Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a condition that renders people unable to stop using alcohol — even in the face of significant negative ramifications. People with this addiction have a compulsive need to drink despite the damage it does to their relationships, health and professional standing.

Call us today at 602-466-9880 to get started or click here to use your insurance benefits to pay for treatment.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism classifies alcoholism as a brain disorder; it’s different from alcohol dependence, which is a physical condition. Long-term abuse of alcohol can make people more likely to relapse, even after they enter recovery.

If you or a loved one are suffering from alcoholism, you’re not alone — nearly 15 million people in the United States suffer from this condition. Without treatment, alcohol abuse can damage relationships, careers and health. At our alcohol addiction treatment center in Phoenix, AZ, Camelback Recovery proudly provides a residential alcohol rehab program to begin your journey toward recovery.

Depressed man suffering from alcohol addiction sitting near a brick wall


We can help you achieve permanent sobriety that gives you your life back. Call to learn more about our therapy options in Phoenix, AZ.

Arizona Alcoholism Statistics

Alcohol abuse is a big public health concern in the United States — every year, alcohol-related causes kill 95,000 Americans. Arizona isn’t immune; it ranks 39th in terms of adults who drink alcohol excessively.

  • 2,629 people in Arizona died from alcohol-related diseases between 2011 and 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • 18% of adults in Arizona drink excessively
  • Yavapai County has the highest percentage of binge-drinking adults (22%), followed closely by Mohave County (21%)
  • 25% of the driving deaths in Arizona involve alcohol
  • Greenlee County has the highest rate of alcohol-involved driving deaths (60%)

Symptoms of Alcoholism

The signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder show up differently in every person. They may be mild, moderate or severe, depending on the progression of the condition.

Physical Signs of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol misuse can wreak havoc on the body. If you or someone you know is dealing with alcohol use disorder (AUD), you might notice physical symptoms, including:

  • Strong cravings
  • High tolerance level
  • Digestive upset
  • Change in weight
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Frequent illness due to a weakened immune system
  • Reduced sexual function
  • Discomfort in the absence of alcohol consumption

Many of the symptoms of alcoholism aren’t caused directly by alcohol — they happen because alcohol changes a person’s behavior. Frequent intoxication can sabotage sleep and self-care, which leads to poor hygiene and a damaged immune system. That, in turn, can cause more frequent bouts of sickness. Over time, alcohol abuse can cause serious damage to the body.

Young man experiencing stomach ache, a common physical symptom of alcohol abuse

Psychological Effects of Alcohol Abuse

The effects of alcohol use disorder are sometimes hard to identify. Many, including depression, can be attributed to other causes. Others may be mild. Watch out for signs such as:

  • Reduced inhibition
  • Change in mood
  • Poor focus and memory
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Depression and anxiety

Social and Behavioral Symptoms of Alcoholism

For family and friends, the most obvious symptoms of alcoholism are often behavioral. You might notice distinct changes in the way a person acts. Signs to watch for are:

  • Lying
  • Emotionally manipulative behavior
  • Inability to stop drinking
  • Frequent, unsuccessful attempts to stop consuming alcohol
  • Lack of interest and participation in normal hobbies and activities
  • Alcohol intoxication that endangers the person or others
  • Unusual levels of anger, aggressiveness or belligerence
  • Drop in performance at work or school
  • Failure to show up for friends, colleagues and family members

Withdrawal Symptoms and Alcoholism

Many people with alcohol use disorders experience negative physical and psychological effects when they try to stop drinking — these signs are collectively referred to as alcohol withdrawal. When the body no longer receives the expected amounts of alcohol, you might experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Shakes or tremors
  • Lack of focus
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations and confusion

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may start to show up within hours of a person’s last drink; others might not appear for 24-72 hours. Depending on the length and severity of the alcohol abuse, the withdrawal period can last a few days to a few weeks.

Undertaken alone, alcohol withdrawal can be scary and difficult to bear. Treatment facilities like Camelback Recovery use a supervised alcohol detox process to maximize safety and comfort during this phase.

Man expressing anger towards his wife during alcohol addiction withdrawal, displaying mood swings and emotional distress

What Causes Alcoholism?

A wide range of social, psychological, biological and genetic factors can contribute to alcohol addiction. Every person experiences these factors differently, which explains why two people can have identical drinking habits and varying levels of addiction.

Risk Factors for Alcoholism

Certain people are at a higher risk for alcoholism. Some of the most common risk factors are:

  • Alcohol use while the brain is still developing
  • Extended periods of heavy drinking
  • Family history of alcohol abuse and/or substance abuse
  • Mental health disorder
  • Impulsive tendencies
  • Close relationships with heavy drinkers
  • Past trauma
  • History of bariatric surgery

It’s important to note that these factors alone don’t cause alcoholism — they must be combined with a pattern of heavy alcohol consumption. Likewise, alcohol abuse alone can cause alcoholism, even in the absence of other factors. The more you drink, the more the alcohol changes your brain and body. As a result, you may be more likely to drink to excess in the future.

What Is Binge Drinking?

When you discuss alcoholism, you’ll often hear the phrases “binge drinking” and “excessive drinking.” According to the CDC, a binge is measured by the number of alcoholic beverages a person consumes in one sitting. For women, more than four drinks qualify; for men, it’s five or more drinks. Excessive alcohol consumption refers to the number of drinks per week — for women, it’s eight or more, and for men, it’s 15 or more.

Not all heavy drinkers become alcoholics. Many people engage in these behaviors occasionally or regularly without developing an addiction.

Long-Term Complications of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Extended alcohol abuse can damage your personal and professional life — it also affects your health. Over time, it can cause:

  • Liver disease
  • Heart issues
  • Bone deterioration
  • Neurological disorders
  • Degenerating vision
  • Miscarriages and stillbirths
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • High blood pressure
  • Mental health disorders
  • Osteoporosis
Young lady sharing during a group therapy session at our alcohol addiction treatment center in Phoenix, AZ

How Addictive Is Alcohol? Stages of Alcoholism

Alcohol is an addictive substance, but it doesn’t affect everyone the same way. In many people, it causes the body to release endorphins — chemicals that reduce stress, relieve pain and make you feel good. These positive effects can create a sense of dependence; people want to feel better, so they drink. As the body grows accustomed to alcohol, however, it requires a higher volume to produce a similar effect. This is called alcohol tolerance.

Alcohol isn’t immediately addictive; the addiction develops in stages over time.

During this stage, a person isn’t addicted to alcohol. However, they may start using it to cope with unpleasant feelings, trauma, stress or anxiety. When this pattern is repeated, the person starts to develop a physical tolerance.

In the early stages of alcoholism, a person starts to develop problematic behaviors. They may start to drink regularly or lie about how much they’ve ingested. Other issues include blacking out and frequent overconsumption.

Once a person reaches the middle stage, there’s no question that they have alcohol problems. Drinking too much alcohol becomes the norm — the person might begin heavy drinking earlier and earlier in the day. This creates changes in behavior, which causes relationships to deteriorate. In addition to physical issues, such as fatigue and bloating, middle alcoholics may experience mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms.

At this point, the person may feel completely out of control when it comes to alcohol. They often require a drink to feel normal — mental and physical alcohol dependence — and when they try to stop, the withdrawal symptoms are intense.

Substance Abuse Treatments for Alcohol Use Disorder and Alcoholism

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism, recovery is possible. Most people need help from a professional — after all, alcohol addiction is a serious medical condition. There are many different substance abuse treatment options for alcohol abuse disorder.

Medical Detox for Alcohol Use Disorder

Detox is one of the most challenging parts of alcohol addiction recovery. During this period, all the alcohol leaves the system. Since brain chemistry has been altered by too much alcohol, it can cause serious physical symptoms: shaking, vomiting and even hallucinations.

That’s where medical detox can help — to help the body adjust to the absence of alcohol, a healthcare professional administers medications to combat the withdrawal symptoms. This can reduce pain and prevent potentially dangerous effects. Doctors decrease the dosage until the body can tolerate an alcohol-free existence. In an inpatient setting like ours at Camelback Recovery, the patient also benefits from a safe, comfortable environment and round-the-clock mental health support.

Not everyone with alcohol use disorder requires medical detox. With milder forms, it may be possible to bear the withdrawal symptoms without medical intervention.

Residential Inpatient Rehab Programs for Alcoholism

Once a person has reached the middle and late stages of an alcohol use disorder, inpatient alcohol rehab is often the most effective intervention. For 45-60 days, the person moves into a residential alcohol treatment center. During that time, they work with medical and psychiatric professionals on therapy, medical treatments and other interventions. The treatment plan varies from person to person but usually includes individual and group counseling.

An inpatient program is a chance to step away from everyday life and focus on recovery. Since the setting and schedule are structured, there’s no need to make decisions or worry about anything — a welcome relief for people struggling with alcohol dependence. Families can rest assured knowing their loved one is safe and supervised 24/7.

Outpatient Treatment for Alcoholism

Outpatient addiction treatment is similar to an inpatient treatment program; however, the patient doesn’t live at the facility. They come for therapeutic activities but go home at the end of each day.

Rehab Aftercare To Support Long-Lasting Sobriety

Rehab is just the first step in recovery. After a patient leaves, they’re in a vulnerable state — aftercare can help them resist temptation, manage triggers and build a new, alcohol-free life. At Camelback Recovery, we develop an aftercare plan for every patient and connect them with the appropriate resources. With continued work and support, it’s possible to maintain long-term sobriety.

Common aftercare activities include:

  • Therapy (group, individual and family)
  • 12-step programs (Alcoholics Anonymous)
  • Case management
  • Life Coaching
  • Medication management
  • Sober living homes
  • Healthy eating and exercise routine

Therapies Used in Treatment

Here at Camelback Recovery, we use a variety of therapeutic tools to treat alcohol use disorder.

Neurobehavioral Therapy: This intervention strategy happens in two phases. First, a clinician uses a set of assessment tools to identify the problems that led to addictive behaviors — among alcoholics, this might include impulsivity or mood swings. Then, they come up with a targeted treatment to alter the neural pathways and a set of metrics to monitor progress. At Camelback Recovery, the leading mental health and addiction treatment center in Phoenix, AZ, we use cutting-edge technology to aid the process and change problematic behaviors.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This type of traditional counseling aims to identify and change the unhelpful patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to alcohol problems. The patient learns to change thoughts, develop new beliefs and build healthy coping strategies.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET): These sessions help the patient develop a strong sense of internal motivation. This can help them feel more engaged in the treatment process and create a desire to change destructive behaviors.

Family Therapy: Alcohol use disorder affects more than the individual; it can also damage family relationships. Family therapy can repair those bonds and educate family members about alcohol abuse.

Support Groups: These groups offer peer-to-peer counseling, education and a supportive community.