person at an alcohol rehabAlcohol (chemical name Ethanol) is one of the oldest recreational drugs used by humans and the most widely used psychoactive drug today. Historically the drug was used for a variety of functions including medicinal purposes, but today we are most familiar with alcohol as a recreational drink used in social gatherings. Alcohol affects the central nervous system of the body and impacts the brain, liver, heart, and pancreas. For this reason, alcohol has a mixture of short-term and long-term effects.

In the United States, nearly 14 million adults, or every one in 13 adults, abuse alcohol making it the most abused substance in the nation. Although few people who abuse alcohol actually seek help, there are effective ways to treat the disorder using a combination of medication, group therapy, and counseling at an alcohol rehab program.

The History of Alcohol

From its inception (said to be around the Neolithic period), alcohol has taken many forms and uses including festivities, rituals, medicine, and cooking. While this popular liquid substance changed throughout the world and time, one thing that remained constant was the danger of excessive drinking. Greeks, originally known for the creation of mead, wrote warnings against excessive drinking throughout their literature.

Depending on the geographic location and time, alcohol was made in a variety of ways, but typically involved grapes, wheat, barley, berries, honey, or rice. The fermentation of grapes which led to the creation of wine was discovered by the Greeks and became one of the most widely used mediums for alcohol consumption throughout the Mediterranean countries. It wasn’t until the 16th and 17th century England where drunken intoxication became a prominent problem. Today it has become ingrained in American society as a way to relax, socialize, and have fun; unfortunately, the addictive properties have not gone away and continue to be one of the more pressing health issues in America today alongside the opioid epidemic. Alcohol use disorders tend to be an overlooked public health crisis as a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that the rate of alcohol use disorder rose by a shocking 49 percent in the first decade of the 2000s.

Alcohol Withdrawal & Detox

Withdrawal from alcohol is one of the most excruciating processes when compared to almost all other drugs. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms cause individuals to feel extreme discomfort and in some cases can cause severe or fatal seizures. Always consult your doctor or treatment center before deciding to quit drinking as it can have a variety of adverse effects. Withdrawals from alcohol include:

Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Mild symptoms usually show up as early as six hours but typically emerge after 24 hours without drinking. The severity of withdrawals is dependent on the severity and frequency of drinking. These feelings can be apparent for binge drinkers but very common with heavy drinkers.

Moderate Drinkers

Moderate drinking is drinking up to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. Withdrawals from this type of drinking are rare and minimal if any. Withdrawal symptoms could include minor irritations like headaches and irritableness.

Binge Drinkers

Drinking alcohol to obtain (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This usually occurs after four drinks for women and five drinks for men in about two hours. Depending on their frequency, binge drinkers can produce minor withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, restlessness, and shakiness when drinking stops.

Heavy Drinkers

For men, having 15 drinks or more during a week is considered heavy drinking. For women, it’s eight drinks over the course of a week. For heavy drinkers, alcohol withdrawal symptoms will be substantially more severe. The cessation of drinking can lead to symptoms like confusion, racing heart, high blood pressure, fever, and heavy sweating.

Severe Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

More serious problems range from hallucinations about 12 to 24 hours after that last drink to seizures within the first 2 days. These severe withdrawal symptoms are for individuals who have been heavy drinkers for a extended period of time – usually over a year. If you believe you may be a heavy drinker it is crucial that you do not try to quit drinking without professional help. Alcohol withdrawals can be extremely unpleasant and even sometimes fatal. An alcohol detox program like Coalition Recovery is designed to help individuals through the withdrawal stages with minimum discomfort and maximum safety. Severe withdrawal symptoms include.

  • Hallucinations (feeling, seeing, or hearing things that aren’t there)
  • Extreme agitation
  • Fever
  • Extreme confusion
  • High blood pressure
  • Seizures (Delirium Tremens)

Alcohol withdrawal delirium (AWD) is the most serious form of alcohol withdrawal. It causes sudden and severe problems in the brain and nervous system leading to severe confusion and grand mal seizures that can be fatal without proper medical supervision.

Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol addiction, alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder – are all terms used to refer to the chronic mental health condition in which a person becomes so dependent on alcohol that it affects their life. It can be hard to define alcoholism because there are a variety of severities, ways it affects people, and ways in which it can come about, but one thing that remains constant is its effect on an individual’s life and health.

Like many addictive substances, alcohol affects the reward center in our brains. It can affect certain individuals to the extent that their brains are re-wired to desire alcohol. The susceptibility for addiction can depend on a variety of factors but primarily break down into biological and social factors.

Biological Causes

Individuals with a genetic history of alcoholism in their family are more prone to alcoholism. This is generally because the brain structures are similar – therefore some people are more likely to become addicted to alcohol because their brains are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. Individuals with certain types of mental health disorders may be more likely to become addicted and dependent on alcohol.

Social Causes

The environment a person grows up in can drastically impact their decisions later in life. If an individual grows up with parents who drink regularly, they may believe drinking constantly is a natural and ok thing to do. Also, drinking is a regular part of American society, and in certain social circles, drinking regularly can be seen as normal.

Signs of Alcoholism

To fully know if you or a loved one needs professional help, talk to a doctor. He/she will assess whether or not you actually have a disorder, if you need to cut back on drinking, or if your drinking is normal. If you are unsure whether or not a person has an alcohol use disorder, here are some common things to look for:

Effects of Alcohol Addiction

Health Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol causes a range of health effects. Short-term side effects of alcohol abuse include alcohol poisoning and blacking out. Long-term health effects of alcohol include depression, anxiety, and a variety of diseases and disorders.

Social Effects of Alcohol

Friends and family members of alcoholics also face the consequences of their loved one’s disease. Alcohol addiction causes legal, financial, and relationship problems. Alcoholics often struggle to have healthy relationships with loved ones.

Risks of Mixing Alcohol

Some people who are addicted to alcohol mix the substance with other drugs. But alcohol can cause dangerous interactions with over-the-counter drugs and some everyday substances, such as caffeine. When people mix alcohol with illicit or prescription drugs, the interactions can be life-threatening.

Can the Damage Be Reversed?

Everyone is different, and generally the longer the drinking, the longer it takes to reverse the damage – but thankfully much of the damage caused by excessive drinking can be reversed. Studies show that abstaining from alcohol for several months can show significant structural changes in the brain that can help improve overall thinking and problem-solving skills as well as memory and attention improvements. Other studies have shown that damage to the liver can be improved in as little as six weeks from abstinence. Other health benefits can include:

  • Better sleep
  • Improved memory function
  • More energy
  • Better digestion
  • Clearer skin
  • Better digestion
  • More hydration in the body
  • Increased mental focus
  • Clarity and less brain fog
  • Reduced risk of heart disease or breast cancer
  • Increased absorption of vitamins and minerals
  • Better immune system
  • Weight loss due to less caloric intake

People with mild alcohol problems may be able to quit drinking on their own or with the help of support groups. However, people who are addicted to alcohol require treatment. Recovery from alcohol addiction is achievable with assistance from doctors, therapists, peers, friends, and family members.

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

Diagnosis

The first step is determining whether you or your loved one has a substance abuse disorder. To be sure, ask your primary physician or doctor. Knowing the severity of your potential withdrawal is very important considering the possibility of fatal outcomes. Alcohol abuse is primarily diagnosed with a physical exam and a toxicology screen. Toxicology screenings measure the amount of alcohol present in your blood and urine. Additional to your exams, the doctor will also look for physical symptoms like tremors in your hands, high blood pressure, fast heartbeat, fever, dilated pupils, and fast breathing.

The Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol scale is also a very common questionnaire that doctors may use to establish the severity of withdrawal. This questionnaire asks 10 questions to measure:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tremor
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Tactile disturbances, which are abnormal feelings in, on, or underneath your skin
  • Auditory disturbances, which involve your hearing
  • Visual disturbances, which involve your vision
  • Headache
  • Confusion

They will be able to assess the severity of the disorder through a medical examination and questionnaire. Typical signs of alcohol use disorder (alcoholism) include:

  • Neglecting personal/family responsibilities.
  • Declining academic or professional performance.
  • Depression.
  • Conflicts with loved ones.
  • Preoccupation with drinking and cravings.
  • Inability to control drinking.
  • Failing in attempts to stop drinking.
  • Needing increasing amounts of alcohol to feel its effects.
  • Getting drunk when it could be hazardous, such as before driving.
  • Going through withdrawal when not drinking

Treatment Process for Alcohol Use Disorders (Alcoholism)

The treatment process for alcohol use disorder requires a multi-step approach. First, a person should go through detoxification to expel all unwanted substances from the body and minimize the withdrawal symptoms associated. The detox process can be difficult for some but with the use of modern medication and medical support, the discomfort can be minimized drastically.

After the detoxification process, real treatment begins. Often, individuals believe all that is required is to get past the withdrawals; and once they can get past those they won’t feel the need to drink anymore but this is not the case. While physical withdrawal symptoms can be a contributing factor during addition, there are always underlying factors that need to be addressed to successfully maintain long-term sobriety.

These factors should be addressed through multiple means: group therapy, counseling, medication, life skill management, and spiritual growth. Here at Coalition Recovery, we help heal individuals, build strong will, and establish a sense of purpose and connection to their overall life. We believe this is the recipe to build the self-efficacy needed for long-term success.

If you or a loved one is suffering from an alcohol use disorder reach out to one of our addiction specialists today. They can walk you through the necessary steps needed to admit to treatment. They can help answer any questions or reservations you may have; including how to attend treatment while working or in school. A better life awaits – don’t wait! Call Coalition Recovery today at 888.707.2873.