Believe it or not, Alcohol is a drug. Yes, it’s legal, often packaged beautifully, and has been a traditional feature of many seasonal festivities, social gatherings, friend catch ups and Friday bonding with your work colleagues. However, it is still a drug, and it is still one of the most aggressive driving forces of addiction in our community:
Just like other drugs, alcohol is addictive and has potentially dangerous impacts on the human body. Therefore, when somebody is classified as an alcoholic, they are also considered on the same medical wavelength as that of a drug addict. The addictive thoughts, behaviours and symptoms associated with alcoholism do not differ greatly to that of other substance addictions. Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s harmless.
Abuse vs addiction
Alcohol addiction and alcohol abuse are not the same problem. Alcohol abusers are not necessarily addicted to alcohol, but are typically heavy drinkers who continue drinking regardless of their steadily declining physical state. Abusers of alcohol may not drink on a consistent basis, however, when that individual drinks, he often finds himself in unwanted situations and/or ending a session with mild or severe alcohol poisoning. Certain individuals who abuse alcohol may eventually become dependent on it. Unfortunately, this can be driven by external factors such as an unhappy family life, depression, financial stress, dissatisfaction at work or social anxiety. Not everyone is in circumstances that will support and nurture wise choices.
Alcohol addiction is a much deeper and more consistent problem. Addiction develops through a psychological dependence on consuming alcohol – this then developing into continued, compulsive drinking often for hours on end and at inappropriate times of the day. Individuals who suffer from alcohol addiction develop such an overpowering dependence on the substance that they will experience severe, sometimes life-threatening, withdrawal symptoms when trying to become sober.
Effects and accidents
Alcohol affects different people in different ways. Some personalities seem to amplify and gain excess energy, whereas others can become tired, sluggish or unanimated. Alcohol is actually classed as a depressant, meaning that it slows down vital functions in the brain and shouldn’t really be giving a stimulating effect at all. Slurred speech, unsteady movement, disturbed perceptions and an inability to react quickly are all effects of the depressant taking over parts of the brain and body. In other words – being drunk. Alcohol has the ability to reduce a person’s thought-processing, rationale and can significantly distort judgement and decision-making. While you might be conscious and seemingly in control, the reality is that you are probably not.
The amount of alcohol consumed by an individual over a short period of time, determines the extent of the depressant effect, and also how quickly it manifests. When alcohol is consumed for positive stimulation or ‘de-stressing’ purposes, this desired effect is usually quick, pleasurable and relatively harmless. However, if a person consumes more than their body can handle, they then experience a surge of the alcohol’s depressant impact – therefore starting to feel “stupid”, loss of coordination and self-control and slurred speech. The more alcohol consumed, the greater these depressant side-effects become, until the individual either passes out, becomes extremely ill, or a combination of the two. And this is where it can get very serious.
Alcohol overdose, through excess consumption, is a dangerous condition that causes severe and debilitating side-effects to the body and brain that exceed that of just being ‘drunk’. These can include an inability to feel pain, accidental toxicity through further consumption – often resulting in severe bouts of vomiting, unconsciousness, potential coma, and in severe cases - death. The speed and severity of these overdose symptoms can depend on how much alcohol has been consumed and how quickly. It can also depend on the type of alcohol, whether different forms of alcohol have been mixed over the course of a drinking period, and if any other substances were taken at the same time.
Identifying Alcohol Addiction
While alcohol abuse symptoms do vary, there are some key signs and symptoms that can indicate an alcohol addiction:
Neglecting personal/family responsibilities.
Declining academic or professional performance.
Conflicts with loved ones.
Preoccupation with drinking and cravings.
Inability to control drinking.
Failing in attempts to stop drinking.
Needing increasing amounts of alcohol to feel its effects.
Getting drunk when it could be hazardous, such as before driving.
Going through withdrawal when not drinking.
Rehabilitation – the Key to Sobriety
When it comes to the treatment of an alcohol problem, rehabilitation is key. Typically, treatment centres require an individual to stay for a specific amount of time depending on the personal details and factors associated with their addiction problem. Many centres offer both long- and short-term treatment options, and Sober Living Housing in Melbourne, does just that.
Alcohol detoxification is a tremendously challenging and physically unpleasant aspect of alcohol rehab. Medical detox is extremely important for someone dependent on alcohol, because alcohol withdrawal can cause delirium and potentially life-threatening seizures, along with other very serious symptoms. Sober Living Housing offers an extensive and highly-skilled team of medical and psychologically-trained professionals who will assist a detoxing patient through these tough initial stages.
Once the detox has been monitored and completed, patients will have access to other valuable and informative alcohol abuse programs, implemented through the Intensive Inpatient Program: life skills, alcohol counselling, group therapy and introduction to the eventual 12-step outpatient milestone. The 12-step outpatient drug treatment program sets up the key foundations in which a recovering addict/alcoholic needs to have in the forefront of their recovery mindset, in order to successfully integrate back into home life.
That final step towards recovery independence comes into play through the Substance Abuse Outpatient Program. Sober Living Housing works with the accomplished client and proud family to establish and facilitate an individualized recovery plan for ongoing success outside of the facility.