If you have a problem drinking alcohol you may be wondering if it is possible for you to take part in controlled drinking at some point in your life. The answer depends on your specific circumstances. We will discuss whether people can drink after having an alcohol use disorder.
However, it is first important to speak about the term alcoholic and alcoholism and why many do not identify with these terms. By using the term alcoholic, you put the focus on the person with the addiction rather than the substance itself. This stigmatizes the person. There are a lot of stigmas around addiction that blame the person with the addiction for the problem. Even the terms alcoholic and alcoholism suggest that it is normal to drink an addictive substance and not become addicted, and abnormal not to.
Using these terms also ignores the fact that addiction is progressive and there is a range of problematic drinking behaviors that precede it. The preferred term which is now used in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is alcohol use disorder. This includes alcohol abuse, dependence, and addiction. Ninety percent of people who problem drink are not physically addicted to alcohol. So, it is important to have a term that includes them.
Another problem is that it makes addiction seem incurable which is not the case. People are not born alcoholics as many say. You would not say that people are born addicted to cigarettes or cocaine, so why do we say this for alcohol? No one is addicted to alcohol before they try it, and it is possible to recover once you have developed an addiction. We will talk about whether these people need to remain abstinent or if they can continue to drink when they have been addicted to alcohol.
Alcohol consumption is normalized in many parts of the world. However, it causes a huge number of deaths, with seven thousand people dying from alcohol-specific deaths in England and Wales in 2020. Alcohol abuse is the biggest risk factor for death, ill health, and disability in people aged fifteen to forty-nine.
Alcohol addiction develops gradually. You may start to drink socially and increase to moderate drinking. Over time you start to drink more alone, or you spend more time with people who drink more frequently. The speed at which it can develop depends on the person. Addiction is a disease that causes you to lose control of your drinking, despite negative consequences.
Dependence is often confused with addiction. This is when your body and mind think they can no longer function properly without alcohol and when you stop drinking you experience withdrawal symptoms. These can be dangerous and even fatal in some cases. Dependence also develops gradually. As mentioned, both are considered part of alcohol use disorder.
Signs of Addiction
Being able to see signs of addiction could help you recognize if you or a loved one has a problem and needs support. As mentioned, stigma can make it hard to accept you have a problem, perhaps because you compare yourself to people who are struggling more, or you are in denial about the effects of your drinking. Common signs of a substance misuse disorder include:
- Social withdrawal
- Decreasing performance at school or work
- Lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Feeling unable to function without alcohol
- Continuing to drink despite negative consequences
- Trying to quit and not managing to.
Risk Factors for Addiction
Not all people who abuse alcohol will develop dependence and addiction, there are factors that increase your risks of developing one. These include:
- Childhood trauma such as neglect and abuse
- Exposure to alcohol and alcohol abuse as a child
- Those who start drinking before they are fifteen
- Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Previous substance use problems
Effects of Alcohol
Alcohol can have powerful effects, some of them desired and some less so. These include
- Increased confidence
- Lowered inhibitions
- Loss of consciousness
- Decreased blood pressure
- Accidents and injuries
Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Use
Chronic drinking leads to an increased risk of severe symptoms. These include:
- Alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD) – responsible for eighty percent of alcohol-specific deaths in 2020
- Increased risk of cancer and stroke
- Heart diseases
- Memory issues
- Mood disorders
- Wernicke-Korsakoff (WK)
- Exacerbated mental health problems – some people will use alcohol to self-medicate a mental health problem. While this may seem to help at first, in the long run it will make symptoms worse
What Does Recovery Look Like
Full recovery is when you either do not drink alcohol at all or you reduce your alcohol intake to one that is not considered harmful. If you have a dependence on alcohol, quitting can be dangerous, so it is important to get professional help.
Detox is the first stage of alcohol recovery. During detox, you stop drinking to allow the toxins of alcohol to leave your body. There are two main ways of detoxing, either tapering or cold turkey. Tapering is where you reduce your consumption gradually, and you may take a substitute drug which you then taper until you are free of both. Some people are given benzodiazepines. These act in a similar way to alcohol in the brain so by taking them you have less of a shock from quitting and withdrawal symptoms will be less intense. However, since benzodiazepines can also be very addictive, it is important to only take them for a short time.
Quitting cold turkey is where you stop drinking alcohol completely without reducing the quantity or frequency of use. This can be dangerous and even fatal if done alone so it is recommended that you quit with the help of a medical professional. Getting support at a substance misuse treatment center is typically recommended.
Crossroads offers a safe, secure detox. Learn more about our medically mangaged detox
Detoxing is only the first stage of alcohol treatment. After this, you can deal with the reasons that you developed an alcohol misuse issue in the first place. Rehab often refered to a recovery treatment program, can also focus on being aware of and avoiding relapse triggers so that you can make sure that you do not relapse in the future. This will usually include therapy and many people will join support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. But will you be able to drink again? Will you need to abstain before you consider it?
Can I Ever Drink Again?
You may have heard people say, “if a recovering alcoholic starts drinking they cannot stop” or “if alcoholics drink one drink they will lose control”, but this may not always be true. A 2006 study looked at people who were dependent on alcohol in the last year and where they are now. To understand the results, we must understand the types of recovery they considered. These are:
- Still dependent – those with three or more symptoms of alcohol dependence in the last year
- Partial remission – those who did not meet the criteria for alcohol dependence but reported one or more symptoms of alcohol abuse or dependence in the last year
- Asymptomatic risk drinker – those that were drinking in a way that risked relapse
- Low-risk drinkers – those who had drunk but no problem drinking
- Abstainers – those who had not drunk in the last year
It is likely that those who are strongly dependent or addicted to alcohol will struggle more with having one drink, whereas people with less severe alcoholism may be able to drink again. For people who have heavy addictions, abstinence may be the best option.
Many find that twelve-step programs help them to achieve long-term recovery. One of the main pillars of this is accepting that you cannot control your alcohol use so you must therefore abstain completely. Twelve-step programs focus on different aspects of your alcohol abuse and recovery so that you can heal beyond just detoxing.
You look at the reasons you were drinking and past mistakes you made while in active addiction, making amends for these mistakes. Twelve-step programs also help you learn how to live a new and healthy life once you quit drinking. They also help you build a strong sense of community to help you reach your goals with the help of others who are also suffering from alcohol abuse. AA does not require you to be sober to attend, however through attraction not premotion, those that stay in Alcoholics Anonymous mainly say ‘no’ when asked can alcoholics ever drink again.
Recovery from substance use disorders is different for everyone. There is not a one size fits all approach to recovery. It is, however, important that you are realistic, and that you do not take this as an excuse to drink when you know that possibly moderate drinking or controlled drinking could lead to an active addiction again. You should speak with a medical professional about what options will suit your needs.
Treatment at Crossroads Antigua
If you have tried controlled drinking or quitting drinking and it didn’t work and either you or a member of your family understands they can not drink in moderation and they probably have a drinking problem and are ready to quit drinking, we offer you support and an alternative. Crossroads Antigua is a substance abuse treatment centre. We understand that seeking support and quitting alcohol for complete abstinence is very difficult and can aggrivate exsisting mental health issues. We offer a safe environment with medical professionals where you can recover in as much comfort as possible and offer a range of treatments including:
- Individual and group therapy including cognitive behavior and family therapy
- Trauma therapy
- Yoga and fitness
- Nutritional counseling
Please visit our website or call us at 0-800-783-9631 to find out more. We would love to welcome you to our center.