Alcohol addiction and alcoholism affect people from all walks of life. There are countless causes to why people become addicted to alcohol. Alcohol addiction can show itself in various ways, and the severity of alcohol addiction depends on how often someone drinks, and the alcohol they consume varies from person to person. Someone will have an alcohol addiction if they rely on drinking and cannot stay sober for an extended time. However, someone could struggle with alcohol abuse caused by binge drinking and heavy episodic drinking. Unfortunately, most people struggling with alcohol addiction are not willing to accept help.
An alcohol intervention is the best option to help someone struggling with alcohol addiction. Professional interventionists are the best equipped to help a family and hiring a certified family interventionist to ensure the intervention is successful. However, even with successful intervention, attending and completing treatment, there is still the reality of a possible relapse. Families should be prepared for this because it does happen. But it is not the severity of relapse, but rather how quickly the person recovers and gets back on their feet.
The Signs of and Symptoms of Alcohol Relapse
Relapse is common in the recovery process from alcohol addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, when relapse occurs, many deem treatment a failure. Successful addiction treatment requires continual work and modification of routines and structure after treatment. However, according to NIDA, approximately 40 to 60% of patients relapse.
There are some early warning signs that family members can look for. Initially, there is a change in attitude regarding how dedicated the person is to their recovery and maintaining their routines. This is essentially important during the early months after treatment. Family and friends should also pick up on problems with elevated stress. An increase in stress occurs due to major changes in circumstances or just little things building up.
Continued denial and not accepting help lead to relapse. For example, it is the denial that the stress is getting to you or not willing to accept support from a peer support group. All of this leads to behavior changes and changes to a daily routine that you developed in early sobriety. Family and friends may notice their loved one begins to avoid them and becomes defensive.
Finally, the loss of structure and routine leads to a social breakdown, cause a lapse in judgment, loss of control, and relapse. The initial stage of relapse is controlled and short-term alcohol use. For example, having one beer, or one mixed drink, or one glass of wine. However, the mind and body know exactly how to react and recognize the feelings created by alcohol. Without early intervention, the relapse progresses to daily drinking.
NIDA. “How effective is drug addiction treatment?.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 3 Jun. 2020
https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/how-effective-drug-addiction-treatment Accessed 9 Nov. 2020.
The Prevalence of Alcohol Abuse in America
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, per the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 85.6% of people aged 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime. Moreover, 69.5% reported that they drank in the past year, and 54.9% reported that they drank in the past month. Approximately 25.8% of people aged 18 or older reported they engaged in binge drinking, and 6.3% reported heavy alcohol use.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported 14.1 million adults aged 18 and older had an alcohol use disorder. An estimated 95,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Three-quarters of the total cost of alcohol misuse within the healthcare system is related to binge drinking. These problems are prevalent across the nation, but with professional intervention, alcohol rehabilitation, and aftercare support, recovery is possible.
Despite the risk of relapse, long-term success, and remaining alcohol-free for the remainder of life is possible. Millions of Americans accomplish this every year and live happy, productive, and successful lives. The key to success is maintaining structure and routine and staying connected to other sober people, especially during the first year out of treatment. Rehabilitation brings problems to light and provides solutions to solve them. However, life presents new problems, but these problems are overcome with proper coping skills and new abilities.
The Importance of Alcohol Intervention
Family intervention is the first step and is a crucial step because the family is immediately provided all the resources, they need to regain control and help the person addicted to alcohol. Information is power, and knowledge gives stability, and this will also help the family support their loved one when they finish treatment. Alcohol intervention builds a significant base for a family to stand on and provide the necessary support, which helps prevent relapse.
Overall, relapse following treatment for alcohol addiction is common but predictable and preventable. Knowing the warning signs and steps that lead up to a relapse help with making healthy choices and taking alternative actions. However, if relapse does happen, it is not the end of everything, and treatment was not a failure. The family should not attack the person because they relapsed but go back to that base of knowledge to support their loved one through the relapse and get them back on track.