Alcohol consumption is a prevalent part of American culture. From a cold beer on game day to a champagne toast on New Years Eve, alcohol is interwoven into special events, holidays and many other parts of day-to-day life. Because of this, it can be difficult to determine whether you have been struggling with an alcohol use disorder or simply hitting the bottle a little too hard. The first step is educating yourself on alcoholism — what does it mean to be alcohol dependent? Because there is so much misinformation in circulation regarding alcohol addiction, it can be difficult to differentiate the true from the false. We have compiled a list of 10 important facts about alcoholism in order to help outline the condition in terms that make sense. We know how difficult it can be to reach out for help when you’re struggling, especially when you aren’t sure whether or not professional help is really necessary.

At The Plymouth House we are dedicated to answering common questions about alcoholism and alcohol addiction treatment in the hopes of making the entire process more straightforward. Contact us today to learn more.

Fact #1: Alcoholism is Not a Choice.

Alcoholism is recognized as a chronic medical condition by the World Health Organization, the American Psychiatric Association and several other major health-related organizations. For quite some time, alcohol dependence was viewed as a matter of weak will-power or a lack of moral resolve. People who struggled with alcoholism were thrown in psychiatric hospitals or incarcerated. Over the years, with advancements in scientific research, views of alcoholism shifted from a matter of moral ineptitude to a matter of mental health. Alcoholism is now categorized as a chronic health condition which can be effectively treated but never entirely cured. Over time, a person who is susceptible to alcoholism begins to develop a physical and psychological dependence. They lose all choice over the matter eventually; the chemistry of their brain physically changes. Many alcoholics want to quit drinking, but continue on in order to avoid painful and potentially lethal withdrawal symptoms. The good news is there is help available and recovery is always possible, no matter how severe an alcohol use disorder has become.

Fact #2: Alcoholism Has a Genetic Component.

An article published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine states, “Abundant evidence indicates that alcoholism is a complex genetic disease, with variations in a large number of genes affecting risk.” Alcoholism undeniably has a genetic component; this fact has been repeatedly proven by numerous scientific studies. This essentially means if you have alcoholism or addiction in your immediate family, you are more susceptible to developing a substance use disorder yourself. If your mother is an alcoholic, your father is a compulsive gambler or your older brother is addicted to prescription painkillers, it does not necessarily mean you are destined to struggle with addiction. However, if you use chemical substances regularly and/or heavily, you are more likely to develop a diagnosable substance use disorder over time.

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Fact #3: Alcoholism Can Happen to Anyone.

When some people think of the “stereotypical” alcoholic, they might envision a homeless person begging for change with a brown paper bag-wrapped booze bottle in hand. The truth is, alcoholism can happen to anyone. At The Plymouth House we have treated high-level executives, medical professionals, college students, stay-at-home mothers, school teachers, lawyers and even several addiction counselors. Alcoholism does not discriminate, and affects people of every age, gender, religion, occupation and income bracket. If you have been struggling with alcohol addiction, recovery is possible no matter who you are, and The Plymouth House is available to help.

Fact #4: Alcoholism Can Be Fatal.

It can be easy to write off the detriment of heavy drinking, considering alcohol consumption is both legal and socially acceptable. It is important to note how much damage heavy drinking can do to the body, both short-term and long-term. Common short-term health risks include injuries, accidents, risky behaviors, violence and alcohol poisoning. Long-term health effects include liver disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, digestive issues, weakening of the immune system, several types of cancer, a decline in cognitive function, permanent memory loss, the development of psychiatric issues like anxiety and depression, financial issues, legal issues and interpersonal problems. Many of the health-related consequences of alcoholism can be fatal if the condition is left untreated.

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Fact #5: Alcoholism is Progressive.

Alcoholism is a progressive condition, meaning the longer it is left untreated the more severe related symptoms will become. An alcoholic won’t simply wake up one morning and decide to quit drinking right then and there. Once the body builds a physical tolerance and dependence, quitting without professional help becomes nothing short of impossible. At The Plymouth House we recommend anyone who has been struggling with alcohol misuse reach out sooner rather than later in order to prevent an accumulation of personal consequences.

facts about alcohol addiction and alcoholism everyone should know

Fact #6: Alcoholism Can Develop Quickly or Slowly.

Alcoholism affects different people in different ways. One person might drink socially and without incident for years, and develop an alcohol use disorder after the loss of a loved one. They might go from drinking one or two alcoholic beverages a month to polishing off two bottles of wine every evening. Another person might slowly increase their alcohol intake over time, starting with several drinks a week and upping their intake as a physical tolerance builds. Over time, this person is drinking morning, afternoon and evening, and they wonder how they ever got to where they are now. Whether you have been drinking your whole life or you recently started drinking heavily, the most important thing you can do is reach out for help as soon as you recognize your alcohol consumption has become a problem.

Fact #7: Alcoholism Has Far-Reaching Effects.

Some people who struggle with alcoholism might say things like, “I’m only hurting myself,” or, “Everyone should just leave me alone and start worrying about their own problems.” Many people who struggle with alcoholism are in denial about the impact their drinking has on others. However, alcoholism deeply impacts the lives of everyone it touches — from immediate family members and close friends to employers and coworkers. At The Plymouth House we have developed a program of recovery which incorporates the loved ones of our clients so they can do some healing of their own. We offer family therapy and a Family Workshop (Takes place between April – October), and provide the loved ones of our clients with additional resources and support whenever necessary.

Fact #8: Alcoholism is Just as Dangerous as Other Addictions.

Because alcohol consumption is legal in the United States (if you are of age, of course), there is certainly less of a stigma surrounding alcohol than illegal drugs like heroin or methamphetamine. However, alcohol can be just as detrimental as illegal drugs, and alcoholism can destroy lives just as rapidly as drug addiction. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, an estimated 95,000 Americans die from alcohol-related causes every year, making it the third-leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. preceded only by physical inactivity and poor diet.

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Fact #9: Alcoholism is Treatable.

Struggling with alcoholism can easily put you in a place of hopelessness and despair. You might feel as if there is no way out — you’re in too deep, and nothing you do will repair the immense damage that has already been done. However, with the right treatment program in place, recovery is always possible. We have seen people with severe cases of alcoholism successfully quit drinking and go on to lead happy, healthy and productive lives. It is important to understand that recovery cannot be achieved without help. The good news is that help is readily available. Contact us today to learn more about your potential treatment options and take the first step towards a life of recovery and fulfillment.

Fact #10: Attending Treatment Greatly Improves the Chances of Recovering.

If you have been struggling with alcoholism, a multi-phased continuum of care comes highly recommended. Those who attend treatment stay sober for longer and obtain a better quality of life overall. At The Plymouth House we have carefully developed an alcohol addiction recovery program that includes residential inpatient treatment and partial hospitalization. As part of the Guardian Recovery Network we work closely with licensed detox centers across the country, and if we believe a different treatment option is better for your unique case we will gladly point you in the right direction.

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If you or someone you love has been struggling with an alcohol use disorder, The Plymouth House is available to help. We understand how difficult it can be to come to terms with alcoholism, let alone reach out for help. Many of our staff members have been exactly where you are now or have helped a loved one through the early recovery process. This allows us to consistently come from a place of compassion, understanding and empathy.

As soon as you contact us, either directly through our website or over the phone, you are put in touch with an experienced and compassionate Treatment Advisor who walks you through every step of the admissions process. We begin with a short pre-assessment, which helps our clinical team determine which level of care is the best option for you or your loved one. We provide a free, no obligation insurance benefit check for those insured through a regional provider in New Hampshire or a major national provider. Finally, we help arrange local transportation to our New Hampshire inpatient treatment center. To learn more or to get started, contact us today.

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Russell Beebe

Reviewed for accuracy by:

Russell Beebe MLADC, LCMHC

Russell is a Master Level Alcohol and Drug Counselor (MLADC) and Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) with over 11 years experience treating individuals with substance use and co-occurring disorders. Russell was inspired to get into the field after his experience as a resident at The Plymouth House in 2008.