Alcohol addiction is the oldest addiction and certainly one of the most common addictions in the US.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, almost 18 million Americans are dependent on alcohol.

The World Health Organization’s 2011 Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health confirms that alcohol, when abused, is a worldwide problem causing “millions of deaths” and is also responsible for the loss of “hundreds of thousands of young lives.”

This same report lists out some of the severe effects of “the hazardous and harmful” use of alcohol as follows:

  • A major contributing factor to death and injury worldwide
  • Ruinous to the health of a problem drinker
  • Leads to cirrhosis of the liver
  • Harms others through the actions of intoxicated people
  • Can lead to cancer and other serious diseases
  • Effects of child and fetus development

With 2.5 million deaths worldwide as a result of alcoholism, binge drinking damages far more than the health and bank balance of the problem drinker. The WHO describes problem drinking as “very costly to communities and societies.”

There’s some good news among those very sobering global statistics, though…

Since alcohol has such a lengthy and far-reaching history of abuse, there are effective methods of treating alcohol addiction.

Alcoholism in the US

Alcohol addiction, like any chemical dependency, leads to changes in brain chemistry. The negative backlash from drinking to excess spills over affecting not just the life of the drinker but the friends and family.

Alcoholism the US remains a significant problem today. Reports from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the NIH (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism show that approximately 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year. These deaths put alcohol in third place as a preventable cause of death after tobacco and poor diet/lack of physical activity.

Back in 2010, the estimated financial burden in the US due to alcoholism was a staggering $249 billion.

With 33% of 15-year-olds Americans in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) having tried alcohol and over 10% of US children having a parent with an alcohol problem, the issue of alcohol abuse is a nationwide flashpoint.

Things don’t get much better with college students. In the 2015 NSDUH, 1825 students aged 18 to 25 die from injuries related to alcohol. Almost 700,000 assaults occur as a result of intoxication. A sobering 97,000 instances of sexual assault and date rape attribute to excessive drinking. The excessive alcohol consumption culminates in fully 1 in 4 college students readily admitting to suffering adverse academic consequences as a result of alcohol.

Nationwide, alcoholism is negatively impacting babies, college students, families and communities so how about in California specifically?

Alcohol Abuse in California: Some Shocking Stats

In California, 7.3% of residents over the age of 11 suffer from alcohol abuse or dependency in 2012-13 with an estimate of 2.3 Californians battling against alcohol use or dependency each year.

Between 2009 and 2013, over 185,000 people in California sought alcohol addiction treatment.

Alcohol use is estimated to cost the state over $30 billion a year, the fifth highest cost per capita of all states.

In 2012, alcohol was the second most common drug of abuse for all Californians admitted to public treatment programs, second only to marijuana.

When it comes to detox treatments, alcohol is second only to heroin in Los Angeles County. It should be remembered, though, that many people admitted for heroin detox also abuse alcohol. Over 40% of all those Californians in treatment for substance abuse also report issues with alcohol.

These figures make for truly arresting reading and underscore the huge problem alcohol poses when abused.

What are real risks involved when it comes to health and overall well-being, though?

Short-Term Health Risks of Alcohol Abuse

Many of the shorter-term health risks are due to binge drinking, something we’ll highlight just below.

These risks include but are not limited to:

  • Violence: Homicide, suicide, sexual assault, violence against partners
  • Risky Sexual Behavior: Unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases
  • Injuries: Car crashes, falls, burns, drownings
  • Miscarriage and Stillbirth: Problems for pregnant women including FASDs (fetal alcohol spectrum disorders)

Long-Term Health Risks of Alcohol Abuse

Left untreated, alcoholism can lead to the onset of severe health issues and chronic diseases including the following:

  • Heart disease, liver disease, high blood pressure, and strokes
  • Cancer (mouth, throat, breast, liver, colon)
  • Learning problems and memory degeneration
  • Mental health problems (depression, anxiety)
  • Social problems
  • Family breakdowns
  • Unemployment

Binge Drinking in California

Binge drinking is when a male drinks 5 or more drinks in a 2-hour period. A woman drinking four drinks in that same timeframe is binge drinking.

When this behavior occurs 5 or more times in the space of a month, it’s considered heavy drinking.

A 2013 national survey showed that 25% of Americans admit to binge drinking in the preceding month. In California, binge drinking seems to be increasing.

When does binge drinking and heavy drinking cross the line and become alcoholism? Here are some common warning signs that indicate drinking is becoming an addiction…

  • Feelings of guilt about drinking and attempts to hide your drinking from others
  • Increase tolerance for alcohol
  • The beginning of emotional dependence on alcohol
  • An inability to stop drinking once you’ve started
  • Frequently drinking to the point of blacking out
  • Drink driving or consuming alcohol in other dangerous situations
  • Suffering from withdrawal symptoms in the absence of alcohol

If you or someone you know are experiencing these problems with drinking, it might be time to take action so what should you do?

What Is The Best Way to Treat Alcohol Abuse and Does It Require Medical Treatment?

Attempting to regulate problem drinking alone and without seeking professional assistance is not the best approach.

Effective treatment programs can help you from the point of initial detox through to the early stages of recovery. From here, programs offer long-term support to help you overcome alcohol addiction and stay on the path of sobriety despite the challenges you’ll inevitably face.

While medical treatment is not always necessary, for anyone in the grip of alcohol addiction, a residential program makes things more accessible from the withdrawal faced during detox to the early days of recovery where it can be very tough to stay sober without a rigid support network in place.

Although indeed not the only practical approach to recovering from alcoholism, 12-Step programs offer a structure that we’ll highlight now…

An Established Solution: Alcoholics Anonymous and The 12 Step Program

While not the only approach to successfully treating alcoholism, Alcoholics Anonymous claims over 2 million members worldwide with over 1.3 million members US residents.

Most reputable recovery programs follow this 12-Step treatment which offers an established pathway for anyone who wants to quit drinking.

The 12-Step program considers alcoholism on 3 different levels:

  • Physical: A recognition that the body of a problem drinker reacts in such a way as to induce an uncontrollable compulsion to continue using alcohol until the point of intoxication.
  • Mental: Acceptance that thinking processes have become twisted so the alcoholic continues to drink despite being fully aware of the probable consequences, perhaps even convincing themselves that this time things will work out OK.
  • Spiritual: The understanding that an alcoholic behaves in a very self-centered fashion completely ignoring how their behavior harms others.

Broadley group 12 steps into four distinct phases:

Admission: Before anything else, the problem drinker needs to admit that their drinking is entirely out of their control. This ties in neatly with the idea of alcoholism as a disease.

Submission: After admitting to powerlessness, the alcoholic needs to entrust themself to a higher power in any way they understand that concept. The program does not require an alcoholic to subscribe to a particular faith, and this higher power can be anything the problem drinker chooses.

Restitution: Alcoholics begin to acknowledging the harm caused to others and looks at ways in which to make amends for the damage done.

Helping Others: Upon completion of all 12 steps, the alcoholic is required to reach out and extend help to others in need..

Being at the point of detoxing from alcohol, here is what you can expect from a 12-Step program.

Rather than merely listing out the 12 steps – you can find those in full here – we’ll look at the core concepts included in each of these steps toward ongoing recovery…

  1. Admission of Powerlessness: Arguably the toughest of all steps for many alcoholics, it’s essential to admit that you are out of control and that life has become unmanageable before continuing any further. By accepting this powerlessness, the route to recovery proper opens up. Accepting the powerlessness is achieved very simply by introducing yourself by your first name only and admitting to being an alcoholic. In this simple way, a complex process begins.
  2. Acceptance of The Concept of a Higher Power as a Path to Recovery: Step 2 deals with the belief that a higher power can help you to stop drinking. Understand it’s key to believe in a higher power. It doesn’t need to be any one God, just a higher power. The higher power could be the group itself, nature, or anything that you recognize as a power greater than yourself.
  3. Submission and Trust: Once you make the shift you’re accepting the fact a higher power can help you toward recovery. Make a conscious decision to entrust yourself to the care of that higher power with a view to recovering.
  4. Close Examination through Moral Inventory: The “searching and fearless moral inventory” in the fourth step. It requires close self-examination. Become fully aware of the harm your drinking has done to yourself and, crucially, to others. It can take time and absolute honesty is a prerequisite. Although painful, you’ll make a written record of these wrong doings.
  5. Admission of the Harm Done to Others: Admit to the harm done by drinking, advancing to step 5 requires admitting the harm. The harm done to yourself, to another person and also to the higher power due to actions from the alcohol addiction. While potentially embarrassing, this admission can take place within a group setting where you are surrounded by others who have also harmed themselves and others as a result of excessive drinking.
  6. Acceptance of Readiness to Remove Defects: Removing defects step involves being fully prepared for these character defects to be removed by the higher power you recognize.
  7. Request Removal for Short Comings: Perfect link to step 6, the next step involves asking the higher power to remove these character defects to allow for the next stage of recovery.
  8. Comprehensive Review of Wrongdoings: At this stage, it’s time for another full review of misconduct. You should make a complete list of everyone you have wronged as a result of drinking. The review goes beyond this to make a wide-reaching list of the actual harm done, however small it might seem. The underlying intention here is to make you come to terms with the scope of the problem and how your actions affect others.
  9. Communication with Injured Parties to Make Amends: Taking these lists, you’ll be called upon to contact the people you have harmed and to make amends to everyone. The only exception here is that if taking this step would cause further harm, either to the person in question or to someone else. Communicating with injured parties can be the case with relationships that have soured, but complete honesty and humility make this step hard for many.
  10. Continued Self-Examination: By this point, it’s necessary to pursue this path of self-awareness and to remain vigilant for any actions that harm you or other people. As soon as any harm comes to light, you should admit it without hesitation. A daily review is an excellent way to make good on this tenth step on an ongoing basis.
  11. Development and Improvement of Connection with Higher Power: Again, this step allows for a great deal of flexibility. Depending on your belief system furthering your connection can involve prayer, meditation, reading, or merely ruminating. The only point here is to develop and maintain some form of religious habit.
  12. Help Others: The twelfth and final step calls for you to help others just as you once received help. You are now ready not only to help but also to sponsor new members into the program.

These steps work with the expectation that each step is complete. Don’t turn to the next one or give up. Setup path to follow with a degree of flexibility.

All that’s asked of new members is to have an open mind. Then explore the initial concepts without any pressure.

New members of a program are reminded that alcoholism is a disease that will not get better, and that there is no cure. It’s reinforced that total abstinence is the only workable solution.

Effective Detox and Long-Term Treatment for Alcoholism at Vita Nova Newport Beach

If you or someone you love is struggling to cope with alcohol addiction, there’s no reason to struggle.

At Vita Nova Rehab Newport Beach, we can help you every step of the way from fully managed detox through to a lifelong path of sobriety.

In our private and luxurious rehabilitation center, you can put alcohol behind you. Confidently emerge as a happier version of yourself without needing to rely on alcohol any longer.

The first step, though, comes well before step 1 of a meeting. The very first step is to set your pride to one side and get in touch to discuss detox and treatment, or to investigate long-term recovery options.

We’re here to help you every single step of the way.