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Is Alcoholism a Progressive Disease?

Alcoholism is a progressive disease that can take over a person’s life. As a person’s tolerance to alcohol increases, they need to drink more to get the same feeling. Some people quit or cut back when the consequences become too much to bear. However, others cannot control their drinking habits without professional help and support. At Believe Detox Center, we know that anyone can recover from alcoholism with support and treatment. Since alcoholism is a disease, it can be treated like any other to prevent relapses or worsening of symptoms. Still, it is best to get help as soon as a person recognizes the problem to stop the progressive nature of alcoholism.

What is a Progressive Disease?

A disease like alcoholism or other substance use disorders is progressive because the symptoms worsen over time when left untreated. Not all diseases are progressive. For instance, colds and cases of flu generally run their course over a few days. In addition, some chronic diseases, like cerebral palsy, generally display the same level and severity of symptoms throughout a person’s lifetime.

However, a progressive disease will continue to get worse, especially when left untreated. In some cases, treatment can slow the natural progression of the disease. Parkinson’s disease, for example, gets worse over time, however, a person can slow this progression with medical interventions and lifestyle changes.

The Progression of Alcoholism

The progression of alcoholism, like other progressive diseases, begins in stages. The first stage occurs when a person first begins to drink. Often, people get their first exposure to alcohol at a time in life when they have few responsibilities. They might be young, single, and without children. Thus, the negative consequences of drinking might be relatively minor issues, like being late for work or having a hangover.

Increase in Responsibilities in Life

As a person’s life advances, they gain more responsibilities. They could be on a career path that provides them with fulfillment and affords their lifestyle. The person might also be married or have children, so they have responsibilities for the care and welfare of others. Thus, the consequences of drinking could be greater.

Developing Out-of-Control Drinking Habits

At the same time, as the person continues drinking, they develop a higher tolerance for alcohol and could become physically dependent on it. This means that if they stop drinking or attempt to cut back, they have symptoms of withdrawal. They may also have strong cravings for alcohol that are difficult to control and distract them from everyday life.

Thus, as a person loses control of their drinking, they also lose control of other areas in their life. This can lead to severe consequences for the person’s social, physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

The Consequences of Alcoholism

In the beginning stages of alcoholism, a person drinks for a benefit or reward. Common examples are feeling more confident, less anxious in social situations, or having a sense of belonging. Minor consequences, like a hangover, aren’t enough to outweigh these benefits.

However, as time goes on, the consequences become more severe. As the disease progresses, a person can suffer greater losses while being physically unable to quit without professional help.

Consequences of untreated alcoholism might include the following:

  • Problems in relationships with family and friends
  • Decreased performance at work or in school
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and fulfilling activities
  • Mental fog and difficulty concentrating
  • Hangovers that worsen in severity over time
  • Issues at work, like absenteeism, tardiness, and conflicts
  • Injuries from loss of coordination when drinking
  • Reckless behaviors, like drunk driving, leading to legal problems
  • Developing physical health issues, like liver or heart disease
  • A weakened immune system, leaving a person more likely to get sick
  • Emotional health issues like low self-esteem
  • Mental health disorders like anxiety or depression
  • Life-threatening withdrawal symptoms when a person attempts to quit “cold turkey”

When a person is unable to stop drinking despite consequences like these, they need treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Is Alcohol Use Disorder the Same as Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is an everyday term for alcohol use disorder (AUD), so they are essentially the same thing. AUD is a spectral disorder, meaning that a person can have varying degrees of severity in their symptoms. Since alcoholism is progressive, the longer a person drinks, the more likely it is for them to have a higher severity of symptoms. However, a person doesn’t need to hit “rock bottom” to get help.

A person doesn’t need to experience severe consequences to get better. In fact, some people in the early stages of alcoholism quit drinking or cut back before things get worse. But, others are unable to simply stop or cut back. Without help, they could continue to spiral as their lives and their alcoholism gets out of control.

Stop the Progression of Alcoholism Today

Fortunately, there are treatment options available for any stage of alcoholism. Because alcohol affects everyone differently, each person needs an individualized treatment plan to address their unique needs as well as the stage of their alcoholism. Believe Detox Center in Los Angeles, California, offers several options to treat alcoholism, such as detox services, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), psychotherapy, and aftercare. Contact us today to stop the progression of alcoholism and begin living a healthy and prosperous life.

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