An alcohol use disorder refers to a problematic pattern of alcohol use in which the person is unable to stop drinking or control their urges to drink. Otherwise referred to as alcohol addiction or alcoholism, a person who abuses alcohol may be preoccupied with drinking or continue consuming alcohol even when it causes problems with their physical and mental health, relationships, career, or finances. 

Alcoholism is also marked by physical dependence and tolerance, which requires the individual to drink more to experience the same effects and experiences withdrawal symptoms when the person stops drinking. If you or someone you care about is struggling with alcoholism, our Florida alcohol treatment center can help.  

Why Is Alcohol Addictive?

Alcohol is addictive because it alters brain neurochemistry. Its primary targets are the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Alcohol increases the inhibitory effects of GABA, which has a calming and relaxing effect. Because of this, drinking alcohol can initially make one feel relaxed and have less inhibitions. Additionally, by depressing the central nervous system, it suppresses glutamate at the same time. Many people, especially those seeking stress relief or an escape from emotional discomfort, may find the ensuing slowing of brain activity to their liking.

Additionally, alcohol causes the reward region of the brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to pleasure and reward. This stimulates drinking, generating a positive feedback loop that motivates frequent consumption. The brain may modify its own natural synthesis of particular neurotransmitters as time goes on as it gets used to the presence of alcohol. This change may set off a cycle of increased tolerance, requiring people to drink more alcohol to experience the same effects. In the end, this process can considerably contribute to the emergence of dependence and addiction. This neurochemical effect of alcohol plays a crucial part in its addictive potential when combined with personal psychological factors and outside environmental stimuli.

What Are the Stages of Becoming an Alcoholic?

Although it's crucial to remember that not everyone's journey takes the same route, becoming an alcoholic often entails advancement through several distinct stages. These phases can offer a broad framework for comprehending how alcohol dependence develops.

The 4 stages of alcoholism include:

  1. Experimental stage: The earliest stage of alcohol experimentation is known as the experimental stage. In early adulthood or youth, it frequently happens. With the main emphasis on discovery and curiosity rather than reliance, drinking may be intermittent and social at this stage. During this stage, many people are able to limit their alcohol use, and they might not continue.
  2. Social stage: Some people may progress into the social stage as they move past the experimental stage. Here, drinking alcohol becomes more commonplace and is frequently associated with social occasions, get-togethers, or holidays. Drinking is viewed as a means to unwind, have fun, and socialize. While many people can still live in moderation, some may start to act in a riskier manner or consume more.
  3. Problematic stage: Alcohol usage changes from being primarily social to playing a larger role in a person's life during the problematic stage. They might begin drinking to help them deal with stress, anxiety, or other emotional difficulties. The onset of tolerance, or the requirement for higher doses to have the same result, is possible. This can be a turning point where some people start to encounter unfavorable outcomes, like interpersonal disputes, subpar work or academic performance, or legal problems.
  4. Dependence stage: At this point, alcohol has taken the lead position in the person's life. They could become physically and psychologically dependent, which is marked by symptoms of withdrawal when drinking is stopped. The person's capacity for self-control over alcohol use is significantly reduced, and they can find themselves drinking against their will. Responsibility and interpersonal connections frequently deteriorate, and there may be a lot of denial about how serious the problem is.

Knowing the alcoholism stages is only one piece of the puzzle. It's important to keep in mind that not everyone who tries alcohol goes on to develop alcoholism. People can proceed through these stages at varying speeds or even reach a plateau. In addition, psychological, environmental, and genetic factors might affect how alcohol dependence develops. Recognizing the indicators of developing alcohol addiction and seeking help or intervention early on is critical for properly resolving this issue.

Warning Signs of Alcoholism 

Alcohol abuse includes using alcohol in a way that puts your health or safety at risk of causing other drinking-related problems, such as car accidents and DUIs. It also includes binge drinking – a pattern of drinking in which a male has five or more drinks within two hours or a female has at least four drinks within two hours.  

If your pattern of drinking results in repeated distress and inhibits you from functioning normally in your day-to-day life, you likely have an alcohol use disorder. Symptoms of alcoholism can range from mild to severe, but even a mild disorder can escalate.  

Common behavioral and physical signs of alcoholism include:  

  • Being unable to control how much alcohol you drink 
  • Wanting to cut down on how much you drink but being unsuccessful  
  • Multiple unsuccessful attempts to control how much you drink 
  • Spending a lot of time drinking, getting alcohol, or recovering from drinking 
  • Drinking alone  
  • Feeling a strong craving or urge to drink alcohol 
  • Failing to fulfill major obligations at work, school, or home due to drinking 
  • Continuing to drink alcohol despite the physical, social, work, or relationship problems it’s causing 
  • Giving up or reducing social and work activities and hobbies to drink 
  • Using alcohol in situations where it's not safe, such as when driving or swimming 
  • A developed tolerance to alcohol that causes you to drink more to feel the same effects 
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms — such as nausea, sweating, and shaking — when you don't drink 
  • Drinking alcohol to avoid withdrawal symptoms 
  • Lying to loved ones about your drinking 

People with alcohol use disorders may also go through periods of intoxication (being drunk) and withdrawal. Alcohol intoxication or drunkenness occurs when there are high amounts of alcohol in the bloodstream.  

Alcohol intoxication is known for causing physical and behavioral effects such as inappropriate behavior, unstable moods, poor judgment, slurred speech, problems with attention or memory, poor coordination, blackouts, and hangovers the following day. Very high blood alcohol levels can lead to poisoning, which may result in coma, permanent brain and organ damage, and even death.  

Alcohol withdrawal occurs when heavy and prolonged alcohol use is suddenly stopped or greatly reduced. Withdrawal symptoms can occur within several hours to 4 or 5 days after the person’s last drink, depending on how severe their drinking was in the first place.  

Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include sweating, rapid heartbeat, tremors, trouble sleeping, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, restlessness, anxiety, and seizures. Symptoms can be severe enough to impair your ability to function at work, in social situations, and at home.  

Alcohol withdrawals are often severe, which is why relapse is common in the early stages of alcohol addiction recovery. Our Sebring drug rehab recommends medically assisted detox to prevent relapse and increase your chances of completing treatment.  

When to Get Alcohol Treatment  

Our Florida alcohol addiction treatment is designed to help people who are struggling to control their drinking or have hit rock bottom. Heavy alcohol abuse can impact every area of your life, starting with your physical and mental health.  

Because alcohol is a depressant, it relaxes the mind and body, causing sedation and impairment. Thus, excessive drinking can reduce your judgment and lower your inhibitions, leading to poor decision-making and dangerous situations, such as: 

  • Motor vehicle accidents and other types of accidental injury 
  • Relationship problems 
  • Poor performance at work or school 
  • Increased likelihood of violent crimes or being the victim of a crime 
  • Legal problems or problems with employment or finances 
  • Increased risk of adopting other forms of substance abuse 
  • Engaging in risky, unprotected sex, or experiencing sexual abuse or date rape 
  • Increased risk of suicide  

Alcohol can also impact you physically, leading to problems like: 

  • Liver disease 
  • Digestive problems  
  • Cardiovascular disease 
  • Diabetes 
  • Vision problems 
  • Bone damage  
  • Birth defects when women drink while pregnant, such as fetal alcohol syndrome  
  • Neurological complications 
  • Increased risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, liver, esophagus, colon, and breasts 
  • Increased risk of poisoning and negative interactions with other substances 

If you or someone you care about is displaying the signs of alcohol abuse listed above or experiencing any of these problems, Banyan’s Florida alcohol treatment center can help. Our Sebring, FL, drug rehab offers alcohol addiction treatment that incorporates care for the physical and psychological contributing factors of alcoholism to ensure that clients receive the care they need to achieve long-term sobriety. 

What Our Sebring, Florida, Alcohol Rehab Center Offers 

Our alcohol rehab in Florida offers residential treatment to clients to separate them from distractions and triggers that may challenge their recovery at home. The first step of our treatment program is medically assisted detox, during which clients are gradually weaned off alcohol to prevent any dangerous withdrawals. We offer numerous types of detox programs to help those coming off a variety of substances.

The medical team at our drug rehab in Sebring, FL, may also administer medication to patients (as needed) to alleviate withdrawals and make the experience as comfortable and safe as possible. Medical detox is an important first step in the recovery process as it physically prepares the individual for abstinence and continuous treatment.  

Following detox, clients may then participate in behavioral therapy programs, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and 12-step groups. These programs are centered on treating the underlying contributing factors of addiction, such as mental illness, trauma, cognitive distortions, and more.  

If you or someone you know has a drinking problem and can use the help of our alcohol rehab center in Sebring, FL, contact Banyan Treatment Centers to get started.