Alcohol-related problems — which result from drinking too much, too fast, or too often — are among the most significant public health issues in the United States.
Many people struggle with controlling their drinking at some time in their lives. Approximately 17 million adults ages 18 and older have an alcohol use disorder (AUD) and 1 in 10 children live in a home with a parent who has a drinking problem.
A few signs that a person may have an alcohol use disorder include:
The good news is no matter how severe the problem may seem, most people who struggle with alcoholism can benefit from some form of treatment.
Research shows that about one-third of people who are treated for alcohol problems have no further symptoms 1 year later. Many others substantially reduce their drinking and report fewer alcohol-related problems.
Is Alcoholism, A Choice or Are Genes to Blame?
It’s important for those who are struggling with alcoholism to have a better understanding of the disease. There’s much debate about addiction, and if it’s purely a choice or if genetics play a bigger role.
We all have the genetic predisposition for addiction because there is an evolutionary advantage to that. When an animal eats a certain food it likes, there is an advantage to associating pleasure with that food so that the animal will search for that food in the future. In other words, the potential for addiction is hardwired into our brain. Everyone has eaten too much of their favorite food even though they knew it wasn't good for them.
Although everyone has the potential for addiction, some people are more predisposed to addiction than others. Some people drink alcoholically from the beginning. Other people start out as a moderate drinker and then become alcoholics later on. How does that happen?
Repeatedly abusing drugs or alcohol permanently rewires your brain. If you start out with a low genetic predisposition for addiction, you can still end up with an addiction. If you repeatedly abuse drugs or alcohol, then you'll permanently rewire your brain. Every time you abuse alcohol, you'll strengthen the wiring associated with drinking, and you'll chase that buzz even more. The more you chase the effect of alcohol, the greater your chance of eventually developing an addiction.
Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine report that in an alcohol-dependent mouse model, the rodent brain's functional architecture is substantially remodeled. But when deprived of alcohol, the mice displayed increased coordinated brain activity and reduced modularity compared to nondrinker or casual drinker mice.
So we can conclude genetics can definitely play a role in addiction, but do your choices play a role in addiction?
If you think back to when you were sober, you’d find you did not consciously make a choice to struggle with addiction—that is not what the choice theory is about. No one sets a goal to be an addict. The choice model does not look at addiction from a biological view, but from your thought processes. Your thoughts affect your actions. Environmental factors like learned behavior may impact those who struggle with addiction.
If you are in a household where you see those using alcohol or drugs as a way to cope, then it may increase your chances of using. The choice model also considers environmental factors like poverty, which can substantially increase a person’s vulnerability to use drugs.
What Makes Alcoholism Treatment Successful?
How do you know if a stay in rehab has been successful? The goal of alcohol rehabilitation treatment is to help individuals overcome their drinking problems and go through the rest of their lives functioning well without alcohol. So, alcohol rehabilitation is considered successful if a person can leave the program and stay sober.
Treatment of 90 days or more has been shown to be most effective in quitting drinking for good and for living a life of long-term sobriety.
In order for alcohol rehabilitation to be successful, individuals must stay in treatment and dedicate themselves to recovery. Just like long-term drug rehabilitation, the duration and commitment to the rehabilitation treatment program for alcohol increases your chances of achieving long-term sobriety.
Recovering alcoholics must have motivation to stop drinking and be willing to admit their problem and make an effort to change. A strong support system of non-drinking family and friends will also help individuals to stay in alcohol rehabilitation.
Finally, a person is more likely to successfully complete an alcohol rehabilitation program if he or she is following an addiction treatment plan from their individual wants and needs. Addiction specialists usually create these care plans from an assessment as well as your personal input. You can only participate in activities that resonate with you, so make sure that rehab staff aligns treatment with your internal values and goals.
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