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Alcohol Addiction in Utah

It is often thought that alcohol addiction in Utah should not be too much of a public health concern. This false belief stems from the fact that an estimated 60% of the state’s population is Mormon and shuns the act of consuming alcohol. However, for a state that has one of the lowest rates of both binge drinking and alcohol consumption in the United States, alcohol addiction in Utah is still a very real matter of concern.

What is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction is a disease of the brain characterized by a physical or psychological dependence that causes a compulsive and reoccurring need to consume the substance. Alcohol dependence, commonly referred to as alcoholism, is associated with extremely unpleasant, and potentially dangerous, symptoms of withdrawal when the substance is not consumed.

How Does Alcoholism Develop?

Many people enjoy a glass of wine over dinner, or a beer or two with friends over the weekend and never experience any problems. However, some people start to drink more than the recommended daily amounts, which cause the brain to adapt to the constant presence of alcohol in the system.

The brain requires a careful balance of hormones and chemicals in order to function optimally. However, when a person drinks heavily on a regular basis, the brain is forced to release abnormally large amounts of chemicals as it tries to restore the balance that alcohol destroys.

Over time, the brain adapts to the point that the drinker develops tolerance to alcohol’s effects. The person needs to drink larger volumes of alcohol just to achieve the same effects that a non-drinker would experience after just one drink. To an observer, it may appear that the person can drink large amounts of alcohol and not get drunk. A person with alcohol tolerance may also not seem to experience hangovers the next day.

When a heavy drinker stops drinking alcohol, the brain can’t adapt quickly. It continues to over-produce hormones and chemicals, as it expects to be flooded with the usual amounts of alcohol that were being consumed. The result causes unpleasant, and sometimes life-threatening, withdrawal symptoms.

Statistics for Alcohol Addiction in Utah

According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Utah has one of the country’s lowest levels of alcohol consumption and binge drinking. However, despite the fact that the statewide statistics seem low on the surface, the same report shows Utah also has the seventh-highest rate of alcohol poisoning deaths each year in the nation.

The Utah Department of Health released figures showing that 156 people in Utah died specifically of alcohol poisoning in the years from 2009 to 2013. The most predominant age group in those results showed that men aged between 45 and 64 were more likely to drink to excess, resulting in poisoning deaths.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

Many people with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) often don’t recognize they have a problem. They may believe they can stop at any time. Oftentimes, those with an alcohol dependence think that because they only drink in the evenings or on weekends, or that they still have a job, there is no way their use could be considered an addiction. Yet alcoholism is a progressively insidious disease.

The signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse include:

  • Hiding how much is really being consumed
  • Drinking alone
  • Drinking in secret so people can’t see how much is being consumed
  • Avoiding social events to stay home and drink
  • Lying about how much is being consumed
  • Drinking in risky situations, such as drink driving
  • Neglecting home, work, or financial obligations due to drinking
  • Continued drinking, despite health problems or legal issues
  • Repeated failed attempts to cut down consumption or quit drinking

The signs and symptoms of alcohol dependence, or alcoholism, include:

  • Tolerance to the effects of alcohol
  • Loss of control over how much is being consumed
  • Inability to stop drinking once started
  • Spending more time drinking to the exclusion of other activities
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when drinking stops

Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Many people view alcoholism as nothing more than a bad habit, or a lack of self-control. They seem to believe that the only treatment required is that the person learns to say no and use a little willpower.

In reality, alcoholism is an incurable chronic disease of the brain that requires medically-supervised detoxification, professional counseling, and ongoing management in order to avoid relapsing back into the cycle of compulsive drinking.

The first stage of treatment begins with the detoxification process. A person who has been drinking heavily for a period of time may experience withdrawal symptoms that range from mildly unpleasant, to potentially life-threatening enough to require emergency medical assistance. Withdrawal symptoms usually include at least two of the following:

  • Shaking
  • Muscle tremors
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Defensiveness
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Nightmares
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

It is advised that anyone detoxing from alcohol conducts the process under medical supervision, as prescription medication may be given to help reduce the severity of symptoms. Medical supervision also reduces the risk to the patient in the event of experiencing any life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

When the detox process is complete, an intensive program of counseling and behavioral therapy commences. Therapy is tailored to each individual person’s own characteristics and focuses on addressing the psychological triggers behind the self-destructive behavior. Therapy also begins to replace dysfunctional attitudes with healthy new habits and coping skills for living life without alcohol.

In order to successfully treat alcoholism, it is important the person is away from people, places and any other associated drinking triggers that caused the dysfunctional drinking behavior in the first place.

By seeking treatment in a residential rehab center, the person has the support and supervision required to focus on recovery, along with having access to addiction specialists, counselors, and therapists required. When treatment is complete, the person should have learned a strong new set of coping skills for living a healthy, productive life of sobriety over the long term. For guidance and support when seeking treatment, pick up the phone and dial an addiction specialist today.