Cornerstone

ALCOHOL
Overview

We provide information about Alcohol, including how to identify signs of addiction and what options are available for recovery.

or

Understanding Alcohol

Alcohol is a psychoactive substance that humans have consumed for thousands of years. It is produced by fermenting sugars by yeast, commonly found in beer, wine, and spirits. Alcohol is widely used for social, cultural, and religious purposes, and when consumed in moderation, it is legal for adults in most countries. 

Excessive and prolonged alcohol consumption can lead to a condition called alcohol use disorder (AUD), which is characterized by addiction. People with AUD have a compulsive need to drink, even when it causes negative consequences. Alcohol abuse and addiction have wide-ranging effects on individuals and society, leading to health problems, accidents, violence, and strained relationships. Alcohol-related issues also place a significant burden on healthcare systems, law enforcement, and the economy, making it a significant public health concern globally.  

Alcohol has been a part of human history for thousands of years, with evidence of fermented beverages dating back to ancient civilizations in China, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. The earliest alcoholic drink was a fermented beverage made from rice, honey, and fruit, known as “mead,” produced in China around 7000-6600 BCE. The Sumerians and Egyptians also developed beer and wine production techniques, which spread throughout the world via trade and conquest. Distillation, which concentrates alcohol content, was first developed in the Middle East around the 8th century CE and later spread to Europe, producing spirits such as whiskey, gin, and vodka.1

Identifying alcohol can be straightforward in its original packaging, as labels clearly state the type of beverage and alcohol content. However, when alcohol is not in its original container, it can be more challenging to identify. Alcohol is a clear, colorless liquid that has a distinct smell, often described as medicinal or chemical-like. It is important to note that alcohol can be concealed in various ways, such as being mixed with other liquids like juice or soda or stored in alternative containers like water bottles or flasks. In some cases, alcohol may be disguised in innocuous-looking containers, such as mouthwash bottles, perfume bottles, or even fruit. When identifying alcohol, it is important to pay attention to the smell, as even small amounts of alcohol can produce a noticeable odor. Observing behavioral changes or physical signs, such as slurred speech, impaired coordination, or bloodshot eyes, can indicate that a person has consumed alcohol.

Binge drinking is a pattern of excessive alcohol consumption that raises a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08% or above. This typically occurs when men consume five or more drinks or women consume four or more drinks within two hours. Binge drinking is associated with numerous health risks, including alcohol poisoning, accidents, and long-term liver damage. It is a common problem among young adults and college students, and it can lead to academic, social, and legal consequences.3

Consuming alcohol during pregnancy can lead to a range of birth defects and developmental disabilities known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Alcohol can pass from the mother’s bloodstream to the baby through the umbilical cord, causing physical, behavioral, and learning problems that can last a lifetime. There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy, and it is recommended that pregnant women abstain from alcohol entirely to prevent FASDs.4

Excessive alcohol consumption is a leading cause of liver disease, including fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis. The liver is responsible for breaking down alcohol, and chronic alcohol abuse can lead to inflammation, scarring, and, eventually, liver failure. Symptoms of alcohol-related liver disease may not appear until significant damage has already occurred, making it essential for heavy drinkers to undergo regular liver function tests and to seek treatment for alcohol abuse.
Underage drinking is a significant public health concern, as it can lead to a range of negative consequences, including accidents, violence, and addiction. Preventing underage drinking requires a comprehensive approach that involves parents, schools, communities, and policymakers. Strategies may include: Enforcing minimum legal drinking age laws. Providing education and prevention programs. Limiting access to alcohol.
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a set of symptoms that can occur when a person who has been drinking heavily for a prolonged period suddenly stops or significantly reduces their alcohol intake. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include tremors, anxiety, sweating, nausea, and seizures. In severe cases, alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening, making it essential for individuals with alcohol dependence to seek medical supervision when attempting to quit drinking.

Drinking and driving puts everyone on the road at risk because alcohol impairs judgment and reaction time, increasing the chance of accidents. In the United States, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Penalties for this offense include fines, jail time, and license suspension. To address this problem, organizations like MADD advocate for preventive measures such as arranging for sober drivers, using ride-sharing services, and implementing sobriety checkpoints.5

Recovering From Alcohol Addiction

Overcoming alcohol addiction can be a challenging but achievable goal with the proper support, treatment, and dedication. Every individual’s path to recovery is unique, but many people have found success through professional treatment, support groups, and lifestyle changes. Treatment options may include detoxification, medication-assisted therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and other evidence-based approaches tailored to the individual’s specific needs. Participating in support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery, can provide a sense of community, accountability, and shared experiences that can be invaluable in maintaining sobriety. Making necessary lifestyle changes, such as avoiding triggers, developing healthy coping mechanisms, and building a solid support network, can also contribute to long-term recovery. It’s important to remember that recovery is a lifelong journey, and relapse is common. However, with perseverance, self-compassion, and a commitment to personal growth, individuals can overcome alcohol addiction and build a fulfilling life in recovery.

homeless alcoholic

Homelessness is just one of the many consequences of untreated alcohol addiction. Don’t wait; let Cornerstone help you today.

Alcohol addiction, or Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), progresses through several stages.

It begins with occasional or social drinking, which may escalate to more frequent and heavy consumption. As tolerance develops, individuals require more alcohol to achieve the desired effects, and drinking starts to take priority over responsibilities and relationships.

The later stages are characterized by physical and psychological dependence, with withdrawal symptoms occurring when not drinking. The final stage is marked by severe consequences, such as job loss, legal issues, homelessness, and health problems, yet the individual continues to drink despite these adverse outcomes.

Recognizing alcohol addiction as a chronic and progressive disease is crucial, and seeking professional help at any stage can significantly improve the chances of successful recovery through detoxification, therapy, and ongoing support.

What are the signs of alcohol addiction?

Signs of alcohol addiction may include:

  • Drinking alone or in secrecy
    Prioritizing alcohol over responsibilities and relationships
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, such as tremors, anxiety, or nausea
  • Developing a tolerance, requiring more alcohol to achieve the desired effects
  • Continuing to drink despite negative consequences, such as job loss or legal issues
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut back or stop drinking
  • Spending significant time and money on alcohol-related activities

How can I approach a loved one about their drinking problem?

When approaching a loved one about their drinking problem, it is essential to do so with compassion, understanding, and support.

  • Please choose a time when they are sober and in a private, comfortable setting.
  • Express your concerns using “I” statements, focusing on specific behaviors and their impact on you and others.
  • Avoid blame, criticism, or ultimatums, as these can lead to defensiveness.
  • Be prepared to offer resources and support, such as information on treatment options or a willingness to attend therapy or support group meetings together.

 

Remember that the decision to seek help ultimately lies with your loved one, but your support can be a crucial factor in their recovery journey.

What are the treatment options for alcohol addiction?

Treatment options for alcohol addiction may include:

  • Detoxification: A medically supervised process to safely manage withdrawal symptoms
  • Inpatient rehabilitation:Intensive, residential treatment programs that provide 24/7 support and care
  • Outpatient treatment:Regular therapy sessions and support groups while the individual lives at home
  • Medication-assisted therapy:The use of medications, such as naltrexone or acamprosate, to reduce cravings and prevent relapse
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: A form of treatment that helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors related to alcohol use
  • Support groups:Peer-led groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery, that provide a sense of community and accountability

How can I support a loved one in recovery from alcohol addiction?

Supporting a loved one in recovery from alcohol addiction involves being present, patient, and understanding.

Please educate yourself about alcohol addiction and the recovery process to better understand their challenges and needs.

  • Encourage their participation in treatment and support group meetings, and be willing to attend family therapy sessions or support groups for loved ones.
  • Help create a safe, alcohol-free environment at home, and be mindful of triggers or high-risk situations.
  • Celebrate their successes and milestones, and be prepared to support them during setbacks or relapses.
  • Practice self-care and set boundaries as needed, as supporting a loved one in recovery can be emotionally demanding.

 

Remember that recovery is lifelong; your ongoing love and support can significantly impact your journey.

CLINICALLY REVIEWED

Dr Yar Khan, MD

Faz Yar Khan, MD FACP

Medical Director

Dr. Faz Yar Kahn, our Medical Director, is an American Board of Internal Medicine-certified physician. He graduated from the Medical University of the Americas and completed his residency at Mercy Hospital in Chicago. With expertise in primary care, hospitalist medicine, critical care, and addiction medicine, along with ACLS certification, Dr. Kahn leads our team in providing exceptional substance abuse treatment.

Get Started
Now

Call and speak with one of our caring team members about help for you or a loved one.

Get informed

Visit Cornerstone's
Recovery Knowledge Base

alcoholic-hepatitis-liver-disease

Alcoholic Hepatitis

Alcoholic hepatitis is a severe condition resulting from long-term, excessive alcohol consumption that leads to liver inflammation and damage.

Read More
alcoholic fatty liver disease

Alcoholic Fatty Liver

Alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) encompasses a spectrum of pathological changes within the liver resulting from excessive alcohol intake, ranging...

Read More