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Key Questions to Ask if You Are Struggling With Alcohol Addiction

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Originally published October 12, 2020. Last updated October 18, 2023.

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Is Alcohol Addiction a Big Problem?

At Synergy Recovery Services, we see many clients and patients who are alcohol dependent. Alcohol dependence is one of the most common addictions. According to the National Council on Drug and Alcohol Dependence, one in 12 people are addicted to alcohol, which is about 17.6 million people. Alcohol is the third-leading “lifestyle” cause of death, meaning it’s a preventable disease attributed to lifestyle choices, rather than accidents, genetic or environmental factors.

How Much Is Too Much?

The line between social drinking and alcohol abuse is often blurred, especially because alcohol affects individuals differently. Size, weight, age and genetics all make it difficult to pinpoint an exact amount that leads to dependence.

The Center for Disease Control defines “moderate” drinking as one glass of beer, wine or hard liquor per day for women, and two for men. Generally speaking, a standard drink under this definition is 12 ounces of beer, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine, or a 1.5 ounce shot of hard liquor.

Although some people think that wine or beer is safer than hard liquor, your body doesn’t care where it gets alcohol from. Wine does provide some antioxidants, but you can obtain similar health benefits from grape juice or cranberry juice. The amount of alcohol in a serving defines its effects, with higher proof alcoholic beverages producing stronger effects without having to drink the same amount.

Using the standard levels listed above, heavy drinking is defined by the CDC as 8 or more drinks for women per week, or 12 or more for men per week. Alcohol abuse often begins when heavy drinking turns into problem drinking. People who abuse alcohol find that even heavy drinking isn’t enough. The more they drink, however, the more problems they have. Heavy drinking and alcohol abuse can lead to:

  • Dangerous drinking situations, such as drinking and driving or operating heavy machinery
  • Problems at work, home or school due to drinking
  • Legal problems due to drinking

Alcoholism or alcohol dependence is when problem drinking or alcohol abuse becomes chronic. Alcoholics find their cravings for alcohol are so strong that they can’t resist or moderate their drinking even when it becomes a problem. They may need a drink in the morning to keep away shakiness or queasiness.

Who Is at Risk for Alcohol Problems?

Anyone can be at risk for alcohol problems. Alcohol addiction doesn’t discriminate by gender, race or economic status. However, you may have an increased risk of becoming addicted to alcohol if someone in your family is addicted to drugs or alcohol. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence states that genetics makes up about 50 percent of an individual’s risk of alcoholism.

Family and social circumstances also increase your risk of becoming dependent on alcohol. If everyone in your social circles drinks heavily, you may take up the habit simply to fit in. But over time, this can lead to dependence.

Additional risk factors for developing alcohol or drug problems include anxiety and depression. Some people begin drinking to soothe anxious feelings. Social anxiety often leads people to overindulge at parties, for example, which can then turn into a drinking habit. Some people have underlying depression or anxiety that when treated, helps them heal from alcohol abuse as well.

Even though researchers know a lot about alcoholism, there are still many unanswered questions about this disease. Regardless of your family history, genetics or social status, if you are having a problem controlling your drinking, or if you think your drinking is controlling you, it’s time to seek help.

How Does Drinking Affect Your Health?

Alcohol is a drug that affects every part of your body. Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to many problems, including liver damage, hypertension, heart disease, depression and even dementia. When you drink alcohol, it enters your bloodstream directly from the stomach and small intestine. It then travels to your central nervous system and brain. Eventually, chronic alcoholism can affect the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination. Alcohol also affects parts of the brain related to mood, speech and more.

Your liver is responsible for clearing your body of toxins. Alcohol is actually a toxin, and the liver must use its resources to neutralize and remove alcohol from the body. Chronic alcohol abuse can damage the liver and cause liver disease.

Short-Term Effects of Drinking

There are also short-term effects of drinking that can be unpleasant and dangerous. After one drink, most people find their inhibitions lessening. They may also feel happy, relaxed and more talkative than usual. But as the alcohol levels in the bloodstream increase, you may find yourself becoming sleepier. Some people develop headaches, stomach aches, ulcers, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues.

The more alcohol you drink, the more your judgment is impaired. Your reaction time slows, which is why drinking and driving is such a dangerous mix. Not only is your reaction time and driving ability compromised, but you may not even be aware of the problem.

Too much alcohol in the bloodstream can also lead to blackouts, coma and unconsciousness. If you have passed out from drinking, you should think seriously about seeking treatment for an alcohol problem. Binge drinking, weekend drinking and heavy drinking on occasion can be as problematic to your health and well-being as someone who drinks a lot regularly.

Get a Consultation Today

Don’t let alcohol continue to harm your health or wellbeing. If you think you have a problem with alcohol, please call us today. We provide alcohol addiction treatment in our comfortable, spa-like setting in Bakersfield.

If you or a loved one has a problem with alcohol, contact Synergy Recovery Services today. We are open Monday through Friday and will be happy to answer any of your questions regarding alcohol addiction treatment at our Bakersfield center. Please call us at 661-878-9930.

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About the Author:

President, Medical Director: Jan Trobisch, MD

Dr. Jan Trobisch graduated from the esteemed Freie Universität Berlin in 1999 and completed his residency training in Internal Medicine at Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, California, by 2004. After his residency, Dr. Trobisch worked as a hospitalist and served as an attending physician for the residency program. He founded Synergy Wellness Center in 2009.

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