most common substance abuse is the misuse of alcohol and cigarettes
which are both legal. In
addition, alcohol and drug abuse combined affect approximately twenty
five million Americans. Very
often a distinction is made between substance abuse and substance
abuse involves the inability to control the use of alcohol or other
drugs. The individual
becomes intoxicated on a regular basis.
Usually daily, however, weekend or binge use is also common. Often, the drug is often needed for normal functioning.
In addition there may be repeated attempts to stop using alcohol,
which fail. Even though the
individual knows that the use of alcohol interferes with family life,
social relationships, etc. he or she is unable to stop.
Alcohol dependence victims, on the other hand, suffer all of the
symptoms of abuse plus an increasing tolerance for the alcohol.
As a result, increased amounts are necessary for the desired
effect. Continued alcohol
use eventually leads to physical dependence as well and the individual
will develop withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop use of the
Alcoholism is a progressive addiction that generally appears between the ages of twenty and forty, although children and teenagers can become alcoholics. Alcohol dependence tends to cluster in families and current research indicates that tendencies toward alcohol addiction are inherited. Alcohol dependence can be a sign of depression, however, depression typically is a consequence of the drinking rather than the cause. On the average, it takes between five and fifteen years for an adult to develop alcoholism. An adolescent, however, can become an alcoholic in as little as six months and in most cases alcoholism develops between six to eighteen months in an adolescent who is drinking heavily. Generally, abuse of alcohol occurs in one of three pattern:
drinking continues dependency increases and the alcoholic begins to
develop severe withdrawal symptoms, when he tries to stop drinking.
Long term heavy drinking can also cause dementia, and the
individual may lose memory, thinking ability, and may experience
trembling, delusion, hallucinations, and even be unable to recall the
names of common objects.
Physical consequences of chronic alcohol dependence include: cirrhosis of the liver, hepatitis, altered brain cell functioning, nerve damage, gastritis, premature aging, impotence, and infertility.
indicates that hormonal imbalances caused by alcohol dependence, actually trick the body into shutting off it’s
normal supply of natural
pleasure causing chemicals (endorphins).
This leads to
increased use in order to enhance the individual’s sense of
well-being and pleasure. This further
form alcohol addiction is possible; although, treatment usually tends to
be long term. The craving
for the drug can be long lasting and difficult to overcome.
The first step in treatment is admission by the alcoholic that he
or she has a problem. This
is often the biggest obstacle to treatment.
Denial is a very powerful force with alcoholics.
If denial persists, it may be necessary for the family to take
serious steps to force a loved one into treatment.
Many professional therapists recommend a method called a family
action intervention. After
several meetings with an experienced drug counselor, psychologist or,
social worker, the family confronts the alcoholic.
Each member openly communicates how the users behavior has
effected him or her personally.
This at times can become very emotional, and the alcoholic is
forced to confront the effects of his or her alcohol abuse.
While family members are normally present, other participants in
the intervention can include: friends, and co-workers.
During the actual confrontation, the alcoholic is made to choose
between them, and their continued use of alcohol.
The intervention is intended to catch the alcoholic of guard, and
to overcome the denial. A
crucial part of the program is presenting treatment alternatives that
can be started immediately after the intervention meeting.
Very often, attempts are made to take the individual directly to
the hospital from the meeting.
residential treatment is necessary.
The standard residential stay is 28 days.
Initially the individual goes through detoxification, which is
the process of ridding the body of alcohol.
This can take several days, and should not be done outside of a
hospital or treatment setting. Very
often antidepressant drugs are needed to relieve the depression and
associated cravings, which accompany the withdrawal.
The goal of the treatment is to improve the alcoholic’s
self-image, and to promote healthful, alcohol free living.
strength and support by family members is also crucial to a recovering
individual. It is also important for the alcoholic to continue outpatient
treatment, and to become involved with a self help group on a regular
basis, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or Cocaine
support from these organizations is also available to family members,
who very often themselves need therapy to help deal with the
consequences of the