Drinking alcohol is a regular part of life for millions and millions of people around the world, yet it is a powerful chemical that can have a negative impact on your physical and mental health.
According to the experts at Healthline, “..drinking any amount of alcohol can potentially lead to unwanted health consequences. People who binge drink or drink heavily may notice more health effects sooner, but alcohol also poses some risks for people who drink in moderation.”
Guidelines on safe drinking advise not consuming more than 14 units per week and to spread those over three or more days. However, many people routinely drink more than that, with 23% of those surveyed in 2019 admitting to drinking over 14 units per week.
Unfortunately, alcohol is highly addictive and there are estimated to be over 602,000 dependent drinkers in the UK alone. These people routinely consume way above the recommended amount of alcohol and therefore they suffer the most extreme levels of damage. Sadly, only 18% of those are receiving treatment for alcohol addiction. We encourage anyone reading this article who feels that themselves or their loved ones are addicted to alcohol to reach out to us and ask for help, before things get too bad.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the damage that alcohol can cause over the long and short term and have our therapist answer questions on how alcohol addiction wreaks havoc on people’s bodies and minds and what help there is out there.
The effects of drinking more than 14 units per week
Before we look at the risks, we wanted to break down what 14 units per week really means. It works out to be around 6 pints of lager or 1.5 bottles of wine. We believe that many millions of people around the world will be drinking way more than that each week and even in one sitting. If you are, then according to the NHS, organs such as the brain, liver and heart can become damaged by drinking too much. Your blood pressure and cholesterol levels can be increased by drinking, putting you at risk of heart attack and stroke. It can also weaken your immune system and bones and increase your risk of developing lots of health conditions including pancreatitis, a wide range of cancers, depression, dementia, impotence and much more.
Sadly, for people with serious issues with alcohol addiction, the list doesn’t end there. It can also lead to many social implications including family break up, domestic abuse, unemployment, financial problems and even homelessness.
Alcohol Addiction in focus
At our private rehabilitation centre, we see people who have reached rock bottom and thankfully asked for help with dealing with their addiction. We offer bespoke alcoholism treatment programmes for our clients, combining therapy and the 12 step programme with group and individual counselling and activities to strengthen their bodies and minds.
We asked our Therapeutic Director and Lead Addictions Specialist Reuben Whitehouse to explain to us the many problems that alcohol addiction causes and what he’s experienced first-hand.
In your work with alcoholics, what damage do you commonly see that drinking has done to their health, lifestyle and wellbeing and how does this change during rehab?
I have worked privately and across Europe with various rehabilitation centres.
The mental health issues caused by alcohol is always individual to clients, but very common place across the board. This can take on the form of anxiety, depression, insomnia, suicidal thoughts, isolation and sometimes this can be as extreme as Korsakoff’s syndrome.
By the time they come to rehab our clients’ lifestyles are usually unmanageable in areas such as job, home, family and finances. Social isolation and lack of self-care are commonplace, even to the point of lacking basic hygiene routines.
The transformation during their time with us shows so clearly the damage that the alcohol has been doing to them.
After detox you notice how healthy they look in comparison to the day of arrival. This is not only down to the substances leaving their system, but also thanks to the in-depth approach we take in addressing sleep hygiene, nutrition, meditation and yoga. We believe that the body and soul that was neglected for so long needs to be given attention in order for the mind to be in its optimal state for therapy and to be able to heal from possible traumas.
Usually in week two we are able to see, hear and feel a shift from the thought patterns keeping the client prisoner, to one of freedom and recovery, healing and hope. Week two is always one of great inspiration to our clients who were already with us, they get to witness the change in another and draw strength from this.
What are the warning signs that someone has a problem with alcohol and when should they turn to a therapist for help?
When drinking costs you more than money then you need to ask yourself honest questions about your intake. If you realise that you are drinking too much, but can’t stop alone, then you should seek professional help.
How can you help someone with an addiction?
Everyone is different and there’s definitely no one size fits all approach when it comes to addiction treatment. Thankfully we have lots of tools at our disposal and at our private rehabilitation centre we take a bespoke and integrated approach to rehabilitation care.
For example, I have worked with a client who could not stop drinking and stayed with us for an intensive rehabilitation programme. They had been in therapy for many years, without the results they wanted – it was not the right kind of therapy or therapist.
We treated them by combining CBT, group therapy, individual person-centred therapy and couples therapy, alongside a 12-step programme. We found that this combination suited the client best considering their background, cognitive abilities and issues which were highlighted during the admission process that we felt needed exploration. I always try to have an integrated approach, as I feel this is the method that produces the most substantial changes in a client. However, I also have experience whereby therapy alone has been invaluable to a client, and so we work within what they need.
In this particular case the results were amazing and he said that his treatment has allowed him to make a fresh start, both with recovery and with life. That’s always so great to hear.
How can people avoid relapse?
Avoiding relapse is as individual as the treatment programme of each client, some may find that they have triggers specific to the substance, others may have more subconscious triggers, such as music playing in the background.
What we try to do is explore associations with people, places and things in order to prepare clients with go-to plans of action if they feel triggered.
We are very fortunate that our clients learn many tools in our psychoeducational sessions in order to have resources readily available and easily applied.
Alongside this we give huge importance to the recovery community and the benefits of having people you trust to call upon.
We’re here to help
The first step to recovery is asking for help and finding the right people and the right place to heal and overcome your addiction. At The Bridge, we believe everyone can overcome addiction and our luxury rehab facilities and bespoke addiction treatment programmes give you the best chance to stop damaging your body and mind and start living a full and happy life without alcohol.
Please contact us if you’re ready to take that first step to overcoming your alcohol addiction today.