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Alaska Alcohol Addiction
alcoholic relapsing on his alcohol recovery goal

Alaska Alcohol Addiction

Alaska alcohol addiction is a major public health concern. The rate of alcohol addiction in the state is significantly higher than the national average, making alcohol responsible for being the most problematic substance abuse problem in the region.

What is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction is a physical or psychological dependence on drinking. Most people associate alcoholics with being stereotypical homeless drunks, who drink all day and never sober up.

However, it is possible to be addicted to the substance and still hold a full-time job and maintain family responsibilities. Yet, a functioning alcoholic faces the same physical, mental, and emotional health risks as any other person with a serious drinking problem.

Statistics for Alaska Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

A report released by the National Alcoholism Center, revealed that Alaska has one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption per capita in the country. Alaska also has twice the rate of alcohol dependence and abuse than that of the national average.

The 2014 Annual Drug Report released by the Alaska Bureau of Investigation, indicated that alcohol was the primary abused substance in the state. In an effort to combat the growing alcohol addiction problem, many communities in Alaska voted to prohibit the sale, importation, and ownership of alcohol, creating ‘dry’ towns and communities. Rather than curbing drinking activities, the action increased the amount of illegal bootlegging into dry villages.

A report released by the State of Alaska Epidemiologic Profile on Substance Use, Abuse and Dependency in 2013, showed that the number of alcohol induced deaths in the state was more than 2.5 times the national average.

Why is Alcohol Addictive?

Alcohol is a sedative substance that acts as a depressant on the central nervous system. Effectively, alcohol slows down brain functions, causing blurred vision, slurred speech, slowed reaction times and memory impairment.

Constant exposure to the substance causes the brain’s chemistry to adapt. The brain’s neurotransmitters release higher than normal amounts of hormones in an effort to restore a balanced state. The effect is that the user appears to drink more alcohol, without appearing intoxicated.

When alcohol intake stops suddenly, the brain goes into a hyper-excitable state. It is unable to adjust to functioning without alcohol in the system, which causes the symptoms of withdrawal.

Stages of Alcoholism

Early stage: the early or adaptive stage of alcoholism, shows as an increased tolerance to drinking, in which the drinker needs to consume larger volumes of alcohol to feel the same effects that used to be achieved with lesser quantities. Tolerance is not created by drinking too much, but due to the brain’s chemistry adapting to the presence of alcohol.

In the early stage of alcoholism, the person may simply seem to be a heavy drinker. He or she may still maintain a job and family obligations without any obvious negative effects.

Middle Stage: there is no obvious line between the early and middle stages of alcoholism, but there are some characteristics to watch for. One of the key signs is craving. The drinker experiences a strong urge to drink. Over time, the person is eventually unable to control the cravings, losing the ability to control drinking behavior.

When drinking is abruptly discontinued, the person may also experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. For many people the only way to stop the symptoms, is to continue drinking more.

As the severity of physical dependency on alcohol increases, the person may lose all control over the ability to limit drinking to acceptable times, places or patterns. At the same time, the person’s tolerance levels decrease, and they will appear more inebriated after smaller amounts of alcohol, even though the person needs to drink more to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Late Stage: the late stage of alcoholism, is the point in which the toxic effects of alcohol have caused significant damage to the body. The person may be drinking almost constantly, and may be suffering from a range of physical and mental illnesses. Some of the common ailments seen in late stage alcoholism, include compromised immune system, fatty liver, hepatitis, cirrhosis, malnutrition, heart failure, respiratory infections, and brain damage.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

There are some common signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse to watch for. These include:

–     Loss of control over drinking

–     Unable to stop drinking once started

–     Drinking large volumes of alcohol without appearing drunk or suffering hangovers

–     Tolerance, or needing to drink larger volumes to get the same effects

–     Powerful cravings to drink alcohol

–     Withdrawal symptoms when intake stops suddenly

What Does Exposure to Alcohol Do To the Body?

Alcohol is a potent toxin and a known cancer-causing carcinogen. Drinking too much increases the risk of developing various cancers, including cancer of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, liver, breast, and colon.

The substance is also a toxic poison that can cause significant damage to the liver, including fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and fibrosis.

The heart muscle is also severely damaged by heavy drinking, causing irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias), high blood pressure, stretching or drooping of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy), stroke, and heart attack.

Alcohol is also capable of causing irreversible brain damage, and can cause mood and behavioral changes, as well as memory impairment.

 

Why Seek Professional Alcohol Treatment?

It is common for people to believe that an alcoholic can stop drinking with a bit of willpower. However, addiction is a chronic disease that requires specialist treatment. Moreover, stopping alcohol intake suddenly can cause potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, and therefore it is crucial that the detox process is conducted under proper medical supervision for the person’s safety.

Once the detox process is complete, the recovering person can commence behavioral therapy and individual counseling to address the dysfunctional attitudes surrounding the addictive behavior, modifying them with positive habits and coping skills for living a sober life.

Attempting to overcome alcoholism at home or on your own is dangerous. However, with the right combination of treatments, it is possible to live a healthy, productive life of sobriety over the long term. Reach out to an addiction specialist to learn more about Alaska alcohol addiction treatments today.