Just under 20 percent of American alcoholics fall into this category. They are usually in their 30s to 50s, financially stable, and employed. Most are well-educated. About a third have a family history of alcoholism, and some have a history of depression. Because they are able to maintain an appearance of success, many do not seek help unless the consequences of their drinking force them to confront their condition.
Upon exiting treatment, a patient may be prescribed a drug like disulfiram, which prevents the body from chemically processing alcohol, causing an unpleasant reaction if the patient relapses or attempts to relapse. Because of disulfiram’s toxicity, it has to be taken under the supervision of a doctor, as unregulated usage can cause strong, even fatal reactions.
Some people are able to stop drinking on their own or with the help of a 12-step program or other support group, while others need medical supervision in order to withdraw from alcohol safely and comfortably. Which option is best for you depends on how much you’ve been drinking, how long you’ve had a problem, the stability of your living situation, and other health issues you may have.
Over time, the patient often comes to believe that the drug betters them as a person and feels incapable of contemplating life without it. In short order, however, use of the drug will begin to cause problems for the user and to remove the good things in their life. All of the perceived “good” effects of using the drug will wear away, but the person will still continue to use, often becoming obsessed with the drug and doing anything they have to do to obtain the substance of choice.
Research has identified differences in how the reward center of the brain responds to alcohol in heavy and light drinkers. In either group, alcohol caused the release of naturally occurring feel-good endorphins in the two brain regions linked to reward processing. Once addicted, alcohol withdrawal presents dangerous physical and psychological issues.9
An individual who suffers from both mental illness and alcoholism will need to undergo different treatment. Because alcohol withdrawal symptoms cause a person to experience some psychiatric stress, an alcoholic with mental health issues will find it much more difficult to resist turning to drink. The NIAAA believes the some self-help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, are not effective when it comes to treating people with a dual-diagnosis of both alcoholism and mental illness. This is because these groups tend to specifically focus on the actual addiction itself, rather than any underlying psychological problems. Anti-depressants are improving all the time and it is believed that while a self-help group may not be useful for a dual-diagnosis individual by itself, if the individual is on the appropriate medication and receiving the appropriate psychological therapy it can prove to be just as effective as with other alcoholic individuals.
One of the brain areas still maturing during adolescence is the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that allows people to assess situations, make sound decisions, and keep emotions and desires under control. The fact that this critical part of a teen's brain is still a work in progress puts them at increased risk for making poor decisions, such as trying drugs or continuing to take them. Introducing drugs during this period of development may cause brain changes that have profound and long-lasting consequences. Transformations Drug & Alcohol Treatment Centers