Liquor Addiction And Treatment Options

An addiction to liquor can cause relationship problems, accidents, and long-term health issues. Drinking liquor excessively is dangerous, and may require medicinal and behavioral treatments to manage abuse, physical dependence, and withdrawal.

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Liquor Addiction Is An Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

One standard drink of liquor in the United States is 1.5 ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) booze, usually served as a shot or spirit. The amount of alcohol is equivalent to a 5-ounce glass of wine and a 12-ounce can of beer.

A 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) discovered over 85 percent of Americans over the age of 18 admitted to having a drink at least once.

People drink liquor at celebrations, social gatherings, or at home to relax. A simple spirit after a long day’s work is acceptable, legal, and commonplace for many American adults. While drinking can be harmless, liquor addiction may occur when a person drinks too often.

The NSDUH study also found over 15 million adults suffered from an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2015. An AUD can take the form of a liquor addiction, and means the person has a chronic brain disease that makes it hard to keep drinking liquor under control. Once a person reaches this level of addiction, they will abuse liquor frequently and cause distress for themselves and others.

Drinking too much liquor can cause physical dependence, severe withdrawal, and short-term and long-term health consequences. If you suspect you or someone you know is suffering from liquor addiction, look out for some signs and symptoms of abuse.

Signs And Symptoms Of Liquor Addiction

A person with a liquor addiction will likely relate to the following signs of abuse:

  • Taking more shots than intended
  • Try to stop drinking liquor, but can’t
  • Long periods of time spent drinking liquor, or having a hangover
  • The strong need to drink liquor
  • Drinking liquor disrupts life with family, friends, or coworkers
  • Continuing to drink despite causing problems in relationships
  • Replacing enjoyable activities with drinking liquor
  • Falling into dangerous patterns of behavior or situations while drunk on liquor
  • The need to drink more liquor to feel the effects
  • Experience physical withdrawal after the effects of liquor wear off

A person is likely suffering from liquor addiction when aspects of their life begin to deteriorate. Personal relationships may crumble, friends may be put off by erratic behavior, and general feelings of despair and misery are all red flags of a drinking problem.

The person will likely be depressed and get stressed out easily; they may struggle to make good choices, especially relating to liquor. The more they drink, the more these problems persist.

When a person drinks liquor frequently, they will experience symptoms such as slurred speech, impaired coordination, memory problems, and reduced inhibitions. Heavy drinking, or binge drinking, is very dangerous and can pose short-term and long-term health risks.

The Dangers Of Liquor Addiction – Accidents, Health Risks, And Death

Binge drinking is defined as regular and consistent drinking that causes high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels, which is usually 5 drinks for men and 4 drinks for women over a 2-hour period. The 2015 NSDUH study reported over 25% of adults binge drank within the previous month.

Binge drinking liquor is extremely dangerous because it increases the chances of accidents that can disrupt a person’s health and potentially cause injury or death. Accidents and risks include:

  • Car crashes, slips and falls, drowning, and burns
  • Suicide, homicide, and sexual assault
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Sexually transmitted diseases caused by unprotected sex and other risky sexual behaviors

The risk of accident increases when people drink liquor in access. In 2014, nearly a third of all traffic fatalities were related to alcohol. It is estimated that 88,000 people die from causes related to alcohol and excessive drinking. This staggering statistic makes alcohol number three on the list of preventable deaths in the United States.

Continuing to succumb to a liquor addiction over a number of years can lead to chronic diseases and other health problems. Long-term alcohol abuse can cause heart and liver disease, cancer, learning and memory problems, mental health disorders, and physical dependence that may cause painful and life-threatening withdrawal.

Withdrawal From Liquor Addiction

Once a person suffering from liquor addiction stops drinking alcohol of any kind, they will likely experience symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal occurs when a person’s body adapts to need liquor or alcohol and becomes physically dependent; the body will need alcohol in order to avoid painful symptoms.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal typically set in between 24-72 hours after the last drink, and can potentially last for weeks.

Common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Shakiness
  • Nightmares
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

The more frequent the heavy drinking, the higher the potential for other symptoms such as headache, rapid heart rate, nausea, vomiting, clammy skin, rapid heart rate, and tremors. A severe form of alcohol withdrawal, delirium tremens, may cause seizures, fever, and hallucinations. Severe withdrawal may necessitate the need for medical assistance.

Alcohol Detoxification

If a person is drinking on a regular basis, a supervised medical detox is almost always necessary. Alcohol withdrawals can be deadly when not monitored and should never be attempted alone.

Detox is how the body naturally gets rid of harmful toxins. A medically supervised detox allows medical professionals to closely monitor symptoms and potentially administer drugs to ease the discomfort of withdrawal.

It is important to note that a detox is just the first step in the recovery process. More treatment options should be incorporated to effectively manage an addiction to alcohol.

Medications For Liquor Addiction

Successful treatment for liquor addiction includes the use of medications and a variety of behavioral therapies. It is most effective when these two treatment options are combined, as addiction is a complex disease that requires a multifaceted approach.

There are currently three medications that are used to treat liquor addiction or another AUDs:

  • Naltrexone
  • Disulfiram
  • Acamprostate

Naltrexone helps reduce the craving for alcohol by blocking the receptors in the brain that make drinking liquor feel good. Disulfiram produces nausea and other uncomfortable symptoms when a person drinks alcohol. Acamprosate assists a person to refrain from drinking after they have totally stopped.

These medications can provide some relief and success on their own, but should ideally be administered along with different behavioral treatment options.

Alcohol Addiction Behavioral Treatment Options

Behavioral treatments allow individuals suffering from a liquor addiction to work one-on-one with professionals, or in groups. The ultimate goal of behavioral therapy is to change behaviors and attitudes towards heavy alcohol use. One of the most effective forms of behavioral treatment is Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

CBT can help the person identify what drove them to heavy drinking, and how to manage those feelings in the future. The therapy teaches the appropriate skills and tools needed to overcome stressful situations that lead to craving a drink. CBT can happen in small groups where peers suffering through similar issues can share stories and grow together.

Inpatient drug and alcohol rehab centers are a great setting to incorporate various treatment options. These facilities are highly structured and provide a stable environment that promotes healing and recovery. Liquor addiction can be a lifelong battle, and visiting an inpatient rehab center may be a crucial step towards a balanced and productive life.



National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – Alcohol Facts and Statistics
CDC – Alcohol Fact Sheet
National Institute of Health – Drinking to Excess

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