Addiction to alcohol—called alcoholism—is considered one of the most severe addictions a person can develop. As such, recovery from alcoholism and abstaining from the consumption of alcohol is considered extremely difficult, making intensive treatment virtually a necessity for alcoholics who want to break free from the chains of alcohol addiction.
While there are effective treatments available to help alcoholics recovery from alcoholism, it’s important for individuals to be aware of the difficulty involved in recovering from alcoholism, from the point of the initial detox to completing an intensive alcoholism treatment program at a rehab center and to the point of recovery maintenance, utilizing a variety of relapse prevention techniques and strategies.
Although recovery from alcoholism requires conviction and effort at all stages, perhaps the most delicate, even dangerous step in the process is the period in which an alcoholic detoxes from alcohol. In order to understand what makes alcohol detox so dangerous, one must understand what makes alcoholism such a difficult disease to treat and why it’s so difficult for alcoholics to put their disease into remission.
What Makes Alcoholism so Difficult to Treat?
Alcoholism, like all addictions, involves structural, chemical, and functional changes in the brain that make individuals not only compelled to consume alcohol but dependent it alcohol on physical and psychological levels. Since alcohol is available legally, it’s also the most common addiction that society faces today. According to statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 56 percent of Americans report drinking a minimum of once every month with about half of those individuals admitting to binge drinking at least once every month.
With excessive drinking so widespread, it’s no surprise that there are 16.6 million Americans age 18 or older who have an alcohol use disorder (AUD), 10.8 million of which are men and 5.8 million of which are women. Unfortunately, only about 1.3 million adults receive treatment for alcoholism annually, which is only 7.8 percent of all the adults who are in need of treatment.
However, perhaps even more frightening are the high rates of alcohol use disorders among youths with an estimated 700,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 reported to be suffering from an alcohol use disorder, more than half of whom are female. Of those adolescents reported to suffer from a drinking problem, only 73,000—a little over 10 percent—received treatment for alcohol addiction at a specialized treatment facility.
With alcohol abuse and alcoholism so widespread, it’s clear that this is a disease that’s both very difficult to treat and frequently left untreated. Alcohol is so easily addictive due to some of the effects that it has on the brain. When an individual drinks alcohol, it causes the brain to release chemicals that create feelings of pleasure. Chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine are produced and released in quantities much higher than one’s natural state, coinciding with feelings of euphoria that peak about an hour after the drink was consumed. As such, the individual has another drink, and another, to sustain the euphoria, resulting in intoxication.
However, with the brain in such a state of pleasure during the bout of drinking, the user experiences depleted levels of these feel-good chemicals once the effects of alcohol wear off, causing the infamous alcohol hangover in which the individual feels bad physically and psychologically. Rather than deal with the hangover resulting from the depletion of chemicals in the brain, alcoholics will promptly begin drinking again, relying on alcohol as the source of the feel-good chemicals and reinforcing chemical dependence.
They drink more and more, becoming intoxicated, until going to bed and waking up hungover again, at which point the process repeats, ad nauseam. Over time, the brain experiences neurological adaptation, ceasing its own production of essential chemicals and relying on alcohol to provide them.
Alcohol Detox is Dangerous On Your Own
As you can see, not only does drinking alcohol become habitual and routine for alcoholics, but they come to rely on alcohol for physical, physiological reasons as well, causing them to feel very unwell and sickly when they go a period of time without drinking. This is a large reason why alcoholics, especially those who have suffered from severe alcoholism for an extended period of time, will be reluctant to detox and recover.
When an alcoholic decides to recovery from alcoholism, the first and arguably the most delicate step of the process is the initial alcohol detox. Alcohol detox is considered to be incredibly dangerous, but that’s not meant to deter individuals from recovery from alcohol. Rather, alcoholics are simply discouraged from detoxing at home and encouraged to detox under medical supervision in a detox program at a residential drug treatment center.
The danger inherent in alcohol detox comes from the possibility that an alcoholic may suffer from alcohol withdrawal syndrome, which occurs when an alcoholic abruptly ceases alcohol consumption and is a response of the central nervous system with symptoms that range from agitation to seizures and even delirium tremens, or an acute delirious episode resulting from severe alcohol withdrawal.
Some of the most common symptoms of withdrawal from alcoholism include tremors, insomnia, racing pulse, nausea or vomiting, and auditory and visual hallucinations. When it’s at its most severe, alcohol withdrawal symptom has led to hospitalization, coma, and even death as many of the body’s systems and organs shut down in the absence of alcohol, on which the body has learned to be dependent.
While alcoholics are discouraged from detoxing from alcohol on their own, participating in detox programs as part of an inpatient treatment regimen can not only make an individual safer during the detox process, but physicians who specialize in alcoholism can help to alleviate the more severe of an individual’s withdrawal symptoms as the alcohol continues to work itself out of his or her body. Since it’s the discomfort of withdrawal that prevents most addicts and alcoholics from detoxing and recovery, detox programs have made alcoholics who want to recover more successful in detox programs as well as other stages of recovery treatment.
Recover From Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Today
If you or someone you love is suffering from alcoholism or addiction to drugs, Drug Treatment Center Finder is here to help. Our recovery specialists have helped many addicts succeed in recovery, regaining their sobriety and health to live a more fulfilling life. Call us today.