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Tennessee Alcohol Addiction


Alcohol dependency and addiction are serious problems throughout the country, costing billions of dollars in health care, motor vehicle crashes, and loss of productivity. Tennessee alcohol addiction is one of the major problems facing law enforcement and health professionals alike.

A study tracking trends in alcohol use at county level called, “Drinking patterns in US counties from 2002 to 2012,” was published in June 2015 and showed that heavy drinking rates are increasing rapidly across the country. The study showed that 8.2% of Americans were heavy drinkers and 18.3% were binge drinkers in 2012, and both these percentages have increased since 2005. Much of the increase is due to rising rates of heavy drinking and binge drinking among women. Tennessee alcohol addiction is probably not as bad as in some other states, with Hancock, Johnson, and Grainger counties being among the lowest in the nation for binge drinking and heavy drinking.

Alcohol Content of Various Beverages

The alcohol content of beverages varies widely and it can be difficult to know exactly how much alcohol we are drinking. Various methods of measuring alcohol content exist, but the most widely used around the world is alcohol by volume (ABV or alc/vol), which measures how many milliliters of pure alcohol (ethanol) are found in 100 milliliters of the beverage. A proof measure is twice the ABV, which means a whiskey containing 40% pure alcohol will be 80 proof. In Tennessee and some other states, alcohol content may be reported as alcohol by weight (ABW), which is about 4/5 the ABV, meaning that a 40% ABV whiskey would be approximately 32% ABW.

Ultra-low and low alcohol beers may contain as little as 0.05% alcohol, while regular beer usually contains around 4-6%. Wine contains from 9% to about 15%, while spirits such as gin, vodka, whiskey, and brandy usually contain 40% or more alcohol.

What is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism, is a severe form of alcohol abuse. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism considers all problems with alcohol as being on a spectrum of alcohol use disorders (SUDs). These disorders are characterized by an unhealthy attitude to alcohol, such as drinking for the purpose of getting drunk rather than for the taste or enjoyment. Addiction can develop quickly in some people, while in others it develops after a long period of heavy daily drinking.

The main symptom of alcohol addiction is a craving to drink alcoholic beverages even after consuming more than the recommended guidelines, and losing control over the urge to drink more. The craving can be so severe that the person continues to drink even when the addiction causes serious problems in their relationships, work, and financial situation. Other signs of alcohol abuse and addiction include repeated failed attempts at giving up or cutting down consumption of alcohol, an increasing tolerance to alcohol, and the appearance of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as tremors a few hours after the last drink.

The stereotype most often associated with alcohol addicts, is that of a person who is living in tattered clothing on the street and begging for money with the intention of buying more alcohol. The fact is, however, that the face of alcohol addiction in Tennessee is usually vastly different. Most people who are addicted to alcohol hold down a job, remain in relationships, and keep their excessive alcohol consumption secret or strictly within the family. Oftentimes, these “high-functioning alcoholics appear to be quite normal to other people.

Health Risks of Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol abuse and addiction carry a wide range of short-term and long-term health risks. Among the short term risks are blackouts in memory, lack of physical coordination, irregular heartbeat, acute alcohol poisoning (which can be fatal), hangovers, and impaired immune response leading to a reduced ability to resist infections. Alcohol use can increase the risk of being involved in accidents or dangerous activities. Alcohol abuse is also a common factor in domestic violence and other violent crimes.

Long-term effects of alcohol abuse include liver, kidney and brain damage, and an increased risk for several forms of cancer. In the brain, alcohol disrupts the communication pathways, which can make it harder to think clearly and results in mood changes. Heavy drinking over a long period of time can cause cardiomyopathy (stretching and sagging of the heart muscle) and high blood pressure. Alcohol is also sometimes a factor in strokes.

Alcohol causes inflammation in the liver, which can lead to fatty liver, hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. It can also cause inflammation in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion and can lead to pancreatitis and cancer. Alcohol increases the risk of cancers in the throat, mouth, esophagus, and breast. Long-term abuse of alcohol also weakens the immune system, which leaves the addict more prone to diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis.

Treatments for Alcohol Addiction in Tennessee

The first treatment for alcohol addiction is medically assisted detoxification and withdrawal. Many Tennessee rehabs and addiction centers offer a period of medical detox in which the patient is admitted to a residential setting or hospital and is prevented from consuming alcohol, or the amount is gradually reduced and then removed altogether. Prescription medications are given to reduce the severity of the withdrawal symptoms and cravings. It is important for people with serious alcohol addiction to be treated as an inpatient because the withdrawal symptoms can be severe and even life threatening.

After detoxification and withdrawal are complete, the next step in addiction treatment is a lengthy recovery program that includes a range of therapies and education. The therapies usually include individual counseling incorporating cognitive behavioral therapy, along with group and family therapy sessions. Additional therapies such as art or music, meditation, restorative yoga, equine therapy, and a range of alternatives are also typically included. Education includes learning about the processes of addiction and recovery and how to recognize the stages of relapse in order to avoid returning to alcohol in the future.

Medications such as Antabuse (disulfiram) may be continued for several months after the initial recovery period to help the person avoid a relapse. This drug produces unpleasant side effects if alcohol is consumed even up to two weeks after the last dose. The side effects include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, chest pain, profuse sweating, and headaches. Other medications may also be prescribed, such as antidepressants, tranquillizers, and drugs to counter any other mental health issues present.

It is dangerous to attempt to withdraw and recover without medical assistance, and the chances of relapse are high without treatment and relapse prevention education. Alcohol addiction is a serious problem, but it can be successfully treated and many people achieve a long-lasting recovery and go on to live balanced, fulfilling, and healthy lives. Pick up the phone and dial and addiction specialist when you are serious about your sobriety.