Alcohol addiction is a gradual process that occurs within the human brain. When alcohol is consumed, it alters the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, mainly gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, and dopamine. GABA monitors and controls a person's impulsivity, and frequently drinking copious amounts of alcohol alters this chemical's production, often making people more impulsive and less aware of what they are doing. Dopamine is one of the chemicals in the brain that, when released, causes pleasurable feelings like happiness, joy, or even euphoria. As more and more alcohol is consumed on a frequent basis, the brain begins to grow accustomed to this chemical imbalance. If an alcoholic tries to stop drinking, then the brain is deprived of the alcohol's effect, which results in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, shaking, tremors, or even hallucination.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
Benzodiazepines, while useful in the management of acute alcohol withdrawal, if used long-term can cause a worse outcome in alcoholism. Alcoholics on chronic benzodiazepines have a lower rate of achieving abstinence from alcohol than those not taking benzodiazepines. This class of drugs is commonly prescribed to alcoholics for insomnia or anxiety management.[139] Initiating prescriptions of benzodiazepines or sedative-hypnotics in individuals in recovery has a high rate of relapse with one author reporting more than a quarter of people relapsed after being prescribed sedative-hypnotics. Those who are long-term users of benzodiazepines should not be withdrawn rapidly, as severe anxiety and panic may develop, which are known risk factors for relapse into alcohol abuse. Taper regimes of 6–12 months have been found to be the most successful, with reduced intensity of withdrawal.[140][141]

Detoxification begins 4–6 hours after the last consumption of alcohol and lasts for 5–7 days. In this period, diazepam is administered every six hours to control the detoxification process and withdrawal symptoms. While detoxification often occurs in hospitals, some people undergo detoxification in their homes. However, patients should not consider undergoing detoxification at home if they have suicidal feelings, do not have friends and family to support them, or have experienced severe withdrawal symptoms before.
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AA is a spiritual organization that calls for people to believe in a higher power and to accept God as they understand him to be. God, or a higher power, can come in many forms and does not have to be taken in the traditional sense. What Step 2 calls for is faith that a higher power exists and that this power is necessary to restore sanity. For those who don’t believe in God per se, this higher power can represent any number of other things, like the stark reality that recreational drug use is unrealistic.
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AA's program extends beyond abstaining from alcohol.[33] Its goal is to effect enough change in the alcoholic's thinking "to bring about recovery from alcoholism"[34] through "an entire psychic change," or spiritual awakening.[35] A spiritual awakening is meant to be achieved by taking the Twelve Steps,[36] and sobriety is furthered by volunteering for AA[37] and regular AA meeting attendance[38] or contact with AA members.[36] Members are encouraged to find an experienced fellow alcoholic, called a sponsor, to help them understand and follow the AA program. The sponsor should preferably have experience of all twelve of the steps, be the same sex as the sponsored person, and refrain from imposing personal views on the sponsored person.[37] Following the helper therapy principle, sponsors in AA may benefit from their relationship with their charges, as "helping behaviors" correlate with increased abstinence and lower probabilities of binge drinking.[39]
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Twelve-step programs approach alcoholism and drug addiction as diseases that can only be managed by surrendering one’s will to a higher power. In spite of their reliance on the disease model of addiction, 12-step groups offer rewarding experiences that reinforce healthy, sober behaviors. In this sense, the 12 steps reflect the principles of positive psychology, notes the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. Positive psychology is based on the belief that gratifying experiences will encourage the individual to repeat a healthy behavior, such as attending meetings or reading AA literature, rather than reverting to a self-destructive behavior, such as drinking or using drugs.
An alcohol use disorder can range from mild to severe. Mild patterns may develop into more serious complications. Early treatment and intervention can help people with alcohol use disorder. While it’s up to the person to willingly start their sobriety journey, you can also help. Read on for some steps you can take to help your friend, family member, or loved one.
Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.
Blood. Alcohol may cause changes to all the types of blood cells. Red blood cells become abnormally large. White blood cells (important for fighting infections) decrease in number, resulting in a weakened immune system. This places alcohol-dependent individuals at increased risk for infections and may account in part for the increased risk of cancer faced by people with alcoholism. Platelets and blood clotting factors are affected, causing an increased risk of bleeding.
But not everyone in the treatment community is as skeptical toward Alcoholics Anonymous. Scientific American grants that it’s not a perfect solution, but claims that criticisms of the group are often unfair or based on false assumptions. For many alcoholics, AA’s wide availability of meetings and lack of expense make it a worthy consideration. The Recent Developments in Alcoholism journal said 12-Step programs are “an ideal recovery recourse,” and the Alcoholic Research & Health journal notes that the rise of other treatment methods have not displaced the model of mutual health groups, which are still the most widely sought-after source of help for alcoholism and other substance abuse problems.
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Bayside Marin is a premiere center for healing that offers cutting-edge, compassionate care in a private, luxurious setting. Renowned the world over for helping individuals overcome addictions, Bayside Marin offers holistic, individualized treatment for substance abuse and co-occurring mental health conditions. For more information please call (866) 258-3454.

Non-12-step support groups provide a secular alternative to the 12-step programs and may be more comfortable for those not wanting to place such an emphasis on a higher power for recovery. Non-12-step groups sometimes involve fewer group sharing scenarios—which can provide some relief for those individuals who aren't as comfortable sharing sensitive personal information in group settings. Below are a few examples of non-12-step programs:
Jump up ^ Morse, RM; Flavin, DK (August 1992). "The definition of alcoholism. The Joint Committee of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the American Society of Addiction Medicine to Study the Definition and Criteria for the Diagnosis of Alcoholism". JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association. 268 (8): 1012–4. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03490080086030. ISSN 0098-7484. PMID 1501306.
The first step in the treatment of alcoholism, called detoxification, involves helping the person stop drinking and ridding his or her body of the harmful (toxic) effects of alcohol. Because the person's brain and body has become accustomed to alcohol, the alcohol-dependent person will most likely develop withdrawal symptoms and need to be supported through them. Withdrawal will be different for different individuals, depending on the severity of the alcoholism as measured by the quantity of alcohol ingested daily and the length of time the patient has been alcohol dependent.
For many, beer, wine, and spirits conjure up thoughts of social gatherings and tipsy fun. But alcohol, a depressant, is also associated with damaging behavior and the emotional pain and physical ruin of addiction. Experts debate the benefits and risks of drinking and passionately argue over whether moderation or abstinence is the best option for alcoholics.

Alcohol withdrawal can occur when alcohol use has been heavy and prolonged and is then stopped or greatly reduced. It can occur within several hours to four or five days later. Signs and symptoms include sweating, rapid heartbeat, hand tremors, problems sleeping, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, restlessness and agitation, anxiety, and occasionally seizures. Symptoms can be severe enough to impair your ability to function at work or in social situations.
Based on this study, those who abstain altogether from substances – as advised in the 12-Step model – have better mental health outcomes than those who don’t abstain. The 12-Step model gives people a framework from which to surrender their addiction, process their experience, and move forward into new patterns. As described in an article on Psych Central called Recovery Using the 12 Steps, following the model assists an individual by helping build the following mental and emotional transformative practices and tools:
The basic premise of the 12-Step model is that people can help one another achieve and maintain abstinence from the substances or behaviors to which they are addicted. They can do this through meetings in which they share their experiences with one another and support each other in the ongoing effort of maintaining abstinence. In research, as seen in a recent article from the journal Addiction Research and Theory, abstinence practices (as supported by 12-Step programs) can account for high levels of what experts call flourishing, which is positive mental health and can contribute to longer-term recovery. In the study, those who maintained abstinence were more likely to flourish in the long-term, with 40.7 percent flourishing after three months (as compared to 9.3 percent languishing) and nearly 40 percent flourishing after 12 months (compared to 12.4 percent languishing).
The path to getting sober and drug-free is never exactly the same for any two people. However, anyone looking to find out more about rehab and recovery - either for themselves or their loved ones - will recognize some common steps, particularly when it comes to inpatient residential treatment programs. These steps are usually similar whether you’re looking for private alcoholism treatment or a drug addiction recovery center.
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"Learning basic Twelve Step philosophy and language can open the lines of communication," continued Cathy. "Once you understand some Twelve Step principles, concepts such as powerlessness, spiritual awakening, higher power and making amends, they will seem less like cult mantras and more like the simple guides they are intended to be." A Twelve Step program is one that adapts the Twelve Steps of AA to fit the particular needs of a mutual-help group. Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Alateen, Gamblers Anonymous, Nicotine Anonymous, and Adult Children of Alcoholics are examples of groups with a Twelve Step foundation.
Luckily, if the 12-Step program has proven itself ineffective for you and your recovery needs, there are many alternatives to choose from. Even if they are not physically available to you, the majority of them have a strong Internet presence and can provide support with online forums for members to share their experiences in, which for some who are uncomfortable sharing in person may even find to be a preferable option.
Monitor your teen’s activity: Know where your teen goes and who they hang out with. Remove or lock away alcohol from your home and routinely check potential hiding places for alcohol—in backpacks, under the bed, between clothes in a drawer, for example. Explain to your teen that this lack of privacy is a consequence of having been caught using alcohol.
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For every addiction, there are recovery programs and support groups to help those looking to kick their habits. Generally speaking, these programs can be grouped into one of two big buckets: those following a 12-step approach, and those that do not. Which you choose will be a matter of personal preference and – to some – whether you believe in a higher power, which 12-step programs typically promote. Either way, these resources can help you stay happy, healthy and social after your course of recovery from drug addiction or alcoholism treatment.

It’s rare for people with alcoholism to strive for that diagnosis. No one grows up wanting to struggle with alcohol for the rest of life. But alcoholism can be sneaky, creeping into life in ways that are subtle and that can pass by unnoticed. For some, alcoholism begins with peer pressure. These people just don’t intend to start drinking, and they may not begin life even enjoying alcohol, but their peers prompt and poke them to drink alcohol. In time, as they comply with these requests from peers, they lose the ability to control how and when they drink.
This inventory of self is meant to be comprehensive, searching, and fearless. This does not mean that it is without fear, but that individuals are encouraged to push past their fears and be honest with listing their shortcomings. Writing lists is often an important part of Step 4 as individuals are called to cite incidents, thoughts, feelings, and past experiences that may be difficult to think about.
When it comes to behavior disorders, the notion of causality (cause and effect) can be a major factor between one disorder and another. Drug abuse is often linked to depression, alcoholism is often linked to PTSD and so on. But what about eating disorders? Can THEY be related to alcoholism? They certainly can be. This relationship between substance abuse and a mental health disorder is what’s referred to as a co-occurring disorder. For some people, the substance abuse disorder causes the mental health disorder, while for others, it’s the other way around. The reasons for the co-occurrence of alcoholism and eating disorders vary for each person, but there are certain common denominators involved. These include low self-esteem, poor self-image and depression, which often lead to self-medicating behaviors. Many people who abuse alcohol consume it in place of food, becoming “drunkorexic” as a result. Drunkorexia can also involve combining binge eating and purging in addition with alcohol abuse. The good news is, there are many treatment facilities in the country that can treat alcoholism AND co-occurring disorders like bulimia, anorexia and binge eating. If you or someone you know is struggling with both alcoholism and an eating disorder, help is just a phone call away.
Newcomers are advised that in order to make serious changes in their lives, they must change their social habits and find a new source of support in the 12-step fellowship. Instead of spending time with other alcoholics or drug addicts, they are encouraged to attend meetings, find a sponsor and contact their fellow recovering addicts when they need support. The fellowship and one’s “Higher Power” fill the emotional and spiritual voids that the addict once attempted to fill with drugs or alcohol.
More than 7 percent of all American adults have an alcohol use disorder. These adults drink too much, too often, and in ways that harm their health, their happiness, and their relationships. An intervention, in which the family outlines alcohol’s consequences, can push these people to enter treatment programs. Once there, counseling sessions, relapse prevention coaching, and support group work can help to support recovery. Relapse rates for alcohol fall within the 40-60 percent range, so people often need to stick with aftercare for the rest of life.

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Problem drinking in women is much less common than it is in men, and the typical onset of problem drinking in females occurs later than in males. However, progression is more rapid, and females usually enter treatment earlier than males. Women more commonly combine alcohol with prescription drugs of abuse than do males. Women living with substance-abusing men are at high risk.
Many people use alcohol as a de-stressor. While some beer may be a temporarily relief from the stress of the day, ultimately alcohol is stressing you out even more. Research shows that long-term drinking can increase perceived stress in the brain. For example, a stressful situation would be handled worse by an alcoholic than by a non-alcoholic. Many other factors play into how we handle such situations, but without a doubt drinking alcohol will not help.
Alcohol dependency occurs on a continuum. Many Australians are only moderately or mildly dependent on alcohol (e.g. they may find it difficult to stop drinking once they start). They do not exhibit physical withdrawals like those with severe alcohol dependence, and do not consider their drinking patterns problematic. This may be because the major health and social consequences of alcohol dependence (with the exclusion of violence) do not begin when an individual first becomes alcohol dependent. For example, it may take years for an individual who is alcohol dependent to have financial or relationship problems as a result of drinking. In many cases chronic excessive drinking may have no immediate health and social consequences.
Many start their addiction recovery process with a period of detoxification (detox), where the body rids itself of the toxic influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Detox allows the body to restore itself to a stable starting point from which substance abuse treatment efforts may more effectively begin. While detox programs vary, medical detox programs may utilize certain medications to manage withdrawal, when applicable, and otherwise facilitate this early recovery step.1
While this provides a blanket of comfort and security to the many thousands of people it helps, the secrecy has not gone over well with the more scientifically minded in the treatment community. The success and acceptance of the program has clashed with the desire for evidence and statistics, leading to Pacific Standard saying that AA is not a form of professional treatment, and it offers mixed results; but as a “mutual aid organization,” the 12-Step method comes into its own. Similarly, The Atlantic goes so far as to call Alcoholics Anonymous a pseudoscientific organization, one that dictated the treatment conversation for generations (to the point where its claimed success rate of 75 percent went unquestioned for decades), but has overstayed its privileged place in American culture.
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