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The severity of how to quit drinking is a serious and severely misunderstood problem that many Americans face. In many cases, alcohol abuse is not a condition that is taken seriously until long-term and significant damage has been done. This damage can be physical, emotional, mental, and/or spiritual, and many individuals may be searching for ways to quit drinking.
Unfortunately, during the pandemic, it has become more common for people to turn to alcohol, drugs, and other forms of substance use to try to cope with social isolation. The increased rates of drinking during the pandemic have been a serious concern among mental health and medical professionals.
The sooner that someone realizes they have a problem and seeks alcohol addiction treatment for their condition, the better. It can be difficult for people to admit that they have a problem, however, because alcohol addiction rewires the way that the brain functions.
The pleasure and reward centers of a person’s brain become harmed and disrupted to the point that they can no longer identify dangerous acts, such as abusing drugs and alcohol. Instead, those portions of the brain begin to crave the stimulation that these things provide and can make a person anxious if they do not receive it, which is how an addiction forms.1
How Easily Can You Become Addicted to Alcohol?
There is no set period for an addiction to form, and each person is uniquely susceptible to addiction based on their circumstances. For some, it may take only a few sips for an addiction to form. In other cases, it may take months or years of casual use before it becomes an addiction.
Alcohol affects people differently, and those with a family history of alcoholism are more likely to become addicted to alcohol themselves.
How Much Is Too Much?
While alcohol intake should be limited as much as possible or abstained from completely, current research suggests that an amount of one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men is considered low risk for developing alcoholism.2 It is important to note, however, that these numbers are generalized and do not consider any preexisting mental health conditions or family histories that could make addiction more likely.
According to research, over 85% of people of the age of eighteen have drunk alcohol at one point in their lives, and of those people, nearly 26% admitted to binge drinking.3 It is very likely then that most people will be exposed to alcohol at some point, which makes understanding your limitations and family history even more important.
One should seek treatment as soon as they realize that they may have a problem with binge drinking or alcoholism.
How To Quit Drinking?
There are many signs of alcoholism that begin to show up early in the addiction. Some of these include being unable to control how much you drink, feeling a constant craving for alcohol, spending a lot of your time drinking alcohol, and failing to meet social, work, and home-life requirements due to alcohol.4
Over time, a person may begin to develop certain drinking patterns, such as binge drinking every weekend. These behaviors can lead to alcohol dependence. The longer that these patterns continue, the more difficult it can become to quit drinking. As such, the sooner that a person seeks alcohol addiction treatment, the easier it may be to quit drinking.
Steps to Take
When a person decides to quit drinking, it is not an overnight occurrence. It is a process that takes time and requires a strong support system. These are some of the things that can help someone quit drinking:5
- Pre-commitment: Write down the reasons you must quit drinking and list all the things that will change for the better once you stop.
- Social support: Surround yourself with friends and family members that will keep you accountable and will support your desire to recover.
- Create obstacles and resist temptations: Keep yourself busy during your recovery. Pick up new hobbies, find new friends that do not drink, and avoid places that you used to frequent that may tempt you to drink. Make plans with people that you know will hold you accountable for them so that it will not be easy for you to cancel them.
- Changing routine: Start slow when changing your routine. Start walking every day at the time you would normally want to drink. Find new activities such as starting a game night with friends once a week or participating in a sport. Make slow, manageable, and enjoyable changes in your life.
- Persistence: On your journey to quit drinking, there may be times when you give in to temptation. You must not give up on yourself if this happens. Keep pushing for total sobriety and look at different treatment options if the ones that you have tried do not work.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
The signs of alcohol withdrawal are different for everyone; however, these are some of the most common symptoms.
- Mood changes
- Increased blood pressure or heart rate
- Shaky hands (known as alcohol shakes)
These symptoms may vary in severity when a person quits drinking, and they may be more severe if they quit drinking all at once. There is medication for alcoholism that can help reduce these symptoms, and once someone has recovered, they will feel significantly better.
What Happens After You Alcohol addiction treatment?
Withdrawal symptoms typically only last forty-eight to seventy-two hours, but in some cases, it can take up to seven days to feel the benefits of sobriety. Most people begin to experience the following after a week of no drinking:
- Decreased anxiety and depression
- Improved sleep quality
- Improved mental health
- Weight loss
- Reduced blood pressure
- Increased energy levels
- The liver will begin to heal if it has not been badly damaged
- Skin clarity
Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
There are many options for alcohol addiction to help when you are ready to quit drinking. For those who binge drink or have had an alcohol addiction for many years, an inpatient program where they check themselves into a facility for monitored treatment may be best. This way their withdrawal symptoms can be managed with medication, they can fully detox safely, and they will have a higher chance of recovery.
Once inpatient treatment has finished, they will be transferred to an outpatient program that will include frequent doctor’s visits and may include the help of a behavioral therapist. This care will help them to learn coping mechanisms that will help keep them from relapsing in the future.6
In addition, these therapists will help them understand and treat any underlying conditions that may have contributed to their alcoholism and will help them develop a support system that they can turn to when they need it.
In many cases, a support group or AA group will be recommended. Attending frequent support group meetings has been shown to have a significant impact in helping people recover from alcoholism and having a sponsor that they can rely on when they feel the urge to drink can be a powerful deterrent from relapsing.