Alcohol addiction is a genuine concern here in the UK, and data is now showing that since the COVID-19 pandemic, many more people are struggling with alcoholism.
Alcohol addiction can be caused by a number of things, including genetics, environmental factors or other mental health problems, dissatisfaction with life and stress. While there are different treatment options such as detox or residential centres for alcohol addiction recovery in the UK, it’s important that individuals follow an alcohol recovery programme that works for them and their family members.
Alcoholism is a serious health problem that can lead to a number of other conditions, including acute hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver and alcohol poisoning. Many people end up having to miss work because they are unable to function properly when they are hung over or feeling ill with other symptoms associated with alcohol addiction and dependence.
Alcohol addiction facts and statistics
Alcohol addiction in the UK is on the rise. Currently, there is a 16.8% increase in alcohol dependency and abuse in the UK, with an estimated 2 million alcohol addicts in the country as opposed to 1.6 million 10 years ago. The number of people who drink more than is recommended for health has risen from 57% to 59%, 14% of 18-24 year olds and 9% of adults aged 25-44 are thought to be in danger of becoming alcoholics.
As much as half of the population in the UK drink more than is recommended for health, with a great number of these people being in danger of becoming alcohol addicts. Approximately 18 million people are thought to be in danger of becoming alcoholics, so it’s important that you know how to spot the signs and symptoms.
Alcohol addiction is also on the rise during the covid-19 pandemic. There is evidence to suggest that drinking among individuals with mental health problems has increased, while there’s also been an increase in individuals being diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Perhaps this is because of the stress of job changes, relationship difficulties, financial stress or other issues that may cause significant distress.
Studies in the UK and other countries of the world have found that increased rates of alcohol addiction during COVID-19 have been linked directly to the pandemic. Those in higher risk groups are more likely to be affected by alcohol addiction, and studies suggest that COVID-19 may have triggered a number of emotional problems, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
According to GOV.UK, alcohol related liver disease deaths rose 21% during the year of the pandemic.
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism, we can help!
Who is at Risk from Alcohol Addiction?
Alcohol addiction affects all individuals, regardless of race, religion, creed or colour. However, certain groups are more vulnerable to alcohol dependency.
Alcohol addiction is more common in men, particularly middle-aged and older people, and those who are employed. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has released a report on the causes of alcohol dependence. It states that approximately 5 to 6% of the population in the UK are addicted to alcohol, which is slightly lower than the number expected or used to be as recently as 10 years ago.
The age group with highest risk of alcoholism is between 18-44 years old, while there is a much smaller risk for people aged over 55. Alcohol dependence is also more common in men compared to women and also among working adults compared to unemployed adults.
The NICE report also suggests that women drinking in excess of recommended limits have a higher risk of becoming alcohol dependent. This has particularly been observed among women who work in the hospitality industry. Other important risk factors include working after their children have left home, being unemployed, being single or living on a low income.
Alcohol Dependence and Pregnancy
It’s well known that alcohol consumption can have a negative effect on a developing baby. It is never safe to drink alcohol when pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Heavy drinking is linked to a range of health problems for the unborn baby, including foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), which are brain and nervous system conditions that tend to show up at birth or during infancy, but can continue into adulthood.
Alcoholism & Families
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence has also found that equal numbers of alcoholics and their family members become dependent to alcohol. They place the blame on a number of factors, including:
- The family environment and lifestyle, which can influence how someone develops alcoholism;
- Genetic predisposition, which is thought to play a role in around 1-2% of cases;
- Psychological reasons such as low self-esteem or depression.
Children brought up by alcoholic parents are often adversely affected by the behaviours associated with alcohol addiction. They are at risk of developing their own alcohol problems later in life.
Alcohol Dependence in Children
The number of children and young people with a drinking problem has doubled in the last 20 years, from 1.4% in 1992 to 2.9% in 2013. Drinking among adolescents is a very big concern for families and family members, because the development of adolescent brains is impacted by alcohol consumption.
Alcohol misuse among children and young people is also a huge issue for schools. There is an increase in truancy, physical and verbal bullying, vandalism and injury. Some parents have even reported that their child has been taken out of school because they have drunk alcohol or smoked cannabis at school.
It's never too late to get help for alcohol addiction
How does Alcohol Addiction Develop?
Alcohol addiction develops gradually and may not become apparent for a few years. Alcohol addiction can develop on its own, but it is more likely to develop when someone has an underlying problem like depression or anxiety. Some people have a change in their life that causes a shift in their emotions and leads them to experiment with alcohol.
If they begin to drink regularly, they may begin to associate drinking with positive feelings, leading them to continue drinking as part of the ‘solution’ for their problems. While some people may simply change their behaviour through experimentation, others will become dependent on alcohol. It’s important not to try and stop drinking or reduce your intake too quickly – this can lead to further withdrawal symptoms such as shaking and nausea.
Alcohol Addiction and the Brain
Alcohol dependence changes a person’s brain. More specifically, it alters the way the brain works in two main ways:
- The reward pathway – this is the mechanism of the brain that is linked to addiction or drug seeking behaviour. This is where cravings for alcohol come from, and it’s also responsible for making someone feel they need a drink at certain times of day, such as when they arrive home from work or before they go out with friends.
- The working memory pathway – this is where the brain helps us co-ordinate our actions and think about the future. When someone is becoming dependent on alcohol, these pathways can become distorted, which can result in problems with learning and reasoning.
The Stages of Alcohol Abuse & Dependence
Alcohol addiction is often recognised in stages. The first stage can be called the “dry drunk,” which takes place within the first 6 months of regular drinking. As the person continues to drink, they will gradually consume more alcohol for longer periods with less and less sleep, and may begin to feel hungover or have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. By this time, they will have developed some tolerance to alcohol and won’t feel as bad after drinking as much as they did previously.
When people start to develop alcoholism, it’s important not only that they seek help but also that their friends and family are informed about their drinking problem. If they don’t receive help, it will be more difficult to give up alcohol in the future and their dependence on alcohol could become worse.
Recognising the Signs of Alcoholism
It’s important that you know the signs of alcoholism, as well as when you need to seek help for alcohol addiction. For example, if your loved one or colleague is drinking more and is experiencing related problems at home and at work, it may be an indication that they are developing an alcohol problem. One of the biggest signs is when someone begins to lie about their drinking habits or hides their alcohol from friends or family in order to appear sober while drinking.
Other signs to watch out for include:
- anxiety or depression
- deterioration in social and occupational functioning (a drop in quality of work, being fired or demoted at work)
- withdrawal from friends and family (“missing them”), as well as isolating themselves from others when they are sober.
There can also be physical signs of alcoholism, which vary from person to person. Some people may start to experience physical changes such as loss of muscle mass or bone density, yellowing of the skin and appearance of liver damage. A decline in body temperature is another sign that someone may have a drinking problem. While drugs or medical problems can cause this to happen, it’s more common among alcoholics.
What are the Long term dangers of alcohol addiction & dependency?
There is a lot of scientific evidence to suggest that alcohol dependence is a major risk factor for chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, depression, high blood pressure and other cancers. Research has also shown that the more the alcohol dependence progresses in an individual, the more damage they suffer as a result of their addiction.
Long term alcohol abuse can pose significant health risks including:
- Alcoholic liver disease (fatty liver) – drinking can lead to fatty liver disease. This is more likely to occur when someone drinks more than 3 or 4 units a day. Fatty liver can be treated, but it can also become very serious and eventually lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) which will require a liver transplant.
- Alcohol withdrawal syndrome – if someone is dependent on alcohol, their body becomes used to having a regular intake of alcohol, whatever the quantity, and they also become used to experiencing the effects of alcohol in their body every time they drink.
When they decrease or stop drinking, they suffer from withdrawal syndrome, which are the symptoms that occur after stopping drinking. Some of the most common and severe symptoms include tremors, shaking, vomiting and even seizures. About 23% of alcoholics suffer from seizures due to alcohol withdrawal syndrome.
- Alcoholic gastritis – this is a common problem among alcoholics because excessive drinking will irritate and inflame the lining of the stomach. This is more common when someone drinks a great deal of alcohol over a long period of time.
- Aneurysm – an aneurysm is a build-up in the blood vessels. Aneurysms can form in the brain, heart or even the renal artery (the main artery to the kidneys). This is another common problem for alcoholics because their lifestyle puts them at a high risk of having these aneurysms develop.
- Depression – alcoholics are at a high risk of developing depression. The loss of coping skills and poor social support as well as the stress of being dependent on alcohol can lead to depression.
Detoxing from Alcohol
Detox is short for detoxification. Alcohol detox is the process of helping someone who’s dependent on alcohol give up drinking and rid the body of alcohol related toxins. Detox is possible through a number of methods and they can be done in many different locations, from a hospital or rehab centre to your own home. The length of time each person takes to detox depends on the severity of their drinking problem and the support they get from their GP or addiction treatment facility.
Alcohol Detox vs Medically Supervised Detox
It’s important to realise that alcohol detox isn’t the same as medical detox. With alcohol detox, the person will be cared for by a healthcare professional who will help them to cope with and manage their symptoms.
Medical detox, on the other hand, is when someone is medically assisted through the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol. Medical staff can provide medication and other supportive measures to help them ease out of drinking safely. A medically assisted alcohol detox may be required in those who are severely alcohol dependent.
Detoxing from alcohol at home
Detoxing from alcohol at home is possible with the help of a support network including your family and friends, who can also offer practical assistance such as helping you look after your diet. You might also need any medication your doctor prescribes to relieve symptoms of withdrawal. It’s important to detox in a safe and comfortable environment, usually with the support of a loved one who knows how you drink. If you start to show withdrawal symptoms, it’s important that someone is there when they happen so they can take care of you.
The Dangers of Detoxing from Alcohol without Support
Detoxing from alcohol is best done in an environment where you can receive the support of medical professionals. If you choose to detox alone, the symptoms of withdrawal can be dangerous and can make it difficult for you to cope with life as a sober individual.
Residential Alcohol Detox Programme
A residential alcohol detox programme is an important part of alcohol addiction treatment. Residential programmes are usually recommended to people who have a severe drinking problem, or those with complicated drug and alcohol disorders. Residential programmes may include both the detoxification process as well as inpatient treatment, which is post-detox.
Residential alcohol rehab programmes can be a great help to people who are trying to stop drinking. There are many benefits of residential detox, including:
- neutralising the influence of the temptation to drink
- a safe environment where withdrawal symptoms, which can otherwise be very uncomfortable, can be monitored and managed
- a more intense withdrawal management via medical support if needed during detox
- around-the-clock care from trained professionals who have expertise in alcohol addiction treatment.
Is Detox Enough to Tackle Alcohol Addiction?
The detox process is only the start of alcohol addiction treatment. You also need to address the causes of your addiction if you’re going to stop drinking. This means you’ll need to look at the circumstances that have led you to drink and consider what can be done in order to deal with them.
Detoxing from alcohol without therapeutic support can result in a high relapse rate.
Alcohol Rehab Therapy Programmes
Most people who suffer from alcohol addiction are being driven to drink by a combination of factors that are usually related to their personal circumstances and issues. One of the main goals of alcohol addiction recovery is to address the underlying causes of drinking behaviours. Addiction is a psychological phenomena, and while alcohol detox will help individuals feel physically better, it may not be enough to prevent long term relapse.
Residential Alcohol Rehab
This is the most intensive type of alcohol rehab and treatment available. It is designed for people with more severe alcohol addiction problems or those who have not been able to stop drinking on their own. A standard alcohol rehab programme lasts 1-3 months. During this time participants stay in a residential facility with a full time team of professionals providing round-the-clock support and therapy sessions.
Residential alcohol rehab programmes provide an integrated detox and therapy programme, those participating in residential rehab programmes will remain at the treatment centre for the duration of the programme. Private residential rehab programmes vary in costs, in fact The Providence Projects are one of the few alcohol treatment clinics in the UK to provide alcohol rehab costs. We believe that alcohol addiction rehab costs should be transparent and affordable for everyone seeking help with alcohol.
Outpatient Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Outpatient alcohol rehab facilities differ from inpatient rehabs because they don’t require participants to live at the centre or treatment facility. Outpatient programmes can be very effective for people who find it difficult to stop drinking completely.
Outpatient treatment usually involves a less intensive level of therapy and specialised care than you would find as part of a residential programme. Outpatient alcohol rehab will combine individual and group therapy with outpatient attendance at AA or NA meetings, as well as participation in aftercare programmes. Those seeking outpatient rehab programmes for alcohol addiction will usually attend sessions daily.
Therapy with an addiction counsellor is also considered an outpatient service, there are many qualified addiction counsellors and therapists in the UK, you can find them via the BACP website – https://www.bacp.co.uk/
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy which has been shown to be highly effective in helping people who have problems with alcohol addiction, CBT is used as part of residential and outpatient treatment programmes (including private therapy sessions).
Free NHS & UK Charity Services for Alcoholism
Free alcohol rehab and alcohol addiction services provided by the NHS and charity organisations are usually non-residential or outpatient services. They are often created to help individuals who are in great need of support and medical assistance but cannot afford it.
Some free alcohol addiction and rehab services are available through local councils. They provide substance abuse programmes, and in some cases residential detox or treatment programmes for people with alcohol addiction issues. The NHS does not operate any residential alcohol programmes themselves, but in rare cases they may provide funding through the NHS for private inpatient programmes.
Residential Alcohol Rehab VS Outpatient Alcohol Rehab
Outpatient alcohol rehab services may be fast, convenient and cost effective but they may not offer the level of support that is offered at residential alcohol rehab centres.
Residential alcohol rehab provides round-the-clock care and support. This can help to ensure that participants in residential treatment programmes are able to manage the effects of withdrawal and avoid relapse from drinking. Residential alcoholism rehab also provides a range of behavioural therapies including CBT, motivational interviewing, relapse prevention therapy and family support programmes. One of the main benefits of inpatient alcohol rehab is that individuals will not have access to alcohol beverages, and therefore unlikely to suffer an alcohol relapse.
Support Groups for Alcohol Addiction
Like people who suffer from other types of addiction, alcoholics can benefit from self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous is a self-help group that helps recovering alcoholics share their experiences. Alcoholics Anonymous meetings can be found throughout the UK, and many inpatient rehab services also run their own meetings and group sessions.
The 12 step programme developed by Alcoholics Anonymous encourages people to change their behaviours while abstaining from alcohol. Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are led by volunteers who have been through a similar experience to the attendees. These meetings provide a safe space for people to admit their drinking and deal with the issues that might be causing them to drink.
As part of any addiction treatment programme, it is recommended that meetings form a long-term plan for the recovery of alcohol addiction.
Alcohol addiction will not go away on its own, it is a serious condition which left untreated, can have devastating and life-threatening consequences.
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol misuse, we strongly recommend that you seek help sooner rather than later. Alcohol rehab programmes are the most effective treatment for alcoholism, and the earlier someone receives treatment, the higher the chances of a full recovery.
It is never too late to quit drinking, and it is never too early to get help. Now is the perfect time to get started.
If you have any further questions or concerns about alcohol use at home, or you’re unsure as to what type of treatment is best for you or a loved one, call our friendly team of addiction specialists today for further support.