Alcohol Addiction & Abuse | Solutions-Recovery
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Alcohol Addiction and Abuse

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) and binge drinking are problems for many Americans. From a 2020 national survey, some 50% of the American population ages 12 and older were current drinkers (in other words, drank alcohol within the month before the survey).1 According to the same survey, 61.6 million Americans aged 12 or older reported binge drinking within the last month.1 More than a quarter of those who binge drink are also heavy drinkers.1 Moreover, nearly 28.3 million Americans aged 12 or older had an alcohol use disorder within the last year.1

Though rates of binge drinking and alcohol addiction in Nevada are lower than the national average, they are still problematic, with nearly a quarter of the Nevadan population reporting binge drinking within the past month in recent years. 2,3 Nevadans between the ages of 18 and 24 and over age 55 are most likely to binge drink.3 Just over 6% of people in Nevada had an AUD in the last year.2

What Happens When You Drink Alcohol?

At first, drinking alcohol has what many view as desired or positive effects, such as making people feel more outgoing, improving mood, and easing stress.4 But alcohol use also has negative effects, especially when used in larger amounts.4 The negative short-term effects of alcohol include:4,5,6

  • Slurred speech.
  • Changes in mood.
  • Trouble staying alert and awake.
  • Being less able to focus or think clearly.
  • Increase in risky behaviors, such as drinking and driving or unprotected sex.
  • Loss of coordination and slower reaction time, which can lead to accidents, falls, or other injuries.
  • Hangovers after the alcohol wears off.

If you drink too much alcohol, more serious effects can happen, including alcohol poisoning, blackouts and memory loss, slowed breathing and heart rate, loss of consciousness (passing out), coma, or death.4,5

Long-Term Health Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Over time, alcohol abuse can have harmful effects on your physical and mental health, as well as other areas of your life.4–7 The long-term effects of alcohol on the body can include:4–7

  • Alcohol has been linked to increased risk of many types of cancer, including breast cancer, colon cancer, liver cancer, and head and neck cancers.
  • Chronic inflammation (swelling) and damage to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines. Alcohol can cause GI bleeding, stomach ulcers, heartburn, and appetite loss.
  • Decreasing how effective your immune system is, making you more susceptible to illness.
  • Liver scarring and inflammation and eventual liver failure, which may be life-threatening.
  • Issues with the nervous system, including harmful changes in the brain, memory issues, nerve damage in the legs and arms, and muscle weakness.
  • Heart problems, including abnormal heart rhythms, heart disease, high blood pressure, and increased risk of stroke.

Chronic alcohol use can also affect your mental health.4,5 These long-term effects include an increased risk of:4–7,10  

  • Anxiety.
  • Bipolar disorder.
  • Depression.
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
  • Alcohol use disorder (AUD), a chronic disease where you can’t stop drinking no matter the harms it causes you. Alcohol addiction, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism are all terms that have historically been used interchangeably to talk about AUD.

Alcohol abuse can also cause problems at home, school, or work, leading to poor attendance, work that doesn’t meet standards, and interpersonal conflicts.5

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol is a physically addictive substance, especially when used in large amounts over an extended period of time.4 Frequent drinking can lead to the development of physical dependence, which is when your brain and body get so used to a substance that if you suddenly stop using it, you will have withdrawal symptoms.9 Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can include:4,8

  • Fast heart rate.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Feeling agitated, anxious, or irritable.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Hand tremors (shakiness).
  • Insomnia (problems falling or staying asleep).
  • Sweating.
  • Memory or concentration problems.
  • Being more sensitive to light, sound, and touch.
  • Having delusions, especially feeling paranoid or persecuted.
  • Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there).
  • Seizures.

Seizures and delirium tremens (sudden, severe confusion, sometimes with hallucinations) are potentially life-threatening complications of severe alcohol withdrawal. Seizures and alcohol delirium need prompt medical attention.4

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Alcohol Addiction Treatment Options

Successful AUD treatment should be tailored to your unique recovery needs.9 There isn’t one specific type of treatment that works well for everyone, so it is important to know about the different treatment settings and therapeutic offerings.8,9 Common treatment settings include:

If you’re not sure which setting is right for you, talk do your doctor. They can help assess your overall health and suggest good treatment options to fit your recovery needs.

Getting Help for Alcohol Abuse

American Addiction Centers is one of the leading providers of alcohol detox and rehab services in Nevada and across the country. Our treatment centers offer a full range of evidence-based care, from medically supervised detox to inpatient and outpatient care. If you think you may have drinking problem and want to learn more about getting help, reach out to our confidential helpline any time day or night at . Our admissions navigators are standing by to hear your story without judgment and help you start treatment.