For someone who abuses alcohol, physical and psychological changes are expected. Relapsing actions, habitual behaviours and withdrawal symptoms are also anticipated through consistent/long-term abuse.

Reflecting the disease theory, alcohol addiction, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a compulsive brain disease. It is a disease that causes such internal changes that treatment and management are required to promote remission.

Some health concerns can be treated and cured. Yet to this date, an alcoholism cure is yet to be found, due to its unpredictable and impactful makeup.

Recovering from alcohol addiction is possible by managing the condition and its subsequent symptoms/triggers. Yet following the disease model, it is a highly vulnerable and recurrent condition, which must be understood, treated, and considered on a day-to-day basis.

There have been conflicting views on the medical status of alcoholism. Yet with more and more evidence to back its disease diagnosis, it is starting to become an understood condition. Here’s some insight into the model as we answer, ‘is alcohol addiction a disease?’.

What Is Alcohol Addiction?

An addiction is a disorder that taps into the brain’s reward circuit, found to stimulate habit-like interactions, even whilst consequences lie. An alcohol addiction reflects just that, where alcohol is used and abused due to its positively reinforcing effects.

Being addicted to alcohol means that an internal association has been made surrounding alcohol and its role. Whether its role is to relax the mind, promote escapism, or offer confidence, there are many reasons why alcohol is addictive and a drug of choice.

Once associations are made, breaking the cycle of addiction can be very difficult. The brain, and subsequently the body, have adapted to the effects of alcohol, longing for further exposure. Compulsive outlooks, cravings, and a constant state of fight or flight are characteristics of alcoholism.

Signs of alcohol abuse and alcoholism include:

  • Tolerance to alcohol
  • Behavioural changes, found to prioritise alcohol
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Poor mental health
  • Physical changes to appearance, health, and wellbeing
  • Changes to social and personal dynamics
  • Ongoing abuse, even throughout danger, risks, or consequences
  • Withdrawal from day-to-day life, responsibilities, and enjoyment

Signs and symptoms of addiction can be engulfing, unable to control and manage without intervention, treatment, and ongoing rehabilitation efforts. The risk of relapse is high through alcoholism, due to such physical and psychological changes.

Supporting the disease model, alcoholism is recognised as a controlling disease that can impact any given person.


Rise of Alcohol Addiction

The clinical diagnosis of alcoholism dates back decades. Whilst alcohol has always been an addictive drug, and the risks of adoption have always been high, alcohol addiction rates have risen over the years.

Alcohol is legal to purchase, making it a highly accessible substance. It is also normalised and accepted across communities, developing its own drinking culture. Many people will abuse alcohol without understanding the addictive and toxic makeup of the drug. Risks of addiction are unknowingly high due to low awareness and high acceptance.

Alcoholism is also a co-existing disorder which can be diagnosed in parallel with many mental health issues. Mental health rates, as a whole, have deteriorated over time due to increased pressures, stresses, and high stigmatisation. Alcohol can be viewed as a reliever of mental and emotional pain, possible to latch onto any susceptibilities or vulnerabilities.

Here in England, UK, more than 600,000 people have been diagnosed annually with alcohol addiction. It is one of the most significant contributors to ill-health and injury, making alcohol abuse a concerning disease.


Are All Addictions Diseases?

All addictions which impact the brain, cause compulsive and impulsive responses, and produce habit-like behaviours are recognised as a disease. A disease is a health concern that is caused and triggered by psychological, environmental, behavioural, and biological influences. It is an unexplainable, non-biased formation, which can result in life-long symptoms and impacts.

The disease model of addiction highlights a number of factors that support its diagnosis as a brain disease.

  • Where consumption/exposure to an addictive stimulus cannot be stopped, due to the above influences, addiction will be present.
  • Where adverse and consequential effects are present, yet consumption/exposure continues, this supports the disease theory.
  • Where withdrawal symptoms show, this indicates the cognitive acceptance of such stimuli.

Addiction is diagnosed as a disease as it is an uncontrollable condition once it develops, it is dominant and distorts the decision-making and cognitive processes, and it also adapts the body and brain. With that, it can cause lasting vulnerabilities, increase the risk of relapse, and continue to deter health.

Here’s a closer look into the theory as we consider ‘is alcohol addiction a disease?’.


Is Alcohol Addiction A Disease?

There are many reasons which underpin alcoholism as a brain disease. The first is its cause, possibly anything from biological susceptibilities to toxic environments. Causes are unpredictable and uncontrollable, spanning from everyday lifestyle choices to genes.

Alcohol addiction is also a high-risk recurring disorder, recognised similarly to further diseases, such as diabetes. Without treatment and control, symptoms can resurface, motivating further alcohol abuse.

Diseases cannot be cured due to how they disrupt the body and brain. Addiction cannot be cured due to such physical and psychological changes. Whilst sobriety can be aimed for, and an alcohol-free life can be led, management will be key whilst controlling long-term alcoholism.

Alcohol addiction recovery is a long-term process, supporting its diagnosis as a disease. Efforts must be maintained to support alcohol withdrawal, to be aware of personal triggers, and to select healthy and sustainable lifestyle choices.


Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

AUD is the clinical diagnosis that reflects alcohol-related problems. Problems can vary from mild to chronic yet are likely to be recurring. Symptoms of AUD or alcohol addiction are displayed through behavioural, physical, and psychological changes. Those changes are caused by the interaction that alcohol has with the brain.

Alcohol problems that tap into the mind and disrupt cognitive operations must be treated. Once misuse turns into a habit-like routine, the disease characteristics of addiction will begin to ingrain. Without treatment, life-long problems with alcohol are expected, even if consumption is ever paused.

Unfortunately, alcoholism is a commonly diagnosed disease, impacting people from all walks of life. Whilst following the disease model, some people will be at greater risk due to biological or mental influences, AUD is a serious and wide-spanning condition.

Any form of change should be taken seriously, which is linked to previous or current alcohol abuse. With action, alcoholism can be treated, managed, and controlled for the long term.


Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

Treatment for alcoholism will involve medical intervention, therapy, and long-term planning. Alcohol detox will firstly be promoted to remove all traces of alcohol from the body. This can take a number of days to a number of weeks to complete, commonly influencing withdrawal symptoms. Through alcohol rehab, a medically safe setting can be found, suitable for detoxification.

Once alcohol has been removed as an internal influence, behavioural and holistic therapies must be worked through via Alcohol Rehab. Talking therapy sessions, wellbeing management, restorative sessions and support groups will be arranged. Breaking the association of alcohol exposure is essential. Learning to cope and rebalance without alcohol exposure will also be aimed for.

Long-term planning will focus on relapse prevention, lifestyle management and understanding alcoholism. Self-help will be key, along with aftercare and ongoing treatment.

To reduce the risks of relapse, alcohol exposure must be managed, alongside a sobriety motivating lifestyle/routine.

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At Asana Lodge, we can help you access the most effective treatments for alcoholism via our specialist alcohol rehab clinic. Reach out to begin our admissions process, helping you benefit from professional support and intervention.

Recovering from addiction is possible. Yet treating it as a brain disease is also essential, in order to understand and control its makeup. Contact our team for more information on ‘is alcohol addiction a disease?’, and on how we can help you heal through alcoholism.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does alcohol affect mental health?

Alcohol is a depressant that disrupts and slows down physical and psychological systems. It interacts with the brain by targeting different regions, including the frontal lobe and amygdala. The process of regulating emotions can be disturbed whilst alcohol is present, along with impacting outlooks, responses, and behaviours.

Excessive alcohol consumption is found to slowly deter mental health, known to cause diagnoses of depression, anxiety, and further mental health issues. For some people, a dual diagnosis will develop, requiring dual forms of treatment.

Alcoholism is a mentally and emotionally testing condition to live with, also found to influence negative and low feelings. Together, internal, and external effects can significantly induce poor mental health.

What is the treatment for alcohol addiction?

Treating alcohol addiction will begin with a detoxification process, to promote alcohol withdrawal. Treatments will then focus on regulating emotions, increasing awareness, and promoting healthy coping. Therapy, support groups, educational sessions and relapse prevention planning are all effective whilst treating alcoholism.

At Asana Lodge, we also include holistic therapies whilst treating alcohol addiction. Holistic therapies help to improve mental health, boost recovery and offer an all-round rehabilitation experience.

On admission into alcohol rehab, effective and safe treatment services will be combined.

Can I detox at home safely?

Detoxing from home can be a dangerous and disheartening process. Alcohol withdrawal is unpredictable, for some threatening physical and psychological wellbeing. Withdrawal symptoms are expected, which can be difficult to manage and also damaging to health.

The process can also be mentally challenging, difficult to complete. Many people tend to revert back to alcohol as a relief, resulting in a disappointing and disheartening attempt.

To avoid all risks, a medically assisted detoxification process will be recommended via alcohol rehab.

John Gillen - Author - Last Updated: 2 March 2022

John has travelled extensively around the world, culminating in 19 years’ experience looking at different models. He is the European pioneer of Nad+ (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) treatment to Europe in 2010; and recently back from the USA bringing state of the art Virtual Reality Relapse Prevention and stress reduction therapy. his passion extends to other metabolic disturbances and neurodegenerative diseases.

The journey continues, in recent times john has travelled to Russia to study and research into a new therapy photobiomudulation or systemic laser therapy working with Nad+ scientists and the very best of the medical profession in the UK and the USA, together with Nadcell, Bionad Clinics own select Doctors, nurses, dieticians and therapists, Johns’ passion continues to endeavour to bring to the UK and Europe new developments with Nad+ therapy in preventive and restorative medicine and Wellness. In 2017 John Gillen was made a visiting Professor at the John Naisbitt university in Belgrade Serbia.

Dr Alexander Lapa (Psychiatrist)

Dr Alexander Lapa (Psychiatrist) - Clinical Reviewer - Last Reviewed: 02/03/2022 12:25 pm

MBBS, PG Dip Clin Ed, OA Dip CBT, OA Dip Psychology, SCOPE Certified

Dr Lapa graduated in Medicine in 2000 and since this time has accrued much experience working in the widest range of psychiatric settings with differing illness presentations and backgrounds in inpatient, community and secure settings. This has been aligned to continuation of professional development at postgraduate level in clinical research which has been very closely related to the everyday clinical practice conducted by this practitioner as a NHS and Private Psychiatrist.
He is fully indemnified by the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) and MIAB Expert Insurance for Psychiatric and Private Medical practice. He is fully registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK with a licence to practice.

Dr Lapa is approved under Section 12(2) of the Mental Health Act (1983)

Member of Independent Doctors Federation (IDF), British Association for Psychopharmacology (BMA) and The Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO)

Dr Lapa’s extensive experience has also concentrated on the following areas of clinical practice:
– Assessment, Diagnosis and Pharmacological Treatment for Adults with ADHD.
– Drug and Alcohol Dependency and maintaining abstinence and continued recovery
– Intravenous and Intramuscular Vitamin and Mineral Infusion Therapy
– Dietary and Weight Management and thorough care from assessment to treatment to end goals and maintenance
– Aesthetic Practice and Procedures