The question of what starts alcohol addiction is one that is often asked, but in truth, most people just do not understand much about this illness and why it affects some individuals and not others. Alcohol addiction affects many people throughout the UK, although the majority of drinkers consume alcohol in moderation. Nevertheless, according to statistics from charity Alcohol Concern, around seven per cent of UK adults regularly drink more than the Government’s recommended guideline amounts for safe alcohol consumption. These recommendations state that adults should drink no more than fourteen units of alcohol per week, with a few days kept alcohol-free. However, some drink far more than this every week, with many drinking their full allowance in one day. Drinking more than the recommended weekly amount can put lives at risk and lead to devastating consequences that can include alcohol addiction.
What Is Alcohol Addiction?
Alcohol addiction, like almost every other addiction, is very misunderstood. Most view it in a negative light because of things they have seen on TV or on the big screen. Most do not realise that it is a recognised brain illness. Nonetheless, these people believe that alcohol addiction is the result of poor choices and that those affected either have no willpower or are of poor moral character.
The reality is quite different. Anyone who drinks alcohol can develop an addiction, and when you consider that more than half of the population drink alcohol every week, this is a scary thought.
What most fail to realise is that anyone can be affected by addiction if they allow their consumption to get out of control. Regular consumption of alcohol can lead to changes in the structure of the brain, which in turn can affect the individual’s ability to think clearly and make sound decisions. This means that the affected person is more likely to continue drinking, even when doing so is having negative consequences in their own life and the lives of those around them.
Who Is Affected by Alcohol Addiction?
It is easy to assume that alcohol addiction affects a certain type of person. For example, many assume that it is only those living in deprived areas who are going to find themselves in the grip of this deadly illness.
The truth is that alcoholism is affecting the lives of millions of people around the world, and many come from quite affluent areas and have plenty of money. Addiction does not discriminate; it is not reserved for those from underprivileged areas.
People of all ages, colour, race, religion, and background struggle with alcohol addiction every single day, and the only thing they all have in common is a need for help if they want to get better.
There is no single cause of alcohol addiction. This makes it impossible to know who will and who will not be affected by it. For example, two friends could go out every week drinking alcohol and consume similar amounts, but one could end up with an alcohol addiction while the other does not. Scientists are unable to pinpoint an exact cause for the illness but they have identified several factors that can increase the probability of it developing for some and not for others. A family history of addiction is one of the main causes of addiction, with those coming from a family where addiction is present being more likely to develop it themselves.
Traumatic experiences also increase the likelihood of a person developing an addiction to alcohol. Many of those who have experienced trauma will find that alcohol offers temporary relief from the painful memories. Some choose to self-medicate with this substance to avoid thinking about certain things.
Other factors include early exposure to alcohol and mental health problems. Environment can also play a role in determining a person’s likelihood of being affected. A person’s quality of life, their relationships, peer pressure, and stress all influence the development of alcohol addiction.
How Does Alcohol Addiction Develop?
For most people, alcohol addiction occurs gradually. They do not wake up one morning an alcoholic having not been one the night before. Alcohol addiction has a number of stages, with experimentation being the first.
If the person likes the feelings he or she gets from alcohol, it is likely that repeated use will occur. For most individuals, alcohol consumption is a social thing and they never drink enough to get drunk. However, for others, getting drunk is something that is done every time they drink alcohol. Their social use may then become habitual or problem use, and this is when they are in danger of losing control of their ability to stop.
When an individual continues to drink alcohol on a regular basis, he or she is likely to build up a tolerance to its effects. This means that their body has adapted to the presence of the alcohol and will release fewer feel-good chemicals in response. The result of this is that the person may feel as though he or she is not getting the same feelings they once did from alcohol. Most people respond by drinking more alcohol in order to achieve the feelings they desire. Nevertheless, in so doing they are allowing their body to adapt even further to the presence of alcohol – to the point that it begins to expect it and when it does, it will crave it. This is why many individuals feel ill when they stop drinking; they are beginning to experience early withdrawal symptoms that can include headaches, nausea, vomiting, sweating, and shaking.
The Negative Consequences of Alcohol Addiction
Many think it is easy to overcome an addiction to alcohol. They believe that all the affected person has to do to solve their problems is stop drinking. This is not the case. If you were to think logically, you would never do something that resulted in negative consequences for yourself. But alcoholics are not able to think logically and that is why they continue to drink even knowing that doing so will result in harm for themselves and those around them.
Others believe that alcoholics are actually harming only themselves and that they should therefore be ‘left to get on with it’ if they do not want to quit. This is another common misconception. Alcoholics do not harm only themselves when they drink. In fact, their actions can have a knock-on effect for many people.
As well as the harm that is caused to the loved ones of alcoholics, there are also negative implications for the wider community and the economy. It is for this reason that help is needed for those affected by alcoholism.
Alcohol addiction is responsible for poor health, and statistics show that in 2014/2015 around 1.1 million hospital admissions for alcohol-related illnesses or injuries were recorded. In 2015, 8,758 people died as a result of alcohol-related illnesses or injuries. This equates to around 14 in every 100,000 people, which is a shocking number in and of itself.
Nonetheless, there are many other consequences of alcohol addiction as well, in particular regarding crime. In more than half of all violent crimes, alcohol is a contributing cause. It is estimated that alcohol-related crimes cost the UK economy between £8 and £13 billion every single year.
Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
In England, there are estimated to be just under 600,000 alcoholics, but only around 145,000 are receiving treatment for their addiction at any one time. There are many reasons why this might be so. It is often the case that those affected by alcohol addiction are unable to accept that they have a problem. Many believe that they have their drinking under control and cannot understand why loved ones would raise concerns about their behaviour.
Others know they are in trouble but, because of the stigma attached to addiction, these individuals are reluctant to reach out for help. They will fail to get the help needed to get better due to worry about what others will say about them. However, failure to reach out for help means soon getting to the stage where they can hide their illness no longer. Alcohol addiction, like all addictions, will progress if not treated.
The good news is that there is plenty of help available for those with alcohol addiction. It must also be mentioned that there is nothing to be ashamed of for having an alcohol addiction. Attitudes are changing as increasingly more people come to understand what the illness is and how it affects individuals.
Across the UK, various options are available for those who want to put their days of alcohol abuse behind them for good. Here at Recovery Lighthouse Clinic, we offer excellent treatment programmes for all types of addiction.
We know that the first stage for most is to tackle the physical side of the illness, which is why we offer detox programmes for clients. An alcohol detox is a complicated process and should be carried out under supervision. Our detox programmes will ensure that you are comfortable and safe throughout. We have a team of experienced and fully trained individuals who will ensure that you are monitored during the detox and that withdrawal symptoms are eased appropriately.
Once your detox has been completed, we will be ready to begin an intensive rehabilitation programme with you. Our rehab programmes combine traditional therapies with holistic treatments to ensure your mind, body, and spirit can heal. We will help you to take responsibility for your own recovery and will provide you with the skills necessary to avoid relapse going forward while ensuring that you can become a productive member of society once more.
If you would like further information about what starts alcohol addiction, addiction in general, or our treatment programmes, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We are available to talk twenty-four hours a day and can provide you with helpful advice and support if you or a loved one needs help for addiction. Call us today.