Drug and Alcohol - Addiction Recovery

Alcohol Abuse: Why It’s a Family Disease

Alcohol Abuse: Why it’s a Family Disease

Alcoholism is often called a family disease: it affects everyone around the person struggling with alcohol addiction. Learn why in our blog.

By the Numbers:

Nearly 141,000 Americans die from the abuse of alcohol in a single year. [NCDAS]

According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health [NSDUH], around 15 million people aged 12 or older have Alcohol Use Disorder.

For years, people have argued regarding an all-fitting definition of alcoholism.

They have disputed and debated if alcohol abuse is a form of immorality, an evil habit, a disease, or simply a symptom of an underlying emotional or psychological disorder. They attribute it variably to evil, human ingenuity, biological makeup, cultural conditioning, or mental creation.

To keep things simple, let's define alcoholism as a chronic pattern of heavy drinking that causes the individual to regularly inflict physical or psychological harm on themselves or others. The injuries can be emotional or physical, or even social, legal, or financial. Most medical professionals consider alcoholism to be an addiction and a disease because compulsive substance abuse is rarely thought to arise voluntarily.

Why, however, do some individuals have a hard time acknowledging alcoholism as a disease? This may be due to the fact that alcoholism appears to be a condition that people choose to be in; a person struggling with alcohol will often continue to drink too much even after they have witnessed the negative consequences of doing so.

Understanding Alcoholism as a Family Disease

Alcohol addiction can be elusive. It does not only affect the life of the person abusing alcohol but the lives of his family and loved ones too. A person with alcohol use disorder can sometimes go on for a long time without anyone noticing how persistent their disease has become.

This happens not just because people actively try to hide their addiction but also because, even now, most Americans are oblivious to the symptoms, warning signs, and risks of alcoholism. Many still think of people with alcohol addiction as drunks sleeping in the gutter, but here are some basic facts about alcohol and alcoholism: 

Someone struggling with alcohol abuse is not essentially the stereotypical drunk. Alcoholism can start with repeated and inapt use of something as innocent as cough syrup. 

Alcohol Use Disorder Is an Addiction

Whether through socially taught habits, genetic inheritance, or both, addiction usually runs in families. Alcoholism is not just a problem for adults. Being someone dealing with substance abuse doesn't always take a lot of time, and it can cause problems for children as young as 12.

There is a good chance you know at least one person your age dealing with an alcohol problem. And that person has family and friends equally affected by their alcoholism. 

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Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism

Most people struggling with alcohol try to hide their addiction and will not straight-up admit that they have a problem. Therefore, here are some clues to recognize possible alcoholism among people:  

  • Extreme mood swings  

  • Forgetting responsibilities in order to drink  

  • Lying, stealing, and other petty crimes

  • Changes in physical appearance and health

  • Abuse of alcohol in inappropriate settings

  • Mixing alcohol with prescription medication 

  • Misusing alcohol to help cope with stress

  • Withdrawal from family and friends

  • Being arrested for DUIs 

  • Reluctance to quitting alcohol, even for a short period

  • Altered behavior

  • Exhaustion

  • Episodes of depression

Abusing alcohol for a long time leads to physical, social, and mental problems. As and when the body starts to adjust to the regularly raised blood-alcohol level, it develops a physical dependence and almost starts demanding alcohol to accomplish everyday tasks.

There are two key indicators of developing an addiction to alcohol:

As someone starts abusing alcohol daily, their tolerance rises, and they need more and more alcohol every day to feel high or drunk. Even a little break from drinking can cause withdrawal symptoms after the body has developed a high tolerance level and an addiction.

People experiencing alcohol use disorder require outside assistance and support to stop drinking safely because withdrawal from any chemical dependency can cause certain potentially harmful symptoms.

Causes of Alcoholism

There are numerous hypotheses about what triggers alcoholism. Factors like as upbringing, genetics, and mental illness are all considered in these theories. Other research and proposed theories take into account the complexities of addiction and propose that a number of interrelated elements work together to bring about alcoholism.

Some attempts to explain what causes alcoholism have gotten it wrong by confusing association with causation. Being brought up by people with alcohol use disorder, for instance, is only a correlation, not a causation, of later alcoholism. In a similar vein, alcoholism is a contributing factor to but not the root cause of mental health problems like depression.

Apart from heredity, there are at least five other chief causes of alcoholism: 

  1. Peer pressures and social networks that include heavy drinkers and alcohol abusers increase the individual's risk of alcoholism. 

  2. People with mental disorders such as schizophrenia, panic disorders, attention deficit disorder, and antisocial disorder also risk developing alcohol addiction. 

  3. Considering cultural customs and informal guidelines set for drinking is also important. For example, most cultures that allow the consumption of a small amount of alcohol with dinner but also have well-placed taboos against being drunk show low rates of alcoholism. And cultures that do not have any customs of drinking alcohol with food are tolerant of heavy drinking and, as a result, experience high alcoholism rates. 

  4. Easily available alcoholic drinks also increase the risk of developing an addiction. Countries with low taxes on alcohol and no clearly defined limitations on the consumption of alcohol have higher rates of alcoholism than other nations

  5. Lastly, unemployed people or people with jobs who have irregular working hours or close daily contact with alcoholic beverages are at high risk of developing an addiction to alcohol.  

Returning to normal drinking is a real possibility for people who have abused alcohol for a year or less, but for people with a history of long-term alcohol abuse, any attempt to return to normal social drinking can lead to relapse. In simpler words, developing an addiction to alcohol with no control over when to start and when to stop drinking usually takes a long time. There are several young individuals whose heavy drinking pattern has the potential to lead to alcoholism, but in many cases, the process does not reach completion. And when they turn 30-35 years of age, many such drinkers will have regained their volitional drinking patterns. 

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Personal Issues Caused by Alcohol Abuse

Sometimes called a "family disease," alcoholism has a ton of adverse effects on the family and friends of a person with alcohol use disorder. Drinkers also go through several terrible experiences because of their drinking problem. These usually include family fights, potential unemployment, issues at the workplace, criminal charges, and financial woes.

So, what is worse than alcohol use disorder? Having an untreated addiction.

The parents, partners, children, siblings, and friends of somebody who abuses alcohol are all affected by this addiction in some way. Even their colleagues at work will have to cover for the work they miss because they prioritize alcohol over everything else. The most common consequence of alcoholism is abuse. People lose control over themselves and end up hurting people they were meant to love.

Abuse can take many forms. A person addicted to alcohol. can emotionally abuse their spouses by not being there for them and leaving all responsibilities of the house, kids, and even their own well-being to their partners. They can scar their kids for a lifetime by indulging in activities that kids should not have to see. Children of alcoholics often show symptoms of anxiety, depression, and distorted self-image and even have considerably higher chances of abusing alcohol or other substances themselves. The negative effects of alcoholism can seep into every aspect of someone’s life. They can ruin relationships, careers, and even self-respect.

And when steps to build the things alcohol addiction has destroyed are not taken at the right time, nothing can ever get better or even as it was before alcoholism took over. 

Getting Support & Help For Alcohol Abuse

The process of accepting that you have a problem with drinking can be daunting. And getting the required help and support to treat that problem can be even more frightening. However, the one thing that you need to remember is that you are not alone. Most people resist the idea of treatment at first. Recovery from addiction is not just about treating disease. It is about making a major life change, and social scientists observe common patterns in making such changes.

  • Awareness: Admitting you have a problem.

  • Attitude: Accepting the possibility of transformation.  

  • Action: Deciding to change. 

People fight recovery. The addiction to alcohol itself opposes recovery and treatment plans. The first step in getting rid of resistance to recovery is to be aware of the problem. This applies to any situation—you cannot fix anything until you know that it is broken or damaged, right? Lack of awareness is one form of denial.

Someone who manages to stay unaware of a problem can easily deny that there is a problem. Making an attempt to recover and choose a treatment for alcoholism can be one of the most critical steps you take in your life.  

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Approaches to Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

As with most addictions and diseases, the earlier treatment for alcoholism is started, the better. Treatment may be conducted in a hospital, rehab facility, therapeutic community, outpatient programs, with a therapist or counselor, in a support group, or a combination of any of these settings. Wherever it happens, it starts with detoxification from the substance, progresses through a learning phase, and aims toward long-term health maintenance.


Detoxification or detox is the primary step in the treatment of any addiction. While people think they can manage the detoxification or "going cold turkey" method on their own, it can be challenging and dangerous. It can even make the treatment challenging to start. This usually happens because the cravings during the withdrawal period can cause a person to give up before the process of detoxification is complete.

Therefore, it is better to rely on expert healthcare professionals to guide you through the procedure. During a medical detoxifying process, alcohol is physically removed from the body to reduce cravings and to continue with the rest of the treatment program.  


Rehabilitation is a complete recovery package. It includes chances to develop a positive outlook for recovery, stable physical health achieved through medications, learning skills that could help someone from relapsing and learning better ways of dealing with family and friends. Rehab even provides small incentives so that participants are motivated to remain in the program till its completion.

Residential and outpatient programs offer group and individual counseling for the patients. Some programs even offer medications to help a person with long-term alcohol addiction recover faster.

Rehab centers also help participants gain an insight into "post-acute withdrawal syndrome" (PAWS) that may disturb their recovery process during the first few tries of getting sober. Most rehab programs or courses are designed to provide a structure to the patient's life. The participants get access to experienced counselors and therapists, personalized treatment plan, and continuous monitoring for any alcohol abuse during the course of the treatment. Rehab treatment plans also provide follow-up care after the patient has completed their program.

More extended and more comprehensive recovery programs offer some social services as well. They help patients find work opportunities, improve relationships with parents, spouses, friends, and siblings, and deal with legal issues. Rehabilitation centers may be residential, outpatient, therapeutic communities, long- or short-term, or support groups. 

The Edge Treatment Center Offers Effective, Evidence-Based Care for Alcohol Addiction

Alcoholism is a brutal disease. It can leave you broken and hopeless. But you must remember that help is available. And with the right support, alcohol addiction can be overcome. So, do not hesitate to reach out if you need help. It can be hard to walk on the road to recovery, but at the end of that road, a better life is waiting for you. 

The Edge Treatment Center offers individualized treatment programs for people of all kinds. We follow a detailed treatment plan for all their patients and help them recover faster. At The Edge, you’ll have expert therapists on board to conduct individual as well as group therapy sessions.

Whatever the underlying causes of your addiction are, The Edge Treatment Center can help you become yourself again.  Contact us today to learn more.

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If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, there is hope. Our team can guide you on your journey to recovery. Call us today.

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol

Addiction Recovery

December 28, 2022