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What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is used to describe a chemical addiction to alcohol. Alcoholism is not a behavioral choice, and it is far more than the product of a “party” lifestyle.

While problematic behaviors, such a binge drinking, may be undertaken by alcoholics, alcoholism is characterized by an inability to stop drinking alcohol — not simply because of an unhealthy relationship with the substance.

Addiction to alcohol impacts the body and mind, creating the belief the alcoholic cannot live a normal life without alcohol in their system. This substance disorder is also commonly associated with denial, as many individuals struggle to understand they are no longer in control of their addictive behaviors.

Furthermore, it is common for those struggling with alcohol addiction to hide their drinking. They may start drinking in secret or hiding alcohol to disguise the amount of alcohol being consumed.

Alcoholism impacts physical health and cognitive function, leading to worsening of mental health issues and driving the individual to consume more alcohol to feel stable. As a disease, alcoholism is also characterized by withdrawal, which is a physically and emotionally painful process resulting from a lack of alcohol in the system.

Minor withdrawal symptoms can include tremors, vomiting, headache, and irritability. However, as withdrawal progresses, many alcoholics experience extreme physical discomfort, paranoia, anger, and delirium. Hallucinations and seizures are also possible.

These experiences contribute to the struggle alcoholics face when trying to break their addiction. In many cases, these individuals struggling with alcohol abuse and addiction will need professional alcohol rehab to recover.

Why is Alcohol the Deadliest Drug?

Alcohol can be found at work functions, restaurants, fundraisers, and even religious gatherings.

And with 55% of Americans reporting to have consumed alcohol in the past month, it is a widely accepted substance that many find harmless.

But this is not the case.

While many people can drink alcohol without becoming addicted, research suggests that 40-65% of alcoholism cases are genetic, meaning some individuals may become addicted to moderate exposure to alcohol.

The dangerous effects of alcohol on the body and mind, including the risk of stroke, cirrhosis, heart problems, and numerous cancers, are scientifically confirmed.

While these long-term consequences of addiction are part of why alcohol is a deadly drug, there are other reasons that this substance claims so many lives.

For example, there is a statistical link between alcohol addiction and suicide, with 40% of those seeking treatment for alcoholism reporting at least one suicide attempt.

Additionally, over 28% of traffic deaths in the United States involve an alcohol-impaired driver.

As a result, alcohol abuse has dangerous consequences for the individual struggling with the disease, their loved ones, and other factors in their personal and professional lives.

Immediate treatment is often necessary for the health and well-being of the alcoholic and those they love.

Effects and Abuse of Alcohol

When we compare alcohol deaths with deaths from other drugs, we see a startling trend. According to the Centers for Disease Control, alcohol kills roughly 88,000 people every year, which is higher than the overdose deaths of other substances.

Alcohol abuse results in dramatic health consequences for users, and 3.5% of all cancer deaths are attributed to alcoholism.

Other serious effects of alcohol abuse include:

  • Brain damage
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Fibrosis
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Liver failure
  • Pancreas issues
  • Decreased immune response (resulting in pneumonia and other serious illnesses)
  • Heart failure
  • Insomnia
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Abdominal aneurism
  • And more

Additionally, excessive alcohol use is estimated to have cost the U.S. economy $249 billion in 2010, roughly 26% of which resulted from medical expenses, criminal justice expenses, and car accidents.

Mental Illness and Alcohol

The relationship between alcoholism and mental illness is apparent.

Pre-existing mental health issues, such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, insomnia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, can increase the likelihood of developing alcohol addiction.

Furthermore, substance use significantly affects the brain’s chemistry, resulting in the worsening of mental health issues over time.

This creates a cycle where users drink more to escape the worsening effects of mental health illnesses and cope with nightmares or frightening behaviors, such as self-harm.

However, in the long-term, alcohol only worsens these behaviors, driving the alcoholic further into addiction.

Therefore, it is clear that alcohol is most damaging to those with underlying mental health conditions.

As the behavior of those struggling with addiction becomes more erratic, adverse consequences may occur, such as job loss, legal issues, conflict-oriented behavior, and high-risk activities.

Shame and negative emotions impair relationships and increase the guilt an addict feels over their illness and actions they feel they cannot control.

However, dual diagnosis treatment can help.

This treatment approach recognizes the interrelationship of addiction and mental health issues, offering help for the addiction and the mental health illness simultaneously.

With dual diagnosis alcohol rehab, those struggling with addiction are more likely to achieve the freedom from addiction they need and deserve a healthier future.


The first step in your recovery journey is typically medically-assisted detoxification, which alleviates withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol withdrawal can be especially dangerous if undertaken alone. In serious cases, strokes, seizures, and attempted suicides have occurred.

For this reason, supervised detox is required to help safely purge your body of alcohol and begin the healing process.

Medications may also be used to help cope with lingering discomfort or depression as your body recovers from alcoholism.

Once your detoxification is complete, your body will be free from alcohol and ready to begin physical and psychological healing.

Supported by our team, you will develop healthy coping skills while building a support system that shares the commitment to sobriety.

And through participation in individual and group counseling, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and other treatments, you will be empowered to develop a sober lifestyle and meaningful coping skills.

You will also experience other forms of treatment, such as 12-Step programs, spiritual care, nutrition therapy, art therapy, yoga, peer support, and other methods. These treatment methods are designed to build resilience, improve self-awareness, and develop strategies to manage triggers as you continue toward long-term sobriety.

Payment Information

Do you want alcohol rehab treatment but are worried about being able to pay for it?

We have a team of financial professionals who provide free insurance verification.

We work with you to determine how to move forward with treatment that works for your financial situation.

How to Get Help

At BriteLife Recovery, located in beautiful Hilton Head, SC, you will be welcomed by our team of professionals dedicated to helping you recover and heal from your addiction.

BriteLife Recovery is a place of peace, a place of support, and a place of recovery.

Call BriteLife Recovery to schedule your consultation.

Let BriteLife Recovery light your way to recovery.

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