Despite popular belief, America’s biggest drug threat isn’t opioids–it’s alcohol. This legal substance is also an addictive substance, and millions use it excessively, risking their health, lives, jobs, relationships and more. Drinking too much puts many on the road to battling alcohol abuse which can, in turn, lead to alcohol addiction.
Alcohol addiction can lead to alcoholism, a chronic disease that is characterized by uncontrollable drinking patterns that create a physical and psychological dependence on an individual. Alcohol is one of the most common substances of abuse within society today. Since alcohol is legal, there are no real risks of obtaining a drink.
However, the risks associated with alcohol abuse are far more dangerous and life-threatening than you might imagine.
Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder, affects your physical and psychological states. It is classified as alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.
When you are addicted to alcohol, it becomes more difficult to function on a daily basis without it in the body. Long-term alcohol use has severe effects on the human body as well as the brain.
Depending on the severity of alcoholism in an individual, the side effects associated with the overconsumption of alcohol vary.
Although alcohol is typically referred to as, well, alcohol, there are a few alternative names for the substance:
When alcohol is ingested, it causes euphoria and releases “feel good” chemicals to the reward system in the brain. Although alcohol can increase sociability and self-confidence, it causes you to experience difficulty walking, blurred vision, slurred speech, and slow reaction times – which are all effects on the brain. Heavy drinking produces a greater risk for damage to the brain, especially if you have been drinking for an extended period of time.
The effects vary in severity depending on:
Alcohol abuse is known to cause memory implications and blackouts. Blackouts occur in those who drink too much, in a short amount of time. Physical complications can also arise in individuals who suffer from alcoholism. The most common are issues in the liver. The liver is responsible for the breakdown and excretion of alcohol from the body. When abnormally large amounts of alcohol enter the body, the liver might not be able to process the alcohol quick enough. This causes a dysfunction within the organ. Prolonged, untreated dysfunction in the liver results in cirrhosis – which ultimately ends up causing Hepatic Encephalopathy in the brain.
Alcoholism can be tricky to detect, especially if you are a casual drinker or drink frequently. However, there a few signs to look out for if you suspect you or someone you know is suffering from alcoholism.
The most noticeable signs an alcoholic will display consist of:
Not everyone who consumes alcohol is predisposed to alcoholism.Genetics, as well as other major factors, play a large role in the development of alcoholism.If you are unsure if you are suffering from alcoholism or abusing alcohol, ask yourself these questions:
Although these may not be the conclusion to if you are suffering from alcoholism or not, it will give you a general idea of the symptoms associated with the overconsumption of alcohol. Also, asking another individual who may be dealing with dependence or addiction to alcoholism can be the deciding factor in getting the person help before they suffer consequences of long-term alcohol use.
Alcoholics will need to undergo a series of treatment programs to abstain from alcohol safely. Since the effects of alcohol are detrimental to the body, withdrawal symptoms can lead to undesirable effects. The withdrawal symptoms of alcoholism are so severe that in some cases, they can be fatal. Symptoms vary based on the individual’s health as well as how much they drink, how often they drink, and the duration of their alcohol abuse.
Generally, if you are going through alcohol withdrawal, you will experience symptoms such as:
Alcohol withdrawal, if not appropriately treated, can be dangerous. Seeking treatment for alcohol use disorder will first include detoxing in a medical facility. Addiction treatment specialists recommended that users attend a detoxification facility because of the stronghold the illness has on individuals, as well as its easy accessibility. Also, alcohol is one of two substances that result in life-threatening consequences if you try to go through withdrawals without medical attention. Medical detox programs are designed to ensure comfortability as well as safety for those seeking help from the disease of alcoholism. Depending on the severity of withdrawal, you will typically spend three to 10 days in a detox facility.
After the detoxification process, inpatient or residential programs will continue the abstinence of alcohol or other substances of abuse. An inpatient treatment program will give you time away from alcohol as well as surround you with constant support under medical supervision. It is imperative for alcoholics to commit to inpatient treatment due to its effectiveness. The benefits of long-term treatment programs consist of:
Long-term facilities typically last anywhere from 30-90 days. During the treatment stay, you will be encouraged to look at your alcoholism and guided through the initial stages of recovery. When inpatient/residential treatment ends, you may be recommended to complete an outpatient program. These programs are usually affiliated with the treatment center or sober living facility. They might last anywhere up to nine weeks; however, you will only be required to attend one to three group sessions a week.
Outpatient programs help you maintain sobriety while also keeping you accountable. Also, while you attend outpatient or intensive outpatient programs, you can also seek further support in 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
Alcoholism is treatable. However, there are seriously dangerous side-effects as a result of drinking alcohol in excess.
Alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction are real threats, and in many cases, they do turn out to be fatal. Despite the dangers, alcoholism is the third-leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., contributing to roughly 88,000 deaths every year. Also, more than half of these deaths are related to binge drinking. Alcoholism can lead to a long list of physical and psychological effects.
Alcohol takes a serious toll on your health, especially if you frequently drink a lot. Alcoholism can lead to damage to the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, immune system, and it can also cause cancer. Alcoholism can also lead to anxiety and depression as well as severe mood swings.
Alcoholism also kills. Alcohol withdrawal should be taken very seriously as it can lead to death. Withdrawal symptoms can start six hours after a person takes their last drink. These warning symptoms include:
People with acute alcohol withdrawal could experience hallucinations that take place anywhere from 12 to 24 hours after their last drink. They also could have seizures within the first 48 hours. These seizures are not the same as delirium tremens, or DTs. Those begin anywhere from 48 to 72 hours after the last drink.
Severe symptoms of DT include vivid hallucinations and delusions. DTs reportedly affects only five percent of people in alcohol withdrawal. This group typically experiences confusion, a racing heart, high blood pressure, fever, and heavy sweating. All of these symptoms and conditions are reasons why abruptly stopping alcohol consumption is not the way to go. Going “cold turkey” can be deadly. A medical detox, which is typically the first step in an addiction recovery program, is the safe way to do things.
Aside from causing damage to the body, alcohol can affect the people you surround yourself with. Especially if you experience blackouts or violent episodes during intoxication. People also lose the ability to think and act irrationally – potentially causing car accidents or other fatal incidents.
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Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD. from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015.pdf
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Writer, S. (2018, August 31). Why Top-Rated Colleges Struggle with Student Substance Abuse. from https://delphihealthgroup.com/student-substance-abuse/