Alcohol is a significant aspect of American culture. Every American is entitled the right to buy booze from the age of 21 — and most teens procure it relatively easily before then, too. Beer, wine, and cocktails are available at even the most mundane gathering, and celebrations are simply overflowing with all manner of libations. Manhattans and mint juleps, Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey — to be American is to drink.
Unfortunately, this so-American mindset regarding alcohol is exceedingly dangerous. Today, more than 17 million adults — roughly one person in 18 — suffers from alcoholism, and the symptoms aren’t as easy to detect as you might think. The stereotypical alcoholic is one of a bumbling drunk, barely able to stay standing let alone hold a job or maintain relationships, but true alcoholism is far more insidious. It can creep up on you or your loved one, lodge itself in your life, and become a nuisance without you even batting an eye.
Fortunately, no alcoholic is alone in his or her plight. Alcoholism is an addiction, similar to any other, meaning it is a mental illness which sufferers can only overcome with the proper treatment. In states like Arizona, California, and Colorado, alcohol rehab facilities are eager to help alcoholics develop the healthy habits and lifestyle they deserve. If you believe you or your loved one is at risk of being an alcoholic, learning more about the disease might be beneficial.
What Is Alcoholism?
In truth, the term “alcoholism” is a nonclinical descriptor, meaning it might be common in layperson speech, but health care professionals, including those in Colorado alcohol rehab centers, tend to avoid it. Instead, the disease is more accurately known as “alcohol use disorder,” which more effectively describes the condition as a disease that can be treated. However, because “alcoholism” is a more familiar term — and one that is often used in rehabilitation services — we will continue to use that word here.
As mentioned before, alcoholics rarely transition from drinking nothing to abusing alcohol overnight. Though no two alcoholics behave exactly the same — which is why personalized treatment at a Colorado alcohol rehab is so important — most move through a relatively predictable pattern of use and abuse. Within the DSM-V, a common diagnostic manual for mental disorders, alcoholism is best identified by 11 physical and psychological factors; if someone displays at least two of those factors within one year, it is likely they have developed the disease and should find help. Some of these factors include:
- Drinking more or longer than intended.
- Wanting or attempting to quit but returning to drink.
- Craving alcohol so severely as to prevent other thought.
- Allowing drink to interfere with work, school, or family.
- Participating in dangerous activities while drinking.
- Continuing to drink despite feelings of anxiety and depression.
It is important to note that the DSM-V’s factors include both physical and psychological components of alcoholism. Such physical and psychological symptoms are hallmarks of addiction, but alcoholics might not experience them simultaneously. For example, it is possible to be physically dependent on alcohol — and experience physical withdrawals after quitting drinking — but remain psychologically well, though this isn’t particularly common among most alcoholics. Professionals at your Colorado alcohol rehab center will be able to determine the severity of your alcoholism and find recovery methods that suit your needs.
The Stages of Alcoholism
In the earliest stage of alcoholism, alcoholics will display few obvious signs of their illness. During this period, the body is usually developing a physical dependence, which includes building a tolerance to alcohol — requiring the alcoholic to drink more and more to experience the same effects. During this stage, loved ones might recognize that something is “different” or “off” about a potential alcoholic, but few will be able to identify the change.
The middle stages of alcoholism bring more noticeable symptoms. Alcoholics might start blacking out or passing out more frequently, and their hangovers will start to include symptoms of physical withdrawal, including:
- Clammy, pale skin
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shakiness or tremors
- Loss of appetite
- Enlarged pupils
Some alcoholics will begin experiencing psychological effects during this period, as well. These might include:
Once these symptoms start to develop, it becomes even more unlikely that an alcoholic will be able to quit drinking on his or her own. Worse, it is around this time that alcoholics’ relationships begin to crumble. At best, excessive drinking is off-putting; at worst, it impairs your ability to fulfill responsibilities at work, school, or home. Thus, the people reliant on alcoholics begin to sever ties precisely when alcoholics need support the most. Fortunately, these cues often help alcoholics find help at a Colorado alcohol rehab or another facility around the country.
Not all alcoholics reach late-stage alcoholism; many seek treatment before their lives spiral out of control. Sometimes called the end stage — because at this point, alcoholics either find help or succumb finally to the disease — this period of an alcoholic’s addiction is ruled entirely by alcohol. Any relationships not previously ended tend to dissolve as alcoholics become obsessed with drinking or procuring their next drink. More intense health problems develop during this stage: Alcoholics may develop yellow skin and eyes from hepatitis; they might vomit or urinate blood due to liver cirrhosis; they might even begin displaying signs of dementia and other memory-related disorders.
By this time, it is absolutely imperative that an alcoholic seek treatment at a Colorado alcohol rehab center. Even if alcoholics do not show symptoms of a serious health issue, their lives are at risk due to the alcoholic lifestyle. Most late-stage alcoholics lose their families, jobs, and homes. In a 2008 survey, two-thirds of homeless people attested that untreated addiction to alcohol or drugs was a major cause of their homelessness.
Get Help at a Colorado Alcohol Rehab Today
In every state, in every city, there is a community of recovering alcoholics eager to help you find a better path. Colorado alcohol rehabs are designed to provide the best treatment for you. Regardless of what drove you to drink excessively — be it American culture or not — alcoholism is not a battle that should be fought alone. Once you or your loved one has realized that they have a problem with drugs or alcohol and has decided they are ready to get help, it is important to make sure that you choose the best facility. Here at Sober Times, we have an experienced and professional staff available 24-hours a day to help assess you or your loved one’s needs and locate a treatment program for them. Usually, we are even able to help guide you through the admissions process to make sure that getting help is as easy and stress-free as possible.