Alcohol, especially when consumed in excess, can affect teens, women, men, and the elderly quite differently. Women and the elderly tend to have higher blood concentrations of alcohol compared to men and younger individuals who drink the same amount. Alcoholic women are more at risk for developing physical health problems like cirrhosis of the liver and heart and nerve damage at a faster rate than alcohol-dependent men. Interestingly, men and women seem to have similar learning and memory problems as the result of excessive alcohol intake, but again, women tend to develop those problems twice as fast as men.
Alcohol withdrawal can occur when alcohol use has been heavy and prolonged and is then stopped or greatly reduced. It can occur within several hours to four or five days later. Signs and symptoms include sweating, rapid heartbeat, hand tremors, problems sleeping, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, restlessness and agitation, anxiety, and occasionally seizures. Symptoms can be severe enough to impair your ability to function at work or in social situations.

I agree with Jann B.'s earlier comments that the resistance of some AA members to pharmacological assistance has helped to create the divide between 12 Step recovery and academic addiction medicine. In fact, resistance by active alcoholics to psychological assisstance - mostly by withholding the true nature of their addiction -  was addressed in AA's original publication in 1939 of the text Alcoholilcs Anonymous. It acknowledged that the alcoholic him/herself was in part responsible for the skepticism many professionals felt when treating alcoholics. However, AA literature also is quite clear (in the text and via subsequent pamphlets) about the importance of seeking outside help and being open-minded to the advice of a helping professional.

That said, I believe the divide between 12 Step recovery and academic addiction medicine is largely a result of AA's non-scientific approach. The nature of addiction and subsequent recovery through 12 Step work is not easily measurable or definable. Academia can measure length of sobriety and certain facts, but is not able to tell us why this occurs...at least not in a quantitative way.  As a result, tends to avoid embracing 12 Step recovery because they cannot define it measurable scientific methods.

Fortunately to the suffering alchoholic who desires escape from the hell of alchoholism, 12 Step recovery doesn't necessitate understanding the process, it requires doing the process.

The transformation to permanent sobriety results from taking action, not from taking thought. Study and debate it all you want, but his pragmatic approach continues to save lives, as it did mine, 31 years ago.

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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.
The Twelve Traditions encourage members to practice the spiritual principle of anonymity in the public media and members are also asked to respect each other's confidentiality.[39] This is a group norm,[39] however, and not legally mandated; there are no legal consequences to discourage those attending twelve-step groups from revealing information disclosed during meetings.[40] Statutes on group therapy do not encompass those associations that lack a professional therapist or clergyman to whom confidentiality and privilege might apply. Professionals and paraprofessionals who refer patients to these groups, to avoid both civil liability and licensure problems, have been advised that they should alert their patients that, at any time, their statements made in meetings may be disclosed.[40]

Programs like AA and other 12-Step groups provide a healthy community of support and solidarity filled with individuals who are all seeking to remain sober on a long-term basis. Individuals who regularly attend AA meetings are about twice as likely to remain abstinent over those who don’t, per the Journal of Addictive Disorders. The 12 Steps can go a long way in providing individuals in recovery with the support they need.
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A chronic, progressive behavioral disorder characterized by a strong urge to consume ethanol and an inability to limit the amount of drinking despite adverse consequences, which may include social or occupational impairment and deterioration of physical health. Both physical dependence (withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, tremors, and delirium resulting from abstinence) and tolerance (the need to increase alcohol intake to achieve the desired effect) occur.

There are many kinds of counseling and psychotherapy that can be helpful for the person with addiction, beyond non-specific “supportive psychotherapy” that can be offered in any setting, along with medication management or apart from such an approach. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is arguably the most widespread ‘evidence based practice’ offered to persons with addiction. This approach challenges irrational thoughts, understands automatic thoughts and thought chains, understands the thoughts and feelings that can lead to relapse behaviors and seeks to minimize relapse by specifying unhealthy cognitions and providing practice in decoupling an unhealthy thought (“stinking thinking,” as some people say) from an unhealthy action. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness Meditation are two approaches that have enjoyed increased popularity in addiction treatment in this century.
Ten health risks of chronic heavy drinking A wide range of factors determines how the body responds to chronic heavy drinking. A single binge-drinking episode can result in significant harm, and excessive consumption of alcohol is the fourth-leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. Learn about the ten diseases most commonly linked to heavy drinking here. Read now
The long-term effects of alcohol use disorder can be devastating and even life-threatening. Chronic excessive alcohol consumption can negatively affect virtually every organ system. Specific examples of alcohol-use disorder effects on the body include everything from general effects like poor coordination, thiamine deficiency, and other forms of poor nutrition, cardiovascular effects like hypertension and irregular heartbeat, reproductive effects like impotence and irregular menses, as well as gastrointestinal problems like jaundice, cirrhosis of the liver, and pancreatitis. Alcohol-use disorder complications that involve the brain include, but are by no means limited to, strokes, confusion, and amnesia. Thiamine deficiency that is associated with alcohol use disorder can progress to the point that the sufferer develops vision problems, confusion, and trouble walking (Wernicke's encephalopathy), eventually followed by trouble caring for themselves and memory problems that the person tries to cover for by making things up/confabulating information (Korsakoff syndrome).

observations The most frequent medical consequences of alcoholism are central nervous system depression and cirrhosis. The severity of each may be greater in the absence of food intake. Alcoholic patients also may suffer from alcoholic gastritis, peripheral neuropathies, auditory hallucinations, and cardiac problems. Abrupt withdrawal of alcohol in addiction causes weakness, sweating, and hyperreflexia. The severe form of alcohol withdrawal is delirium tremens.
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Signs of a drinking problem include behaviors like drinking for the purpose of getting drunk, drinking alone or keeping it secret, drinking to escape problems, hiding alcohol in odd places, getting irritated when you are unable to obtain alcohol to drink, and having problems at work, school, home, or legally as a result of your drinking. Other warning signs of alcohol use disorder include losing interest in activities you used to enjoy, having blackouts because of heavy drinking, and getting annoyed when loved ones say you may have a drinking problem. Behaviors that may indicate that a person is suffering from alcoholism include being able to drink more and more alcohol, trouble stopping once you start drinking, powerful urges to drink, and having withdrawal symptoms like nervousness, nausea, shaking, or having cold sweats, and even hallucinations when you don't have a drink.
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