Although the concept of an intervention is pervasive in popular culture – even leading to the development of a reality television show – there are types of interventions that are more helpful than suddenly accusing a loved one of struggling with addiction. Family and friends may create an intervention – which requires a plan, including specific requirements and consequences – or a therapist, doctor, or other healthcare professional may conduct an intervention. Often, these are brief interventions, which occur after a person has been hospitalized due to side effects from drinking too much or after a person is diagnosed with a chronic illness due to problem drinking.
Alcoholism can also lead to impotence in men, damage to the fetus in pregnant women, and an elevated risk of cancer of the larynx, esophagus, liver, breast, stomach, pancreas, and upper gastrointestinal tract. Because heavy drinkers seldom have adequate diets, they may have nutritional deficiencies. Heavy drinkers typically have impaired liver function, and up to one in five develops cirrhosis.

According to information derived from the United States National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Study released in 2006, about 8% of American adults are dependent on alcohol (estimates range from 5-10%). About 34% of adult Americans do not use alcohol at all. Another 44% are occasional or non-dependent users. Alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States (smoking and obesity rank first and second) and is responsible for about 85,000 deaths annually, about half from injury and half from disease. Alcoholism is involved in about 30% of homicides and 22% of suicides. It is the cause of about 20% of fatal motor vehicle accidents and is a contributing factor in between one-third and one-half of all vehicular accidents. Alcoholism costs the United States about $185 billion annually in costs related to violence, traffic accidents, lost work productivity, and direct medical expenses. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that at least 6.6 million children under age 18 live in households with at least one alcoholic parent and that before age 18 about 25% of children are exposed to family alcohol dependency or alcohol abuse.
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With regard to pregnancy, fetal alcohol syndrome is the leading known cause of mental retardation (1 in 1000 births). More than 2000 infants annually are born with this condition in the United States. Alcohol-related birth defects and neurodevelopmental problems are estimated to be 3 times higher. Even small amounts of alcohol consumption may be risky in pregnancy. A 2001 study by Sood et al reported that children aged 6–7 years whose mothers consumed alcohol even in small amounts had more behavioral problems. [18] In a study from 2003, Baer et al showed that moderate alcohol consumption while pregnant resulted in a higher incidence of offspring problem drinking at age 21 years, even after controlling for family history and other environmental factors. [19] All women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should avoid alcohol.
We AAs have never called alcoholism a disease because, technically speaking, it is not a disease entity. For example, there is no such thing as heart disease. Instead there are many separate heart ailments or combinations of them. It is something like that with alcoholism. Therefore, we did not wish to get in wrong with the medical profession by pronouncing alcoholism a disease entity. Hence, we have always called it an illness or a malady—a far safer term for us to use.[63]
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Sponsors share their experience, strength, and hope with their sponsees... A sponsor's role is not that of a legal adviser, a banker, a parent, a marriage counselor, or a social worker. Nor is a sponsor a therapist offering some sort of professional advice. A sponsor is simply another addict in recovery who is willing to share his or her journey through the Twelve Steps.[29]

During addiction recovery, individuals in treatment may also undergo various types of therapy and participate in support groups as they work to address and heal the attitudes, thoughts, emotions and behaviors that led to substance abuse in the first place. Ongoing participation in therapy and support groups may continue long after the initial period of treatment as they may continue to provide lasting recovery benefit for many individuals.


Naltrexone is a competitive antagonist for opioid receptors, effectively blocking the effects of endorphins and opioids. Naltrexone is used to decrease cravings for alcohol and encourage abstinence. Alcohol causes the body to release endorphins, which in turn release dopamine and activate the reward pathways; hence in the body reduces the pleasurable effects from consuming alcohol.[136] Evidence supports a reduced risk of relapse among alcohol-dependent persons and a decrease in excessive drinking.[135] Nalmefene also appears effective and works in a similar manner.[135]
There are two types of rehabilitation that help treat alcoholism: inpatient rehab and outpatient rehab. Inpatient rehabs are intensive treatment programs that require you to check into a facility for a certain period of time, usually 30, 60 or 90 days. Outpatient rehab allows individuals to participate in a recovery program while continuing with their daily life. Talk with your doctor about treatment options to determine which form of recovery will best fit your needs.

Often, family members and close friends feel obligated to cover for the person with the drinking problem. So they take on the burden of cleaning up your messes, lying for you, or working more to make ends meet. Pretending that nothing is wrong and hiding away all of their fears and resentments can take an enormous toll. Children are especially sensitive and can suffer long-lasting emotional trauma when a parent or caretaker is an alcoholic or heavy drinker.


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Alcoholics Anonymous is free and open to anyone battling alcohol addiction who wishes to remain sober. Meetings take place all over the world in at least 181 countries, and there were more than 2 million members of AA at last count in 2015. Over the years, other organizations have been formed to support recovery for all types of substances, not just alcohol; groups include Cocaine Anonymous (CA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Marijuana Anonymous (MA), to name a few. These recovery support groups tend to follow the general 12-Step ideology as outlined by AA, which is highlighted below. Individuals are encouraged to work through the steps one by one, with the end result being to maintain sobriety, achieve a spiritual awakening through these steps, and then carry the message on to others battling addiction.
Like many chronic diseases, alcoholism cannot be cured; however, effective treatment is available to help individuals who suffer from alcoholism remain sober. Treatment usually consists primarily of group therapy, one or more types of counseling, and alcohol education. Participants must acknowledge that they have a drinking problem and have a strong desire to stop drinking. Once the decision has been made, they may check into a treatment center for a brief period of time to rehabilitate as they stop drinking. The treatment center (and/or doctor) counsels patients, gives them support, and helps them get through their initial symptoms and safely withdraw from the alcohol. In some cases, short-term medications such as benzodiazepines (Valium or similar drugs) are used to help alleviate some of the symptoms of alcohol dependence.
Alcohol use disorder (which includes a level that's sometimes called alcoholism) is a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect, or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking.
During addiction recovery, individuals in treatment may also undergo various types of therapy and participate in support groups as they work to address and heal the attitudes, thoughts, emotions and behaviors that led to substance abuse in the first place. Ongoing participation in therapy and support groups may continue long after the initial period of treatment as they may continue to provide lasting recovery benefit for many individuals.
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This is sort of an obvious one, but helpful to recognize. The easier it is to acquire alcohol, the more likely you are to consume it. The same goes for anything desirable. Accessibility plays a very important role in underage drinking, though. If it’s kept out of the hands of minors, then they can’t drink it! This idea is applicable at all ages. Keep yourself out of situations that involve alcohol and you won’t become an alcoholic.
With treatment, about 70% of people with alcoholism are able to decrease the number of days they consume alcohol and improve their overall health status within six months. On the other hand, most individuals who have been treated for a moderate to severe alcohol-use disorder have relapsed at least once during the first year after treatment. Those individuals seem to drink less often and lower amounts after receiving treatment compared with before treatment.
Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. has not approved, endorsed, or reviewed this website, nor is it affiliated with it, and the ability to link to A.A.W.S.' site does not imply otherwise. No copyrighted material shall be purposefully posted herein without the express permission of those individuals or institutions possessing ownership of said copyrights. Alcoholics Anonymous®, AA®, and The Big Book® are registered trademarks of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc. The Grapevine®, and AA Grapevine® are registered trademarks of The AA Grapevine, Inc.
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Cirrhosis of the liver refers to a disease in which normal liver cells are replaced by scar tissue caused by alcohol and viral hepatitis B and C. This disease leads to abnormalities in the liver's ability to handle toxins and blood flow, causing internal bleeding, kidney failure, mental confusion, coma, body fluid accumulation, and frequent infections.
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Non-12-step support groups provide a secular alternative to the 12-step programs and may be more comfortable for those not wanting to place such an emphasis on a higher power for recovery. Non-12-step groups sometimes involve fewer group sharing scenarios—which can provide some relief for those individuals who aren't as comfortable sharing sensitive personal information in group settings. Below are a few examples of non-12-step programs:
Since 2014, Addiction Center has been an informational web guide for those who are struggling with substance use disorders and co-occurring behavioral and mental health disorders. All content included on Addiction Center is created by our team of researchers and journalists. of our articles are fact-based and sourced from relevant publications, government agencies and medical journals.
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