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Iowa Alcohol Addiction

 

Iowa alcohol addiction is more prevalent than many people realize. The sheer number of people being admitted into treatment for Iowa alcohol addiction is higher than the number of admittances for methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and marijuana combined.

What is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction is a chronic relapsing disease of the brain, characterized by intense cravings, loss of control over use and dependence on the substance.

How Does Alcohol Addiction Develop?

Many people can enjoy a casual drink on the weekend without experiencing any problems. However, when a casual drink turns into a binge-drinking session or becomes a daily way to cope with life’s stresses, the risk of alcohol addiction is dramatically increased.

Alcohol is a depressant that affects the central nervous system and causes significant changes within the brain’s chemistry. As a person drinks alcohol, the brain attempts to adapt and try to restore some kind of balance by releasing neurotransmitters and hormones into the system.

Over time, the brain adapts to the presence of alcohol in the system so the person will appear to be able to drink larger volumes without getting drunk. What’s really happening in the person’s brain is that tolerance is developing, so it takes alarger amount of alcohol to achieve the same effects that used to be reached with smaller amounts.

Eventually, the brain adapts by producing less dopamine naturally, expecting the artificial stimulation from alcohol to trigger production instead. The result is intense cravings to drink more, even if the person is experiencing negative health or personal consequences as a result of the drinking.

Statistics for Iowa Alcohol Addiction and Abuse

In 2012, the number of alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities caused in Iowa was 106. Of that number, 92 people had a blood-alcohol reading higher than 0.08 percent. In 2014, there were a total of 16,642 arrests for DUI and a total of 12,896 convictions in Iowa.

A report released by the Iowa Drug Control Strategy revealed that the most commonly abused substance in Iowa is alcohol. More arrests are made in Iowa for Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) than for any other single criminal offense. Of the number of people admitted for treatment in 2013, a total of 51.2 percent were being treated for alcohol abuse.

What Does Exposure to Alcohol Do to the Body?

Drinking too much can take a serious toll on your health. Alcohol enters into the bloodstream and affects every part of your body, including:

Brain: Alcohol interferes with the brain’s chemistry, affecting the way the brain works and causing significant changes to the brain itself. Alcohol causes mood and behavior changes, impaired coordination, loss of memory, cognitive impairment and confusion. Long-term heavy abuse can also cause brain damage.

Heart: Alcohol has a detrimental effect on the heart, causing irregular heartbeat, stroke, high blood pressure, and stretching or drooping of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy).

Liver: Heavy drinking can cause irreparable damage to the liver, causing serious health problems that include fatty liver (steatosis), alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis and fibrosis of the liver.

Pancreas: Alcohol triggers the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the liver).

Cancer: Alcohol is a known cancer-causing carcinogen, increasing the risk of developing certain types of cancer, including cancer of the mouth, larynx, esophagus, throat, liver and breast.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

Signs and symptoms of Iowa alcohol addiction include:

  • Loss of control over drinking behaviors and patterns
  • Inability to limit the amount of alcohol being consumed
  • Repeated failed attempts to quit or cut down intake
  • Spending more time drinking or recovering from alcohol use
  • Neglecting other responsibilities in order to stay home and drink
  • Avoiding social situations or work activities in order to drink instead
  • Continuing to drink despite negative social, physical, or relationship problems
  • Experiencing cravings or strong urges to drink alcohol
  • Developing tolerance
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms

Alcohol Detox and Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms may arise when a heavy drinker suddenly stops or significantly reduces their alcohol intake. Symptoms include at least two of the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Heavy sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Nightmares
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

Treatment Options

Many people believe that treating alcohol addiction should be as simple as exerting a bit of willpower and learning to just say no to a drink. Others automatically think of traditional 12-step programs as being the only treatment options available to recovering alcoholics. What those people don’t realize is that addiction is a chronic disease that requires professional treatment.

The first stage of treatment begins with the detox process. It’s vital that alcohol detox is conducted under medical supervision, as some people can experience potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that may need emergency medical surgery.

Various medications may be prescribed to help reduce the severity of any withdrawal symptoms, including antidepressants, sedatives and sleep medications. Additional supplements may also be given to address other health complications and nutritional deficiencies caused by long-term alcohol abuse.

The detox process addresses only the physical side of the addiction; it does nothing to correct the psychological aspect of the disease. Intensive counseling and behavioral treatments are needed to correct dysfunctional and self-destructive behaviors and replace them with healthier habits and coping skills for living a sober life.

Ongoing maintenance and support are required to maintain long-term sobriety, so recovering people are strongly encouraged to participate in group support meetings. Traditional 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or science-based support programs such as SMART Recovery offer excellent options for developing new social support networks and developing new friendships.

The key to a successful recovery from Iowa alcohol addiction is to reach out and seek professional help. With the right combination of treatments it really is possible to live a healthy, productive life of sobriety over the long term.

There is still time for you to enter addiction recovery and take back your life. Call an addiction specialist today to get started.