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Alcohol Addiction in Hawaii

What is an Addiction to Alcohol?

Addiction to alcohol is a physical dependency on it—if the addicted person does not take it in regularly, usually binge drinking at least once per day, they will have highly unpleasant and potentially dangerous physical symptoms. Alcoholics face strong cravings and symptoms up to and including delirium tremens. If someone abuses alcohol regularly but does not feel cravings or withdrawal symptoms for it, it is possible that they have developed a psychological reliance on it, but have not yet developed a physical addiction.

Addiction to alcohol was not always seen as a disease, and some people still insist that it is a matter of willpower. The medical community by and large now accepts the disease model of alcoholism, however, which posits that the alcoholic will be extremely unlikely to be able to quit alcohol use without medical assistance.

The path out of alcoholism can vary for each person, but it almost always begins with a period of a few days of medical detox. Patients will then proceed to either inpatient or outpatient treatment. This treatment period gets people through the roughest patch of recovery and teaches them the skills and coping mechanisms they will need to manage their alcoholism for the rest of their life.


How Does Addiction to Alcohol Develop?

The length of time it takes for an alcohol addiction to develop varies between people. Some people have a genetic tendency to be more susceptible to alcoholism, and this can be passed from parents to children. But with enough regular exposure at high enough amounts, anyone can potentially develop a physical dependence on alcohol.

When a physical dependence has formed, the brain has actually changed at a chemical level. Alcohol abuse disrupts the production of dopamine, one of the chemicals the brain uses to influence mood. Alcohol abuse will gradually cause the brain to lose its ability to produce and distribute dopamine properly, unless alcohol is present. An addiction has formed when alcohol is needed by the person for proper mood regulation in this way.


Hawaii Alcohol Addiction Statistics

According to treatment statistics collected by the Hawaii Department of Health, alcohol is the leading intoxicating substance of abuse in the state by far, at almost double the rate of treatment check-ins for the next most commonly abused substances. Alcohol abuse is more than double the rate of marijuana abuse in the state. Over 10,000 people will seek treatment for an alcohol abuse issue every year in Hawaii.

Hawaii’s rate of alcohol abuse among adults is higher than the national average. The rate of binge drinking is also three times that of the national average. Hawaii also has one of the higher rates in the nation of automotive deaths due to alcohol use, with 1 out of every 2 vehicle deaths related to alcohol in the state.


The Difference between Alcohol Content in Beverages

Not all alcoholic beverages are created equal. Each type of drink will have a varying amount of alcohol depending on the brand, but categories of drink generally fall within a certain range. It is important to know the alcohol by volume (ABV) content of the type of drinks you are consuming to ensure that you are not exposing yourself to unsafe levels.

Beer is generally lowest in ABV among the drink categories. The lightest beers have only 2.5 percent ABV, while the heaviest ones can run to over 10 percent. The common inexpensive domestic brands that are sold everywhere (like Bud and Coors) are in the middle with about 5 percent ABV.

Wine is the next step up in terms of general ABV. Wine usually contains about 12 to 17 percent ABV, making the weakest wines generally still stronger than the strongest beers.

Once you get above the ABV content in wine, you are entering the realm of “spirits” or “hard liquor.” These are things like rum, vodka, whiskey and sake. These range anywhere from 20 to 50 percent alcohol content for the most part. A realistic expectation for a mixed drink is for it to have between 30 to 40 percent ABV.


Health Risks of Alcohol Abuse

Even a little bit of alcohol decreases reflexes and reaction time, creating a risk if you operate a motor vehicle or other types of powered equipment. Other symptoms that can come with relatively low levels of alcohol consumption include blurred vision, drowsiness and lowered body temperature. While small amounts of alcohol are unlikely to cause direct health complications, the state they put you in can make you unsafe around yourself or others.

Drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time generally leads to vomiting, nausea and frequent urination that may become uncontrollable. More serious health dangers of binge drinking include respiratory depression, coma and alcohol poisoning.

Those who regularly drink heavily for a long period of time tend to develop liver damage. The stomach is also affected by alcohol abuse, leading to ulcers and potential damage to other organs. Alcohol abuse also kills brain cells and can potentially lead to brain damage in serious cases. Alcohol primarily impairs the ability to process emotions. For younger alcohol abusers whose brains are not fully developed, alcohol abuse may actually limit the brain’s development.

It is also vital that pregnant women avoid alcohol, as the fetus is very sensitive to it. Physical and mental birth defects are possible.


Treatment Options

Medical detox is the first step in overcoming an established alcohol addiction. This is a period of time where you go to a hospital or an addiction treatment facility and receive medical care and supervision during the worst period of cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Medical detox generally lasts for a few days and rarely goes for longer than a week.

Once detox is completed successfully, it’s time to move on to either inpatient or outpatient treatment. For an established alcohol addiction, a period of at least 30 days of inpatient treatment is likely going to be necessary. This period of time provides a trigger-free environment with all the resources needed to learn how to cope with the disease and successfully manage it.

Professional treatment is the only reliable way to beat alcoholism. Treatment centers generally maintain free help lines that are often staffed 24 hours a day, and if you’re thinking about getting treatment or know someone who might need it, these help lines can answer your questions and get the first step for recovery set up. Call a New Hampshire treatment center now.