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What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is the most severe form of alcohol use disorder (AUD). It is a common, chronic, and sometimes progressive medical condition that involves the compulsive consumption of alcohol. Such maladaptive patterns of drinking can lead to several serious social, familial, and physical consequences.

Fortunately, there are highly effective and diverse alcoholism treatment programs available to all people with alcohol use disorders, regardless of severity.

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism, treatment for alcohol addiction is an effective way to help you stop drinking and reclaim control of your life. You don’t need to continue to suffer from the negative effects of alcohol misuse.

Continue reading to learn more about the signs and symptoms of alcoholism, the treatment methods commonly used to treat alcohol use disorders, and how you or a loved one can get help and start the path to recovery.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is the most severe form of alcohol abuse and involves the inability to manage drinking habits. It is also commonly referred to as alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder is organised into three categories: mild, moderate and severe. If left untreated, any type of alcohol abuse can spiral out of control. What makes prolonged alcohol abuse particularly harmful is that it can alter your brain chemistry.

Individuals struggling with alcoholism often feel as though they cannot function normally without alcohol. This can lead to a wide range of issues and impact professional goals, personal responsibilities, relationships, and overall health. Over time, the serious side effects of consistent alcohol abuse can worsen and produce damaging complications.

Warning Signs of Alcoholism

Sometimes the warning signs of alcohol abuse are very noticeable. Other times, they can take longer to surface. When alcohol addiction is discovered in its early stages, the chances of a successful recovery increase significantly.

Common signs of alcoholism include:

  • Being unable to control alcohol consumption
  • Craving alcohol when you’re not drinking
  • Putting alcohol above personal responsibilities
  • Feeling the need to keep drinking more
  • Spending a substantial amount of money on alcohol
  • Behaving differently after drinking

If you feel as though your alcohol consumption is taking a toll on your life, it’s important to find addiction treatment options that will help you tackle your alcohol addiction. Your doctor will be able to offer professional medical assistance if you are concerned about your drinking.

Why People Drink

Many factors can increase the risk of alcohol abuse. No one drinks with the intention of becoming addicted. People may use alcohol for any reason – stress relief, relaxation, coping with a traumatic event – and gradually develop a dependency on drinking. For example, coping with the death of a loved one by drinking can potentially trigger long-term alcohol dependence.

Here are some of the most common reasons people start drinking.

Relieve Stress

Relying on alcohol to reduce daily life stressors can impact the likelihood of developing alcoholism. Since alcohol is a depressant and a sedative, drinking produces feelings of pleasure. However, frequent drinking builds tolerance, requiring you to consume more alcohol in order to achieve the same effects.

Feel Good

Consuming alcohol can provide some people a break from reality. It offers a sense of relief from underlying issues your mind may be trying to escape from. However, continual alcohol use to get through the day or week can turn into a serious drinking problem that needs to be addressed in addiction treatment.

feel good

Cope With Loss

Losing a family member or friend can take a toll on you emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Alcohol can ease the grief you are feeling and is used to get through difficult times. Depending on alcohol, even temporarily, can spiral into a drinking problem that you will need to address in recovery.

Overcome Anxiety

Some people are naturally anxious, causing them to perpetually worry. Drinking lowers an individual’s inhibitions and makes them more comfortable in social situations. Over time though, this can lead to addictive behaviours.


Medical professionals are seeing some type of trauma in virtually every patient that they treat. There are many forms of trauma, but they are all painful events where the victim didn’t have an empathetic witness. For many, treating unresolved trauma is the key to their recovery.

Health Complications and Alcoholism

Drinking too much – on a single occasion or long-term – can take a serious toll on your health. Some effects of alcohol may have a minor impact on you, while others can be severe or life-threatening. Because of this you should consider entering recovery if you drink too much.

Some of the short-term effects of alcohol abuse can be just as dangerous as the long-term effects. For instance, drinking can impact your reaction time, causing you to have slow reflexes and coordination. That’s why drinking and driving is extremely dangerous. Alcohol can alter your perception of speed and distance, putting yourself and others at risk if you get behind the steering wheel of a car.

Several short-term effects of alcohol abuse may produce:

  • Slow reaction time
  • Poor reflexes
  • Reduced brain activity
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Blurry vision
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Restlessness

Additionally, consuming too much alcohol can affect your long-term health. Some side effects may lay dormant for years before they surface. Because of this, professional medical care is required for proper diagnosis and addiction treatment.

Here are some of the long-term health conditions caused by alcohol:

  • Heart problems
  • Brain defects
  • Liver disease
  • Diabetes complications
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Vision damage
  • Bone loss

Alcohol abuse increases the risk of developing cancers of the mouth, esophagus, liver, and breast. Excessive drinking negatively impacts heart health: heart disease is currently one of the leading causes of death for alcoholics. Thousands of people die each year from alcohol-related causes. It is the fourth leading preventable cause of death in North America.

The good news is that alcohol addiction is treatable. An increasing number of rehab facilities are specialising in alcohol addiction treatment programs and therapies.

Alcohol Withdrawal

One of the clearest signs of alcohol dependency is alcohol withdrawal. Over time, the body and the brain become dependent on drinking frequency and patterns. When a person suddenly stops drinking after prolonged and heavy alcohol use, their body goes through changes.

If your body is deprived of the effects of alcohol, it requires time to adjust to functioning without it. This adjustment period causes the painful side effects of alcohol withdrawal, such as shakes, insomnia, nausea, and anxiety. In severe cases, withdrawal effects can be extremely dangerous. This is why alcohol detox should only be done under medical supervision.

Treatment for Alcoholism

Choosing to seek help for an alcohol addiction is one of the most important decisions you will face. There are different forms of treatment available based on frequency of alcohol consumption and severity of alcohol abuse. Recovery from alcohol addiction is a process that continues long after rehab. It takes commitment to practice and apply the techniques you learn in rehab, counselling, support groups, and other types of therapy.

Although addiction treatment plans are typically individualised for each patient, it generally follows a structure.  Alcohol treatment can be broken into 3 steps.

Step 1 – Detoxification

The first stage in alcohol addiction recovery is detoxification. This phase should be completed with the help of medical professionals due to the potential for serious, potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Many times, individuals are given medication to help alleviate the painful side effects of this process. These mimic the effect of alcohol on the brain, allowing the person to wean off gradually.

rehabilitationStep 2 – Rehabilitation

There are two types of rehabilitation that help treat alcoholism: inpatient rehab and outpatient rehab.

Inpatient rehabs are intensive treatment programs that require you to check into a facility for a certain period of time, usually 30, 60, or 90 days. Plans are developed specifically for each individual, and include a variety of treatment methods such as counselling, group therapy, meditation, and nutrition coaching. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is one form that is known to be very effective in treating alcoholism.

Outpatient rehab allows individuals to participate in a recovery program while continuing to live at home. It can be an effective method of recovery for individuals who don’t need as much direct support.  The length of the treatment program is different for everyone, but it can last longer than inpatient rehab because due to less time each week being spent in recovery.

Frequently, people spend time in both types of treatment as they progress through recovery, starting with inpatient and finishing with outpatient. Talk with your doctor about treatment options to choose the best form of recovery for you. It will depend on various factors, such as how long you have been drinking and how much, and the impact drinking has had on your health.


The recovery process doesn’t end with the completion of rehab. Long-term sobriety requires ongoing therapy and may entail support groups, counselling and other recovery resources. These will help you maintain sobriety and continue on a happy, healthy path for years to come. Addiction aftercare programs have been shown to vastly improve the success rates of addiction treatment.

Getting Help for Alcoholism

You don’t have to go through rehab alone. Many people who struggle with alcohol addiction find it difficult or impossible to quit without the help or support of others. Increase your chance of a full recovery with the help of the professionals at Thousand Islands Rehab Centre. We will provide you with a safe, healing environment, and a fully customised addiction treatment plan that is customised to suit your unique needs and circumstances.

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