What Percentage of Alcoholics Recover?

Have you ever stopped to think about the reasons why people drink alcohol? Social reasons and enjoying the taste are a given, but there’s more to it than that. Alcohol is a substance that is so widely used, accepted, and accessible. 

The reasons why people drink are in relation to various psychological, biological, and environmental factors. While the act of drinking alcohol may be enjoyable for many, it also poses health risks, physically, mentally, and socially. 

Many people use alcohol to cope, but do not realize that it exacerbates the problems in their lives. If not careful excessive drinking patterns can quickly turn into dependency and addiction, which, unfortunately, is an extremely common occurrence. 

What is An Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)? 

Also known as problem drinking, an alcohol use disorder is a chronic brain disease characterized by excessive drinking or binge drinking. This means a person consumes large amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time. For men, it is 5 drinks or more, and for women, it is four or more. 

Today, the current 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders  (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in May 2013, classifies alcohol dependence and misuse as the official prognosis of an alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

While alcoholism is a well-known term used to describe the disease of being addicted to alcohol, this is not considered as an official medical diagnosis. This is why it has been difficult for studies and researchers to determine the specific number of alcoholics that there are within the United States. 

To be officially diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder, individuals must meet specific criteria that are specifically outlined in the DSM-5. Any person who meets two out of the 11 qualifications within the same year, will receive an AUD diagnosis. 

Ranging from mild, moderate, and severe, the severity degree of one’s condition is determined by the number of criteria met, exhibited like so:

  • Mild: Two to three symptoms are present 
  • Moderate: Four to five symptoms are present 
  • Severe: Six or more symptoms are present

Based on the DSM-5’s assessment of alcohol misuse and dependence, the 11 symptoms of alcohol use disorder include the following: 

  1. Alcohol was consumed in large amounts over a long period of time, but not intentionally.
  2. There is a desire to cut down on drinking or to control one’s alcohol use despite unsuccessful attempts. 
  3. A majority of a person’s time is spent drinking alcohol, finding ways to get alcohol or recover from its effects such as a hangover. 
  4. Having cravings, urges, and a strong desire to use alcohol. 
  5. The chronic use of alcohol is affecting a person’s ability to function, and complete tasks at home, work, or school. 
  6. Despite the emergence of physical, mental, and social complications that have been caused and made worse by continuing to drink alcohol.
  7. Giving up on social, recreational, and occupational activities that you once loved doing due to alcohol use. 
  8. Drinking alcohol persists despite being in situations that are particularly hazardous to one’s health. 
  9. Continuing to drink despite being aware of the psychological and physical problems that it is causing. 
  10. Developing a tolerance to alcohol defined as becoming used to feeling the effects that alcohol produces by increasing the amount consumed to achieve the desired effect of euphoria and intoxication with each use. 
  11. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are present. Drinking alcohol or taking another related substance, such as benzodiazepines used to treat anxiety, is taken as an attempt to try and avoid or relieve these unpleasant manifestations. 

Prevalence of Alcohol Use Disorder 

Studies done on the prevalence of alcohol abuse have shown, that in 2018, more than 65 million Americans reported that they began to drink excessively within the last month or so, which equates to more than 40 percent of current alcohol users! 

Worldwide, AUD is an extremely prevalent mental health disorder, which is one of the leading causes of injuries, sickness, and deaths. However, in recent years, the rate of alcohol use disorders and binge drinking has increased tenfold within the United States. 

Those with alcohol use disorder exhibit compulsive behavior, lose control of their ability to consume alcohol in a normal manner, and experience anger and emotional instability when not using the substance.  

Alcohol Use Disorder is only under control when treated professionally by addiction specialists and medical professionals at a rehab facility. Although, unfortunately, only 20 percent of adults who misuse alcohol seek proper treatment or ask for help. 

Face the Facts: Alcoholism Statistics

An estimated 88,000 people (62,000 men and 26,000 women) end up dying every year from alcohol-related incidences, which could have been prevented. Aside from tobacco, poor diet, and lack of exercise, alcohol is third on the list for causing the most preventable deaths in the United States.     

More than 17 million adults in the United States suffer from alcohol dependency or an alcohol use disorder (AUD), which proves even more so, that alcohol is the most abused substance in the nation. In 2018, 14.4 million adults (5.8 percent) aged 18 and older, had an AUD. This equates to 9.2 million men and 5.3 million women. 

Is Alcohol Use More Prevalent Than Drug Use?

Yes, addiction to alcohol is more prevalent than drug use, as surveys have shown that about 20-50 percent of all admissions into a treatment facility is due to alcohol use disorders. These statistics prove that excessive alcohol consumption is dangerous and very much present. 

In addition to adults, adolescents can also be diagnosed with alcohol use disorder. Also in 2018, 400,000 

individuals aged 12-17 had an AUD. However, less than 10 percent of these adolescents received the treatment that they needed to recover. The proof is in the pudding, demonstrating that there is a gap where people need and want help, but for various reasons, they don’t receive it. 

However, when an alcoholic does receive the treatment they need, these individuals have a higher success rate of maintaining sobriety at least one year after treatment. This is compared to those who try and recover on their own, which is not recommended. 

Do Individuals Who Go To Treatment For Alcohol Stay in Recovery?

Yes, it was reported, that 40 percent of people who go to treatment versus 23 percent of people who attempted to self-detox have a higher probability of relapsing in the first 12 months. Therefore, that is why getting help can dramatically increase one’s chances of optimal recovery, and reduce the risk of relapse.

Alcohol is one of the most widely used and misused recreational drugs in the world. Over the last 10 years, binge drinking has become a primary concern amongst public health officials and policymakers. 

What Makes Alcohol Addictive? 

When someone drinks alcohol, the region of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, which makes up the reward center becomes overloaded, causing a person to experience the urge to keep repeating the rewarding behavior of drinking alcohol. As consumption continues over time, what began as just a drink has transformed into alcohol dependency, and then, quickly turns into an addiction. 

Research has proven that when someone drinks alcohol it completely changes the chemistry of the brain and how it functions. This plays a huge role in why people engage in addictive behaviors such as drinking alcohol. 

Drinking stimulates the brain’s central nervous system (CNS), causing the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and other endorphins within the reward center of the brain. Dopamine and endorphins cause a person to experience feelings of happiness, pleasure,  and satisfaction. It feels like a natural painkiller that numbs the pain, but only temporarily. 

When someone develops an alcohol use disorder, although they may have had every intention of wanting to stop drinking, the powers of alcohol have already compromised one’s impulsivity, and ability to make rational thoughts and decisions. Thus, as a result, despite the physical, mental, and social consequences, a person continues to drink. 

It is important to note, that some people’s brains are more susceptible to dependency and addiction due to their brain releasing more neurotransmitters than normal. In addition, other aspects such as biological, environmental, and psychological can be risk factors for drinking as well.   

Risk Factors of Alcohol 

There is no formula to properly predict or analyze a person’s drinking habits, a multitude of data and habits have shown that alcohol abuse is influenced by risk biological,  environmental, and psychological risk factors. 

Biological Factors

Genetics play a huge role in alcohol addiction. When there is a family history of substance abuse, children especially are at major risk for developing alcoholism. It has been said, that scientists have revealed that alcohol dependency may be associated with up to 51 chromosomes. These genetics can be passed down through generations in the family, making relatives prone to developing mild to severe drinking problems.  

Environmental Factors

Where you live, go to school, work, etc all have a major impact on your behavior. Environmental factors play a huge role in why someone begins drinking alcohol as to why they can’t stop. Treatment facilities aim to remove people from their negative environments causing triggers of substance misuse and help them recover. 

Psychological Factors

Psychological risk factors that contribute to alcohol are probably the most important to evaluate. As everyone has different needs, how they cope with their feelings impacts behavioral traits, such as drinking.  Different psychological factors may increase the likelihood of heavy drinking. 

Psychological means mental, and for those who have a mental condition such as anxiety, stress, and depression, they are more susceptible to developing an alcohol use disorder. 

Some individuals are dealing with a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder, which means that they have addiction accompanied by mental illness, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, etc. Unless both of these issues are managed professionally, these pre-existing or subsequent conditions make it difficult for a person to effectively recover. 

People use drinking as a means to cope and hide their feelings and relieve the symptoms of an existing mental disorder. Vice Versa, people who drink can develop a mental illness or have underlying signs that have been undiscovered. 

Drinking exacerbates whatever condition a person may be suffering from. Drinking also causes serious health conditions such as cirrhosis (liver disease). When a person is suffering from both, with an alcohol use disorder, it can be difficult to treat.

Social Factors

Social factors are a major contributor to how a person is influenced by alcohol. For example, culture, family, religion, etc. Addictive behaviors, in this case, drinking, is influenced by all of these components. However, the biggest risk factor in dangerous drinking patterns is family history. The likelihood of developing alcoholism for children who are exposed at a young age to alcohol use is extremely high. 

Why Is Recovering From Alcohol Addiction So Challenging?

Alcohol relapse is so common because of how accessible drinking is in society and how anything can trigger someone to crave or have the urge to use again. 

When a person drinks excessively, the brain’s chemistry becomes forever altered. The organ which also controls how the body functions, is no longer working properly itself. Therefore, it re-prioritizes what is most important. The things that were once meaningful such as relationships, hobbies, are overridden. Sadly, the brain reigns alcohol supreme, despite the consequences of physical and mental health, and survival itself.

Truth is, alcohol is a substance that is so widely used and accessible. When it turns into addiction, this disease is so powerful, that any type of environment or trigger, big or small can cause someone to relapse. 

For non-addicts, it may be confusing and incomprehensible as to why people with substance use disorders would recklessly risk their lives by using drugs and alcohol. Well, the brain is the main culprit. 

While relapse is common during the first year of recovery, people who have been sober for years can ruin it by returning to what they once knew made them feel good, resuming the self-destructive addictive behavior of drinking and taking drugs.  

Why Is Alcoholism Relapse So Common?

Feeling lonely is a big reason why people drink, and they often don’t have friends or family that they can talk to about how they are feeling. Before you know it, their cravings are triggered, other issues take over, and relapse occurs. Remember, addiction is a disease that cannot be cured, only treated. 

For example, one of the most prominent stories of addiction was one of the talented Academy Award-winning actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman. No matter the success, talent, and fame, it was no secret that Hoffman was struggling with addiction, especially with heroin. 

After getting sober for 23 years, Hoffman, unfortunately, relapsed in 2014 and lost his battle with the disease. He engaged in polysubstance abuse and was found dead in his apartment after overdosing on a combination of heroin, cocaine, amphetamine, and benzodiazepines.   

This proves the important fact, that relapse can commonly occur in a time when people are struggling emotionally and mentally. Many people use alcohol as a coping mechanism when isolation hits. 

Therefore, it is about finding ways to deal with these obstacles when they arise, and the only way to do so is through professional addiction treatment. 

Beating the Alcoholism Relapse Statistics

Statistical data has proven that the number of recovering alcoholics has greater success when they are committed to a comprehensive treatment plan, consisting of an inpatient or outpatient rehab program, as well as, a post-treatment plan such as relapse prevention therapy, aftercare or recovery housing.    

The success of these treatment programs is higher when they have been designed to fit the needs of the patient. To beat the increasing rate of alcoholism relapse, people need to understand how the cycle of addiction occurs first and foremost. 

The importance of staying committed to a network of support cannot be emphasized enough. Strategies for recovery will help reduce the risk of relapse. Especially, when provided with the necessary tools, education, and additional resources to make healthy lifestyle changes. Learning coping tools will also assist in helping individuals with their intense emotions and work through different situations and obstacles. Eventually, they will be able to handle triggers as they arise during and after recovery. 

Why Relapse Prevention is Beneficial 

A relapse prevention plan helps millions of people with alcohol use disorder and mental illness avoid the high risk of having a setback and returning to a life of unhealthy drinking habits. With treatment, the chances of relapse become more insurmountable. 

Several factors contribute to the significant lifestyle changes an individual learns to make in rehab. The long-term success and benefits of relapse prevention techniques are groundbreaking. These include: 

  • Provides a strong support system: Counselors, therapists, friends, and family provide the support that provides comfort and strength. 
  • Medication management: anti-craving medications help people fight their urges and cravings, stopping them from drinking alcohol. 
  • Personal motivation: One’s commitment to their recovery process is one of the most important factors for a successful outcome. Personal motivation techniques and strategies give individual’s the tools they need to have an alternative opposed to reaching for a drink. Addiction and relapse prevention specialists help get you accustomed to your newly found sober lifestyle. 
  • Teaches strategies and prevention techniques: Helps people avoid triggers and cope with negative thoughts, emotions, and make better decisions. 

Achieving Successful Long-Term Sobriety At Sana Lake BWC

This transition into sobriety takes time and can be extremely challenging! At Sana Lake Behavioral Wellness Center in Missouri, our team of experts in relapse prevention, addiction, and mental illness teach our patients to manage the chronic disease of alcohol use disorder. 

Our integrated treatment programs for people with alcohol use disorders gives them access to recovery tools and resources that aren’t available to those who don’t reach out to receive help. Individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy, along with other methods help people avoid relapsing to their unhealthy and addictive behaviors because we teach them the following:  

  • To improve their self-esteem, and how to have a stronger sense of worth and purpose
  • To understand the destructive and deadly nature of alcoholism and addiction itself
  • To understand how an alcohol use disorder impacts one’s health, physically and emotionally
  • Coping and life skills for reducing the chance of relapse
  • Repair relationships with friends and family
  • Gain an awareness of how recovery will enhance your life in every aspect (mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally)

If you or someone you know is suffering from an alcohol use disorder, there is help out there and you are not alone. Contact us today to overcome the cycle of addiction and get your life back on track!

References

https://www.helpguide.org/harvard/almost-alcoholic.htm

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201506/what-are-the-eleven-symptoms-alcohol-use-disorder