Alcohol Addiction

There are few drugs more prominent, widely available, or deadly than alcohol. Statistics indicate that tens of millions of Americans abuse alcohol and millions who need treatment don’t get it. This is tragic, as there are resources available for Americans to get the help they so clearly need.

Crystal Lake has the resources to help you, including a private setting, skilled therapists, and a recovery program designed to help you address your drinking.

Alcohol Dependence, Addiction & Abuse

Alcohol use disorders are a major public policy and health problem within the United States. A brief look at the facts reveals the following:

  • A 2019 study revealed that nearly 26% of adults had engaged in binge drinking over the past month.

Binge drinking means drinking a lot in a short period. It’s not something you have to do every day or even every month. For men, binge drinking is five or more alcoholic drinks in two hours or less. For women, it’s four or more drinks in two hours.

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One standard drink, as defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

12 ounces of 5% beer

8 to 9 ounces of 7% malt liquor

5 ounces of 12% wine

1.5 ounces of hard liquor, approximately 40% alcohol


  • 14.1 million adults – 6% of all American adults – have an alcohol use disorder or are chronic drinkers. This means that these individuals have some level of addiction to alcohol.
*Chronic drinking refers to someone who drinks as part of their daily life. If it is customary to go home and drink a six-pack daily, — that shows a pattern of unhealthy alcoholic consumption, especially if you start to feel sick if you don’t drink
  • Only 8% of adults with an alcohol use disorder have received treatment, meaning that more than 9 in every 10 American adults have not received needed treatment, a total of more than twelve million adults.
  • 95,000 Americans die every year from some sort of alcohol-influenced cause, including disease or accident.
  • Men are more likely than women to have an alcohol use disorder.
  • More than 1 in every ten children live with a parent with some sort of alcohol use disorder.

These numbers are staggering and show the depth and breadth of alcohol problems and their influence on the general population, including people who don’t even drink.

Causes & Risk Factors of Alcohol Addiction

Anyone can develop an alcohol use disorder. However, like most diseases, there are risk factors involved. These range from the age you started drinking to environmental and psychological factors.

How long you’ve been drinking

Drinking for an extended time, such as daily drinking for several years, can be a factor in developing an alcohol use disorder.

Age when you began drinking

If you started drinking at a young age by binge-drinking, there’s an increased risk of developing later problems with alcohol abuse.

Family history

Your family history plays an integral part in alcoholism. Whether this is environmental – meaning you saw alcohol being abused or whether it is solely genetic is unclear. What is clear is that people in families that have alcoholism are more likely to become alcoholics. Studies have also shown that genes are responsible for as much as half of the risk associated with alcohol abuse.

Mental Health Disorders

Psychological factors also influence the overall likelihood of becoming addicted to alcohol. Depression, anxiety, and alcohol use disorder all interact together. While there are times where the direction of the interaction isn’t clear, it is apparent that self-medicating using alcohol is common with many people struggling with mental illness.


If you’ve experienced trauma or are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, there is an increased chance of you developing and suffering from an alcohol use disorder. Research shows if you are a veteran who has experienced or witnessed trauma, you are more likely to abuse alcohol.


When you have friends or relatives who drink regularly, drinking becomes normalized, and drinking too much can be seen as funny or empowering. The media portrays get-togethers with alcohol as fun and don’t show the risks. The mix of family, media, and others makes drinking attractive to younger people. If you began drinking at a young age, chances are these images and influences played a role in your first drink.

How Addictive is Alcohol?

Most people can develop a tolerance to alcohol, which happens relatively quickly with repeated use, even without using it at dangerous levels or developing an addiction. This happens as your brain and body get used to alcohol ingestion and ensures that you do not feel the same sensations as when you began drinking until you drink more. This is dangerous from an addiction perspective: to feel the same level of intoxication, you need to drink more than you did when you started drinking.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Your body goes through many changes when you stop drinking, especially if you’ve been drinking heavily over a period of time. This is because your brain and body have become dependent on how and when you drink in order to function. What this means is that once you stop alcohol use, you may begin to go through withdrawals as your body begins to stabilize without the presence of alcohol in your body.

Some symptoms can be mild, such as a headache. Others are more serious such as seizures, which can lead to death. It is impossible to say what you or anyone else may experience as there are several factors influencing symptoms:

  • body size
  • amount of alcohol consumed
  • the period over which you consumed alcohol
  • how long a person has been drinking in total

In general, symptoms may start within two hours, with the worst symptoms happening between 24 and 48 hours after stopping and improving symptoms after five days. The most commonly experienced alcohol withdrawal symptoms are blood pressure changes, tremors, sweating, rapid heartbeat, and fever.

You may have other effects, including:

Physical symptoms – shaky hands, sweating, upset stomach, flu-like symptoms, hallucinations, or seizures

Mental and emotional symptoms – disorientation, trouble sleeping, nightmares, anxiety, or depression

The most severe withdrawal symptoms are called delirium tremens, which can happen within 48 hours of the last drink. These are severe symptoms that include vivid hallucinations and delusions. Only about 5% of people with alcohol withdrawal have them. The alcohol withdrawal timeline looks something like this:


6 to 12 hours after stopping

anxiety, headaches, shaking, nausea/vomiting

12 to 24 hours after stopping

disorientation, hand tremors, seizures

48 hours after stopping

insomnia, high blood pressure, delirium tremens

What is alcohol use disorder and what are the signs?

An alcohol use disorder is a chronic brain disorder where an individual cannot stop or control their alcohol intake despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. Different patterns of drinking may be signs of alcohol abuse.


Binge drinking is drinking a lot in a short period. It’s not something you have to do every day or even every month. Five or more alcoholic drinks in two hours or less are considered binge drinking. For women, it’s four or more drinks in two hours.


Chronic drinkers drink daily, and this is a sign of unhealthy alcoholic consumption. If you drink daily and need to increase the amount you drink or feel sick without alcohol, you should seek a professional to talk about your drinking.

Effects & Symptoms

The impact of alcohol on the body happens relatively quickly. Factors that influence this are tolerance, metabolism, and whether a person has an empty stomach. When you first drink, you may experience a pleasant sensation of relaxation and unwinding of tension. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and may even be used to help you relax in social settings because you’ll find it easier to talk to people and socialize. These initial impacts usually fade as one’s tolerance increases, and then a person will begin to need more alcohol to feel the initial pleasant feelings caused by drinking.

Drinking too much alcohol will result in being drunk. This happens because the ethanol in alcohol breaks down, interacting with your brain and nervous systems to ultimately cause drunken behavior. Examples of drunken behavior are:

  • A breakdown of social inhibitions.
  • A loss of coordination and judgment.
  • A feeling of warmth, despite a drop in body temperature.
  • Slurred speech, blurred vision, and dizziness.


When you stop drinking, your body will process the alcohol, and you’ll sober up. However, drinking more than you are used to will result in some uncomfortable side effects as your body continues to break down alcohol.

Alcohol impacts multiple body systems and organs. The primary organ responsible for processing alcohol is the liver; however, the brain, pancreas, and stomach also play a role. This is why a hangover can impact your overall wellness as your body continues to break down alcohol.

Common symptoms of a hangover:

  • Dehydration – Alcohol is a diuretic, and your body produces more urine while drinking. You may feel thirsty, dizzy, or lightheaded as a result of being dehydrated.
  • Inflammation of the immune system – Your immune system has an inflammatory response to alcohol, which causes various symptoms, such as decreased appetite, inability to concentrate, and general lethargy.
  • Stomach upset – Drinking causes an increase in the production of stomach acid. You may experience nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps after drinking.
  • A decrease in blood sugar – Your blood sugar may dip as a result of alcohol. This causes tiredness, shaking, weakness, mood swings, and can cause seizures.
  • Headache – Your blood vessels expand from alcohol, and this often leads to headaches.
  • Tiredness – While alcohol makes you sleepy and can cause you to pass out, it prevents deeper sleep and usually causes waking in the middle of the night.

As anyone who has ever been hungover knows, it is an extremely unpleasant experience and worth avoiding. Fortunately, hangover symptoms usually disappear after no more than a day, but they can last longer in more extreme circumstances.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in your Body?

Alcohol remains in the body until the liver has processed it and it is usually excreted through urine, like any other drink. Once your system processes the alcohol, it is usually not detected in sweat, saliva, and blood. The is because the body typically removes .02% alcohol an hour. This can change based on various factors, including your body size, metabolism, and personal tolerance to alcohol. After 48 hours, alcohol is usually undetectable in your urine. However, it remains detectable in your hair for as long as ninety days.


Test Type

How long after drinking can it detect alcohol?

Sweat, saliva, and blood

*Usually undetectable after your liver has processed the drink


Usually undetectable after 48 hours


Alcohol can be detectable in your hair for as long as ninety days

Long-Term Effects of Alcoholism

There are unquestionably long-term impacts of alcohol abuse. Long-term, excessive use of alcohol is associated with various adverse health impacts that go well beyond addiction. These include heart disease, multiple cancers, depression, anxiety, cognitive disorders, and more. These different health challenges are among the many reasons that you should seek help from a medical professional if you have an alcohol use disorder.

Primary Alcohol Dangers

As noted above, one of the primary dangers of drinking is developing an alcohol use disorder. Alcohol addiction can also cause an array of negative physical, emotional, social, economic, and legal consequences.

Drug Interactions

There can be severe interactions if alcohol is mixed with other substances. Mixing alcohol with prescription drugs, such as tranquilizers, pain killers, and anti-depressants, can pose significant health complications, including brain damage, hospitalization, and potential death.

Risk of Overdose

The risk of an alcohol overdose – otherwise known as alcohol poisoning – is very real. This occurs when you drink too much in too short a period of time, overwhelming the liver’s ability to process the alcohol. The first sign of this is vomiting, which will purge the alcohol from the body.

However, if you binge drink – especially with hard liquor such as vodka or whiskey – you may overload your system, causing alcohol poisoning. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include confusion, loss of consciousness, severe vomiting, slowed breathing, and more. In extreme cases, it can result in death. An estimated 2,200 people die every year from alcohol poisoning.

Unintended Side Effects

Drunk driving is a very real danger, and it causes numerous deaths and injuries across the United States. There are limitations on how much alcohol someone can have in their system while operating a motor vehicle. This is called BAC or blood alcohol level, which is the percent of alcohol in your blood system. This amount can vary state by state, though it is generally .08 in most states, meaning drivers with a BAC of .08 or higher can be arrested for drunk driving.

Almost 30 deaths a day in the United States, or one person’s death every 50 minutes, can be attributed to drunk driving. Though increased penalties and data sharing across states have resulted in a declining death rate – a third fewer deaths over the last 30 years – drunk driving is still responsible for more than 10,000 deaths a year.

Getting Help

Help is available, and recovery from an alcohol use disorder is possible. It starts with a call to one of our professional admissions representatives. At Crystal Lake, counseling, treatment, and an array of therapy modalities are available to you to help you stop drinking and reclaim your life. Our clinical team is always ready to make sure you get the help you are seeking.

Finding Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

There are treatment options available for alcoholism. You can ask your primary care physician or therapist to recommend treatment options. Alternatively, your insurance provider will be able to provide treatment options and explain coverage.

The Affordable Care Act requires that health insurance companies in the Marketplace offer addiction and mental health coverage. The coverage levels vary, and there may be restrictions on which inpatient facilities one can select for treatment.

If a person is uninsured, there may be state-funded resources for treatment that can be accessed by visiting SAMHSA’s website.

Alcohol Detox

Treatment is a continuum of services. The first step is usually detoxification. Alcohol detoxification is the process of removing all remnants of alcohol from your system. Depending on the severity of your disease, this may require extensive monitoring, counseling, and assistance. If needed, you will be prescribed medications during detox to ease the more uncomfortable symptoms. Once the alcohol has been removed from your body, you can be medically cleared for treatment.


Alcoholism treatment involves a variety of components. These include psychotherapy to address underlying emotional issues, suggested lifestyle changes, cognitive behavioral therapy to address the thinking and emotions behind your drinking, family counseling, and more. Comprehensive treatment of alcoholism should address various factors and be holistic in its approach, helping you address the underlying causes for your drinking.


Studies have shown that seeking treatment will improve your chances of maintaining sobriety. There is no question that alcoholism is a difficult disease to defeat, but seeking professional treatment can dramatically increase the odds of recovery and living a good, happy, and healthy life.

At Crystal Lake Healing, we understand that alcoholism is an illness, and we are well-equipped to provide world-class treatment. Our skilled admissions counselors can verify your insurance coverage and assist you every step of the way as you take your first steps to live a sober life. The treatment programs we offer incorporate the latest evidence-based research to treat alcohol use disorders. You deserve this treatment – seek the help you need today.