Alcohol seems to exist everywhere we turn – restaurants, tv commercials, sporting events and more. And while it is generously advertised and encouraged in social settings, alcohol is not so seemingly harmless. With over 14 million adults struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder in 2017, we ought to approach alcohol more carefully.
Alcohol is psychoactive drug that is classified as a depressant. Depressants temporarily slow normal brain function and the central nervous system, resulting in delayed responses and reactions. As such, depressant drugs are often referred to as “downers.”
While alcohol consumption may appear to be considered a cultural or societal norm, that is not the case for everyone. Alcohol use varies from person to person, ranging from complete abstinence, to occasional and infrequent consumption, to daily ingestion, and everywhere in between. For some, alcohol use can become out of control, leading to a host of challenges affecting one’s physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual health, not to mention aspects of their intimate, financial, occupational, and socioeconomic lives, too.
You or someone you love may be experiencing these consequences as a result of alcohol use. Treatment4Addiction.com is here to help offer information, guidance, and support in the road to recovery from alcoholism.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines alcoholism as “problem drinking that becomes severe.” Further, they clarify that such Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using.”
In order to be diagnosed with alcoholism or AUD, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has outlined criteria, of which an individual must meet two in the same 12-month period:
- Using alcohol in higher amounts or for a longer time than originally intended
- Being unable to cut down on alcohol use despite a desire to do so
- Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of alcohol
- Cravings, or a strong desire to use alcohol
- Being unable to fulfill major obligations at home, work, or school because of alcohol use
- Continuing to abuse alcohol despite negative interpersonal or social problems that are likely due to alcohol use
- Giving up previously enjoyed social, occupational, or recreational activities because of alcohol use
- Using alcohol in physically dangerous situations (such as driving or operating machinery)
- Continuing to abuse alcohol despite the presence of a psychological or physical problem that is probably due to alcohol use
- Having a tolerance (i.e. needing to drink increasingly large or more frequent amounts of alcohol to achieve desired effect)
- Developing symptoms of withdrawal when efforts are made to stop using alcohol
If you believe you or someone you love meets these criteria, or struggles with alcohol use, please contact us at 888-480-1703. We are here to help.
Alcohol immediately enters the bloodstream when consumed, affecting both the mind and body in as little as 10 minutes. An individual does not need to be abusing alcohol or using it regularly to experience its short-term side effects. As the amount of alcohol consumed increases, so does impairment and the severity of its side effects, ranging from mild (such as slurred speech) to severe (such as death). Additional side effects of alcohol use include:
- Reduced inhibitions, leading to poor judgement
- Slurred speech
- Loss of coordination
- Confusion and memory problems
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Raised blood pressure
- Reduced body temperature
- Passing out
- Breathing problems
As a result of these side effects, those under the influence of alcohol may also experience added risks such as car crashes and other accidents, risky behavior (including sexual), violent behavior, and suicide and homicide.
Drinking excessively over a period of time can lead to serious physical and mental health conditions. Heavy alcohol use can lead to liver problems, cardiovascular issues, and even various types of cancer. Side effects of long-term alcohol use include:
- Serious brain damage
- Memory loss
- Loss of attention span
- Trouble learning
- Mood disorders (including anxiety disorder)
- Pancreatic problems
- Liver disease
- Throat, mouth, larynx, breast, liver, colorectal, or esophageal cancer
- Heart problems (high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, stroke)
Furthermore, short- and long-term alcohol use can lead to societal and interpersonal problems, such as:
- Failing to meet work, school, or home responsibilities
- Stopping activities you once enjoyed
- Significant interpersonal problems (such as divorce)
- Domestic abuse
- Financial problems
Moderate alcohol use can lead to short term side effects like loss of coordination and memory problems, while binge drinking can lead to even more serious consequences. The NIAAA defines binge drinking as a drinking pattern that leads to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 g/dL and above. Usually, this occurs in 2 hours, or after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men. It is important to know that an individual’s BAC can continue to rise, even after he or she stops drinking, or even passes out. Excessive consumption of alcohol, or binge drinking, can lead to alcohol poisoning. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Slowed or irregular breathing
- Cyanosis, or a blue-tinted skin
- Pale skin
- Low body temperature, or hypothermia
If you suspect someone is suffering from alcohol poisoning, it is critical that you call 911 immediately. Alcohol poisoning can cause permeant brain damage and even death.
Individuals who used alcohol heavily or frequently may experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping alcohol use. Withdrawal symptoms can range in severity, from mild to moderately uncomfortable, to severe and life-threatening. It is important to seek medical help when detoxing from alcohol to not only make the withdrawal symptoms more manageable, but to also detox safely. Seizures are a serious side effect of alcohol withdrawal and can lead to death – medical support and observation are crucial when detoxing from alcohol.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can start as early as 8 hours after the last drink. Depending upon one’s tolerance – the need for a higher dose of a drug to achieve the same effect, some withdrawal symptoms may not begin until 24 hours after the last drink. Severe withdrawal symptoms may not arise until 2 to 4 days after abstinence. Some examples of alcohol withdrawal symptoms categorized by severity include:
- Mild – Anxiety, headache, insomnia, tremor, heart palpitations, gastrointestinal problems
- Moderate – In addition to mild symptoms, some individuals may develop elevated body temperature and sweating, rapid heartbeat, increased systolic blood pressure, rapid but shallow breathing, and some confusion.
- Severe/Delirium Tremens – Delirium Tremens (DTs) are a neurologic syndrome brought on by autonomic nervous system excitation, resulting in changes in mental status. Other severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms include disorientation, impaired attention, visual and/or auditory hallucinations, and seizures.
Depending on the severity of alcohol use disorder, withdrawal symptoms can last as little as a few hours, up to several weeks after their onset. Though, in most cases, withdrawal symptoms typically last 5-7 days.
While symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are unpleasant, and in some cases dangerous, treatment is available. Explore treatment options for you or a loved one and begin the road to recovery today by calling us at 888-480-1703. Recovery is possible.