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Alcohol use disorder can affect all aspects of your life, including your finances, relationships, and of course, your mental health and your physical health.

Learning about alcohol addiction and alcohol abuse is the first step toward getting help – knowing about your addiction is important and can prepare you for rehab treatment.

Read on to learn more about alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, and the key differences between the two. We’ll also be talking about what to expect from alcohol rehab, and how our team at Help4Addiction can help you find the right addiction treatment.

What is Alcohol Dependence?

Alcohol dependence is also known as alcohol addiction or colloquially referred to as alcoholism. It is a chronic and relapsing disease that is characterised by a lack of control over drinking alcohol. This can present itself by drinking too much, too often, or not being able to stop drinking.

If you have a dependence on alcohol, then you’ll need to drink more alcohol to feel the same effects. You may also experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms if you stop drinking or lower the amount you’re used to, which can be uncomfortable and sometimes even dangerous.

Alcohol dependence not only causes unpleasant mental and physical symptoms but can increase the urge to drink alcohol. In England, there were an estimated 600,000 dependent drinkers back in 2019 – which equates to around 1 in 12 men and one in 30 women showing signs of alcohol dependence.

Alcohol dependence can have a negative effect on all aspects of your life. People with alcohol dependence may continue drinking alcohol despite the negative effects that may present.

Addiction can take its toll on your physical health – regular and heavy alcohol consumption can increase the risk of several types of cancer, including breast cancer. Alcohol use disorder has also been found to be a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions.

However, it isn’t too late to get help for your addiction. Read on to learn more about alcohol abuse, as well as how to get help for alcohol dependence and what to expect from alcohol rehab.

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What Is Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol should be enjoyed in moderation. According to the UK Government and the NHS, it’s recommended that you drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week (spread across the span of three or more days). This equates to around 6 pints of 4% beer or 6 glasses of wine (medium).

Sticking within these guidelines can lower the risk of alcohol-related damage to your health. That being said, there is no completely safe level of drinking, so it’s important to drink in moderation and drink mindfully.

Alcohol abuse classes as a dangerous drinking pattern – drinking that can result in significant negative consequences. This can involve drinking-related legal issues (e.g drink-driving), relationship problems, or failing to fulfil responsibilities (e.g family, school, or work responsibilities).

Alcohol abuse can often involve binge drinking. People who abuse alcohol may only drink once or twice a week, but consume a dangerous amount of alcohol during this time (over 14 units). They may drink so much in a short space of time that it causes physical damage.

Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol abuse – drinking too much alcohol in a short period of time – can increase the chance of developing alcohol poisoning (alcohol overdose). It occurs when there is an excessive level of alcohol in your bloodstream, which can affect certain areas of your brain – areas that control life-supporting functions such as heart rate, temperature, and breathing.

Alcohol poisoning can be very dangerous and should be considered a medical emergency. It’s important to recognise the signs of alcohol poisoning – here are some things to look out for:

Alcohol Abuse vs Dependence – What Are The Differences?

Alcohol abuse is not the same as alcohol dependence – although those with alcohol dependence will typically abuse alcohol. Alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction are not the same, although they both fall under the category of alcohol use disorder, and can both be damaging to your physical health and sense of well-being. Alcohol abuse can lead to alcohol dependence, but this isn’t always the case.

The key difference between addiction/ dependence and abuse is that alcohol dependence is when a person is dependent on alcohol – there is a physical compulsion to drink alcohol and a person may experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop drinking.

A person who is dependent on alcohol may continue drinking alcohol despite the negative effects and consequences that alcohol addiction can cause.

People with alcohol addiction (alcoholics) may try to stop drinking or cut back on their drinking, but struggle to or end up relapsing.

Many alcoholics will struggle to stop drinking or control their drinking without the help of a rehab program – alcohol rehab can help you detox from alcohol and prevent relapse.

Alcohol abuse, on the other hand, is when a person drinks excessively – a person who abuses alcohol may not have a physical compulsion to drink alcohol, although some people do. Alcohol abuse can be just as dangerous as alcohol dependence and can have similar physical effects.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Having a physical dependence on alcohol means that you will experience physical withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking or lower the amount you typically drink – you may also experience mental withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety or periods of depression.

One of the reasons that you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking alcohol is because of the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA. Alcohol can leave you feeling calm and relaxed after drinking as it increases the GABA effects.

Alcohol also decreases glutamate, which lowers your levels of excitability. However, when you drink lots of alcohol on a regular basis, your body can get used to these changes, so your body will produce less GABA and more glutamate.

If you have an alcohol addiction and you stop drinking ‘cold turkey’, your body will still produce less GABA and more glutamate. This means that you may feel restless, anxious, hyperactive, and shaky.

The severity of the withdrawal symptoms can vary from person to person – but the general rule of thumb is that the more severe the addiction, the worse the withdrawal symptoms.

When you suddenly stop drinking and your drinking habits change, you’ll begin to feel withdrawal symptoms. Here are some of the main physical withdrawal symptoms that people tend to experience:

It’s not just physical withdrawal symptoms that you can experience when detoxing from alcohol – you may also experience psychological withdrawal symptoms (mental withdrawal symptoms).

Some psychological withdrawal symptoms you may experience include: anxiety, hallucinations, sleep troubles, and other mental health problems.

During alcohol withdrawal, the symptoms may come on gradually and worsen over the span of a few days. However, every experience is different – the withdrawal process can vary depending on age, addiction history, height, weight, etc. Undergoing a supervised detox with medical professionals can help to alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

In more severe cases, you may wish to attend alcohol rehab on an inpatient basis and undergo a medically-assisted detox (detoxing in the presence of medical professionals). This is because some withdrawal symptoms can be particularly unpleasant and uncomfortable. However, others prefer outpatient treatment and attend alcohol rehab from home.

Help For Alcohol Dependence

If you think that you or a loved one has an alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder, getting help is the best thing you do. Wherever you’re based, whether it be in London, Liverpool, Wales, Birmingham, or anywhere around the UK, there is a quality alcohol rehab centre that can help you.

At Help4Addiction, we can find a wide range of rehabilitation treatments – whether it be private rehab, NHS-operated rehab, outpatient rehab, inpatient rehab/ residential rehab, or quasi-residential rehab.

Alcohol Rehab

The first step of alcohol rehab involves detoxing from alcohol – which means all access to alcohol will be cut off so your body can free itself from the substance. In some cases, you may be given alcohol addiction medication – which can help you to deal with the unpleasant alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

The length of alcohol detox can vary from person to person but typically lasts around two weeks. The length of time detox takes depends on a variety of factors, including your age, weight, and how much alcohol your body is used to consuming.

Once you have detoxed from alcohol and the more severe withdrawal symptoms are under control, you can move on to the next stage of treatment – therapy.

Different rehab centres offer different facilities, but most treatment centres offer cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), counselling, and group therapy. This can help whether you have existing mental health disorders or not.

CBT can help you get to the root of your addiction, as well as understand how your negative relationship with alcohol started. It is a form of talking therapy based on the concept that your thoughts, actions, and feelings are connected.

Upon completing rehab, many people choose to continue treatment – this is known as aftercare/ secondary treatment. This can involve attending outpatient centres, support groups, and group therapy. Many people choose to attend groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and connect with other recovering alcoholics to stay on track and prevent relapse.

How Help4Addiction Can Help You

Taking the first step towards recovery can be daunting, which is why our friendly team at Help4Addiction can guide you and take the stress out of finding the right rehab centre.

We have connections with rehab clinics all across England and Wales and will take the time to discuss your preferences and requirements to find the right treatment plan and rehab clinic for you.

Help4Addiction was created by a former addict – an addict that needed rehab to save his life. After he received the treatment he needed, he aimed to use his personal experiences with addiction to help others.

If you’re looking to break your addiction to alcohol, contact us today to get the ball rolling and begin the admissions process. Likewise, if you have an addiction to drugs, whether it be prescription drugs or illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or cannabis, we can help.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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