According to statistics from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol-related deaths are the fourth leading cause of preventable death is the U.S.A., and 31% of all driving fatalities in 2014 were due to alcohol-impaired driving. If you have a loved one who is addicted to alcohol, there's no doubt that you are probably worried about their future.

Alcoholism and other forms of chemical dependencies can be difficult to understand. However, it's a good idea to have at least a basic understanding of why your loved one has an addiction. That way, you can decide what type of help to get and if medical intervention is necessary. Here's what you need to know about the effects of alcohol on your loved one.

Stimulant & Sedative

Alcohol is both a central nervous system stimulant and sedative, even though they are completely opposite. Researchers don't fully understand the depressant or sedative effects of alcohol on the central nervous system. However, they do believe that the release of striatal dopamine is what causes the stimulant effects of alcohol.

Dopamine is what gives the body the feeling that it is being rewarded. It's this feeling of reward that may drive someone to continue drinking to the point that they can be considered an alcoholic. Researchers theorize that people who have a greater stimulant response to alcohol are more prone to develop alcoholism than people who respond greater to the sedative effect.

Reward & Punishment

There's also a feeling of punishment that comes into play as the alcohol wears off. At first, this is what many refer to as a hangover. But later, when the addiction is more deeply-seated, an alcoholic can experience uncontrollable shaking, rapid heartbeat, restlessness, confusion, agitation, and sensitivity to sounds and lights when they haven't had a recent drink.

This is the feeling of punishment that makes them feel like they need to have another drink. They believe that having another drink is the only way they can feel better. The reason for this is because their body has become dependent on having alcohol in their system.

Cirrhosis & Liver Function Tests

In addition to the rates of alcohol-related deaths, there are other serious health risks when someone consumes a lot of alcohol, especially on a regular basis. Roughly 90% of the alcohol you drink goes to the liver where it is broken down. However, this can cause the cells in the liver to get damaged and scarred, which is what causes Cirrhosis.

This is a condition in which the liver function is very low or non-existent, which can lead to death. For this reason, it is crucial to have your loved one get liver function tests.

Counseling & Treatment

It's important to determine the extent of your loved one's dependency on alcohol before any detox program can begin. Stopping consumption of alcohol suddenly or too quickly can cause delirium tremens, which typically requires immediate hospitalization with admission to an intensive care unit. For this reason, your loved one will need to get a full blood work-up to determine the extent of the damage caused to his or her body.

There are medications that are available that are formulated to help alcoholics overcome the need to drink alcohol. However, it is crucial to get down to the root cause of the reason for consuming alcohol in the first place. Perhaps they are depressed and drinking makes them feel happier, or they may not have self-esteem when sober but are very outgoing when drinking.

Counseling can not only help them discover what led them to becoming an alcoholic, but it can also keep them from returning to the bottle during and after their detox program. For more information about counseling and rehab programs, talk with a local treatment center or visit websites like