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Alcohol Addiction in New Hampshire


According to the latest Behavioral Health Barometer for New Hampshire, produced by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), alcohol addiction in New Hampshire continues to be a problem, with 7.6% of individuals over 12 being alcohol abusers or dependent on alcohol. The number of enrollments for treatment for alcohol addiction in New Hampshire is increasing annually. The addiction affects adolescents as well as adults, with just over a quarter of 12-20 year olds reporting binge drinking in the month before the survey, and this was considerably higher than the national average of 14.7%

Alcohol has been part of western culture for thousands of years, and drinking carries much cultural meaning. We associate champagne with celebration, fine wine with a special meal, and beer with spending an afternoon watching sport. Alcohol can be a status symbol: drinking a well-aged imported wine is associated with high status, while cheap local wine is a lower status drink. With alcohol forming such a large part of our culture despite it being an addictive substance, it is little wonder that some people develop an addiction.

How Alcohol Affects the Body

Drinking affects many organs in the body including the brain, heart, and liver, and can have serious health consequences. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) lists numerous effects of drinking too much. They include interfering with the brain’s communication pathways, which can result in mood and behavior changes and difficulty thinking clearly. There is some evidence that small amounts of alcohol may have a protective effect on the heart, but drinking too much can have disastrous effects such as irregular heart beat and stretching or drooping of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy). Risks also include high blood pressure and stroke.

The effects of heavy or long-term drinking on the liver include fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis and cirrhosis. Alcohol abuse can also cause a dangerous inflammation of the pancreas called pancreatitis. Alcohol addiction and abuse are known to increase the risk of developing some cancers including cancer of the esophagus, mouth, throat, liver, and breast. Alcohol also weakens the immune system, leaving you more susceptible to diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and other infections.

Amounts of Alcohol in Common Drinks

The volume of a beverage in a glass is no real indication of how much alcohol you are drinking. NIAAA defines a standard drink as approximately 14 grams of pure alcohol. This is equivalent to 12 ounces of regular (5%) beer, five ounces of wine (12%), or 1.5 ounces of spirits (40%). Regular serving sizes may be more than one standard drink, and alcohol concentrations can also vary from one brand to another.

How Alcohol Addiction Develops

The definition of addiction proposed by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) is that it is a primary chronic disease. It affects the areas of the brain concerned with reward, memory, and motivation. People who are addicted cannot consistently abstain or control their behavior in relation to alcohol, have impaired emotional responses, and deny that alcohol is causing problems.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Alcohol Alert Number 77 explains that the brain must maintain a balance of chemicals called neurotransmitters, and that alcohol intoxication alters this balance, leading to the well-known symptoms of drunkenness. If the brain is continually exposed to alcohol it begins to adapt and compensate for its presence. In other words, long-term exposure to alcohol changes the brain chemistry, and these changes are thought to be the causes of alcohol addiction and dependency.

Signs of addiction include increasing tolerance to alcohol (needing to drink more to produce the same effects). Withdrawal symptoms include intense cravings for alcohol and its effects, and feelings of anxiety, which may lead to a return to drinking.

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

The first treatment for alcohol addiction is detoxification (detox), which means stopping drinking and allowing the body to recover. It is possible to detox at home by simply stopping drinking, but this can be dangerous and is unlikely to succeed. It is dangerous because alcohol withdrawal symptoms for serious addiction can include seizures, heart irregularities, and delirium tremens, which is life-threatening. Trying to detox without help is unlikely to succeed because the withdrawal symptoms are so distressing and uncomfortable that a return to drinking will seem like a better option.

The best places to detox are in a dedicated detox center or treatment facility where you can be monitored around the clock and medical help is immediately available if a life-threatening emergency occurs. During the detox process medications are prescribed to reduce the intense cravings and to treat the other withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, profuse sweating, headaches, and sleep disturbances.

After the body is rid of alcohol, treatment usually continues as an inpatient in rehab where an assessment is made of any mental health issues present along with the addiction. Depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and many other mental health issues are often associated with alcohol addiction. If a mental illness or disorder is present a dual diagnosis is made and treatment for the mental health problem begins. Medications may be prescribed for continuing cravings and the mental health issues, and psychotherapy and other forms of treatment are begun.

One of the medications often used in treating alcohol addiction in New Hampshire rehabs is Antabuse (disulfiram). This drug reduces the cravings for alcohol but also produces unpleasant side effects if alcohol is consumed even as long as two weeks after the last dose. These effects include facial flushing, low blood pressure, rapid pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.

Therapies and treatments for alcohol addiction include cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps patients to break down their problems into manageable parts. This makes it easier to find connections and causes, and alternative solutions to drinking. Group, individual, and family therapy are also used in many New Hampshire treatment centers.

Alternative therapies are often included in the treatment. They include art and music therapy, meditation, restorative yoga, and acupuncture, among others. These therapies can be highly effective in improving self-esteem, reducing stress and anxiety, and giving the recovering addict more confidence and optimism.

Treatment is available for alcohol addiction in New Hampshire, and it is effective as long as the addict is motivated to overcome the illness. It is better to seek help sooner rather than later, because addiction is progressive and if left untreated gets worse over time. Therefore, contact and addiction specialist today and learn the many benefits of a sober lifestyle.