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Alcoholism doesn’t just affect the person with the addiction – it also has an impact on family members and loved ones too. But how exactly does alcoholism affect families or individual family members? That’s what we’re going to explore on this page.

Read on to learn more about alcoholism (alcohol use disorder/ AUD and alcohol abuse), how AUD can affect you in the short term and the long term, and how alcoholism can affect families.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a form of an alcohol use disorder, known as alcohol addiction or alcohol dependence. However, medical professionals steer clear of the term ‘alcoholism’ – and simply refer to it as alcohol use disorder.

AUD can be categorised and diagnosed as mild, moderate, or severe, with alcohol addiction being the more severe form of AUD.

It is a chronic and relapsing disease, characterised by a lack of control over drinking alcohol. Somebody with AUD may drink too often, too much, or be unable to stop drinking once they start.

People with alcohol dependence may also drink more alcohol to feel the same effects, as they have an increased tolerance.

In England, there are roughly 600,000 dependent drinkers, which equals around one in 12 men and one in 30 women that show signs of alcohol dependence.

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Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse is slightly different to alcohol addiction – although both are forms of AUD. People with alcohol dependence often abuse alcohol, but people who abuse alcohol don’t always have an addiction.

Although there is no completely safe level of drinking, drinking in moderation and drinking mindfully can reduce the risk of developing long-term health problems.

Alcohol abuse is a dangerous drinking pattern that can lead to many negative consequences – for example, relationship problems, drinking-related legal issues (e.g drink-driving), financial problems, and of course, health issues.

Alcohol abuse covers binge drinking. Those who binge drink may only drink once or twice a week, but consume an unhealthy or dangerous level of alcohol during that time – to the extent that it causes physical health problems.

The Effects of Alcoholism

Alcohol is a drug and can have many unpleasant and even dangerous effects on your body and your mind. However, it is possible to drink alcohol without experiencing severe effects: the key is drinking in moderation.

The NHS and UK Government recommend that you drink no more than 14 units per week. For context, this is around the same as six pints of 4% ABV beer, or six medium glasses of wine.

However, those with AUD will rarely stick to the recommended limit – and will consume excessive amounts of alcohol which can have many negative effects. Here are some common short-term and long-term effects of alcoholism and AUD.

Short Term Effects

Alcoholism and excessive alcohol consumption can have many dangerous short-term effects – one of the most prominent short-term effects being alcohol poisoning (also known as an alcohol overdose).

Alcohol poisoning occurs when there is a dangerous amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. This can affect the areas of your brain that control life-supporting functions: for example, temperature control, heart rate, and breathing.

It is considered a medical emergency – and you should seek help if you or somebody you know is showing signs of alcohol poisoning. Some symptoms of alcohol poisoning to look out for include:

In the short term, excessive alcohol use can also lead to anaemia, impaired judgement, blackouts (e.g memory lapses), headaches, and a variety of other short-term health issues. In some cases, alcohol abuse can also lead to a coma.

Long Term Effects

It is no secret that alcohol addiction has many long-term effects on a person’s life – including their physical and mental health, relationships, and general wellbeing.

Alcohol use can damage your organs – for example, your brain, liver, heart, pancreas, and central nervous system. Drinking heavily can also increase your blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. This can put you at an increased risk of strokes or heart attacks.

Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to liver problems – the liver disease is a common issue in those with alcohol use disorders.

It can also weaken your immune system, making you more vulnerable to infections. If you abuse alcohol in the long term, your bones may also become weaker – which can put you at an increased risk of fracturing or breaking your bones.

In fact, alcoholism has been found to be a causal factor in over 60 medical conditions. The good news is that it’s not too late to get help for your addiction. See ‘Get Help For Alcohol Addiction’ to learn more.

Effects of Alcoholism on Families

Alcoholism rarely just affects the person with the addiction – alcoholism affects loved ones, friends, and family members too.

It can have immediate effects on family relationships as well as long-lasting effects that can impact entire generations. This is one of the reasons it’s known as a family disease.

If a family member has an alcohol problem, it can lead to many issues in the family unit – from financial issues to strained relationships. Read on to learn more about how alcoholism can affect marriage and relationships, and how it can impact children.

Alcoholism Can Affect Marriage and Relationships

A person with alcohol addiction may go through many changes in their personality – for example, alcohol may become their main priority – and everything else, including loved ones, become secondary.

They may neglect their work to prioritise drinking – or even quit their job or be fired. This can affect the family unit as it can lead to financial problems.

The spouse or partner may have to work extra hours in order to provide for their family, which can put a strain on the relationship and the spouse’s well-being in general.

Likewise, the spouse or loved one may have to pick up extra responsibilities to deal with the loss of income in the household, as well as extra responsibilities regarding the home (e.g cooking, cleaning, looking after pets and children).

Alcoholism can have many dangerous consequences – and a person with alcohol addiction may put themselves and others in dangerous situations.

For example, driving while under the influence of alcohol. This can not only be draining and upsetting for the family members and loved ones but can also put them at risk of injury or even death.

There are also links between intimate partner violence/ domestic violence, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and alcoholism.

In 2019, 39% of violent incidents in England and Wales were alcohol-related – and this figure has been pretty consistent for a decade. The groups in the survey experienced around 14 times more alcohol-related domestic abuse incidents.

It can be difficult to maintain healthy relationships with somebody with alcohol addiction, which is why it’s so important to seek help. Scroll down to learn more about alcohol rehab.

Alcoholism Can Affect Children and Young Family Members

Alcohol abuse or alcoholism in the household can have huge effects on children – whether they’re young children or teenagers – in both the short term and the long term.

People with alcohol addiction typically prioritise drinking – and may neglect other responsibilities, including children.

This means that an alcoholic parent may miss mealtimes or forget to feed their children – or may not stick to a steady routine of mealtimes and bedtimes.

Likewise, they may take their children to school late, or have their children miss school time entirely. This can lead to them performing poorly in school, or misbehaving. In some cases, local authorities may step in.

Children of alcoholics may experience a variety of emotions regarding their parent’s alcohol use. They may feel frustrated or angry and struggle to make sense of their parent’s behaviour.

They may also feel guilty, and feel like they are to blame. Children of alcoholics may experience mood swings and behavioural changes, including unpredictable behaviour. They may struggle to form friendships with other children and be scared to invite friends home.

Although both younger children and older children can be greatly affected by alcoholism in the family, older children may react differently to younger children.

Older children may also experience problems in school or work – they may appear distracted in school, and find it hard to concentrate or build relationships.

This can lead to poor academic performance, which can make it difficult to get into university or college.

Older children of alcoholics may experience isolation, self-consciousness, or obsessive perfectionism. They may also experience anxiety or depression – and these issues may continue into adulthood.

Adult children of alcoholics may develop certain traits – for example, they may become either irresponsible or overly responsible, impulsive, and extremely loyal.

They may also find it hard to accept themselves – and may judge themselves. They may also find it difficult to take themselves seriously and may feel as though they are different from others. This can lead to them finding it hard to build intimate relationships.

There are links between alcoholism and child abuse too, which can have an array of negative effects on a child’s life and child development.

Get Help For Alcohol Addiction Today

You don’t have to deal with alcohol addiction or substance use disorder alone, or even seek treatment alone. Likewise, if you’re looking for help for a loved one’s addiction, we can help.

At Help4Addiction, we can provide you with support and advice regarding alcohol rehab – and can find the right rehab centre for you or your family member.

We are in contact with rehab facilities all around England and Wales – and can find the right treatment plan for you, and the right place for you to receive treatment.

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to addiction recovery – so we’ll take the time to discuss your needs, circumstances, and preferences when finding the right rehab clinic for you.

There are different treatments out there – for example, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, quasi-residential rehab, NHS-operated rehab, and private rehab. Read on to learn more about what to expect from the alcohol rehab process, from detoxification to secondary treatment. 

The Addiction Treatment Process

Families affected by alcoholism can recover, and there is treatment out there. The first step of alcohol addiction treatment is detoxification – which means all access to alcohol will be cut off to free your body of the physical addiction.

During this stage, you may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, you may be given detox medication – this is known as a medical detox or a medically-supervised detox.

The length of the detox period can vary but typically lasts around two weeks. The length of time the alcohol withdrawal symptoms are present can also vary depending on your age, height, and weight.

Once the withdrawal symptoms are under control, you can move on to the next stage of alcohol rehab – therapy. There are different types of addiction therapy programs available during rehab for addiction, and this can vary from clinic to clinic.

Most rehab centres will offer CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), counselling, and group therapy, as well as other types of therapy such as interpersonal therapy, DBT (dialectical behavioural therapy), and family therapy. Private rehab clinics may have more options – for example, holistic therapies.

Upon completing rehab, you may wish to continue receiving treatment – known as aftercare or secondary treatment.

The goal of aftercare is to ease the recovery process after rehab – ultimately preventing relapse. Contact us today to learn more about the rehab process, or to get the ball rolling on the admissions process for rehab.

We can also help with drug addiction treatment – for example, cocaine rehab, heroin rehab, or cannabis rehab.

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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