If you are suffering from alcohol addiction, this page can guide you through your options in recovery.
*This page has been medically reviewed by Dr Robert Lefever, the world-leading addictions specialist.
Alcohol addiction can affect all aspects of your life, including your physical and mental health, your family, your relationships, and your professional life. If you think you or a loved one may have an addiction to alcohol, then you should get help as soon as possible.
At Help4Addiction, we can find you the ideal rehab clinic to treat your addiction to alcohol. With a mixture of both inpatient clinics and outpatient clinics dotted around England and Wales, we’re sure to find the right treatment centre for you.
Read on to learn more about alcohol addiction and the alcohol rehab process. Learning about addiction and the rehab process is the first step of your recovery journey.
What is Alcohol Addiction?
Just like any substance, whether it be cannabis or prescription medication, it’s possible to misuse alcohol. Alcohol misuse is characterised by drinking alcohol despite it being harmful to your physical health and your mental health, or being dependent on alcohol.
When drinking alcohol, it’s important to be mindful of the units you’re consuming. According to the UK’s government guidelines on alcohol intake, you should be drinking less than 14 units per week to reduce the health risks from alcohol. A unit equates to around 10ml of pure alcohol, which is roughly the same as a shot of spirit (e.g vodka), or a half-pint of 3.6% beer/cider/ lager. [i]
Alcohol addiction is a recognised physical illness and mental illness. It is characterised by the continual consumption of alcohol despite the physical and mental damage it may cause, and despite the negative consequences it can have on your life overall.
Alcohol is a chemical that changes the complex functions of your brain – which means that when you drink alcohol, it triggers the release of certain ‘feel good’ chemicals in your brain (e.g dopamine and serotonin).
This can make you feel good, positive, and less sensitive to pain – and can lead to you drinking alcohol, again and again, to keep getting the positive feelings. [ii] However, prolonged and excessive alcohol consumption can affect the neurotransmitters in your brain.
Risk Factors for Alcohol Addiction
Anybody can become addicted to alcohol, but certain risk factors have been linked to alcohol addiction and alcohol abuse.
There is abundant evidence to suggest that alcoholism can be genetic. There are variations in several genes that have been linked to alcohol addiction, including ADH1B and ALDH2. [iii] However, it isn’t just genetics that has been linked to alcohol addiction – certain environmental factors are thought to be risk factors.
For example, a child that is around parental figures or family members who excessively drink alcohol may conclude that this is normal behaviour. [iv] It is common practice for children to copy their parents or guardians, as well as their friends and other family members – which means that peer pressure can also be a risk factor when it comes to alcohol dependency/ addiction.
A study explored peer pressure and excessive alcohol consumption and found that peer pressure to drink alcohol is complex and can be experienced throughout adulthood. However, a better understanding is required to decrease the impact of peer pressure and to develop strategies to combat this. [v]
Another risk factor for alcohol addiction is mental health. If you have mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, you may be more likely to develop an addiction to alcohol.
This is because people with depression and low mood tend to be more likely to use alcohol to treat the negative symptoms of mental illness. Women are roughly two times more likely to start drinking excessively if they have been depressed in the past. [vi]
Stress can also play a part – whether it be early life stressors, cumulative life stressors, or both. When your anxiety levels or stress levels are high, then you may feel more compelled to drink alcohol to relieve the negative feelings. [vii]
Although stress doesn’t always cause alcohol addiction, combined with genetics and other risk factors, it can certainly increase the chances of developing an addiction to alcohol.
If you begin drinking alcohol from an early age, then you may be more likely to develop an alcohol addiction in the future. A study named ‘Impact of age at first drink on stress-reactive drinking’ [viii] found a link between drinking alcohol under the age of 15 and developing alcohol dependence.
Alcohol Addiction vs Alcohol Dependence
When researching alcohol addiction, you’ll likely hear the terms ‘alcohol addiction’ and ‘alcohol dependence’. Many people will use these terms interchangeably, but others will have different definitions for the two terms. However, both terms fall under the wider term ‘alcohol use disorder’ or ‘substance use disorder/ SUD’.
High-risk drinking is when you drink more than the recommended amount of alcohol, which can lead to alcohol-related health problems and health complications.
Alcohol dependence typically refers to a physical dependence on alcohol, which includes the physical withdrawal symptoms from alcohol. Alcohol addiction, on the other hand, often refers to the behaviours associated with alcohol use.
These changes in behaviour are caused by biochemical changes within the brain that occur after continuous alcohol consumption. When you are addicted to alcohol, alcohol will often become your main priority.
Alcohol dependence is typically characterised by craving alcohol as well as having increased tolerance to alcohol. Alcohol dependence has been associated with many harmful physical and mental consequences such as liver disease or depression.
Although is defined in the DSM-IV and the ICD-10 as being either absent or present, it can be helpful to categorise alcohol dependence as either mild, moderate, or severe.
People with mild alcohol dependence will score 15 or less on the SADQ (Severity of Alcohol Dependence Questionnaire), whereas people with moderate dependence will score between 15 and 30. Those with severe alcohol dependence will score over 30 on the SAQD. [ix]
Usually, if you score under 15 on the questionnaire then you won’t need assisted alcohol withdrawal as much as those with moderate dependence. If your alcohol dependence is severe, then you’ll likely benefit more from an alcohol rehab treatment on an inpatient basis/ residential rehab to help manage the withdrawal symptoms.
To learn more about the difference between inpatient and outpatient alcohol addiction treatment, scroll down to the ‘What is Alcohol Rehab Treatment’ section of this page.
The Effects of Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction or alcohol use disorder can have many short-term and long-term effects on your physical health, your mental health, and your wellbeing in general. However, it can also affect those around you – your family, your spouse, and your children.
Short Term Effects
Excessive alcohol use can have immediate effects on your physical health and your mental health. Alcohol addiction and binge drinking have been linked to miscarriage and stillbirth, as well as FASDs (fetal alcohol spectrum disorders). [x]
There is always a risk of alcohol poisoning, which can be deadly. Alcohol poisoning is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical assistance from medical professionals.
You may also be at a higher risk of motor accidents and causing death by driving. [xi] There is also a risk of violence – including homicide, suicide, and sexual assault.
Long Term Effects
Alcohol abuse and excessive alcohol consumption can have serious long term effects on your physical health, and increase the chance of alcohol-related death.
Heavy drinking or excessive drinking can affect your body’s organs, and can ultimately lead to organ damage. Some organs that are likely to be damaged by alcohol misuse include the heart, liver, pancreas, nervous system, and brain.
In the long term, alcohol misuse can also affect your immune system, causing it to weaken. This can result in you being more prone to serious infections, some of which can be deadly. Alcohol misuse can also lead to infertility and sexual problems – for example, premature ejaculation and impotence.
Some more long term health risks that can be caused by alcohol misuse include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Liver disease
- Weakened bones
- Pancreatitis [xii]
How Alcohol Addiction Can Harm Families
Alcohol addiction rarely just harms the person with the addiction – it can have negative effects on your loved ones too, whether it be your partner, friends, or children.
Parents with an alcohol addiction may struggle to understand the impact of their behaviour on their families – particularly their children. For example, a parent with alcohol use disorder may not look after their children effectively, leading to the child missing school, missing meals, etc.
Children that have parents with an alcohol addiction may not feel comfortable inviting friends home from school and may become isolated due to this. Older children may start caring for their younger siblings or try to take care of their parents. This can cause strained relationships in the home, [xiii] which can have lasting effects on children.
It’s not just the children of a household that can be affected by alcohol addiction. If you have an alcohol addiction, your partner or spouse may also be affected.
Some issues that may co-occur with alcohol problems could include jealousy, infidelity, divorce, financial difficulties, and violence. In fact, marital issues tend to be common among those seeking alcohol treatment – and problems with alcohol tend to be present in those who are undergoing marital therapy sessions. [xiv]
Can Alcohol Addiction Kill You?
If you leave your addiction to worsen and don’t get help (or help yourself), there is always the risk of dying from alcohol-specific causes. In 2020, there were 8,974 deaths registered in the UK from alcohol-specific causes, which is 18.6% more than the previous year.
One of the main causes of these deaths was alcoholic liver disease, which made up 77.8% of alcohol-specific deaths in 2020. The next highest cause was mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol, which made up 12.1% of these deaths. [xv]
Drinking too much alcohol can be dangerous – and drinking an excessive amount of alcohol in a short amount of time can lead to an alcohol overdose, also known as alcohol poisoning.
Alcohol overdose or alcohol poisoning may occur if the alcohol levels in your bloodstream are too high, as this can affect certain areas of your brain that control key life-supporting functions – for example, heart rate, breathing, and temperature control. [xvi]
If you think somebody you’re with is experiencing alcohol poisoning, don’t leave them alone or unattended – when overdosing from alcohol, there is always the risk of choking on your own vomit. This can lead to blocked airways, leaving you unable to breathe.
If you’re with a person who has alcohol poisoning, try to keep them sat upright. If this isn’t possible, lie them down with their head positioned to the side to avoid choking on their own vomit. [xvii]
Here are some signs of alcohol poisoning:
- Slowed down breathing
- Pale skin
- Blue tinge to the skin
- Cold and clammy skin
- Seizures [xviii]
Be sure to watch out for the signs of alcohol poisoning on yourself or others as it is a medical emergency and you should call the emergency services. The emergency services operator or the hospital will ask you how much alcohol you or the person you’re with has consumed, as well as the type of alcohol.
Signs That You Need Alcohol Addiction Treatment
There are currently over 600,000 people in the UK who are dependent on alcohol – however, out of these people, only 18% are receiving treatment.[xix]
At Help4Addiciton, we want to increase this percentage. Failing to act on alcohol addiction can not only have negative consequences on your mental and physical health – but can be deadly.
There are many signs that you may need alcohol addiction treatment – one of the main signs being that you experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms when you lower the amount of alcohol you drink or stop drinking alcohol.
If you drink alcohol regularly and in large amounts, you may experience severe withdrawal symptoms if you stop drinking – even if you don’t think that you have a problem with alcohol.
Alcohol consumption increases the GABA effects – which is a neurotransmitter that makes you feel calm and euphoric. Alcohol also decreases glutamate levels, which lowers your excitability levels.
Excessive alcohol consumption can make it harder for your body to increase GABA – and can decrease the glutamate levels in your body. This means that your body will need more alcohol to feel the same effects – your body adapts to the changes, and in time, produces less GABA and more glutamate.
If you were to suddenly stop drinking, your body will still be producing the same amount of GABA and glutamate as when you were drinking – leading to you feeling shaky, anxious, hyper, and restless. [xx]
If you were previously a heavy drinker, then you may experience worse withdrawal symptoms than if you were a mild drinker. Some of the most common physical withdrawal symptoms include:
- High fever
- Stomach ache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
As well as physical withdrawal symptoms, you may also experience psychological withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling fatigued
- Other mental health issues
When withdrawing from alcohol, you may notice that withdrawal symptoms come on gradually, peaking after a couple of days.
However, the severity of the withdrawal symptoms can depend on a variety of factors. For example, your age, weight, and history with alcohol (amount you consumed, length of addiction).
Although withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant, they often aren’t dangerous. However, receiving quality alcohol rehab treatment at a rehab centre is sure to be the best course of action.
Our dedicated team at Help4Addiction can help you to find the best rehabilitation centre for you and your needs. Read on to learn more about how alcohol rehab treatment works.
What Is Alcohol Rehab Treatment?
The alcohol rehab treatment process starts with you finding the right rehab clinic for you. This is something we can help with at Help4Addiction – finding the right rehab treatment centre for you is the best way to start your journey to recovery.
Rehab treatment for alcohol addiction and other addictions (cocaine addiction/ cannabis addiction/ heroin addiction) usually begins with alcohol detox, alcohol rehab therapy, and then aftercare/ secondary treatment.
Before we go through the rehab treatment process with you, let’s discuss the difference between residential treatment centres and outpatient rehab.
Residential Alcohol Rehab vs Outpatient Alcohol Rehab
Many people will choose to spend time at a residential treatment facility rather than receive help for alcohol addiction on an outpatient basis. Residential alcohol rehab is particularly popular amongst those with heroin addiction, prescription medication addiction, and alcohol addiction.
Residential rehab treatment is usually recommended for those with severe alcohol addiction when the withdrawal symptoms are expected to be severe, unpleasant, and/ or dangerous.
At a residential treatment centre, you can expect to live there for the duration of your treatment. You will have your meals and accommodation provided for you, which can help ease the pressure when recovering from alcohol addiction.
However, 7-day rehab is only recommended for those with a mild addiction, or to milder substances – for example, cannabis. The length of time you spend at rehab typically depends on how well your recovery is going, as well as the severity of your addiction.
If you opt for outpatient rehab, you should expect to visit an outpatient treatment centre to receive alcohol counselling as well as guidance, therapy sessions, and help to detox.
You’ll need to travel to the centre when you’re scheduled for sessions, and you’ll still be living at home. This may not be the best option if you have a severe alcohol addiction, as you will still be in the same environment as before (when you were addicted to alcohol), and there may be a higher chance of relapsing.
When browsing for alcohol rehab centres, you may have stumbled across the term ‘quasi-residential’. This is a combination of both outpatient and inpatient treatment – you live in one residency but travel to other locations to receive different rehab treatments (e.g behavioural therapy or counselling with a psychiatrist).
Quasi-residential alcohol addiction treatment can be an effective option as it removes you from your previous environment. This can help to prevent relapse, but give you a higher sense of freedom than being in a residential rehab treatment centre.
Private alcohol rehab is generally offered on a residential basis, which can be beneficial to those with severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms or alcohol withdrawal syndrome.
A private rehab treatment programme will often involve holistic therapies such as art therapy or sports therapy, as well as medical assistance. Treating alcoholism isn’t an easy process, but is often easier when medical assistance is involved.
The amount of time it takes to detox from alcohol can depend on a variety of factors, including the amount of time you have been drinking alcohol, the amount of alcohol you’re used to consuming, as well as your height and weight.
The process typically lasts between three days and seven days – however, it can take as long as 10 days to successfully detox from alcohol if you have a chronic addiction. [xxi]
When you are detoxing from alcohol, you may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms – as previously mentioned on this page. During alcohol detox, all access to alcohol will be cut off so your body can successfully rid itself of the toxins and break the alcohol dependency.
You may benefit from a medically assisted detox if your addiction is particularly severe. Medical supervision can help to streamline the process and can be a much safer option – as some withdrawal symptoms can be particularly unpleasant.
In some cases, you may be offered alcohol addiction medication to ease the withdrawal symptoms. However, this should only be offered by medical professionals.
Once your withdrawal symptoms have eased, you will begin to ‘stabilise’. This means that you may be ready to move on to the next stage of your recovery.
Alcohol Addiction Therapy
Upon successfully detoxing from alcohol, you’ll undergo the next stage of the alcohol rehab process – therapy.
Alcohol rehab therapy can be beneficial, helping you to gain a further understanding of your addiction. A popular therapy in many rehab clinics in the UK is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – a form of talking therapy.
CBT is based on the idea that your thoughts, feelings and behaviours all impact each other – and that the way you think can not only affect how you feel but have an effect on your behaviour. However, this cycle can be broken – CBT can help you deal with a variety of issues in a positive way by breaking them down.
In alcohol rehab therapy, you’ll assess the negative thinking patterns that may relate to your addiction to alcohol, and work to improve the way you feel. CBT focuses on the here and now, rather than the past.[xxii]
However, you may also be offered counselling sessions for alcohol addiction, whether it be group counselling or one-to-one with a psychiatrist or a counsellor. Counselling can help you understand the root of your addiction, and highlight things from the past that may influence your behaviour, feelings, and thoughts here and now.
Alcohol rehab therapy can help you to understand your triggers, which is key when it comes to preventing relapse. Some rehab centres also offer holistic therapy such as art therapy or sports therapy – this is often found in private rehabilitation centres.
At Help4Addiction, we don’t believe in just waving goodbye as you exit the clinic. This is why we work with quality addiction treatment centres that offer secondary treatment (also known as aftercare).
Secondary rehab treatment will typically take place on an outpatient basis – however, some clinics do offer secondary treatment on an inpatient basis.
Receiving secondary or ongoing addiction treatment can help to prevent relapse. Typically, aftercare will involve further therapy – for example, group therapy, support groups, and one-to-one therapy in outpatient centres. Support groups can be particularly helpful as it provides an environment where you can speak to others who are in a similar situation.
The recovery process can be long, but with ongoing support, you’re sure to find the process easier and more streamlined. Attending therapy and other sessions regularly is key to relapse prevention and overcoming alcoholism for good.
How Help4Addiction Can Help You
At Help4Addiction, we can help you find the right rehab centre for you, providing an excellent drugs and alcohol rehab centre selection service.
With alcohol rehab clinics located all around England and Wales, we can help you find the best local treatment centre for you and your needs. Our friendly team can talk you through your options in an encouraging, warm, and open manner.
Help4Addiction was created by a former addict who needed rehab to save his life – and since receiving the treatment he needed, we vowed to use his experience with addiction to help others.
We have strong relationships with a variety of alcohol rehab clinics that can help you quit drinking for good, and help to prevent relapse. Contact our dedicated team today to find a place in the best rehab clinic for you. Together, we can put you on the right path to recovery and help you live an alcohol-free life.
It isn’t just alcohol addiction that we can help with – we can help you find the right treatment for a variety of substance abuse disorders. If you have a drug addiction, whether it be heroin addiction, cocaine addiction, cannabis addiction or ketamine addiction, we can help you find local rehabilitation treatment.