Alcohol Abuse and Addiction


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Many studies and sources point out the health benefits of alcohol consumption, moderately. These studies have shown a connection between decreased heart disease and light to moderate drinking. For instance, prospective studies state that the  risk of ischemic (clot-caused) stroke, heart attack, sudden cardiac death, peripheral vascular disease, and death decreases anywhere from 25% to 40% when people consume alcohol on a light to moderate basis.

While exact definitions of light to moderate drinking are somewhat subjective across various studies, it’s hard  to ignore the idea that drinking is no longer in moderate territory when the risks starts to outweigh the benefits.

In the US, alcohol has a long and sorted history, but regardless of its current legal status, irresponsible use will most likely lead to dangerous effects, especially to health. Alcohol addiction, or alcoholism, is usually present when an individual finds themself unable to control the urge to drink alcohol in some shape or form. Once at this stage, the situation would be considered a medical disorder.

What Is Alcohol?

Ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, is the consumable form of alcohol and is made when grains, fruit, or honey are fermented. Fermenting grains or fruit has been a practice that has existed for thousands of years; ancient Egypt, China, and India each had their variety of alcoholic beverages, some dating back to 7000 B.C.

Once consumed, ethanol acts as a depressant in the body, altering brain chemistry. It can cause side effects, or what is formally called intoxication, and the user could have slurred speech, impaired motor skills, and a greater likelihood to participate in abnormal risky behavior.

Different types of alcoholic beverages vary in alcoholic content, which would affect how fast it will act on the user. Beer, for example, has roughly 2 to 6 % alcohol, while wine has 8 to 20 % alcohol and liqueurs can have 15 to 60% alcohol. Spirits or hard liquor typically has 40 to 50% alcohol. These would be drinks like tequila, gin, rum, brandy, whiskey, and vodka.

Is Alcohol a Drug?

It is probably the most frequently asked question by those who want to understand and treat alcohol abuse on a deeper level. Can you consider it a drug? Alcohol isn’t classified as a drug even though it can create a marked change in consciousness among drinkers. Although it might not be the same as methamphetamine, cocaine, or heroin, it can still the effect you in a way that may be equally as damaging.

With regards to its effects on the person’s mental health, alcohol is labeled as a drug that distorts the person’s judgment and reduces his or her ability to think rationally.

Alcohol is graded as a depressant because it slows down the person’s motor and speech function. It results in unsteady movement, slurred speech, inability to react quickly, and disturbed perceptions.

Alcohol might be classified as a depressant, but the effects it creates are determined by the amount of alcohol consumed. For instance, the majority of people drink alcoholic beverages such as wine or beer for their stimulating effect. However, if a person consumes alcohol more than the body can handle, he or she will experience its depressing effects. The person will start to lose his or her control and coordination.

As a depressant, alcohol has a calming, relaxing effect on the user. Those who drink alcohol may appear more talkative, exude more self-confidence, and have a shorter attention span.

People who struggle with alcohol abuse will find themselves craving for a drink more often, unable to stop drinking once they’ve started. These people also start to build a high tolerance to alcohol and develop an unquenchable need to consume more to feel the same effect.

Too much alcohol intake is already dangerous, but when it’s combined with illicit or prescription drugs, the effects will be twice as dangerous and fatal. There will be an increased risk of overdose and death.

For instance, when blood pressure medication and alcohol are combined, heart arrhythmia and fainting may take place. Alcohol and blood thinners can also lead to stroke or internal bleeding. On the other hand, alcohol and muscle relaxants may lead to seizures while opiates lead to difficulty in breathing.

What is the Difference Between Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Addiction?

There’s a definitive fine line between alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction. Alcohol abuse and addiction can be seen as two entirely different sets of behaviors and symptoms that progressively occurs with similar disorders. These two also come with different adverse effects, that if left unattended or untreated, will escalate to more serious physical and mental health issues.

Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse encompasses a lot of dangerous behaviors such as driving while intoxicated, drinking alcohol at the expense of participating in other activities, and binge drinking as well. Alcohol abuse comes into the picture when a person already experiences the negative and adverse consequences of his or her drinking habits.

Alcohol abuse may not always lead to addiction. However, it’s often the early sign or stage of the disorder. It manifests when alcohol consumption starts to restrict one’s productivity relating to school, work, and/or social obligations.

Such constraints may lead to reckless behaviors such as drinking and driving, then progress to continuous drinking despite the consequences. If such abuse continues, addiction comes next.

Alcohol Addiction

Addiction to alcohol is a severe condition marked by the inability to stop consuming alcohol despite the growing negative consequences it creates. Clear indications of a developing addiction to alcohol include:

  • Exceeding self-imposed limits
  • Uncontrollable cravings for alcohol
  • Continued use despite physical and psychological pain
  • Inability to stop drinking once one has started
  • Poor judgement in social consequences

Furthermore, when someone becomes addicted to alcohol, withdrawal and tolerance start to present themselves. This means the user may experience symptoms of withdrawal when not drinking,  needing additional alcohol intake to get the same “buzz.”

How Long Does  Alcohol Stay In Your System?

It’s important to know about how long alcohol remains in the system to avoid dangerous impairments in mental and physical performance as well as interactions with medications. There have been detailed studies made about the metabolism of alcohol, but there are numerous factors that decide how long alcohol will remain active in your body and how long it takes to eliminate it.


To find out how long alcohol will stay in your system, variables need to be considered, like the type of drug test used. Alcohol is detectable within a short period of time through some tests. However, it can be visible for three months in other tests.

The following parameters is an estimated detection window or range of times during which alcohol can be revealed through different methods.

  • Breath. Through a breathalyzer test, alcohol can be detected in your breath for up to 24 hours.
  • Blood. A blood test can detect alcohol in the bloodstreams for up to 12 hours.
  • Saliva. A saliva test can detect the alcohol level in your body for as long as five days.
  • Urine. The alcohol content in your body can also be detected through ethyl gluconoride (EGT) metabolite for as long as three to five days or 10 to 12 hours using the traditional method.
  • Hair. It’s possible to detect alcohol for up to 90 days through a hair follicle drug test.

The timeline for detecting alcohol in the system is also reliant upon each person’s body mass, metabolism, hydration level, age, health conditions, physical activity, and other factors which makes it almost impossible to identify the precise time that alcohol appears on a drug test.

The Risk Factors of Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

The results from alcohol abuse and alcoholism range from the physical to psychological and social. It may also take a toll on the body, especially the liver. Users may see significant weight gain too. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are the main driving factors in the growth rate of domestic violence, the inability to keep a job, and losing income.

Alcohol addiction is a medical disorder, and its effects are felt by a broad range of demographics, regardless of their age, race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, region, education level or profession.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) created and distributed a document entitled Addressing Risky Alcohol Use with Other Behavioral Risk Factors states that the physicians who treat alcoholic patients should be acknowledged and addressed the possibility of risk factors.

To obtain this goal, Dr. Richard Saitz, the former Senior Editor for Journal of Addiction Medicine, recommended physicians to apply the following practices;

  • Quick behavioral counseling which includes the five ‘As’ principle namely; assess, advise, agree on goals, assist when it comes to developing a plan, and finally, arrange a follow-up consultation.
  • Use different support systems such as computer-guided tools for decision making.
  • Utilize staff training to address and screen multiple risk factors of alcohol abuse.
  • Implement or create multi-disciplinary teams to be spearheaded by nurses.

Further, brief counseling may be considered as an effective way to address the factors of alcohol abuse. However, its capacity to recognize multiple factors is yet to be established.

The following factors that may increase the chances of alcohol abuse are divided into five different categories;

  • Biological. Numerous studies about the effects of alcohol on various ethnic groups discovered that some people are predisposed to develop alcoholism, while others are inclined to drink less. According to the Mental Health Channel, the majority of Asians are deficient in liver enzymes that’s responsible for breaking down alcohol. This deficiency leads to an unpleasant experience to those who drink alcohol which could lead to the likelihood of drinking less for these people.
  • Genetic. Although the impact of genes remains unclear, researchers addressed that factors such as craving for alcohol, high tolerance for alcohol, and the liking for becoming addicted to alcohol are hereditary. It can be passed down through DNA.
  • Psychological. People who lack parental guidance or those who grew up exposed to grave incidents of domestic violence have a high likelihood to develop ineffective coping skills or experience impaired psychological development. These emotional and psychological setbacks make them susceptible to alcohol abuse.
  • Environmental. Children with alcohol-drinking parents have a high likelihood of alcohol abuse compared to those children raised under alcohol-free household. Peers, siblings, and other family members are also some of the environmental influences that can affect the behavior of children toward alcohol.
  • Socio-cultural. The way on how the society rejects or accepts the use of alcohol plays a significant part on the possibility of the member of a cultural group or an individual to use, misuse, and experiment with abuse alcohol.


The following factors do not guarantee that a person will adapt alcoholism. However, the presence of different risk factors is something that needs continuous attention and studies. Paying close attention to these influences and creating strategies to counteract their effects will make it possible for individuals to live an alcohol-free life, even those who are at the highest risk of surrendering to alcoholism.

Different Types of Alcoholics and Their Symptoms

When it comes to alcoholism, one of the major concerns is that only very few people who suffer from it seek treatment or help.

In most cases, people with alcohol problems are usually in denial or unaware that there’s a problem. This can be extra harmful as refusing to accept treatment can be a life-threatening ordeal. Alcohol abuse and addiction can lead to different types of mental problems and physical that can benefit from therapy and treatment.

For those who aren’t sure if they have alcohol issues or not, understanding the five different subtypes of alcoholism can help diagnose whether help is warranted. Also, it will help both treatment professionals and researchers to provide and create a more significant treatment. Further, it will also help improve the chances for long-term management and positive outcomes of alcoholism.

Chronic Severe Alcoholic

Chronic severe alcoholism is the image most people create when they think about people who suffer from alcoholism. However, it only accounts for 9% of alcohol-dependent people.

According to the National Institutes of Health, a heavy and chronic alcohol user is vulnerable and prone to severe mental illness such as psychosis,  antisocial personality disorder, or other disorders. This type of alcohol user also has a high likelihood to have been addicted or abused other drugs as well.

The progress of chronic and heavy alcohol use is not only harmful, but it can also be challenging to treat. An individual who has been engaged in this type of use for a long time may have severe withdrawal symptoms and must seek immediate professional and medical help. It will help avoid dangerous symptoms like delirium tremens or seizures. Prompt treatment can also help the person learn how to manage the disorder and take the path towards recovery.

The majority of chronic severe alcoholics highly suffer from co-occurring mental health disorders and have a family history of alcoholism. Those who battle with chronic severe alcoholism also experience bipolar disorder, antisocial personality disorder, anxiety disorders, or depression. These alcoholics also often abuse additional substances like opioids,  marijuana, cocaine, and cigarettes.



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Functional Alcoholic

The people under this subtype typically don’t conform to the general typecast for the disease because alcohol doesn’t constrain their life obligations on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, a functional alcoholic often belongs to the category of professional, educated, married with a family, middle-aged, and maintains the appearance of having an orderly life.

NIH (The National Institutes of Health) states that half of all functional alcoholics used to be smokers, 25% suffered from major depression at some point in their lives while 30% have a family history of alcoholism.

Most functional alcoholics often have “double life.” They can compartmentalize their drinking identities from their professional lives. Although they don’t usually fall flat with drinking sessions like how chronic severe alcoholics do, Psychology Today reminds that functional alcoholics are often in denial that they need professional help and may still suffer from the consequences of their drinking habits.

Alcohol replacing meals, uncharacteristic behaviors, and actions while drinking, cravings for alcohol, incapacity to control the duration and frequency of drinking episodes, and blackouts are the common signs of alcohol dependence and addiction. Fortunately, these issues have professional treatment programs available.

Young Adult Alcoholic


The young adult alcoholic subtype is comprised of people between the ages of 18 – 24 and is the biggest subtype of alcoholics. These individuals typically battle alcohol addiction since the age of 20 or younger. Young alcoholics may not drink as regularly as the other subtypes, but when they do, they drink alcohol in a binge-like manner.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), binge drinking is one of the common forms of consuming alcohol in America. It has the highest rate of prevalence and intensity of among binge drinkers between the ages of 18 and 24. Binge drinking is actually a pattern of drinking which involves drinking five or more liquors in one sitting for men and four for women. It rapidly raises the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of the person and overtakes 0.08 g/dL, the legal limit for alcohol consumption.

CDC states that 90% of the alcohol consumed by young people in the United States is through binge drinking, which is a dangerous pattern. Binge drinking is also the culprit to 80,000 deaths reported annually and is a major contributing factor for alcohol addiction and dependence.

Individuals under young adult alcoholic subtype don’t usually suffer from co-occurring mental health disorders and have a rare family history of addiction. They also rarely seek medical help and attention for alcohol abuse. Further studies conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) states that 1 out of every 5 young adults aged between 18 and 24 engages in heavy drinking while over one-third binge-drinks.

Young and underage drinking is considered a public health concern that may create behavioral, emotional, physical, social, and interpersonal problems if not given proper attention. Drinking alcohol alters the way the human brain works. It also increases the likelihood of alcohol-related issues in the later years.

Young Antisocial Alcoholic

Individuals who belong in the antisocial alcoholic subtype are typically in the mid-20s. These people generally started suffering from alcohol addiction earlier due to the onset of difficulties with alcohol abuse and addiction.

The majority of young antisocial alcoholics come from families with alcoholism history, while about three-quarters also abuse marijuana and smoke cigarettes. NIH also reports that many people also suffer addiction to other substances such as cocaine and opioids.

Almost half of young antisocial alcoholics also suffer from an antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). It is indicated by impulsivity, a lack of remorse for one’s actions and violation of the rights of others, and disregard for rules. ASPD commonly co-occurs with alcohol abuse and addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) also adds that people who battle ASPD have a likelihood of battling alcohol and drug addictions.

ASPD may also influence the person to experiment with alcohol and drugs, which makes him or her more vulnerable to addiction. Legal troubles and criminal behaviors are the common symptoms of the young antisocial alcoholic subtype.

Intermediate Familial Alcoholic

Intermediate familial alcoholics don’t normally suffer from alcohol-related issues until they reach their mid-30s, although they often begin drinking around the age 17 or younger. Half of this subtype have a familial link to alcoholism and are typically middle-aged. Also, 50% of individuals under intermediate familial subtype also suffer from depression, while 20% wrestles with bipolar disorder.

NIH reports that most intermediate familial alcoholics struggle with issues related to cocaine and marijuana abuse. People in this subtype are mostly employed, degree-holders, and married with families. Further, about one-quarter of this subtype will likely seek for medical help and treatment.

Different Types of Alcoholic Beverages

Alcohol comes in a variety of liquids, and a myriad of colors from colorless to deep browns and reds. You can also find alcohol in energy drinks and even candy. Some common sources include:

  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Spirits (vodka, rum, whiskey, tequila, and gin)
  • Liquor

What Are the Common Nicknames for Alcohol?


Because of the variety alcohol can be found in, there are many names or slang words it goes by. Each variety – beer, wine, liquor – have their nicknames. Here are a few of the most common:


  • Brew
  • Cold one
  • Booze
  • Juice
  • Hard stuff
  • Vino
  • Sauce
  • Hooch
  • Moonshine
  • Liquid courage
  • Shots
  • Shotgun
  • Shotski
  • Keg
  • Cocktail

Is Alcohol Addictive?

Alcohol is highly addictive and affects neurochemistry when consumed, especially in large quantities. Like so many other drugs, when alcohol reaches the brain, it releases dopamine and endorphins; these are the neurotransmitters that control the signaling for pleasure and reward.

As a person returns to sobriety, those increased feelings of happiness and pleasure flee, as motor skills and speech return to normal. This cycle is repeated each time a user drinks alcohol, but due to a build-up of tolerance, the user would need to drink more and more to get the desired effect.

As consumption continues to increase, the body adjusts to the ‘new normal” with higher levels of dopamine and endorphins. When tolerance has moved onto dependance, users will experience withdrawal symptoms anytime they are sober.

This is due to the unstable reaction the brain has when alcohol is not present. This could involve anything from headaches, vomiting, sweating, and anxiety to name a few.

When the user has reached full addiction, they may find themselves in financial or legal trouble, loss of a job, etc. but is unable to stop drinking.

Alcohol Abuse and Addiction Statistics

Alcoholism is an enormous problem around the world. According to a recent study, alcohol is the leading risk factor for death and disease worldwide. It is associated with nearly 3 million deaths each year and the seventh-leading risk factor for premature death globally in 2016.


The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reported that alcohol is the third leading preventable cause of death in the US, claiming an estimated 88,000 people in alcohol-related deaths. It falls just behind tobacco, poor diet and physical inactivity as avoidable causes of death.

Extended alcohol consumption wreaks havoc on the liver, so it’s not surprising that nearly 1 in 3 liver transplants in 2009 were due to alcohol-related liver diseases. Of liver disease-related deaths in 2015 (which totaled more than 78,500), 47 percent involved alcohol.

An astounding statistic is that just over 10 percent of children in the US are living in a home where one or both parents have a drinking problem.

When Should You Seek Medical Treatment or Help for Alcohol Abuse or Alcohol Addiction?

A lot of people have a hard time deciding if and when they should seek treatment because it’s not as cut and dry as most people think. When you’re contemplating whether or not you have a problem with alcohol, you can ask the following questions:


  • Do you find it difficult to say ‘no’ to another after one drink?
  • Do you always think about stopping your alcohol consumption but it just never happens?
  • Do you feel guilty about the amount you of alcohol you consumed the night before?
  • Does your drinking affect your life negatively in different ways such as missing work, missed family or social events due to a hangover?


These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself to know if you need a further evaluation from a professional with regards to your alcohol consumption. If you answered three “yes” to the questions, it’s advised that you seek medical help or treatment from professionals.

Alcohol Abuse and Addiction Treatment Options

It is not impossible to overcome alcohol addiction, though there is no cure. With a combination of treatment and support, many patients can enjoy a sober life.

The Southern California Addiction Center has well-trained staff and experienced medical professionals that will work with each patient to design a treatment plan that works for them. They will provide skills and coping mechanisms to fight off their addiction once and for all.

Are You or a Loved One in Need of Help?

If you or someone you know are suffering, and in need of help, we are here for you. CONTACT US TODAY and take the first steps toward the process of recovery. We believe that all of our guests deserve a second chance, and our mission is to make sure that everyone has that opportunity should they need it.

CALL 1-714-942-4942
EMAIL [email protected]

Are You or a Loved One in Need of Help?

If you or someone you know are suffering, and in need of help, we are here for you. CONTACT US TODAY and take the first steps toward the process of recovery. We believe that all of our guests deserve a second chance, and our mission is to make sure that everyone has that opportunity should they need it.

CALL 1-714-942-4942
[email protected]

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