ASAM defines addiction as a “primary, chronic disease of [the] brain … [with] characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations.” It isn’t just a social or criminal justice problem—it’s a medical and public health problem. Medical diagnosis and treatment are appropriate responses to addiction; ASAM’s definition points out that “without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.” So it is a serious, potentially fatal illness, but it is treatable: recovery is possible, and happens for millions of individuals with this disease every year.
Jump up ^ Littrell, Jill (2014). Understanding and Treating Alcoholism Volume I: An Empirically Based Clinician's Handbook for the Treatment of Alcoholism: Volume Ii: Biological, Psychological, and Social Aspects of Alcohol Consumption and Abuse. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis. p. 55. ISBN 9781317783145. Archived from the original on 20 July 2017. The World Health Organization defines alcoholism as any drinking which results in problems
AA describes alcoholism as an illness that involves a physical allergy[107]:28 (where "allergy" has a different meaning than that used in modern medicine.[108]) and a mental obsession.[107]:23[109] The doctor and addiction specialist Dr. William D. Silkworth M.D. writes on behalf of AA that "Alcoholics suffer from a "(physical) craving beyond mental control".[107]:XXVI A 1960 study by E. Morton Jellinek is considered the foundation of the modern disease theory of alcoholism.[110] Jellinek's definition restricted the use of the word alcoholism to those showing a particular natural history. The modern medical definition of alcoholism has been revised numerous times since then. The American Medical Association uses the word alcoholism to refer to a particular chronic primary disease.[111]
Binge drinking statistics from the CDC estimate more than 38 million US adults binge drink an average of 4 times a month and the most drinks they consume on average is 8. The report found that binge drinking is more common among households with incomes ≥$75,000, but the largest number of drinks consumed per occasion is highest among households with incomes of < $25,000. [11]  According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 26.9% of people ages 18 or older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month; 7% reported that they engaged in heavy alcohol use in the past month. [8]
"Learning basic Twelve Step philosophy and language can open the lines of communication," continued Cathy. "Once you understand some Twelve Step principles, concepts such as powerlessness, spiritual awakening, higher power and making amends, they will seem less like cult mantras and more like the simple guides they are intended to be." A Twelve Step program is one that adapts the Twelve Steps of AA to fit the particular needs of a mutual-help group. Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Alateen, Gamblers Anonymous, Nicotine Anonymous, and Adult Children of Alcoholics are examples of groups with a Twelve Step foundation.
There are few medications that are considered effective in treating moderate to severe alcohol use disorder. Naltrexone (Trexan, Revia, or Vivitrol) has been found effective in managing this illness. It is the most frequently used medication in treating alcohol use disorder . It decreases the alcoholic's cravings for alcohol by blocking the body's euphoric ("high") response to it. Naltrexone is either taken by mouth on a daily basis or through monthly injections. Disulfiram (Antabuse) is prescribed for about 9% of alcoholics. It decreases the alcoholic's craving for the substance by producing a negative reaction to drinking. Acamprosate (Campral) works by decreasing cravings for alcohol in those who have stopped drinking. Ondansetron (Zofran) has been found to be effective in treating alcohol use disorder in people whose problem drinking began before they were 25 years old. None of these medications have been specifically approved to treat alcoholism in people less than 18 years of age. Baclofen (Lioresal) has been found to be a potentially effective treatment to decrease alcohol cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Some research indicates that psychiatric medications like lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid) and sertraline (Zoloft) may be useful in decreasing alcohol use in people who have another mental health disorder in addition to alcohol use disorder.
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]
"Thirteenth-stepping" is a pejorative term for AA members approaching new members for dates. A study in the Journal of Addiction Nursing sampled 55 women in AA and found that 35% of these women had experienced a "pass" and 29% had felt seduced at least once in AA settings. This has also happened with new male members who received guidance from older female AA members, in pursuit of sexual company. The authors suggest that both men and women need to be prepared for this behavior or find Male only or female-only groups.[88] However, this is a small survey compared to the estimated 2 million members (2016) and many women have reported feeling safe in AA. AA's pamphlet on sponsorship suggests that men be sponsored by men and women be sponsored by women.[89]
Meditation, prayer, and journaling make up Step 11 as individuals use these tools to form a spiritual connection with God or the higher power. Quiet time and solitude provide for self-reflection, and meditation can be helpful to increase the connection between the body, mind, and soul. When a person is in tune with themselves physically and emotionally, the spiritual aspect is also strengthened. Journaling during Step 11 can be a beneficial way to explore thoughts and emotions more fully as well.

Michael, while one of the above posters felt that the anti-medication bias of many AA members (as well as its entire leadership) is receding, I have not seen that at all. Patients on methadone, buprenorphine and even (very recently) Vivitrol, are told that they are not "clean," cannot speak at the meeting, cannot receive sobriety tokens, cannot join in on committments and in fact are still using.  They are urged routinely to stop their medications.  While it has perhaps receded with some psychiatric medications, it has NOT with many other medications, including Disulfiram, Campral and Naltrexone.


Five stages of alcohol and substance abuse disorders have been identified. The first stage is described as having access to alcohol rather than use of alcohol. In that stage, minimizing the risk factors that make a person more vulnerable to using alcohol are an issue. The second stage of alcohol use ranges from experimentation or occasional use to regular weekly use of alcohol. This or any of the more severe stages of alcoholism may involve binge drinking. The third stage is characterized by individuals further increasing the frequency of alcohol use and/or using the substance on a regular basis. This stage may also include either buying or stealing to get alcohol. In the fourth stage of alcohol use, users have established regular alcohol consumption, have become preoccupied with getting intoxicated ("high") and have developed problems in their social, educational, vocational, or family life as a result of using the substance. The final and most serious fifth stage of alcohol use is defined by the person only feeling normal when they are using alcohol. During this stage, risk-taking behaviors like stealing, engaging in physical fights, or driving while intoxicated increase, and they become most vulnerable to having suicidal thoughts.

Michael, while one of the above posters felt that the anti-medication bias of many AA members (as well as its entire leadership) is receding, I have not seen that at all. Patients on methadone, buprenorphine and even (very recently) Vivitrol, are told that they are not "clean," cannot speak at the meeting, cannot receive sobriety tokens, cannot join in on committments and in fact are still using.  They are urged routinely to stop their medications.  While it has perhaps receded with some psychiatric medications, it has NOT with many other medications, including Disulfiram, Campral and Naltrexone.
When a service is offered (especially in a crisis), that service is expected to work.  In the case of the addict, simply providing 'treatment' cannot be viewed the same way as other services.  Substance abuse detox that transitions to the 12-step program requires a level of immersion on the end of the user.  I used to HATE hearing 'It works if you work it'.  But... it's true.
Support in sobriety and in attaining long-lasting recovery is found in 12-Step practice and regular participation in 12-Step programs and groups. These groups are designed for the addict, the alcoholic, and the family members of those with addiction. The philosophy is based on developing a relationship with a Higher Power and a helping fellowship that encourages an honest mindset and self-sacrifice. 12-Step fellowships facilitate a daily practice for sober and healthy living.
A study found an association between an increase in attendance to AA meetings with increased spirituality and a decrease in the frequency and intensity of alcohol use. The research also found that AA was effective at helping agnostics and atheists become sober. The authors concluded that though spirituality was an important mechanism of behavioral change for some alcoholics, it was not the only effective mechanism.[54] Since the mid-1970s, a number of 'agnostic' or 'no-prayer' AA groups have begun across the U.S., Canada, and other parts of the world, which hold meetings that adhere to a tradition allowing alcoholics to freely express their doubts or disbelief that spirituality will help their recovery, and these meetings forgo use of opening or closing prayers.[55][56] There are online resources listing AA meetings for atheists and agnostics.[57]
The risk of developing alcoholism has a definite genetic component. Studies have demonstrated that close relatives of people with alcoholism are more likely to become alcoholics themselves. This risk exists even for children adopted away from their biological families at birth and raised in a non-alcoholic adoptive family with no knowledge of their biological family's alcohol use. However, no specific gene for alcoholism has been found, and environmental factors (e.g., stress) and social factors (e.g., peer behavior) are thought to play a role in whether a person becomes alcohol dependent.
Alcohol addiction is a gradual process that occurs within the human brain. When alcohol is consumed, it alters the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, mainly gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, and dopamine. GABA monitors and controls a person's impulsivity, and frequently drinking copious amounts of alcohol alters this chemical's production, often making people more impulsive and less aware of what they are doing. Dopamine is one of the chemicals in the brain that, when released, causes pleasurable feelings like happiness, joy, or even euphoria. As more and more alcohol is consumed on a frequent basis, the brain begins to grow accustomed to this chemical imbalance. If an alcoholic tries to stop drinking, then the brain is deprived of the alcohol's effect, which results in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, shaking, tremors, or even hallucination.
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No conversation about alcoholism or substance abuse recovery is complete without mentioning Alcoholics Anonymous. The group has become synonymous with the concept of addiction rehabilitation in general, and it was instrumental in changing the conversation in how people with drinking problems came to be understood and regarded. As the science and psychology of addiction evolves, the role of Alcoholics Anonymous is also changing, but it remains a cornerstone of the aftercare experience.
It's interesting to read the comments, pro and con about AA and other 12 step programs. Much of which I agree with. What I did not see mentioned is that AA doesn't enter into this debate about how 'successful or effective' their program is; because they aren't selling or promoting anything. Period. AA offers a spiritually based program to help one find a connection with a higher power that many have found helpful in staying sober. Period. All this other chatter and debate is not what AA is about or even pretends to offer. This debate about the success of a program that is a voluntary offering of a chance to live sober is, frankly, ridiculous. It's truly a take it or leave it kind of deal. If the court orders you to go to AA and you feel you're rights are being violated then you might be better served taking that up with the court then blaming AA. There are three facts that are not legitimately debatable: 1) Many people have gone to AA, got sober and remain that way. 2) Many people have gone to AA and decided they didn't want to go back. 3) Addiction will kill some people who are afflicted regardless of the best efforts of the best of us.

In a closed AA meeting, the only people who may attend are those who are recovering addicts (or those interested in learning more about overcoming their addiction). Open meetings allow the attendance of friends, spouses and family members. Whether you decide to go to a closed or open meeting depends exclusively on what you’re comfortable with. Some people would rather keep their recovery separate from the rest of their life. Others thrive on the support that loved ones can provide during meetings.
Choosing to seek help for an alcohol addiction is one of the biggest decisions you will face. There are different forms of treatment available based on frequency and severity of alcohol abuse. Recovering from alcohol addiction is a process that continues long after rehab. It takes commitment to practice and apply the techniques you learn in rehab, counseling, support groups and other types of therapy.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a global organization that was created, and is designed, to help former alcoholics through the process of learning to live their lives without the crutch of alcohol abuse. People who attend AA groups have made the decision to stop drinking and stay sober. Some of them join voluntarily; some attend as a continuation of their therapy; some are required to be there because of a court order. Whatever brings them there, the other members of the group act as a support network, explains the American Journal of Public Health; they share success stories and honest accounts of setbacks, and use this emotional connectedness to inspire and encourage each other to keep going.
All calls to numbers on individual facility listings will always go to the facility listed. All calls to general contact numbers and contact us forms on this site are routed to Beach House Center for Recovery. If Beach House Center for Recovery is unable to assist with a particular need they are committed to providing direction and assistance in finding appropriate care.
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