According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, an estimated 18 million American adults suffer from alcohol addiction. This number does not include unreported or unacknowledged cases, and, unfortunately, alcoholism can be treated only when addicts diagnose themselves as such. Diagnosis by another matters little ? a person addicted to alcohol cannot maintain long-term sobriety unless he believes himself an alcoholic. Fortunately, once a person accepts his alcohol addiction, he can learn to live a happy, alcohol-free life.
What Is Alcohol Addiction?
Alcohol addiction affects the mind as an obsession and the body as an allergy. It leads to excessive consumption of alcohol on a regular basis; often, the alcoholic becomes drunk even when she has neither the intention nor the desire to reach an inebriated state. Alcohol addicts have no power over alcohol, and the addiction leads them to drink despite the damage drinking does to their bodies, minds, families and jobs. Alcohol addiction can be defined as the need ? not the desire ? to drink under any circumstances.
How Do People Become Addicted to Alcohol?
Given the various backgrounds of alcoholics, heredity and environment do not lead to alcohol addiction. Alcoholism spans all ages, races, income brackets, backgrounds and lifestyles. Some people are born with the addiction: From their first sip, they cannot help but consume copious amounts of alcohol. Other people develop the addiction over time: They begin using alcohol to cope with life and gradually become dependent upon this form of medication.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction manifests itself in many ways. It is imperative to realize that not all addicts experience the same signs and symptoms. Denial plays a large role in the disease, so look for the similarities rather than the differences. Alcoholics often use the differences to remain in denial.
*Drinking alone or hiding alcohol use.
*Hostility or defensiveness when questioned about drinking.
*Physical withdrawal symptoms, such as shakiness or delirium tremens, when not drinking.
*Changing habits to gain control over drinking. This includes switching what, when and how a person drinks.
*Continuing to drink when drinking causes harm.
*Looking for reasons to drink.
*Using any emotion to justify drinking.
*Missing school, work or other activities because of drinking.
*Frequently needing alcohol to get through the day.
*Increased tolerance to alcohol.
*The intent to have only one drink often leads to binges.
Help for Alcohol Addiction
Although alcohol addiction has no permanent cure, many alcoholics do recover from the overwhelming obsession for alcohol. Treatment and rehabilitation facilities help break the physical dependence upon alcohol, and 12-step programs teach addicts how to maintain a life free from alcohol. As the originator of the 12 steps to recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous is the most known organization, but many groups use the original steps in programs modified to suit different beliefs and lifestyles.
By living one day at a time with their alcohol addiction, many alcoholics can - and do - live happy, productive lives without the need to take a drink.