MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY: Kelli Whitmire
WRITTEN BY: Mark Shandrow
ARTICLE UPDATED: 06/29/2021
NUMBER OF REFERENCES: 1 Source
Alcoholism is a serious disease. You may not realize there is an issue when you have a drink because the majority of people have not made the connection between alcoholism and addiction. On the other hand, most people understand the link between substances such as opioids or heroin and addiction.
The definition of an alcoholic is an individual with a dependence on alcohol. The majority of alcoholics drink to excess. Although you may believe an alcoholic is unable to function or live without drinking every day, this is a partial misconception. Non-functional alcoholics often fit this description, but functional alcoholics do not.
If you are mentally or physically dependent on alcohol, you most likely have an issue. If you have been unable to decrease the amount of alcohol you consume or constantly think about having a drink, you are probably suffering from alcoholism. Dependence is the beginning of alcoholism. Alcohol is classified as a drug. This means the more you consume. the more your body will compensate and adjust.
As your dependence increases, trying to stop drinking alcohol will result in the experience of withdrawal symptoms.
Common symptoms of alcohol dependency include:
• Drinking more alcohol or for longer periods than you intended.
• The inability to think of anything but your next drink.
• Placing yourself in a situation where drinking increases your risk of serious injury.
• Continuing to drink despite the it causing issues within relationships.
• Inability to decrease your consumption of alcohol.
• Continuing to drink despite the feeling of anxiety, depression, experiencing memory blackouts or harm to your health.
• The need to continuously drink more to achieve the same effect.
• Spending a lot of your time drinking, hungover or becoming ill.
• Not participating in important activities so you can consume alcohol.
• Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the effect of alcohol wears off including insomnia, restlessness, sweating, seizures, shakiness, nausea, increased heart rate or hallucinations.
If you have experienced at least two of the above symptoms during the past 12 months, you are suffering from a mild disorder. Four to five symptoms are considered a moderate disorder. If you have experienced six, you have a severe alcohol disorder. An alcohol use disorder is about how much alcohol you are consuming, the effects you experience, how often you have a drink and your results when you try to decrease your consumption.
The way your behavior and body are impacted by alcohol encompasses psychological, environmental, genetic and social factors. According to the latest theories, alcohol consumption affects certain people differently. These individuals have a greater risk of becoming dependent on alcohol and developing a disorder. As time passes, the excessive consumption of alcohol negatively affects your body.
The normal function of the part of your brain responsible for controlling your behavior, your judgment and experiencing pleasure is negatively affected. You may start to crave alcohol to decrease negative feelings or to experience good ones. Although an alcohol dependency can begin at any age including the teenage years, it is most common for individuals in their 20s and 30s. If you consume alcohol consistently during an extended period of time, the result is often drinking to excess, binge drinking, issues related to alcohol or alcohol use disorder. If you started drinking or binging when you were young, your risk of developing alcohol use disorder is much higher. Your risk is impacted by your parents, role models and peers.
Your risk can also increase due to your family history. If you have a close relative or parents suffering from an alcohol use disorder, your genetics might have been negatively influenced. If you have experienced mental health issues including anxiety and depression, your risk increases. A lot of individuals with mental health disorders experience issues with alcohol. This also includes bipolar disorders and schizophrenia. If your history includes emotional or physical trauma, your risk of dependency significantly increases. You also need to take cultural and social factors into consideration. Your risk of developing an alcohol use disorder increases if your partner or close friends drink on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, society often glamorizes drinking alcohol. Social media and magazines frequently send a message that drinking to excess is acceptable. According to the latest research, studies have shown individuals having bariatric surgery have an increased risk of alcohol dependency. The risk of relapsing after completing alcohol rehab is also much higher.
When you consume alcohol, your central nervous system becomes depressed. You may experience stimulation as your initial reaction. If you continue drinking, your body and mind become sedated. Drinking to excess negatively impacts the vital areas of your brain, muscle coordination and speech. Heavily binging on alcohol can result in a coma or death.
If you use specific medications, the function of your brain can become depressed. This increases your risk of serious health complications. Drinking to excess can decrease your inhibitions and judgment skills resulting in dangerous behaviors and situations thus making poor choices including:
• Accidental injuries such as a motor vehicle accident or drowning
• Legal issues or problems with finances or employment
• Performing poorly at school or work
• Engaging in risky behavior resulting in date rape, sexual abuse or unprotected sex
• Issues with your relationships
• Your risk of suicide or attempted suicide increases
• Issues with substance use
• Increased risk of becoming the victim or a violent crime or committing a crime
The good news is alcoholism is treatable with treatment at our Orange County rehab. Although this disease impacts both adults and children, not everyone suffers the same effects. Certain individuals can become intoxicated after one drink. Others need to drink a lot more to experience the same effects. According to the NIAAA, the classification of one drink includes:
• 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits
• Five ounces of wine
• 12 ounces of beer
No matter what specific effects your brain and body experience, consuming alcohol results in a greater risk of numerous health issues. Even though excess alcohol consumption causes harm, in most cases the effects can be reversed with alcohol rehab. The key is to identify issues with alcohol consumption early to begin treatment as soon as possible.
The physical, emotional and mental side effects of heavy alcohol consumption can usually be reversed. Once you have reached a certain point, the severe damage becomes irreversible. Two of the permanent damages resulting from heavy drinking are cirrhosis of the liver and liver failure. Even if your body has sustained permanent damage, it is not too late to receive help. The quality of your life can still be improved.
There are numerous factors increasing your risk of abusing alcohol. This may have gradually resulted in addiction. There are many reasons potentially triggering your need to consume alcohol including:
Coping with Loss:
The death of a close friend or family member takes a mental, physical and emotional toll. You may have turned to alcohol to cope with grief and see you through a hard time. The issue is that even temporary consumption can become a drinking problem.
Almost every individual treated for alcoholism has suffered from some kind of trauma. There are all different types of trauma and painful events. Unfortunately, not everyone has someone empathetic to turn to. Your recovery may be dependent on resolving your trauma.
Your risk of developing an addiction is higher if you rely on alcohol to cope with the stress of daily life. Alcohol promotes pleasure because it is a sedative and a depressant. The more you drink, the higher your tolerance becomes. This means you must increase your consumption to experience the same pleasure.
A lot of people start drinking because they do not have an adequate connection to others. You may be using alcohol to create new connections or to fill a void. Unfortunately, the result is usually the exact opposite.
Drinking may provide you with an escape from the world. You may have found relief from issues your mind was unable to cope with. If you continue drinking to get through your days, you will most likely develop a serious alcohol dependency.
One of the hardest emotions for anyone to cope with is a feeling of shame. Shame is also very traumatic. You can temporarily escape from the feelings resulting from shame with alcohol. Unfortunately, you may begin engaging in foolish or reckless behavior. Eventually, you will enter a downward spiral because your shame will only increase.
Overcoming Anxiety: Certain individuals experience anxiety naturally, resulting in constant worrying. Consuming alcohol will decrease your inhibitions, increase your comfort level in social atmospheres and eventually cause addictive behavior.
Whether you drink to excess for the long-term or just once, the impact on your health can be serious. Many people experience slower coordination, reflexes and reaction times.
One of the most dangerous things you can do is drive after you have been drinking. Your perception of both distance and speed will be altered. You will be placing others at risk in addition to yourself. Some of the common short-term impacts of consuming alcohol include:
• Poor reflexes
• Blurry vision
• Decreased brain activity
• Slower reaction time
• Difficulty breathing
• Decreased inhibitions
Your long-term health can be severely compromised by consuming too much alcohol. There are specific side effects that can remain dormant for months or even years. For correct diagnosis and treatment, professional care is necessary. Long-term health issues can develop from consuming alcohol as time passes, or on just one occasion including:
Excessive alcohol consumption may cause high blood pressure. This will increase your risk for stroke, heart failure or an enlarged heart. One alcoholic binge can result in atrial fibrillation which is a serious heart arrhythmia.
You may experience issues with producing new bone due to alcohol consumption. Bone loss can result in osteoporosis or a thinning of your bones increasing your risk of fractures. Alcohol can cause damage to your bone marrow required for the production of blood cells. You may experience a low platelet count causing bleeding and bruising.
Increased Cancer Risk:
Excessive alcohol consumption over a long period of time has been connected to increased risks for numerous types of cancers including throat, colon, mouth, breast, esophagus and liver cancer. There are certain types of medication shown to have an interaction with alcohol resulting in increased toxicity. If you drink while using these medications, they can become dangerous and less effective for use of treatment.
Heavy consumption of alcohol can cause the lining of your stomach to become inflamed which is gastritis. You may also experience esophageal and stomach ulcers. Your absorption of most nutrients including B vitamins can be negatively impacted. Drinking heavily can lead to pancreatitis by inflaming or damaging your pancreas.
Excess alcohol consumption can result in an increased content of fat in your liver or your liver becoming inflamed. As time passes, scars on your liver tissue can result in permanent destruction leading to cirrhosis.
Over the long-term, excessive alcohol can result in rapid and involuntary eye movement. Your eye muscles can become weak or paralyzed due to a thiamin deficiency. Other changes in your brain have been linked to this deficiency including permanent dementia if you do not receive treatment quickly.
Weak Immune System:
Excessive alcohol use negatively impacts the ability of your body to resist numerous illnesses and diseases including a high risk of pneumonia.
Complications for Diabetics:
Glucose is also regularly released from your liver. Alcohol interferes with this process by increasing your risk of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. If you already have diabetes and require insulin to decrease your blood sugar, this condition is dangerous.
If you consume alcohol while you are pregnant, your risk of miscarriage increases. Fetal alcohol syndrome can occur resulting in a baby with developmental and physical issues often lasting for their entire life. This damage is irreversible and can lead to death.
Menstrual and Sexual Issues:
In men, drinking to excess can result in erectile dysfunction. In women, the menstruation cycle for women can be interrupted.
Neurological Issues: Excessive alcohol consumption can impact your nervous system resulting in disoriented thinking, short-term loss of memory, pain and numbness in your feet and hands and dementia.
The most difficult and important decision you can make is committing to alcohol rehab. Depending on the severity and frequency of your alcohol consumption, Asana Recovery offers different treatment options. The lifelong process of recovery from alcoholism will continue after you have completed rehab. You must make a commitment to learning and implementing the techniques taught through rehab, support groups, therapy and counseling.
Since every individual is unique, your recovery plan will be customized for your specific needs. A good structure is required for a successful recovery. There are three basic steps for treating alcohol addiction. Your first step is completing detox. You will receive help from medical professionals because your withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and severe.
If necessary, you will be provided with medication to help decrease the impact of your withdrawal symptoms. If you are suffering from severe alcohol addiction, this step is critical. The idea is to help you quit drinking while giving your body the time necessary to eliminate alcohol from your system. In most cases, this requires between three and seven days. You may need a treatment center or hospital due to withdrawal symptoms that include hallucinations, tremors or shaking, and seizures. Medical professionals including physicians will watch over you and ensure you have any medications necessary to help with your withdrawal symptoms. Your second step is rehabilitation, with two types available for alcoholism, outpatient rehab and inpatient rehab.
Inpatient rehab is a more intensive treatment. You will need to check into the rehab center for a specific amount of time. This is generally a period of 30, 60 or 90 days. Outpatient rehab enables you to continue with your regular life while taking part in a recovery program. Your physician will determine which type of program is best suited for your individual needs and success.
Learning how to control your alcohol consumption is an important step toward your recovery. You will be taught strategies and skills important for your everyday life. Counselors, social workers and psychologists will teach you all of the following:
• How to cope with the triggers that often lead to cravings
• How to create a strong support system
• How to cope with your stress
• How to set and reach your goals
You may require a focused, short counseling session. If you are experiencing issues including depression or anxiety, you may need long-term therapy. An alcohol use disorder also impacts your friends and family. In this instance, family or couples therapy is a good option. Therapists are not the people leading support groups. Those who have experienced issues with alcohol lead the support groups as they understand what the individuals are going through. Your peers provide you with valuable advice and understanding while ensuring you remain accountable for your actions. Some of these individuals have chosen to remain in group therapy for years. Your final step toward recovery is maintenance. Remaining sober for the long-term requires recovery resources, including counseling and support groups in addition to ongoing therapy. This will help you stay sober to live a healthy and happy life for the long-term.
Fore more information on Asana Recovery, give us a call today at 949-763-3440