Watching a friend or family member struggle with alcohol addiction can be difficult and finding help is more challenging. You aren’t sure what to say or whether your friend is willing to accept help. Unfortunately, about 17 million adults above 18 years have Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) at some point in life and 1 in 10 children live in a home with at least one parent with a drinking problem. Waiting longer will only worsen the case, so it is vital to find help as soon as possible, considering AUD is a medical problem. According to NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), the first step is to understand whether the person is an alcoholic or not.
What Is Alcoholism?
Before you seek treatment, it is essential to determine if your friend exhibits the symptoms of alcohol-related problems, which can result from drinking too often, too much, or too fast. Also referred to as alcohol use disorder (AUD), alcoholism is responsible for a significant share of public health issues. Approximately 95,000 people die every year from alcohol-related deaths, a significant portion of which comes from alcohol-impaired driving.
Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition diagnosed when someone has a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. Alcoholics have a problem controlling their drinking habits and will continue despite the adverse effects. Ultimately, the problem will affect their professional and social life, in addition to causing various health issues.
AUD can be mild and gradually develops into severe alcoholism. NIAAA advises close friends and family members to look out for specific signs of alcoholism. Some of the highlights of alcoholism or alcohol problems include if the patient:
- Drunk more or longer than intended on some occasions
- Has tried to cut down or stop drinking but couldn’t
- Spends a lot of time drinking and gets sick dealing with the aftereffects
- Experiences cravings and a strong urge or need to drink
- Struggles to take care of their home or family after drinking or being sick from drinking
- Continues to drink even though it affects their job, school, or social life
- Has given up on activities that were once important or interesting in order to drink
- Because of drinking, has been in situations that increase the likelihood of getting injured, such as driving, operating machinery, swimming, unsafe sex, or walking in dangerous areas
- Continues to drink even though it makes them agitated, anxious, or depressed
- Has to continue drinking more than they once needed to feel drunk
- Faces withdrawal symptoms, such as shaking, trouble sleeping, anxiety, irritability, nausea, or sweating when the effects of alcohol wear off
There are several other symptoms of alcohol abuse and some can only be diagnosed by a professional. As such, it is important to find help as soon as you suspect a friend is having trouble giving up their vice.
Where to Find Help
Starting with a primary care doctor is recommendable, but various treatment options are available for alcohol use disorder patients. The three popular directions include:
a) Behavioral treatments – These aim to change the patient’s drinking habits through counseling and research shows they can be beneficial. There are many behavioral treatments, including cognitive behavioral therapy, marital and family counseling, motivational enhancement therapy and brief interventions. The goal is to develop the skills required to stop drinking and cope with the triggers while building a strong social support system.
b) Medication – In the United States, three drugs are currently approved to help in reducing drinking and preventing relapse. These are Antabuse (Disulfiram), Naltrexone and Campral (Acamprosate). These medications are only supported under the prescription of a primary care physician or other recognized health professionals. Patients can use medication together with counseling or alone.
c) Mutual support groups – These groups offer an added layer of social support for those looking to stop or recover from alcohol use. They are highly recommendable and complement medication and counseling. Mutual groups can help alcoholics push through the first two years of sobriety, vital in preventing relapses.
Are you looking to find help for an alcoholic friend, family member, or acquaintance? More than 15 million Americans struggle with an alcohol problem, but only 10% receive treatment. It is vital to get help sooner and Alcohol Services is dedicated to offering you the support, compassion and resources needed to start the journey to an alcohol-free life. Contact us today to find out more about our support services.