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Learn how taboos can make alcohol abuse an uncomfortable topic in many Middle Eastern countries.

Alcohol Abuse in the Middle East: A Hidden Issue

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While strict laws and ongoing taboos can make alcohol abuse an uncomfortable topic in many Middle Eastern countries, it’s important to ensure that a loved one struggling with an alcohol addiction gets the help they need in order to recover.

Just how serious of a problem is alcohol abuse in Middle Eastern nations? The answer isn’t immediately clear. There are few studies about alcohol consumption in the Arab world, and this is largely due to longstanding taboos on drinking coupled with serious legal ramifications for those that do imbibe. The use of alcohol as an intoxicant is prohibited in Islam, and government regulations in many Arab countries set tight controls on alcohol consumption or ban it outright. Though a few areas, such as the UAE, are beginning to loosen some restrictions on alcohol use, there are still pervasive negative connotations associated with it.

The studies that have surfaced suggest that alcohol abuse is a problem still faced by residents of Arab nations despite existing restrictions on consumption. One 2014 study led by the World Health Organisation found drinkers in the UAE were consuming nearly twice as much alcohol as the global average, followed by Bahrain and Oman, both of which also reported drinking rates beyond the international average. 

Because alcohol use is so taboo throughout the region, getting help for an addiction can be difficult. However, professional treatment is essential for someone who is struggling with alcohol use disorder. 

Understanding Alcohol Addiction as a Disease

Too often alcohol addiction is characterised as a lack of willpower. There are many who believe that if a person simply was more responsible or had better self-control, then they would be able to stop drinking. This is a common misconception not only in the Middle East, but globally, and leads to social stigma and shame for those who are battling addiction. However, what research has proven is that addiction is about far more than a personal choice not to use alcohol. 

Drinking alcohol stimulates an increase in dopamine levels in the brain, a key neurotransmitter that is linked to feelings of pleasure and well-being. With alcohol use, these levels rise higher than normal, triggering a craving for another drink. Over time, the brain can become reliant on alcohol to release dopamine, which results in someone feeling depressed, irritable, and anxious when they are not using alcohol, and stimulates an intense desire to drink again. This process also leads to a tolerance for alcohol, meaning the person has to drink a greater amount in order to get the safe effect.

The profound impacts that alcohol addiction has on the workings of the brain also affects the central nervous system, which has significant physical effects that can be dangerous if someone with a serious habit suddenly stops drinking. 

The rewiring of the brain that occurs during addiction is what makes it so difficult to overcome on one’s own. Just like we would not expect someone with asthma to simply try harder to breathe, we cannot ask that someone struggling with alcohol addiction just stop drinking. Professional treatment is needed to oversee both the medical and psychological care needed to successfully heal from an addiction and manage a long-term recovery.

What are Signs of Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction does not always present with one set of symptoms. While some people may have an obvious problem with alcohol abuse, others may be able to hide their addiction. Given societal pressure around alcohol, there are strong incentives for people to conceal their drinking as much as possible. Signs that someone you love may be struggling with a dependency on alcohol include:

  • Physical signs of intoxication such as:
      • slurred speech
      • poor coordination and balance
      • forgetfulness
  • Prioritising drinking over family, work or other commitments
  • Driving or working while intoxicated
  • Becoming angry or defensive when confronted about alcohol use
  • Trying to stop drinking but being unable to do so
  • Becoming worried or agitated if alcohol is not available

If you suspect that a loved one has an alcohol addiction, it is important to seek professional care in order to safely and successfully overcome the problem.

What are the Long-Term Impacts of Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol has significant and lasting effects on the body and mind that can lead to serious illness and even death. Prolonged, heavy use of alcohol impacts many key organs, including:

  • Heart – alcohol use puts stress on the heart, and over time can result in cardiovascular disease, raising the risk for a heart attack or stroke.
  • Brain – heavy drinking can impact the brain directly, or lead to vitamin deficiencies or problems with other organs that can also negatively impact the brain. This significantly raises the risk for memory loss and dementia.
  • Liver – chronic alcohol abuse causes serious liver problems, including scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), alcohol-related hepatitis, and an increased risk of liver cancer.

Reasons People in the Middle East Avoid Seeking Addiction Treatment?

It is common for people living with an addiction to be in denial about the extent of their problem or the effects it has on their lives or relationships with others. For those in countries where serious legal penalties and social stigma are also present, there is an additional motivation for covering up an addiction. 

Additionally, as many countries in the Arab world have relied on a punitive approach to reduce or stop drug use, there are limited private treatment options for those looking to overcome their addiction. Government-run treatment centres tend to use a psychiatric approach to recovery, meaning that patients will go through detox and then be treated with medication, rather than following up with psychotherapy to get to the root causes of an alcohol addiction. 

Providing viable alternatives to those with an addiction may help them reconsider the idea of treatment. Seeking rehab abroad can open up a range of options that protect one’s privacy while using a holistic, effective approach to treat alcoholism and any co-occurring disorders. Looking at alcohol addiction treatment outside the Middle East may be the answer for a loved one battling a dependency.

Coming to The Dawn: Alcohol Addiction Treatment Outside the Middle East

Work on your anxiety and learn how to effectively cope with it at The Dawn Inpatient Mental Health Treatment Centre in Thailand.

The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab offers highly personalised alcohol addiction rehab treatment for those looking to successfully lead a healthier life. Located in the stunning landscape of Chiang Mai, Thailand, The Dawn is the only addiction centre in Asia to have international accreditation. 

Our compassionate, experienced staff works with each client to develop a customised treatment plan that addresses the client’s specific needs, identifies root causes of the disorder, and uses a wide variety of coping mechanisms to successfully and sustainably manage the condition for a lasting recovery. We specialise in offering a long-term alcohol and drug rehab programme that ensures that our clients are supported through each stage of their recovery.

Long-Term Alcohol and Drug Rehab in Thailand

The Dawn offers long-term rehab that focuses on in-depth mental health treatment and further guidance through the continuum of care, which includes alcohol detox, addiction and mental health treatment, a step-down programme, and an aftercare plan. This means that instead of spending four weeks in treatment and then heading home, our rehab treatment model is generally eight weeks, and is flexible, all-inclusive and can be extended based on the unique needs of the client.-

Alcohol and Depression Treatment

At The Dawn, we understand that many addictions are accompanied by a co-occurring disorder. Often, people who have an alcohol addiction are using it as an attempt to self-medicate for another undiagnosed condition, such as depression or anxiety. We offer alcohol and depression treatment to ensure that root causes of the addiction are understood and addressed, which helps fortify a lasting recovery.

If you suspect someone you love is struggling with alcohol use, call The Dawn today to learn more about how we can help.

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