Alcoholism: Abuse Signs, Effects & Treatment

Your Complete Guide to Alcoholism Treatment

Alcoholism is an addiction to alcohol. It occurs when you feel as though you cannot get through the day without a drink. In addition to having a few favorite drinks, many people diagnosed with alcoholism will use other substances if they cannot get their drink of choice. These drinks can include cooking wine with low alcohol content and even mouthwash. Also known as alcohol use disorder, or AUD, alcoholism is a condition that you can treat with help.

Alcoholism Treatment

How to Know If You are an Alcoholic

No one wants to admit that they drink too much. Even if you hide bottles around your home and take breaks at work to grab a drink, you may not want to admit that you have a problem. You should know that you are not alone. A study from 2019 found that more than 28% of people over the age of 18 engaged in binge drinking in the last month. Another 14 million people who are 12 or older have an addiction to alcohol.

Binge drinking is different from alcoholism, though, as you can be a binge drinker and not be an alcoholic. To be a binge drinker, you need to consume enough drinks at one time to have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher. This usually means having four or more drinks in three hours or less.

The danger is that binge drinking can increase your chances of becoming an alcoholic. Some of the signs that you have a problem with alcohol include:

  • You drank more than you wanted or planned several times in the recent past.
  • You tried to stop drinking in the past but had no success.
  • You notice that drinking makes you feel worse, but you keep drinking.
  • You engage in risky and dangerous behaviors or activities when you drink.
  • You try to hide how much you drink from those around you.

Alcoholics often hide their drinking from others. You may put vodka in a water bottle that you take to work and sneak drinks when you’re out with friends. Some alcoholics also hide bottles around their homes, such as inside the toilet tank or tucked inside a box in a closet.

When to Seek Help for Alcoholism

If you read the above signs that you’re an alcoholic and still don’t think you need help, you should think again. It’s important that you look at some of the signs that you need to seek help, such as mood swings. When you’re in situations where you can’t drink, you’ll likely experience mood swings that make you feel irritable and angry. You may even take out some of your frustrations on your family and friends.

Many clients turn to us when their drinking affects their performance at work or school. We also work with those convicted of crimes that result from their drinking, such as drivers arrested for driving over the legal limit.

Alcoholism Treatment

Alcohol abuse treatment helps you escape the hold that alcohol has over you. Though 61.2% of adults in the United States drink alcohol, not all of them have a drinking problem. Alcoholism can change your life and make you feel as though you need a drink to clean around your house or get through a day at work. Though you might feel helpless, there are different types of treatments that will work for you.

Alcohol Detox

When you go from drinking heavily to not drinking at all, the chances are good that you will have some withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol withdrawal often affects those who go cold turkey and stop drinking completely with no warning, but it can also affect those who try to cut back on their drinking. Until your body adjusts to a lower level of alcohol in your bloodstream or the lack of alcohol, you will experience some of these symptoms. You usually go through three stages of alcohol withdrawal.

The first stage can begin as early as six hours after you last had a drink. It causes some discomfort, such as nausea and stomach cramps. You may also have elevated blood pressure and tremors or suffer from anxiety and insomnia. The second stage usually starts within 48 hours after your last drink. For those with a serious alcohol problem, this stage can result in tremors and seizures that make it hard for you to do anything and can even be life-threatening. Some alcoholics even stay in bed for days when they withdraw. If you continue abstaining from alcohol, the third stage will start around 24 hours later, or 72 hours from the last time you drank. The final stage can cause such serious tremors that you need to seek medical help.

Alcohol detox facilities help alcoholics stop using alcohol and recover from their side effects. Some of the signs of withdrawal from alcohol include:

  • Confused thoughts
  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Fever
  • Agitated thoughts

You should look for an alcohol treatment center that offers detox programs. Not only can doctors prescribe medications to help you withdraw safely, but you’ll do so in a comfortable environment. You do not need to put any added pressure on your loved ones to keep an eye on you or leave them worrying that they need to call for help. Detox is usually just the first stage in your treatment plan.

Inpatient Rehab

One of the best ways to get help for your alcoholism is through an inpatient rehab center. These centers usually offer programs that last for 30 days and up to 90 days and give you the option to stay longer if you need more help. Inpatient centers are best for clients who tried to stop drinking on their own and had no luck. We also recommend these treatment centers for clients who call us and feel hopeless.

You can check in and stay as long as you need to make sure you focus on your drinking. Though you do need to spend a lot of time in the center, you may get more freedom as you work your way through the program. Some centers allow you to work part-time or take a few hours off to spend with your family.

Outpatient Treatment

Alcohol addiction treatment can also include outpatient facilities. Do you have a drinking problem but worry that you can’t spend an entire month or more away from home? You may have family members who depend on you or a job that won’t give you time off.

With an outpatient rehab center, you spend less time there. Many of these treatment facilities ask you to attend therapy sessions and other meetings but do not require that you spend the night. You can attend meetings after a day at work or school and schedule sessions around your personal obligations.


Whether you choose inpatient or outpatient help, counseling is a major component of your program. Psychotherapy is a popular option. It allows you to meet with a psychologist and go over your history of alcohol use. The psychologist can diagnose you with alcoholism along with another mental condition such as depression.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is also available. The idea behind this type of therapy is that it changes your brain’s reaction to alcohol. You’ll also find ways to shift your thoughts from drinking. Dialectical-behavioral therapy, or DBT, can benefit some patients. With DBT, you learn how to focus on your mind and control your emotions, which can stop you from reaching for a drink when you feel sad or anxious. Treatment facilities often allow you to sign up for both individual and group counseling sessions.

Family Therapy

Though therapy can help you focus on yourself and the reasons why you drink, you should not forget about family therapy. If you’re in an inpatient facility, you can sign up for therapy sessions that involve your family. Outpatient programs may also offer this option.

During each session, you have the chance to talk about your drinking, but your loved ones can also talk about how your drinking affected them. They might talk about the important moments that you missed or ruined because you couldn’t stop drinking or how they felt when they found you drinking after you promised you would stop. Family therapy can include anyone who loves and cares about you. In addition to your relatives, you can ask some of your close friends to take part.

12-Step Programs

Another type of treatment for alcoholism that might benefit you is a 12-step program. Alcoholics Anonymous is the most common program of this type. Also known as AA, it consists of meetings with one person who leads everyone else. You can stand in front of everyone and talk about your issues with alcohol or sit back and listen to others talk. AA members receive chips when they reach different milestones, such as 30 days sober and one year sober.

You can get extra help from a sponsor, who is someone who has stayed clean and sober for an extended period. Once you pick a sponsor, you can call that person whenever you need help. AA and similar programs require that you complete one step before you start on the next steps. These steps include admitting that you have no control over your alcoholism and turning your life over to a higher power.

Follow-up Care

When you finish alcoholism rehab, you need to choose the right follow-up care to get more help on your journey. Less than 20% of alcoholics who complete rehab remain clean and sober for a full year. Among those who stayed clean for two years, roughly 40% will relapse. Relapsing is when you start drinking alcohol again after becoming sober. It increases your risk of suffering from severe side effects when you withdraw and can increase your risk of suffering from liver damage.

The odds that you will stay sober for the rest of your life significantly increase when you remain clean for five years. To get to that milestone, you need the right type of follow-up care. Many treatment centers offer follow-up care when you leave, including 12-step meetings and individual therapy. You can also look for AA meetings in your area and find ways to change your life. Some of the remedies you can try include:

  • Staying away from people you drank with excessively in the past
  • Looking for ways to manage and cope with your stress
  • Taking yoga or exercise classes
  • Meditating when you have free time
  • Building a support network of people who care about your progress

Your support network should include people who know the common signs of alcoholism. They can help you clean your home of alcohol and help you avoid situations that might cause you to drink. Support networks can include your family and old friends along with new friends you meet in rehab and at 12-step meetings.

Find the Best Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Navigating your world through alcohol rehab centers is hard. We want to give you all of the help that you need. Not only can we help you find treatment facilities that are in your city or just a short drive away, but we assist you in finding programs that include the therapy sessions and treatments that are right for you. Reach out today to learn about all of your alcoholism treatment options or to get help for someone you love who has an alcohol problem.

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Reviewed By:

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis completed medical school at The University of Mississippi Medical Center and residency in general psychiatry in 2003. He completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Following this, he served as Chief Medical Officer for 10 years of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare a private health system including a 105-bed hospital, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services.

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