Whiskey is a popular alcoholic beverage all over the world. Different varieties of whiskey contain 40 to 60 percent alcohol by volume, making it more concentrated than other drinks like wine or beer. With such a high alcohol content, whiskey is potentially addictive.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 17 million Americans aged 18 and above are suffering from alcohol use disorder. Also, one in ten children lives with a parent who has a drinking problem.
Why does whiskey cause addiction, and can it be treated? Read on to find out more.
How would I know if I’m addicted to whiskey?
If you suspect that you’re addicted to whiskey, but you’re not sure, answer these 11 questions.
In the past year, have you:
- Ended up drinking more or longer than you planned?
- More than once wanted to cut down on drinking but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking or getting sick from its effects?
- Experienced strong urges to drink?
- Found that your drinking, or being sick because of it, often got in the way of responsibilities at school, work, or your family?
- Continued to drink even if it caused trouble with family and friends?
- Cut back or given up activities you enjoyed just to drink?
- More than once gotten into situations that endangered yourself while drinking or after drinking?
- Continued to drink even though it made you feel anxious or depressed, or contributed to another health problem?
- Had to drink much more than before to get the effect you want?
- Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you experienced trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, sweating, or hallucinations?
If you answered “yes” to any one of these questions, your drinking habits may already be concerning. The more questions you answer “yes” to, the more serious your drinking problem is. Combinations of these symptoms are warning signs of alcohol use disorder.
How can I get help if I’m experiencing signs of whiskey addiction?
First of all, talk to your primary care doctor. He will assess your current health status and recommend appropriate treatments for your case. He will also determine whether or not you need medications. Most importantly, your primary care doctor is a great source of referrals to other mental health professionals who can help you recover.
More than one kind of care provider may work with you in your rehab process. These include psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and counselors. Each of them has the appropriate credentials and training to help you deal with your addiction.
What medications are used to treat whiskey addiction?
Usually, medications are used to help you manage the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, such as:
- Shaky hands
- Trouble sleeping
- Heavy breathing
- Profuse sweating
One such drug is called acamprosate (sold under the brand name Campral). This medication reduces the physical and emotional discomforts you can experience when quitting alcohol.
Another is naltrexone (sold under the brand names Depade and Revia). Naltrexone reduces cravings for alcohol by stopping the “high” you may experience when drinking whiskey. When you don’t get that “high”, you will get less pleasure from drinking. In turn, you will be more able to control your urges to drink.
A drug called disulfiram (branded as Antabuse) is another medication against alcohol use disorder. It is a drinking deterrent, and it works by producing an adverse effect when the patient consumes alcohol. So if you take disulfiram, then drink whiskey, you will feel an unpleasant side effect, which in most cases is vomiting. That would, in turn, discourage you from drinking more.
Would these medications cause another addiction that would replace alcohol? The good news is no, they won’t. These medications are not addictive, and once you don’t need them anymore, you can stop taking them without issues.
What other treatments are used for whiskey addiction?
Medications alone are not enough to treat the entirety of alcohol use disorder. In addition, behavioral therapies are needed to address the effects of alcohol on your mind and emotions.
Behavioral therapies help you in these ways:
- Identifying and avoiding triggers that lead to heavy drinking
- Developing alternative methods of coping with stress and negative emotions
- Setting achievable recovery goals
- Building a strong network of support
There are many kinds of behavioral therapies, and you can go through a combination of them. One example is cognitive behavioral therapy, which aims to dig out the root causes of your drinking problems. Also, this therapy teaches you to change the patterns of thought that cause you to drink excessively. Cognitive behavioral therapy equips you with the skills to cope with situations that trigger bad drinking habits.
Another is motivational enhancement therapy, which aims to increase your willingness to go through treatment. Through this therapy, you will learn the pros and cons of treatment, formulate a plan for effective recovery, and build your confidence as well.
In many cases, involving your family increases the chances of successful recovery. For this reason, family and marital counseling is helpful in overcoming addiction to whiskey. Your spouse and family can be your best support network if they are well-equipped to handle your problems with drinking.
How long does treatment last?
It depends on how serious your addiction to whiskey is. For mild cases, treatments can be as short as one month, and you don’t have to stay inside a rehab facility. These treatments are known as outpatient rehabs. Therapies are scheduled a few days a week, and you only have to go to the treatment facility on those days. After each therapy is done, you can go back home.
But if you have a more severe case of alcohol use disorder, you may need to go through inpatient rehab. You have to stay inside a facility for anywhere between a month to six months, depending on your needs. The rehab facility is an environment designed to help you focus on therapy, developing new habits, and avoiding any circumstance that triggers your drinking problems.