At Smarmore Castle we have developed a specialised and effective treatment programme for alcohol addiction.
Alcoholism can have a devastating impact on personal lives, careers and relationships. However, you can overcome alcohol addiction with the correct treatment. Our evidence-based approach treats addiction as a disease of the brain that requires abstinence to achieve optimal recovery.
If you or someone close to you is struggling with addiction and might be suffering from alcoholism, it is essential that you reach out for help as soon as possible.
Alcohol is a psychoactive, dependence-inducing substance that has been widely consumed in many cultures for centuries. When drunk in low amounts, alcohol can be a pleasing experience and have some beneficial effects on cardiovascular health. When alcohol is consumed to excess, binge drinking or long-term alcohol misuse can lead to serious physical and mental health concerns.
What is Alcohol Addiction/Alcoholism?
Alcohol use disorder, sometimes called alcoholism or alcohol addiction, is a medical condition. It involves heavy or frequent consumption of alcohol despite the negative consequences. These might be:
- Emotional distress
- Physical harm
- Health problems
- Job loss
- Estrangement from family and friends.
If you or a loved one are drinking alcohol to excess or binge drinking regularly over time, you are in danger of developing alcohol dependence, as alcohol affects your brain’s reward response. This means you may feel as if you need increasing amounts of alcohol to experience the same effect, and someone with a dependency may feel they are unable to function or survive without it.
Alcohol addiction is characterised by alcohol dependence or tolerance (the need to drink more to achieve the same effect) and withdrawal symptoms if alcohol abuse is suddenly stopped. Depending on the frequency and amount of alcohol consumed, use should not be discontinued abruptly due to the risk of triggering this withdrawal syndrome. Withdrawal symptoms may include nausea, sweating, restlessness, irritability, tremors, hallucinations and convulsions.
Key facts about alcohol from The World Health Organization (WHO) include the following:
- The harmful use of alcohol is a factor in more than 200 disease and injury conditions
- Worldwide, 3 million deaths every year result from harmful use of alcohol. This represents 5.3% of all deaths
- Overall, 5.1% of the global burden of disease and injury is attributable to alcohol problems, as measured in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)
- Beyond health consequences, the harmful use of alcohol brings significant social and economic losses to individuals and society at large
- Alcohol consumption causes death and disability relatively early in life. In people aged 20–39 years, approximately 13.5% of total deaths are attributable to alcohol
- There is a causal relationship between harmful use of alcohol and a range of mental and behavioural disorders, other noncommunicable conditions and injuries
What Causes Alcohol Dependence?
Alcohol dependence can develop due to a number of factors such as genetics, culture, and personal psychology.
Abundant evidence indicates that alcoholism is a complex genetic disease, with someone’s genetic make-up affecting the risk of dependence. Alcoholism has long been shown to run in families, with adoption studies showing that alcoholism in adoptees correlates more strongly with their biological parents than their adoptive parents. Genetics affect risk but there is no alcoholic gene, and both environmental and social factors contribute heavily to someone developing alcoholism. Genetics affect the risk not only for alcohol dependence but also the level of alcohol consumption and the risk for alcohol-associated diseases.
Cultural influences — family environments and societal beliefs regarding alcohol use, which is shaped by traditions, religious beliefs, and other philosophies — also affect whether an alcohol abuse disorder is developed. In addition, family plays a significant role in a person’s likelihood of developing alcoholism. Parental alcoholism has been found to be associated with an increased risk of children also developing an alcohol use disorder, independent of other significant predictors, such as gender, parental social status, and parental psychiatric hospitalisation with other diagnoses.
Differing psychological factors may increase the chances of heavy drinking and over 50% of treated alcohol use disorder patients also suffer from other psychiatric disorders (s) such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. We all handle situations in our own unique way but how we cope with our feelings can impact certain behavioural traits. As an example, individuals diagnosed with anxiety-related illnesses are at increased risk of developing alcoholism. In these circumstances, alcohol is often used to suppress feelings and relieve the symptoms of psychological disorders which can then compound these health concerns.
Effects of Alcohol Addiction
However much alcohol you may drink, it has an effect on the mind and the body. Lower to moderate consumption of alcohol typically involves less severe and temporary effects such as slurred speech, vision impairment, memory lapses and lack of coordination. Drinking alcohol too much over time can cause serious health concerns and even be fatal.
Every organ in your body can be affected by drinking, but some are more at risk of extensive damage. The harmful effects of alcohol problems at times aren’t discovered until much later in life, making it difficult to reverse them.
Alcoholism & the Brain
Alcohol’s effects on the brain can be felt quickly and are often pleasurable which encourages further consumption. However, alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways and can affect the way the brain looks and works. Prolonged alcohol use is linked to brain defects and associated cognitive, emotional, and behavioural impairments.
Damage to different regions of the brain – of which the frontal lobes, limbic system, and cerebellum are particularly vulnerable to damage – can significantly impact the body’s functioning and mental health. For example, the cerebellum controls motor skills and alcohol-related cerebellum damage causes motor incoordination meaning you are likely to experience a loss of balance and an increased risk of accidents.
Alcoholism & Heart Health
The heart is vulnerable to the negative effects of alcohol, and heavy alcohol consumption over a long period of time, or too much on a single occasion, can damage the heart. Heavy alcohol consumption can: weaken the heart impacting how oxygen and nutrients are delivered to other vital organs; increase triglyceride levels, high levels of which contribute to the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes; and lead to increased risk for sudden cardiac death and cardiac arrhythmias.
The Effects of Alcohol Abuse on the Liver
With the exception of the brain, the liver is the most complex organ in the body. The liver is resilient and capable of regenerating itself, however, each time your liver filters alcohol, some of the liver cells die. The liver can develop new cells, but prolonged alcohol misuse over many years can reduce its ability to regenerate and is associated with derangements in liver function and the development of alcohol-related liver disease.
Symptoms of alcohol-related liver disease include feeling sick, loss of appetite, jaundice, confusion, drowsiness, vomiting blood or blood appearing in stools, and swelling in the ankles and/or abdomen. The three stages of ARLD are fatty liver disease, hepatitis, and finally, cirrhosis at which point the liver has become significantly scarred and is generally not reversible.
How Alcoholism Affects the Pancreas
The pancreas is part of the digestive system and helps regulate the body’s blood sugar levels. Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, inflammation, and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion. This increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Unfortunately, many pancreatic conditions go undetected in the early stages and are therefore left untreated. Symptoms of an acute pancreatic attack may include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea, fast heart rate and fever.
Alcohol Addiction & the Immune System
Alcohol has adverse effects throughout the body, including on all cells of the immune system, impairing the body’s ability to defend and heal itself. This can lead to an increased risk of serious infections such as acute respiratory stress syndromes (ARDS), sepsis, alcoholic liver disease (ALD), and certain cancers. Alcohol consumption is also associated with slower and less complete recovery from infections and physical traumas, including poor wound healing.
Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
The symptoms of an alcohol addiction vary from person to person. Symptoms that you display will depend on several factors including how long you have been drinking if you have a co-occurring disorder, your personality traits, age, personal circumstances, and external stressors.
The current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) lists 11 symptoms of alcohol use disorder:
- Frequently drinking a larger amount of alcohol or for longer than intended
- Wanting to cut down or control drinking but not being able to stop
- Spending a lot of time drinking and feeling sick from alcohol’s aftereffects
- Experiencing strong cravings or urges to drink
- Facing problems at home with family, work, or other commitments as a result of drinking or being sick from drinking
- Continuing to drink even though it causes issues with loved ones
- Giving up on interesting, important, or pleasurable activities to drink instead
- Getting into repeated situations while or after drinking that increase the risk of getting injured or hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)
- Continuing to drink despite feeling depressed or anxious, adding to another health problem, or after having had a memory blackout
- Drinking much more to get the same effect or finding the usual number of drinks has become less effective than before
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritable moods, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating after the alcohol wears off
Having at least two of the symptoms indicates that you might have alcohol use disorder. Depending on how many symptoms you have, alcohol use disorder can range in severity.
- Mild alcohol use disorder: two to three symptoms
- Moderate alcohol use disorder: four to five symptoms
- Severe alcohol use disorder: six or more symptoms
Due to how heavy use of alcohol affects the brain, it can be dangerous to stop drinking on your own. If the mind and body have become dependent on alcohol, stopping abruptly can trigger alcohol withdrawal syndrome. The physical and emotional symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome include anxiety, fatigue, nausea and perhaps more severe symptoms such as hallucinations and seizures. At its most extreme, alcohol withdrawal syndrome can prove fatal. As such, it is important to seek medical support if you are thinking about how to stop drinking alcohol.
For these reasons, Smarmore Castle is one of very few alcohol addiction treatment centres that offer a medically managed detox programme from alcohol.
When you first enter addiction treatment at Smaremore Castle, you may need to participate in our alcohol detox programme so that we can support you in safely withdrawing from alcohol. Detox is an important stage of recovery. Without finding sobriety it isn’t possible to begin therapeutic treatment which looks at the causes of you developing an addiction and prevents relapse.
Throughout the detox process, an experienced team of doctors and nurses will provide 24/7 supervision. The support given during a professional detox can help to keep you safe and as comfortable as possible. Our inpatient, on-site environment means that you can join the daily programme of therapy and counselling as soon as physically able.
It’s important that patients begin their recovery programme as early as possible.
How We Treat Alcohol Addiction
Alcoholism can have a devastating impact on personal lives, careers, and relationships. However, you can overcome alcohol addiction with the correct treatment. At Smarmore Castle we have developed a specialised and effective treatment programme for alcohol addiction. The evidence-based approach treats addiction as an illness that requires abstinence to achieve optimal recovery.
At the beginning of treatment at Smarmore Castle, the team will provide you with a thorough clinical assessment to ensure treatment is focused and appropriate diagnoses are made. At this point, one of our consultant psychiatrists will create a personalised treatment plan for you. This takes into account your history of alcohol use as well as any additional needs you may have.
Your treatment plan will most likely include one-to-one therapy, peer support groups, and twelve-step meetings to help you understand your condition and behaviour, find freedom and prevent relapse.
Therapy is crucial for the treatment of addiction and there are many forms that might be used to help you overcome a substance use disorder.
Individual Therapy (1 to 1)
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is widely used in addiction treatment. CBT helps people identify what needs to be changed in their lives, and through working collaboratively with therapists and others in a treatment group, individuals begin to implement these changes.
If struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which is characterised by symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive images, EMDR may be recommended. This is an innovative treatment that can help you to process negative memories and emotions that have been suppressed.
Group therapy builds self-awareness and insight through sharing stories and being open with clients who clients are sharing a treatment experience with. The groups work together, empathise with and support each other. The positive changes seen in others can inspire hope.
Group counselling, facilitated by a trained and experienced therapist, can be an integral part of a treatment programme. The insights and feedback from the group help deepen one’s understanding of your addiction.
Those who do not suffer from addiction, will not be able to understand the pain someone with alcohol addiction may experience. The more families know about addiction and understand how to support recovery, the better chance individuals have of finding lasting recovery. However, addiction is a family illness and it is common for support networks to be deeply affected by a loved one’s alcohol addiction and need support themselves.
A family therapy programme helps patients and families to connect and share their feelings of shame, hurt and anger, rebuild damaged relationships, learn to communicate effectively, and educates families on the disease of addiction.
Throughout your time at Smarmore Castle, our doctors, psychiatrists, nurses and therapists take a dynamic approach to your care. The team meets frequently to discuss the progress of each patient and update treatment plans where necessary to ensure the continuation of personalised care throughout your stay.
Smarmore Castle Residential Rehab Centre
Smarmore Castle in Ireland is one of the world’s most renowned residential alcohol and drug addiction treatment centres. Our alcohol and drug treatment programme has been carefully constructed with decades of experience and applies to patients from all walks of life suffering from addiction. The Smarmore Castle treatment programme follows the Castle Craig Model which combines a number of evidence-based therapies for the treatment of alcohol and drug addiction.
Many of our therapists have successfully been through recovery themselves and deeply understand what our patients are experiencing throughout the programme. Our extensive range of complementary therapies that aid well-being and spirituality include equine, music and art therapy.
Exercise and a well-balanced diet help patients regain their strength and also provide a solid foundation during recovery. The supportive community and peaceful, countryside surroundings make Smarmore Castle a conducive environment for overcoming addiction.
Each patient is assigned a primary therapist, who provides regular one-on-one counselling throughout their stay. They will oversee the patient’s progress and work with the head nurse and consultant psychiatrist to develop a continuing care plan when it is time for the patient to leave.
Our consultant psychiatrist drafts a personalised treatment plan for each patient, which takes into account their history of alcohol abuse as well as any additional needs. Throughout their time here, our team of doctors, psychiatrists, nurses and therapists frequently meet to discuss the progress of each patient and update their treatment plan accordingly.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction or you would like to stop drinking, our helpful team of dedicated professionals are here to let you know more about Smarmore Castle residential treatment programme for alcohol addiction.
Call now: +353 41 214 5111.
Contact us for Alcohol Addiction Advice
If you or someone close to you is struggling with addiction, it is essential that you get the help you need as soon as possible. Please contact us if you wish to access treatment, or for advice on the next steps. Attempting to detox on your own can be dangerous and does not tackle the underlying problems of addiction.
In contrast, the Smarmore Rehab programme provides an excellent chance for achieving long-lasting recovery.
If you or a loved one suffer from alcohol addiction, please contact Smarmore. Your enquiry will be treated as confidential. All fields marked as required must be filled in.
Last updated & clinically assessed 20 July, 2022