While many people are able to enjoy an occasional drink, many struggle with maintaining a healthy relationship with alcohol. When drinking causes distress or harm, it's defined as an alcohol use disorder, according to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse or Alcoholism (NIAAA). About 18 million people in the United States have what's considered an alcohol use disorder. Alcoholism is the most severe of the disorders, according to the NIAAA.
Symptoms include craving alcohol and struggling to stop drinking once you’ve started. In addition, alcoholics have typically developed a growing tolerance to alcohol. This means that they need to drink more and more alcohol to achieve the feeling of being drunk. Becoming shaky and/or sweaty when not drinking is another sign of alcohol dependence. Those suffering from alcoholism may have problems performing at work. Personal relationships are typically affected, as well. Drunk driving is perhaps the biggest public health concern associated with the disorder. According to the NIAAA, alcoholics spend a lot of time either drinking, figuring out how to drink or recovering from drinking.
How to treat Alcoholism
Alcoholics often struggle to maintain healthy personal and professional lives because of their drinking. Their drinking may also threaten other people, either by drinking and driving or by hurting family members. When it comes to treatment options, addiction rehabilitation programs can be effective. According to the NIAAA, over 70 percent of people with an alcohol problem say they’ve struggled with it for three to four years. The organization reports that at-risk drinkers refer to people who have more than the recommended weekly amounts of alcohol. This translates to more than four drinks a day for men (more than three drinks a day for women).
Binge drinking is another dangerous drinking pattern. To start drinking less, the NIAAA suggests keeping track of how much you drink using a notepad or a smartphone app, measuring alcohol when making your own drinks (as opposed to “free pouring”) and not drinking on an empty stomach. Avoiding known drinking triggers is also recommended. If adhering to these strategies proves too difficult, that may indicate a drinking problem that requires professional help. Consistent, heavy drinking is a habit that directly affects the body. In fact, the immediate effects of alcohol can be felt within 10 minutes.