A Brief History of Alcohol Addiction

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A Brief History of Alcohol Addiction

Since the beginning of recorded time, alcohol has been part of American culture, and abuse, misuse, and addiction quickly followed. The struggle humans have with alcohol predates modern memory. For centuries, societies have struggled to find the balance between social alcohol use (alcohol use in daily life) in problematic drinking. This ongoing struggle has defined how society in the medical community has defined alcohol abuse and treatment across the decades. It has also contributed to consistently evolving viewpoints on “normal drinking,” the legality surrounding alcohol use, and the connection between alcohol and deteriorating mental and physical health.

The History of Alcohol Use

Alcohol in some form or another has been around for thousands of years. Fermented beverages existed as early as Egyptian civilizations, and there is evidence of early alcoholic drinks in China about 7000 BC. The Babylonians worshiped the wine goddess, and although mead gained popularity in Greece, Greek literature is full of warnings for its citizens against excessive drinking.

Colonists and Native Americans

The roots of alcoholism and alcohol abuse date back to colonial America. Alcohol consumption was a part of a Native American culture but only in ritualistic practice. The idea of recreational drinking was brought overseas by European settlers who utilized alcohol to weaken the steadfast resistance of indigenous Americans to unfair demands for land, resources, and women by European settlers. It has been said that colonists “drank immoderately and engaged in otherwise unacceptable behavior while drunk” and that this behavior heavily influenced how the Native American population viewed alcohol as an item being offered for trade.

Native American tribal leaders would gather members of their respective tribes into circles to communicate with those struggling with alcohol abuse. Tribal elders believed that focusing on religious ideologies would bring wayward tribal members back to the tribe both mentally and socially. It is also said that Native Americans coming together in this way to help members of their tribe ward off the evil that was alcohol was the first time there had been a form of organized “substance abuse treatment” in the Americas. Interestingly, Native American cultures have always viewed circle shapes as a way to ward off evil and evil spirits. Many years later, the concept of connecting with a higher power was adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous, who also adopted the circle as part of their official logo.

Alcohol Addiction and the “By Choice” Mindset

For decades, there was a prevailing misconception regarding alcohol consumption Across America and in many parts of the world. It was believed that when someone struggled with the lure of alcohol and eventual addiction, it was by their own choice. Individuals who drank alcohol in excess to the point of addiction were believed to be of weak moral fiber. In other words, their alcohol addiction was by their own choosing in something they should have had control over if they were strong in moral character. This mindset lasted well beyond the colonial period and into the early days of the United States. In the early 1800s, Benjamin Rush (a signer of the Declaration of Independence) challenged the idea the alcohol addiction was voluntary. At that time, he published a book called “An Inquiry into the Effects of Ardent Spirits Upon the Human Body,” in which he questioned the notion that a weakness for alcohol was equivalent to the existence of an impure soul. Mr. Rush was one of the first to claim that the problem lies in the human mind, and therefore alcoholism or alcohol addiction was a treatable ailment. Rush was one of the first to suggest that the chemical properties within alcohol cause particular drinkers to lose their inhibitions, and therefore alcoholism carried with it the symptoms of a disease as opposed to a moral failing. Consequently, Rush concluded that the cure for alcohol abuse was not prayer or punishment but addiction treatment.

Unfortunately, the theory that alcoholism and alcohol addiction are voluntary or a moral failing has been a pervasive stigma well beyond the writings of Benjamin Rush. Up through the 20th and 21st century, many members of the medical community and society at large struggled to view alcohol use and addiction as a treatable medical diagnosis. Fortunately, times are changing, and with it, the viewpoint on alcohol addiction.

Alcohol Addiction as a Disease

Alcohol addiction was the first addiction to officially receive classification as a disease. Despite ongoing differing viewpoints, it is widely known among the medical community that all addictions fall into the same category. However, many still view addiction in the same light as decades ago. When someone struggles with an “active addiction” to alcohol, they have virtually no control over their actions. In these circumstances, they are just as much a victim of their disease as someone who has received a diagnosis of cancer, heart disease, or any other chronic, debilitating condition.

Addiction to alcohol is a chronic and progressive disease. It is classified as chronic because it can never be cured. This is not to say, however, that alcohol addiction is not treatable and that someone struggling with a negative relationship with alcohol cannot achieve long-term sobriety. However, a person who is addicted to alcohol will always have to be on guard with their thoughts, actions, and triggers to avoid potential relapse after completing a successful addiction treatment program such as that at The Hills in Los Angeles. Addiction is considered a progressive disease because unless treatment is sought, the disease inevitably worsens to the point of physical, psychological, and emotional detriment. Depending on the severity of 1’s addiction, alcohol addiction can progress to the point of fatality in some cases.

Although many use the word recovered in the context of addiction treatment, it is crucial to note that recovery does not equal cure. One who has a substance abuse problem cannot safely resume social drinking without running the risk of relapse. Like any other chronic disease, the disease of addiction is managed by monitoring triggers and making active lifestyle changes that will halt the disease’s progress. Someone who struggles with a heart condition often makes dietary and exercise changes to reduce the chances of recurring symptoms. Similarly, some with diabetes will do much the same. Someone who struggles with an alcohol addiction must also alter their relationship with alcohol and perhaps their social circles to ensure they can maintain ongoing sobriety. 

The Evolving History of Alcohol Addiction Treatment

As the viewpoints on alcohol addiction as a disease change, so do the views on addiction treatment. For many years, addiction support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous were some of the only places someone struggling with addiction could go to gain the support they needed to attain sobriety.  While today’s comprehensive addiction treatment programs typically involve a support group component (either as part of the initial treatment program or as part of a comprehensive aftercare program, addiction treatment programs like the Hills provide a much more well-rounded, evidence-based approach to alcohol addiction treatment.

Getting sober when you have an alcohol addiction can be challenging and complicated. The withdrawal symptoms many experience when reducing or quitting alcohol entirely can sometimes be overwhelming and difficult to manage without treatment support. Detoxing from alcohol for some can be dangerous and even life-threatening. For this reason, addiction treatment programs offer medically assisted detox to ensure patients can read their systems of alcohol in a safe and supportive setting. Once detox is complete, program participants can easily transition from detox two therapy in an environment where they feel comfortable and supported.

Addiction treatment programs like The Hills offer various behavioral therapies that can help you address your addiction’s root causes and better understand how your behaviors are connected to cravings and triggers. During therapy, you will be asked to explore the behaviors that lead to addiction. You will also learn and practice new, healthy, safer coping mechanisms you can use once treatment ends to help better manage stressful situations or other circumstances that may have historically led you to alcohol use. In addition to evidence-based therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy, addiction treatment at the Hills provides an assortment of luxury benefits and alternative therapies some patients find beneficial as part of a well-rounded treatment program. Depending on your unique treatment needs and goals, alternative therapies such as yoga, meditation, adventure therapy, music therapy, or art therapy may be integrated into your treatment plan to ensure the most holistic approach possible. Addiction is a disease that affects everyone differently, and therefore one size fits all addiction treatment programs are not suitable to meet everyone’s addiction treatment needs and goals. At the Hills, we will ensure your treatment program is as unique and individual as you are.

Struggles with alcohol use and misuse are not new challenges. Humans have had an interesting and contentious relationship with alcohol for centuries. Consistently changing views of society and members of the medical community have allowed for progress in the areas of diagnosis and treatment for those struggling with alcohol addiction. Progressing viewpoints surrounding how one struggles with and can defeat addiction has helped reduce addiction and addiction treatment stigma. Still, of the thousands of Americans who struggle with addiction each day, only a small percentage will ever seek or receive potentially life-saving addiction treatment. If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol addiction, don’t wait another day to seek treatment. Although struggles with addiction may never disappear, a comprehensive addiction treatment program can help you attain sobriety and begin the journey to long-term recovery. Seeking treatment at an alcohol addiction treatment center like The Hills in Los Angeles can help you reestablish your relationship with your physical and emotional health while beginning a new life free of the weight of alcohol addiction. There will never be a better time than today. Contact us at the Hills to learn more about how our skilled addiction treatment professionals can help you.

Resources

https://collections.nlm.nih.gov/catalog/nlm:nlmuid-2569025R-bk

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446168/

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