Alcohol Addiction

In common and historic usage, alcoholism refers to any condition that results in the continued consumption of alcoholic beverages despite the health problems and negative social consequences it causes. Alcoholism may also refer to a preoccupation with or compulsion toward the consumption of alcohol and/or an impaired ability to recognize the negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption.

Although not all of these definitions specify current and on-going use of alcohol as a qualifier, some do, as well as remarking on the long-term effects of consistent heavy alcohol use including dependence and symptoms of withdrawal.

While the ingestion of alcohol is, by definition, necessary to develop alcoholism, the use of alcohol does not predict the development of alcoholism. The quantity, frequency and regularity of alcohol consumption required to develop alcoholism varies greatly from person to person. In addition, although the biological mechanisms underpinning alcoholism are uncertain, some risk factors, including social environment, emotional health and genetic predisposition, have been identified.

As with all addictive behavior problems, it is very difficult for a person to acknowledge the existence of an alcohol addiction meaning people can suffer for many more years than is necessary. It is often confused with recurring depression and high anxiety levels which are not relieved by conventional treatments, and a failure to identify the role of alcohol in these conditions often means a failure to refer for the correct treatment.

Fortunately, it is a highly treatable condition and Teen Challenge is set up to help people learn about Alcohol Addiction and offer you free help. Teen Challenge’s has a free drug rehab programme for substance abuse, it is open to everyone both men and women who need addiction help. Wilkerson House Center in London is open to men only and Hope House Center in Wales is for women.

Levels and Patterns of alcohol addiction:

Alcohol Addiction includes heavy drinking, binge drinking or both.

Heavy drinking
  • For women, more than 1 drink per day on average.
  • For men, more than 2 drinks per day on average.
Binge drinking
  • For women, more than 3 drink during a single occasion.
  • For men, more than 4 drink during a single occasion.
Alcohol abuse

is a pattern of drinking that result in harm to one’s health, interpersonal relationships or ability to work. Manifestations of alcohol abuse include:

  • Failure to fulfill major responsibilities at work, school, or home.
  • Drinking in dangerous situations, such as drinking while driving or operating machinery.
  • Legal problems related to alcohol, such as being arrested for drinking while driving or for physically hurting someone while drunk.
  • Continued drinking despite ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by drinking.
  • Long-term alcohol abuse can turn into alcohol dependence
Dependency on alcohol,

also known as alcohol addiction and alcoholism, is a chronic disease. The signs and symptoms of alcohol dependence include:

  • A strong craving for alcohol.
  • Continued use despite repeated physical, psychological, or interpersonal problems.
  • The inability to limit drinking.
  • Physical illness when one stops drinking.
  • The need to drink increasing amounts to feel its effects.

If you need help with substance abuse you can apply for free to one of our Teen Challenge Centers today. Complete an online application form and one of our Support Workers or Centre Manager will then contact you to arrange an interview.

How common is it?

Alcohol Dependency is by far the most common addiction and is responsible for the deaths of many thousands of people every year. Government figures suggest that up to 9.7% of the UK population may be classified as dependent on alcohol.

How do I know if I have it?

People who are concerned should always seek professional assessment. Some symptoms are more easily detected:

  1. Loss of control once drinking has started;
  2. Withdrawal symptoms ranging from mild tremors to frightening hallucinations;
  3. Noticeable changes in the effects alcohol has on the individual over time

How do people develop it?

The condition is characterized by the fact that the sufferer, despite many attempts at control, finds that their drinking and the attendant consequences continues to get worse over the period, and the dependent person’s guilt, shame and remorse levels become increasingly more burdensome. Attempts to stop can result in withdrawal symptoms which are relieved by taking more alcohol. Attempts at control (‘just a couple of drinks won’t hurt’) almost always end in drunkenness, and things seem to get progressively worse. In extremes, suicide may seem the best option as depression and severe anxiety coupled with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness often accompany addiction to alcohol.

All addicts are afraid of taking the first step. Action is the bridge that helps us move from the dark to the light. Teen Challenge can help you make that transition free.

Can it be inherited?

Although an actual gene has not been identified there is considerable evidence of genetic predisposition to the illness, through studies of twins and apocryphal evidence.

Physical health effects

It is common for a person suffering from alcoholism to drink well after physical health effects start to manifest. The physical health effects associated with alcohol consumption may include cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, epilepsy, polyneuropathy, alcoholic dementia, and heart disease, increased chance of cancer, nutritional deficiencies, sexual dysfunction, and death from many sources.

Some studies have suggested that in moderation, alcohol consumption has significant health benefits. These include a lower risk of heart attack, lower risk of diabetes, lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, reduced risk of stroke, and an increase in overall longevity. One study found that a person fifty-five or older who consumed 1-3 drinks daily was half as likely to develop dementia linked to poor oxygen to the brain as a person who did not. Additionally, because alcohol increases ‘good’ cholesterol and decreases the ‘bad’ cholesterol, there are indications that frequent doses in moderation reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke. These benefits are all counteracted by excessive consumption. The health benefits of moderate use have been disputed with researchers claiming that earlier studies that seemed to show such benefits were flawed. It is claimed that health benefits are only gained with heavy drinking where the harm outweighs the benefits. A 2001 report estimates that medium and high consumption of alcohol led to 75,754 deaths in the USA. Low consumption has some beneficial effects so a net 59,180 deaths were attributed to alcohol.

Alcohol intoxication affects the brain, causing slurred speech, clumsiness, and delayed reflexes. The condition is called alcohol intoxication or drunkenness, and eventually subsides. Alcohol stimulates insulin production, which speeds up the glucose metabolism and can result in low blood sugar, causing irritability. In excess, the poisoning can be severe, even lethal. A blood-alcohol content of .45% represents the LD50, or the amount which would prove fatal in 50% of test subjects. This is about six times the level of intoxication (0.08%), but vomiting and/or unconsciousness are triggered much sooner in people with a low tolerance, among whom such high levels are rarely reached unless a large amount of alcohol is consumed very quickly. However, chronic heavy drinkers’ high tolerance may allow some of them to remain conscious at levels above .4%, despite the serious health dangers.

Chronic effects of alcohol consumption include effects of its metabolism in the liver, its effects on the brain, and effects of addiction (alcoholism). For example, cirrhosis is stereotypically found in heavy drinkers. The consumption of alcohol does not kill brain cells but rather damages dendrites, the branched ends of nerve cells that bring messages into the cell. Alcohol dilates the channels in the cellular structure that regulate the flow of calcium, causing excess calcium to flow into the cells and stimulating increased activity. This does not kill the whole cell, but causes a loss of the end segments, leading to the loss of incoming signals and therefore a change in brain function. Most of this damage is temporary, but the recovery process changes nerve-cell structure permanently. Some forms of cancer have been linked to excessive consumption of alcohol. “3.6% of all cancer cases worldwide are related to alcohol drinking, resulting in 3.5% of all cancer deaths”.

Alcohol is also a potentially addictive substance, with numerous health effects, and potentially lethal effects of withdrawal. Alcoholism has more and more serious effects on health than moderate drinking. Alcoholism is a major concern for public health; like other kinds of addiction, it is also viewed as a form of immorality. Propensity to alcoholism is partially genetic; individuals with such propensity may have a different biochemical response to alcohol. Alcohol addiction can also lead to malnutrition because it can alter digestion and metabolism of most nutrients. Severe thiamine deficiency is common due to deficiency of folate, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and selenium. Muscle cramps, nausea, appetite loss, nerve disorders and depression are some common symptoms. It can also lead to osteoporosis and bone fractures due to vitamin D deficiency (vitamin D helps in calcium absorption).

Mental health effects

Long term misuse of alcohol can cause a wide range of mental health effects. Alcohol misuse is not only toxic to the body but also to brain function and thus psychological well being can be adversely affected by the long-term effects of alcohol misuse. Psychiatric disorders are common in alcoholics, especially anxiety and depression disorders, with as many as 25% of alcoholics presenting with severe psychiatric disturbances. Typically these psychiatric symptoms caused by alcohol misuse initially worsen during alcohol withdrawal but with abstinence these psychiatric symptoms typically gradually improve or disappear altogether. Panic disorder can develop as a direct result of long term alcohol misuse. Panic disorder can also worsen or occur as part of the alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Chronic alcohol misuse can cause panic disorder to develop or worsen an underlying panic disorder via distortion of the neuro-chemical system in the brain. Alcoholism is usually a way of coping with other problems to free ones self from their problems.

Social effects

The social problems arising from alcoholism can be significant. Being drunk or hung over during work hours can result in loss of employment, which can lead to financial problems including the loss of living quarters. Drinking at inappropriate times, and behavior caused by reduced judgment, can lead to legal consequences, such as criminal charges for drunk driving or public disorder, or civil penalties for tortuous behavior. An alcoholic’s behavior and mental impairment while drunk can profoundly impact surrounding family and friends, possibly leading to marital conflict and divorce, or contributing to domestic violence. This can contribute to lasting damage to the emotional development of the alcoholic’s children, even after they reach adulthood. The alcoholic could suffer from loss of respect from others who may see the problem as self-inflicted and easily avoided.

Free help is at hand.

The first thing you can do is fill in our free consultation form, where you can tell us more about yourself and your problems. You will receive a personal assessment of your drinking and how we can help. Then one of our Support Workers or Centre Manager will then contact you to arrange an interview

Identification and diagnosis

Free multiple tools are available to those wishing to conduct screening for alcoholism. Identification of alcoholism may be difficult because there is no detectable physiologic difference between a person who drinks frequently and a person with the condition. Identification involves an objective assessment regarding the damage that imbibing alcohol does to the drinker’s life compared to the subjective benefits the drinker perceives from consuming alcohol. While there are many cases where an alcoholic’s life has been significantly and obviously damaged, there are always borderline cases that can be difficult to classify.

Can it be cured?

Alcoholism is almost impossible to overcome alone, but with the help of others, a large number of people find recovery.

Here at Teen Challenge’s we have a rehabilitation programme which includes expert advice for any type of substance abuse and is FREE. We are open to everyone both men and women who need addiction help.

If you are like many British people, you drink alcohol at least occasionally and do not have an addiction. For many people, moderate drinking is probably safe. It may even have health benefits, including reducing your risk of certain heart problems. Moderate drinking is one drink a day for woman or anyone over 65 and two drinks a day for men under 65. Some people should not drink at all, including alcoholics, children, pregnant women, people on certain medicines and people with some medical conditions. If you have questions about whether it is safe for you to drink, speak with our Support Workers. Anything more than moderate drinking can be risky. Binge drinking – drinking five or more drinks at one time – can damage your health and increase your risk for accidents, injuries and assault. Years of heavy drinking can lead to liver disease, heart disease, cancer and pancreatitis. It can also cause problems at home, at work and with friends.

Drug and alcohol use is very common in our society. Drinking alcohol has immediate effects that can increase the risk of many harmful health conditions. Excessive alcohol use, either in the form of heavy drinking (drinking more than two drinks per day on average for men or more than one drink per day on average for women), or binge drinking (drinking more than 4 drinks during a single occasion for men or more than 3 drinks during a single occasion for women), can lead to increased risk of health problems such as liver disease or unintentional injuries. According to national surveys, over half of the adult population drank alcohol in the past 30 days. Approximately, 5% of the total population drank heavily while 15% of the population binge drank. Our national surveys previously defined binge drinking as more than 4 drinks for both men and women. In 2001, there were approximately 75,000 deaths attributable to excessive use of alcohol. In fact, excessive alcohol use is the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death for people each year. Alcohol use poses additional problems for underage drinkers. The problem is in both alcohol and drugs a tolerance level is attained meaning the taker needs more to get the same effect, this in turn can lead powerfully towards addiction.