If you notice these signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction in yourself or a loved one, you might need professional alcohol rehab. Quitting alcohol on your own could be challenging and lead to relapse. In addition, without medical support, you could have life-threatening complications due to withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol addiction can cause long-term problems when left untreated. It is best to get treatment early before the long-term effects of alcoholism negatively impact your overall quality of life.
Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Use Disorder
The long-term effects of alcoholism include adverse consequences on your overall health and well-being. Alcohol use disorder can negatively affect your physical, mental and social health.
Physical Health Effects
The physical health effects of long-term alcohol addiction include:
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of stroke and certain cancers
- Liver and heart disease
- Weakened immune system
Mental Health Effects
Long-term effects on your mental health include:
- Difficulty learning new things
- Problems with memory
- Troubling coping with stress
- Worsening of existing mental illnesses
Social Health Effects
Alcoholism can have adverse effects on your social wellness like:
- Problems at work or school
- Legal issues, like drunk driving or public intoxication
- Difficulty maintaining healthy relationships with friends and family
- Financial problems
How is Alcohol Addiction Treated?
Alcohol addiction is treated in stages, and your treatment plan might vary from others depending on your unique needs and preferences:
The first part of alcohol addiction treatment is called “alcohol detox.” During detox, you rid your body and mind of the harmful chemicals from alcohol abuse.
You might experience withdrawal symptoms during alcohol detox, which can range in severity from mildly discomforting to life-threatening. Alcohol detox takes about one to two weeks.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms might include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Digestive problems
- Tremors or shakes
- Irritability and agitation
Active Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
After detox, you might enter inpatient treatment at a residential facility or continue treatment at an outpatient program. During active treatment, you learn how to maintain sobriety, prevent relapses, and deal with underlying issues of alcohol addiction.
Most people begin active treatment in a residential facility, often known as rehab. These facilities offer a homelike atmosphere with amenities and various therapies for alcohol addiction. Inpatient residential treatment is best if you are new to recovery, are triggered to use alcohol in your home environment or community, or are at a high risk of relapse due to severe withdrawal symptoms.
Outpatient treatment options can be helpful to continue treatment after completing a residential program. You can also use outpatient options when you are safe and supported in your recovery at home or if you reside in a sober living home.
After active and intensive treatment, you enter long-term recovery. During this part of alcohol addiction treatment, you continually strive to maintain sobriety and achieve your long-term recovery goals. You might continue seeing an outpatient therapist for underlying mental health issues. Many treatment facilities offer support to alumni of their programs to keep you connected to the recovery community.
Long-term recovery also involves participating in peer support groups. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or SMART Recovery can help you maintain sobriety with support from others in recovery. These groups are free of charge and can help you find sober friends to build a support system.
What Happens During Alcohol Treatment?
During alcohol rehab, you will begin the active stages of treatment for alcohol addiction. Alcohol rehab begins with detox to manage withdrawal symptoms. Due to the severity of withdrawal symptoms, it is best to attend a medical detox facility to monitor your symptoms and ensure safety.
Medical detox could include medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help you manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms during early recovery.
The following are FDA-approved medications used to treat alcohol addiction:
After detox, you can transition into an alcohol rehab program in a residential treatment center. During your stay at a treatment center, you will begin to understand the underlying causes of your addiction while learning how to maintain long-term sobriety. You will follow a daily schedule that could include concierge-style services customized to your unique needs and preferences.
Alcohol rehab facilities usually include:
- Emphasis on health and wellness
- Healthy eating
- Holistic health activities
- Evidence-based therapies for underlying mental health issues
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
- Peer support
- Group therapy sessions
- 12-Step facilitation
- Medical and psychiatric care
- Family involvement
- Planning for aftercare