Alcoholism is a chronic condition that causes a person to become physically dependent upon alcohol and experience withdrawal symptoms when not driking. Alcoholism is a serious disease that typically requires professional alcoholism treatment to help a person struggling with the disease overcome his or her symptoms.
Alcoholism treatments focus on helping a person overcome his or her physical addiction to alcohol as well as the mental cravings and desires for alcohol as a means of escape. While alcoholism treatment is not easy, the payoffs are many, including a life free from a total dependency on alcohol. In addition to helping a person break the addiction cycle, alcoholism treatment also focuses on relapse prevention or reducing the risks that a person will resume abusing alcohol after treatment.
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When it comes to alcohol abuse and alcoholism, there is a strong connection between drinking and increased risk for traffic injury and accidents. According to the Chapel Hill Police Department, 184 persons were arrested in 2013 for driving while intoxicated (DWI).
This number represents a 34 percent decrease in arrests since 2001. In North Carolina alone, 460 people lost their lives due to alcohol-related traffic accidents in 2011, according to a 2012 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
With a large college-aged population, Chapel Hill drivers between the ages of 21 and 24 experiences the highest amount of alcohol-related crashes, comprising 32 percent of all crash victims.
Not all people who have a problem with drinking are addicted to alcohol. Drinking alcohol in such a way that endangers them or causes them to experience legal troubles is known as alcohol abuse. A person with alcohol abuse has some control over his or her drinking and may not feel the physical cravings and withdrawals a person with alcoholism does.
Abuse can occur in people of all ages, including the elderly. Because elderly persons do not filter alcohol as well, they may drink less alcohol and experience its intoxicating effects. This can lead to mental and physical impairments that may resemble dementia.
A common behavior associated with alcohol abuse is binge drinking. For women under age 65, this means drinking four drinks in two hours. For men under age 65, this means drinking five drinks or more in two hours.
Binge drinking is considered a harmful behavior because it can lead to blackouts, which affect a person's memory. Binge drinking can also lead a person to make poor decisions, including the risks for drunk driving.
Alcoholism causes a person to experience withdrawal symptoms as quickly as eight hours after taking a last drink. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include sweating, shaking, nausea, vomiting and confusion.
Other alcoholism symptoms include anxiety and depression. A person with alcoholism may deny that he or she is drinking or try to hide drinking. The person may not remember conversations or keep appointments. He or she may begin to struggle at work or school. Ultimately, a person with alcoholism will lose interest in relationships, hobbies and activities they once enjoyed because his or her mind is singularly focused on drinking.
The dangers of abuse extend far beyond a hangover. Continued alcoholism can shrink brain tissue and affect the neurotransmitters that regulate a person's emotions. Alcohol also severely impacts the liver, which can cause hepatitis and a potentially fatal brain disease known as hepatic encephalopathy.
Abuse also causes heart disturbances, including an irregular heartbeat and cardiomyopathy or weakened heart muscle. Those with alcoholism can also suffer from cancers of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, liver and breast.
Detoxification is the process of breaking the body of its physical addiction to alcohol. Detox can cause a person to experience a severe disorder known as delirium tremens or DTs. This condition can cause seizures, hallucinations and psychosis. At drug treatment centers, physicians can administer medications to minimize these effects. These include anti-seizure medications as well as anti-psychotics.
Rehabilitation treatment must also address the psychological aspects associated with abuse. This is accomplished through therapy, support groups and relapse prevention techniques.