Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol dependence is a widely spread issue in our society, causing issues for people and their loved ones. It’s an incredibly destructive dependency that can rob individuals of their livelihood.

Alcohol Dependency recovery is a challenge because of the motivators behind the issue. The team at Aspen can help you on your journey with support, knowledge and trust.

How Addictive is Alcohol?

Alcohol consumption is a common recreational practice often beginning in adolescence and carrying through to adulthood. 

Alcohol as an industry is readily available to the public, and is a major part of our culture. Therefore, alcohol dependence is not initially a worry because it’s so common. It’s the consistent consumption over time, in varying amounts that creates a dependency and acts as a slow burn to the drinker.

What Are the Behavioral and Physical Effects of Alcohol?

Alcohol when consumed, affects your nervous system, slowing down your receptors, and hindering brain function. Alcohol is a depressant, even after the initial stimulating feeling it provides based on what you drink and your tolerance. Depressants lower your heart rate and blood pressure to help you feel relaxed, which is what makes alcohol so appealing. However, unlike other stimulants, it does not offer a euphoric effect but rather lowers your inhibitions.

Some signs of alcohol dependence are the constant urge to drink, leaving one feeling like the dependency cannot be controlled. Binge drinking when young generally starts the alcohol dependent relationship. The root of alcoholism can come from initial peer pressure but also learned behaviours from others, and whatever anxious or depressed feelings the person carries with them. Alcohol dependence is generally derived from mental and emotional turmoil as a coping mechanism. 

Short-term Effects of Alcohol Dependence:

Repeatedly using alcohol can permanently damage your brain, heart, blood flow, and nervous system. As a depressant, it decreases blood flow throughout your body, including  your brain, while simultaneously inflaming your system. By using alcohol essentially as a numbing agent, you limit your body’s abilities to function optimally.

With continuous and repetitive alcohol consumption, someone who becomes alcohol dependent will have difficulty not incorporating it into their daily lives. One root cause of alcoholism is repetitive consumption because of the dependent’s underlying traumas that weaken their decision-making abilities and self-control. Some issues relating to the effects of alcohol dependence include:

Psychological effects :

  • Interrupted brain development
  • Memory loss, lack of focus
  • Increased depression and anxiety
  • Violent (verbal and or physical) outbursts
  • Withdrawal or increased issues with loved ones

Physical effects:

  • Hindered motor control of the body
  • Increased heart rate Increased blood pressure
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Chronic inflammation 
  • Rhinophyma – redness of the face, particularly the nose

Alcohol dependence often leads to more serious medical conditions that include:

  •  Bacteria growing in your gut leading to to Liver Damage
  • Cardiomyopathy (weakened heart) and Arrhythmias (irregular beat pattern) leading to high blood pressure
  • Pancreatitis due to the inflammation of the pancreas 
  • Cancer such as mouth, throat, liver, and breast cancer

Any individual who is regularly drinking alcohol risks the chance of becoming dependent. Other risk factors that increase your chances of being alcohol dependent are:

  • family history of alcohol dependence
  • mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety
  • symptoms stemming from PTSD

What Are the Most Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

Issues with alcohol dependence include a range of withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Increased tolerance for alcohol, and the inability to cope without it
  • Heightened Anxiety and Depression
  • Fatigue and Insomnia
  • Mood swings and increased temper
  • Gastrointestinal issues due to the unbalanced gut microbiome
  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Abnormal breathing patterns

What Is the Most Effective Treatment for Alcohol Dependence?

Alcohol dependence is a complicated disease because it derives from deeper rooted traumas.. The person’s mental, emotional and/or physical states are disrupted at some point, so they turn to alcohol to block out said issues and rely on alcohol to get by in life. This way of being hurts them, and those they love because of their erratic and volatile behavior. The Causes of alcoholism are varied, but the hurt and permanent damage that ripples outward from the individual is immense. Since alcohol is so accessible, it makes for a more difficult thing to avoid or remove from a person’s existence.

Below is a list of different alcohol dependence treatment types and the methods used to help those with alcohol dependent symptoms.

1.      Treatment Facilities

Treatment facilities function to cover all aspects of the causes for alcoholism. Programs like these tend to last for several weeks to a year, including support groups, vocational rehab, and ongoing therapy.

2.      Behavior Treatment

Behavior treatments have recently produced some positive results by helping people manage their alcohol dependence. These treatment plans can provide patients with outpatient treatment plans or inpatient residential programs.

Both of these behavior treatment types focus on intervening in addictive behaviour using medications. One of the reasons for the success of behavior treatment plans is that when goals related to lowering alcohol use, patients are rewarded, which helps to teach them approaches to avoid past addictive behaviors.

3.      Medications

At present, there are no medications that are available to help fight alcohol dependence. Still, other medicines, such as antidepressants, can help fight depression or any other negative side effects with the treatment of alcohol dependence. 

4.      Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapy treatment plans help overcome alcohol dependence using tools such as exercise, hypnosis, acupuncture, and different types of herbs. Breathwork and physical activity are also helpful. Scientific research into holistic practices continues to prove how helpful these treatment types are for patients.

What Are Common Signs of Alcohol Abuse or Dependence?

Alcohol dependence is complex, requiring long-term treatment, support and genuine understanding. 

There are many signs of alcohol abuse or dependence that appear in the short term: 

  • Loss of focus and mental clarity
  • Anxiety, depression
  • Fixation on binge drinking or daily drinking
  • Weight fluctuations

Some other signs of alcohol dependence can show up as long term effects:

  • Permanent brain damage
  • Chronic inflammation creating other problems
  • Loss of mobility and dexterity
  • Eye damage

Signs of alcohol dependence have short-term effects that are shown to disappear within a day or two of using the drug. However, the long-term effects are permanent and irreversible, which can be problems around physical dependence or the risk of overdose.

Your journey to recovery does not have to be done alone. There are many free, confidential resources available to find support:

Talk to a recovery professional at Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Helpline: 800-662-HELP (4357)

If you or you know someone dealing with alcohol dependence, there are many treatment options available that have medical professionals to guide you or your loved one every step of the way.

Aspen Behavioral Health, located in sunny West Palm Beach, is a rehab center that helps people regroup, detox, and find support as they start their journey to sobriety. Take that first step and talk to one of our Aspen Behavioral Health specialists today.


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Author Unknown, “6 Surprising Ways Alcohol Affects Your Health — Not Just Your Liver,” Cleveland Health Clinic, March 24, 2020, Retrieved health.clevelandclinic.org/6-surprising-ways-alcohol-affects-health-not-just-liver/

Miller, Leah, MHC, “Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms, Treatment, and Timeline,” American Addiction Centers, August 4, 2021, Reviewed by Ryan Kelley, NREMT, Reviewed by  americanaddictioncenters.org/withdrawal-timelines-treatments/alcohol

Franchini, Audra, “10 Psychological Effects of Alcohol Misuse You Should Be Talking to Your Patients About”, Recovery Centers of America, Date unknown, Retrieved from recoverycentersofamerica.com/blogs/psychological-effects-of-alcohol-misuse/


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