Did you know that alcoholism can shorten a person’s life by 24 to 28 years? That is a truly sad reality that we have to come to grips with.
Alcoholism runs rampant throughout the world. More than 15 million people in the United States (U.S.) are struggling with alcoholism. And what’s worse, their shame is preventing them from receiving alcohol addiction help which they desperately need.
But that very statement raises an important question: is addiction a choice?
That is a question that prompts much debate. While some believe there is a disease within a person that prompts them towards addiction, others mock such a theory as an enabling excuse for the alcoholic.
So which of those beliefs is true? Let’s look at what the research suggests and determine if addiction is a choice or an illness.
Is Addiction a Choice?
Alcoholism was classified as a disease by the American Medical Association in 1956. Addiction received the same classification in 1987.
While these are fairly recent developments, they are not without data to back them up. For example, genetics can play a role in addiction. If addiction runs in your family, there is a 60% increased risk that you will develop an addiction too.
There are other genetic factors that play a role in addiction. Mental health disorders including bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression can be inherited, and they are known to be rooted in addictive behavior. Also, severe trauma has been shown to affect a person’s chemical brain pattern, so it is quite possible that trauma that leads to addiction can be inherited.
Furthermore, addictive substances rewire your brain, particularly if you are young and your brain is still developing. More than half a million teenagers struggle with addiction, so their brains are certainly being highjacked by substance abuse. Once they’ve started, it’s hard to come back.
Granted, if you know this information in advance, you can choose not to take the risk by avoiding the substance. But since alcoholism often starts when a brain is still developing, making a sound decision like that isn’t always so simple. That first drink is a choice, but every drink afterward becomes much harder to resist.
And while this is not biological in and of itself, environmental factors certainly contribute to disease. As has been said, trauma can affect a person’s mind and make them more prone to addiction.
So you see, addiction is not always a choice. Some people are predisposed to becoming addicts, and it is in reality a serious disease.
Should “Disease” Be Used as an Excuse?
The unfortunate ditch one may fall into in calling addiction a disease is to use it as an excuse to keep drinking. However, that should not be the case. Even if a person isn’t responsible for the addiction, they do have a responsibility to seek treatment.
Those words are not meant to be a source of shame for the person with an addiction. Chronic mental health conditions that the individual struggles with are the source of addiction. These human beings don’t need to be shamed but encouraged to seek professional health.
That said, they need to be warned of the destructive effects of substance abuse on their lives. Excessive alcohol consumption over time will kill brain cells and damage the liver. The liver may eventually fail, and the brain may fall victim to a form of dementia known as wet brain.
Again, the individual shouldn’t be shamed, but they shouldn’t let the problem be ignored. They need to be encouraged to get the help they need.
What Does Alcohol Addiction Help Entail?
When a person with an alcohol addiction makes the brave choice to receive help with addiction, there are many things that will have to be looked into. Individuals will receive a screening of their physical and mental health history as well as information about how long and how excessively they have abused alcohol.
Professionals will also look into environmental stressors such as legal issues, financial issues, and living situations that may be difficult or dangerous. This could be the most emotionally hard thing for an individual to be open about, but it is necessary for the correct treatment options to be planned out.
The first stage of alcohol addiction treatment typically involves a professional detox. An individual should not quit cold turkey with no professional guidance as withdrawal symptoms can be severe or life-threatening. Professionals will diagnose the individual with medications to manage those symptoms.
It is better to detox in a medical facility rather than alone. Even with medications, withdrawal symptoms can become severe to the point of being an emergency. Having a medical professional nearby in a facility weakens the chances of an emergency situation becoming more severe.
Even after detox, the process it takes to recover from alcohol addiction may take time. For some, it is a lifelong process depending on the individual and the severity and damage from their addiction. Determining this process will involve a medical professional’s input, which is all the more reason to detox in a professional environment.
More Alcohol Addiction Tips
Alcohol addiction help involves recognizing the biological and environmental factors that predispose an individual towards addiction.
For more alcohol addiction advice, visit Island Detox. Our detox center is Southern California’s leading center for detoxification and rehabilitation. Our blog covers everything from detoxing to avoiding relapse.