Alcohol is the most abused substance in the United States. A legal and socially-accepted substance, its derivatives are regularly overconsumed and abused. Those suffering from an alcohol use disorder often find it difficult to determine their disease and its consequences. Learning the risk factors and dangers of this disease is the first milestone in prevention and recovery.
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Alcohol abuse is the abuse and misuse of liquor, wine, and beer. It is not about how much you drink or when you drink. It is about the effect that drinking alcohol has on you and your life. Alcohol abuse can escalate quickly into a use disorder, indicating an addiction.
Alcoholism, or Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), is the chronic dependence and consumption of alcohol. The disease arises when consumption cannot be controlled either due to physical or emotional obsessions with drinking. Individuals suffering from alcohol use disorders continue to drink, even as increasing harm comes to them and their loved ones. They will also experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop drinking.
You do not have to drink every day to have an alcohol use disorder. Drinking over the long-term often leads to dependency and dire life consequences for the individual. When abuse becomes compulsive, physical addiction occurs.
Everyday drinkers are, as their name implies, those who drink most days of the week. These drinkers have a dependence on the substance. Their body and mind need it to function and will suffer withdrawal if they stop drinking daily.
Their drinking problem with alcohol is unmistakably detrimental to their daily quality of life. This makes these drinkers easy to diagnose with a use disorder.
Binge drinkers consume more alcohol than their body can physically handle. Usually drinking only on occasion, their consumption often leaves them drunk and disorderly. These individuals find it hard to diagnose themselves. This is because their life does not revolve around drinking despite their lack of control around the substance.
Being unable to control your drinking, even occasionally, is a sign of substance abuse. Progressive, binge drinking usually will get worse and more compulsive as time goes on. Binge drinkers also suffer severe physical and mental damage from their overconsumption.
Those suffering a use disorder without outward signs of their abuse are considered high-functioning. They keep their drinking problem from interfering with their professional and personal lives. They may even recognize that they have a problem drinking, but cannot control it nor stop.
However, most are in denial of their disorder until a usually disastrous life event brings their issue to light. DUIs, health problems, violence, and being caught are all dangers high-functioning alcoholics face. These secret drinkers often wait for their life to be in shambles before facing their addiction and seeking help.
The amount and type of alcohol content affects every drinker differently. Weight, health, sex, and physiology all play a part in how bodies process alcohol. Any excessive amount will lead to adverse effects on the body.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that affects every organ of the body. When consumed, it is rapidly absorbed into the stomach and small intestines, metabolizing in the liver. The liver can only metabolize a small amount, leaving the surplus to travel through the bloodstream. This process is what leads to intoxication and alcohol poisoning.
Chronic drinking can lead to long-term mental and physical health problems, including:
Over-drinking and having “blackouts” will lead to short-term memory loss and the death of brain cells. Excessive blackouts increase the risk of long-term memory problems.
Driving under the influence is a harshly punished crime in all states. It regularly puts the driver and others at risk of death and injury. Not being able to control your motor vehicle is extremely dangerous. A DUI will result in a life being turned upside-down and likely involve criminal punishment, including jail time.
The withdrawal affects the natural level of serotonin and dopamine in your brain. Stopping abusive drinking causes a deficiency of these chemicals, leaving people anxious and depressed, along with other severe withdrawal symptoms.
Pancreatitis is a disease caused by excessive alcohol consumption that affects your pancreas. Symptoms regularly include epigastric pain, nausea, and vomiting.
A liver disease in which the liver suffers from inflammation. The liver is not able to function optimally, leaving it unable to process bodily fluids. This causes the body to go septic, leading to severe physical damage over time.
Alcohol lowers inhibitions and judgment, leading to individuals doing and saying untypical things. Many become violent, dangerous, and commit crimes while under the influence. Heavy drinking causes many situations to escalate quickly and have massive consequences.
The urge or desire to stop or control drinking is a sign of a use disorder. Those suffering may continue to drink even when physical, mental, and personal consequences arise.
Signs of alcohol abuse vary and can be challenging to spot, even in friends or family members, though common indicators include:
Blackouts, either frequent or occasional
Decreased family and social interactions
Declining work or academic performance
Agitation, anxiety, and depression
Nausea and vomiting
Failure to stop drinking
Different symptoms occur when people stop drinking. These symptoms can range in severity and can even be deadly. Withdrawal symptoms can occur anywhere between two hours to four days after the person stops drinking. These symptoms often include:
Alcohol detoxing affects the brain. The absence of chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin cause the brain’s receptors not to function correctly. They may misfire, leading to potentially life-threatening seizures.
Withdrawing from any substance that the body formed a dependence on will leave the body in disarray. Major organs such as the brain, liver, and pancreas are readjusting to the absence of alcohol. This often causes dehydration and severe headaches.
Tremors are a rhythmic shaking of the body, typically in the hands. Tremors are caused by the nervous system becoming overactive while it detoxes from the alcohol leaving the body.
In the new absence of alcohol, blood sugars sharply decline. This bodily change causes nausea, vomiting, and intense abdominal pain.
Mainly auditory hallucinations occur from the imbalance of chemicals in the brain during withdrawal. These hallucinations cause distress and mental fatigue, weakening resolve and causing physical and psychological harm.
There are dangers and a high percentage of failure associated with self-detox. Because of this, a medical detox facility is the only recommended detoxing method. Alcohol dependence is a state where the human body physically requires the substance to function normally. Withdrawal symptoms are often severe and dangerous if not under qualified care.
Detox in a treatment facility will range from five to ten days, depending on the individual and the severity of the alcoholism. These facilities provide many treatment methods. This full continuum of care, along with a trained and healthy support system, have higher rates of success and safety.
Proper alcohol addiction treatment drastically improves the long-term outcomes for those suffering from the disease. Inpatient treatment usually lasts 30 days, but can take longer depending on the disease’s severity.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy, support groups, and 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, offer the tools needed to achieve long-term sobriety. Freedom from alcoholism involves a changing outlook and way of thinking that these support systems help provide. Completing a rehab treatment program after detox has been shown especially effective at preventing future relapse.
Tens of millions of people in the United States suffer from alcoholism. Escaping the addiction cycle and reaching sobriety is difficult and scary. Social stigmas, leaving loved ones, and a fear of losing employment or responsibilities are common reasons to avoid treatment.
But an alcohol use disorder is a progressive disease and will keep getting worse over time. Not only that, but the body rarely can keep up with the addiction, leading to awful bodily harm as treatment waits. Finding a qualified medical detox and rehab facility is the first milestone on the path to recovering from alcoholism.
Addiction Rehab Treatment and their team of treatment navigators are standing by ready to help. They are a team of individuals who know the suffering of alcoholism. They will help find the right treatment center and work with people one-on-one toward their sobriety.
If you or a loved one is struggling and needs help, reach out today.
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