helps in reducing stress as it slows down the functioning of the central nervous system (CNS) and affects its ability to identify the presence of any stress-causing factors.
- Seek expert advice: Suggest the person to seek help from an expert by letting him/her know its significance and the ways it can help him/her attain recovery.
Ways to reduce alcohol addiction stigma
Alcohol addiction stigma is a grave issue prevalent in the society that has the potential to deter people from seeking assistance. Therefore, it is important to alter the set perception of people so that they are able do away with the stigma and seek help for their addiction. Some of the common ways that can help reduce addiction-related stigma are as mentioned below:
- Addiction is not a personal choice: It is important to understand that addiction is never an individual’s personal choice. It is actually a form of illness that affects an individual’s normal body and brain functioning.
- Accept its presence: For an individual addicted to alcohol, it is important to stay strong and accept the presence of addiction. Doing so would motivate him/her to seek timely help as and when required.
- Do not label anyone: One must stand strong against the concept of labeling anyone with an addiction. This implies that addiction to a substance should never be used as a way to judge an individual’s identity.
- Convince them to seek help: Developing a positive attitude and motivating others to seek help is one of the best ways to curb addiction-related stigma from the society.
- Practice patience: It is important to stay calm and patient with people who deny the presence of addiction as this would empower you to deal with them better.
- Be compassionate: Expressing love and concern toward people dealing with addiction is one of the most effective ways to curb the prevalence of addiction-related stigma in the society. Understanding that they have little control over their situation may help.
- Listen to their problem: Listening to what the individual concerned is going through can help them feel light and realize that you care about them. Allowing them an opportunity to share their troubles is a great way to reduce the stigma prevalent in the society.
- Spread awareness: Helping people understand addiction and the ways in which it affects a person can be a great help in curbing the problem of addiction-related stigma.
- Assist in identifying the root cause of addiction: Helping an individual identify the root cause of the problem can help the individual concerned give his journey toward recovery a great start.
- Instill positivity: Instilling hope and positivity in the concerned individual can be great step to inspire him/her to work toward attaining recovery and fight against stigma.
- State proven facts: Do not rely on your personal opinions to inspire someone to attain recovery. Stating some proven facts as shared by researchers and federal agencies can give you a strong hold on your statement.
- Encourage others to share their recovery stories: This will not only help in reducing the stigma but will also in inspiring others to seek help for their addiction.
How to help a person dependent on alcohol who doesn’t want help?
Addiction is a chronic illness that makes an individual develop an inclination for the substance of abuse. Many a times, there are people who are unwilling to accept the presence of alcohol-related addiction and hence, do not need help. But there are ways in which their loved ones can offer them help even when they don’t ask for it. Some of these are:
- Educate yourself about addiction: Having a clear understanding of addiction and the factors that make it more of a disease than a lifestyle choice can give one the confidence to offer the kind of help one needs.
- Initiate a conversation: Initiating a conversation can do the trick but ensuring that the same is started at a mutually agreed time can strike the right chord.
- Practice what to say: Being prepared with the list of things that you would say to the affected one during a conversation can serve as a great help. It would work similar to the ‘things to do in a day’ list.
- Involve the other person in conversation: When having a discussion, it is important to welcome the views of the other person as well. The conversation should not be about having an argument but an exchange of dialogue between two parties.
- Avoid blaming them: Instead of trying to hold the once affected by addiction accountable for anything bad around, it would be a better approach to help him/her understand the ways in which his/her actions are affecting others.
- Set limitations: Pre-defining the limits and boundaries may help them differentiate between the right and the wrong, and also make it easier for you to offer help when needed.
- Do not offer unnecessary support: Keeping a hold over what they do would give you a better control over their activities as well as ensure that they do not indulge in any reckless behavior.
- Help them realize the need for medical intervention: Convincing them about the presence of a problem followed by a need to seek medical assistance is important to help them attain recovery.
- Plan an intervention: Intervene in their daily routine and lifestyle habits if they refuse to seek help from an expert or take any steps to prevent the risk associated with their condition.
- Practice self-care: Last but not the least, taking good care of oneself by joining a support group or consulting a therapist is extremely important to ensure that you continue to stay helpful.
Dos and Don’ts while helping a person dependent on alcohol
Helping a loved one dealing with addiction demands a lot of attention. One is required to be extra careful and keep some basic things in mind when planning to help a person with an addiction. Mentioned below are some of the common dos and don’ts that one should keep in mind:
How does alcohol use affect our mental health?
Alcohol affects an individual’s body as well as the brain. Sometimes, the effects can be so devastating that the person may begin to use some other substance or develop a form of mental illness. Some of the serious concerns that may arise due to an individual’s excessive use of alcohol are:
- Triggers depression: Alcohol is a depressant that alters an individual’s brain chemistry. That is why using alcohol in an excessive amount may trigger depression or worsen the already existing one.
- Weakened coping skills: Since alcohol is used by many as an easily available stress-coping skill, it is very likely to weaken an individual’s healthy coping skills, such as seeking professional help, using stress management techniques, discussing our problems, etc.
- Difficulty in relationships: Abusing alcohol may lead to an increasing number of arguments and increase your risk of hurting people you love.
- Lowers self-esteem: Drinking regularly may lower an individual’s self-esteem and make him/her feel bad about himself/herself.
- Reduced ability to cope with life stressors: An individual under the influence of alcohol has a reduced ability to cope with various life stressors. This, in turn, begins to affect the quality of life that can lead to the development of other health complications.
- Deteriorates existing health problems: When an individual affected by a mental illness begins to abuse alcohol, his/her mental health issue will surely deteriorate and also increase the risk of developing other mental health complications.
- Increased risk of self-harm and suicide: An individual under the influence of alcohol loses his/her control over his/her senses and thereby, runs a higher risk of indulging in risky behavior, such as self-harm and suicide.
- Alters mood: Drinking alcohol leads to mood swings in an individual.
- Damaged memory: Alcohol abuse damages an individual’s memory, hence, making it difficult for him/her to remember anything.
- Increased stress and anxiety: Alcohol abuse tends to elevate an individual’s stress level as using it only provides temporary relief from stress and does not end the trouble.
Help someone overcome alcohol addiction
There are several ways to help someone with alcohol addiction. But it is not possible that each of these would turn out to be an effective remedy for alcohol addiction. The best way to ensure an individual’s recovery is to stay supportive and motivate him/her to seek help so that there is no risk of him/her being misdiagnosed or undergoing a wrong treatment.