Hand holding a glass of alcohol

Alcohol Abuse: Causes, Signs & Treatment Options

Just like heroin, alcohol is a habit-forming, mind-altering substance. Alcohol contrasts with heroin, however, in that its use is considered normal in our culture. People all around the world abuse alcohol, and sometimes even celebrate this abuse. Though addiction does not affect everyone who abuses alcohol, it is quite easy to develop the disease.

Perhaps because alcohol has been a ubiquitous part of American life since our country’s beginnings, it is not a controlled substance. Thus, alcohol is highly accessible to people from all walks of life, and a difficult drug to avoid.

If you are suffering from the medical disease of alcohol addiction, you are not alone. No matter how badly you are hurting right now, take heart. With expert treatment, recovery from alcohol addiction is possible. There is always hope.

What Is Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol abuse occurs when you drink:

  1. …more than you should.
  2. …for emotional reasons.
  3. …to feel normal, either physically or mentally.
  4. …while using other mind-altering substances.
  5. …to get drunk.

Although there is a difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction, the two often go hand-in-hand. If the signs of alcohol abuse are accompanied by an uncontrollable compulsion to drink, you may be suffering from addiction.

Why Is Alcohol Addictive?

Woman collapsed in corner from alcoholAlcohol acts on the brain’s reward centers to release the “feel good” brain chemical serotonin. This flood causes your brain to give you a chemical “reward” every time you drink — in fact, if you drink regularly or excessively, your brain will physically rewire itself to crave those alcohol-induced serotonin rushes. Once your brain becomes accustomed to alcohol, it responds more strongly to the substance. Thus, the more you drink, the more you want to drink.

Risks of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse invites trouble into multiple areas of your life. It can’t be explained away with “social drinking” excuses or whitewashed with casual alcohol street names like booze or sauce — abusing alcohol can wreak serious havoc on your life.

People who are addicted to drugs are twice as likely to suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, and vice versa.National Institute on Drug Abuse

Physical risks

Alcohol abuse can cause permanent damage to the organs, especially the liver. It can also cause certain cancers, such as throat and mouth cancer. Of particular concern are the dangers of binge drinking, which include blackouts and alcohol poisoning, two conditions caused by drinking too much. Alcohol blackouts occur when you drink so much that you have little to no memory of your drinking episode when you become sober again. You may or may not lose consciousness during a blackout.

Alcohol poisoning occurs when you drink more than your body can handle, and you grow ill. Like a very intense hangover, alcohol overdose might cause you to vomit and feel sick to your stomach. Alcohol poisoning can result in death due to alcohol-induced problems such as heart irregularities, breathing problems, low or high blood sugar, and severe dehydration.


Drinking too much can take a toll on your mental health. Alcohol impacts some of the same areas of your brain that are responsible for mood disorders. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that 20% of people who suffer from anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder also suffer from addiction disease. Similarly, 20% of those who suffer from addiction disease also have an anxiety or mood disorder. Substance abuse and mental health problems often coexist and exacerbate one another.

How to Get Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

If you have been struggling with alcohol abuse, it is time to find help. Addiction is a medical disease that requires medical intervention. There is always hope for recovery.

No matter how long you’ve been suffering or how many times you’ve tried to quit, recovery from alcohol addiction is possible. Take it from us — many of us on staff at The Recovery Village Ridgefield also know the pain of addiction. Now we spend our days helping others find recovery, and we want to help you too.

We offer multiple levels of inpatient treatment and outpatient rehab. Since we believe that individualized therapy is the best way to treat your addiction, we will provide you with a treatment plan that is unique to you. We also believe that the work doesn’t end when you stop drinking. Addiction does not simply sprout up out of nowhere — there are reasons why you developed this disease. That is why our treatment programs for alcohol addiction address the “whys” behind your drinking.

Our campus lies nestled in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, not far from Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR. We welcome you to visit us if you are able — we would love to give you a tour and provide details about our alcohol addiction treatment options. We are also glad to speak with you on the phone to provide expert guidance as you seek the right treatment center for your needs. Whether you need to determine the most effective level of rehab covered by insurance, you want to discuss the specifics of or programs, or you simply need a listening ear, we are here for you.

You deserve to live a fulfilling and enjoyable life without the pain of alcohol addiction. Take back the reigns of your life by taking the first step — just reach out.

  1. “Alcohol’s Effects on the Body.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body. Accessed 23 Nov. 2016.
  2. “Beyond Hangovers.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Oct. 2015, pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.pdf.
  3. “Facts About Alcohol Overdose (or Alcohol Poisoning).” CollegeDrinking, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/parentsandstudents/students/factsheets/factsaboutalcoholpoisoning.aspx. Accessed 23 Nov. 2016.
  4. Thompson, Dennis. “Depression and Substance Abuse.” EverydayHealth.com, 3 June 2015, www.everydayhealth.com/depression/depression-and-substance-abuse.aspx.
  5. White, Aaron M. “What Happened? Alcohol, Memory Blackouts, and the Brain.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, July 2004, pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-2/186-196.htm.