New York, like much of the rest of the United States, has chronic problems with alcohol and drug addictions. Alcohol abuse is dangerous enough by itself, but many New Yorkers combine alcohol with other drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, GHB, and others, putting themselves at further risk of poisoning and death. Alcohol abuse treatment is what’s necessary for a person to overcome their alcoholism. Understanding what causes alcoholism and its various side effects is the first step to recovery.
Alcoholism is a powerful mental addiction to alcoholic beverages, and causes the person afflicted to compulsively seek out and consume alcohol. Like other addictions, alcoholism is recurrent and worsens with time, which is why therapists and other medical personnel refer to it as a chronic, progressive disease. Alcoholism is both mental, in that the person suffers from constant cravings for and obsessive thoughts of alcohol, and physical, in that it causes a person to suffer painful or uncomfortable side effects if they stop using alcohol for even a brief period of time.
Alcohol Abuse Defined
Alcohol abuse differs slightly from alcoholism in several important ways. Alcohol abuse is the misuse or overuse of alcohol. The person may not suffer physical or mental cravings as yet, but they still use alcohol in unhealthy ways: binge drinking, drinking until there are frequent gaps in their memory (blackouts), and so forth. (Binge drinking is defined as any period of drinking, generally five or more drinks in one sitting for men and four for women, which raises a person’s blood alcohol limit to 0.08% in a short period of time.) This type of abuse is common in people between the ages of 18 and 34, and those 55 and older. Even though alcohol abuse is not alcoholism, it is still a form of problem drinking, and the person who is abusing alcohol needs treatment before their condition advances into full-blown alcoholism.
Indicators of Alcoholism
- Incoherent speech
- Drinking all the time, or thinking about drinking
- Imbalance or clumsiness
- Constant anxiety
- Worsening work or school performance
- Alienation from loved ones
- Self-imposed solitude
- Money or legal problems
- Elevated heart rate and/or blood pressure
- Liver disease
- Mood swings
- Increased tolerance to alcohol
- Discomfort when drinking stops
Alcohol withdrawal—a physical and mental process—occurs when a person doesn’t imbibe enough alcohol or stops consuming it altogether. Symptoms can be extreme and may include:
- Head or body aches
- Muscular spasms
- Sickness, vomiting, or nausea
- Gastrointestinal difficulty, such as diarrhea
- Elevated body temperature
Alcoholism recovery begins with a period of detoxification. People develop tolerance to alcohol when they use it to excess, and this puts them in danger of extreme withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking. Detox eliminates the physical side of addiction and scrubs the body of alcohol-related toxins. This process lasts three to fourteen days and is supervised around the clock by trained medical professionals. This prepares individuals to go through the rehab process, which largely consists of group and one-on-one therapy sessions intended to root out the precise cause of the addiction and treat it at its source.