Alcohol is one of the most commonly abused substances both in the United States as well as around the globe. The fact that it is socially acceptable to drink often leads to denial. However, if you do not get your alcoholism treated, it can lead to some severe consequences and negative outcomes.
Alcoholism is often defined as an alcohol use disorder. It is a type of addiction that can change how your brain works. Further, it can lead to negative emotions, cravings for drinking, impulsive behavior, and withdrawal symptoms.
For this reason, it is recommended that you check into an alcohol addiction treatment and rehabilitation program once you realize that you have a drinking problem. By so doing, you will be able to benefit from the medically supervised detox, therapy, counseling, and support group meetings that will be provided in such a program. Read on to find out more:
Although alcohol is a legal substance, it is also heavily controlled. When you drink it, you may experience lowered inhibitions and anxiety. However, it also comes with many other side effects, including slurred speech and loss of coordination.
That said, just because you drink it does not necessarily mean that you are an alcohol. Even so, if doing so often leads to negative effects that are seen on a regular basis, then it is highly likely that you may be struggling with an alcohol use disorder.
Today, alcohol is available in various forms - all of which can be drunk. These include hard liquor, wine, and beer, among others. As such, it is not surprising that alcohol is one of the most commonly abused substance in the United States.
Studies have shown that at least 1 out of every 12 adults in the country struggle with alcohol use disorders. If you are among these people, you will often drink excessively either over a duration of time or on a single occasion.
Doing this will often lead to severe health problems, coma, chronic disease, and even death. It can also impact your behavior, which could lead to violence, aggression, and accidents - some of which might turn out to be fatal.
The effects of ongoing alcohol abuse and addiction also tend to be far-reaching and serious. Although you may be able to overcome this condition on your own, in many cases you will find that you need assistance to do so.
It is also important to keep in mind that alcoholism can affect you irrespective of your situation or place in society. Researchers have pointed out, however, that there are some factors that could increase your risk of developing this condition.
These factors include but are not limited to socio-economics, race, sex, and genetics, as well as your family history of substance abuse and addiction. However, there is no single factor that could contribute to your addiction. This is because there will often be an interplay of behavioral, genetic, psychological, and environmental factors that may increase your risk of alcoholism.
The important thing to keep in mind is that alcohol use disorders are a real condition. They can change the way your brain works, as well as its neurochemistry. As a result, these changes may make it impossible for you to control your actions.
There are also many different ways in which the condition will manifest itself. These include but are not limited to:
- How often you consume this substance
- How you drink alcohol
- The amount of alcohol that you consume once you get started
- The severity of your alcohol abuse and addiction
For instance, you may decide to drink heavily on a daily basis or engage in binge drinking every once in a while before staying sober for the rest of your time. Either way, you can be sure that abusing alcohol can lead to many negative outcomes and consequences.
Regardless of the outlook of your alcohol consumption, you may be said to be struggling with an alcohol use disorder if you have reached a point where you rely heavily on this substance and find that you are no longer able to stay sober for any given period of time.
Other Names for Alcohol
People refer to alcohol by a wide variety of names, including but not limited to:
- Good Stuff
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
It might be difficult for you to recognize and understand that you are struggling with alcohol abuse and addiction. This is because alcohol is unlike other substances like heroin and cocaine in the sense that it is widely available, legal, and culturally accepted. The substance is also often at the core of many social and cultural situations, and people often closely link it with enjoyment, celebration, and relaxation.
However, if you are struggling with alcoholism, you may start showing some signs and symptoms that could point to the fact that you need medical intervention and attention. Examples of these symptoms of alcohol addiction include:
- Avoiding contact with your loved ones so that you can continue consuming this substance
- Avoiding situations where you know there will be no alcohol
- Blacking out or forgetting the things that you did when you were drinking
- Blaming your drinking and the problems it causes on other people
- Changes in your friendships, such as choosing friends who drink as heavily as you do
- Complaining that friends and family have been exaggerating the problems you are struggling with
- Continued alcohol use even after you have realized that it leads to various problems
- Depending on alcohol to function normally in your everyday life
- Developing high tolerance for the substance
- Downplaying the negative side effects and consequences that arise due to your drinking
- Drastically underestimating the amount of alcohol that you drink once you start
- Drinking even at inappropriate times, including as first thing you do when you get up, at work, or even in church
- Emotional issues
- Feeling ashamed or guilty about your drinking
- Focusing heavily on alcohol, such as that you start neglecting your responsibilities at work, home, or school
- Hiding alcohol
- Hiding while consuming alcohol
- Hiding your drinking habits
- Increased lethargy
- Increasing the frequency and/or quantity of alcohol use
- Lacking hangover symptoms due to your regular drinking
- Loss of control over the amount of alcohol you consume
- Lying to others about how much you drink
- Need to drink alcohol so that you can calm down, relax, or feel better about yourself
- Professional and legal problems due to drinking, including loss of employment, and getting arrested
- Regularly drink more alcohol than you wanted or intended to
- Tolerance to the effects of alcohol, so that you need to drink more before you can achieve the desirable effects that you are looking for
- Using alcohol even in situations where doing so is dangerous, such as while driving, while operating machinery, or while on a prescription medication
- Wanting to be in areas where you can easily access and consume alcohol
- Wanting to stop drinking, but finding that you are no longer able to
- Withdrawal symptoms in between your drinking bouts
Short and Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Since it is a CNS - central nervous system - depressant, alcohol can slow down bodily and mental processes. When you first consume it, you may experience a significant decrease in your feelings of stress and anxiety.
Even so, ongoing alcohol abuse could lead to various short and long term effects. These effects are mostly negatively and include but are not limited to:
- Acute kidney failure
- Alcoholic hepatitis
- Birth defects
- Bone loss
- Brain damage
- Cancers of the mouth, breast, esophagus, colon, throat, rectum, and
- Chronic kidney disease
- Complications related to diabetes
- Disruption in the communication pathways of the brain
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
- Financial difficulties
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High risk of cancer
- Impaired memory
- Improper digestion
- Increased susceptibility to such diseases as pneumonia and tuberculosis
- Inflammation of the pancreas
- Irregular heartbeat
- Liver disease
- Liver inflammation
- Motor impairment
- Nutrition deficiencies
- Physical harm
- Problems at work
- Reduced thinking abilities
- Severe injuries
- Sexual problems
- Slurred speech
- Strained relationships
- Suppressed immune function
- Swelling of blood vessels
- Unprotected sex, which could lead to sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy
- Vision problems
Even after you have stopped drinking, the BAC - blood alcohol concentration - will continue rising for another 30 to 40 minutes. For this reason, there is a high risk that you could suffer an alcohol overdose if you start drinking alcohol.
The following are some of the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning or overdose:
- An inability to continue walking properly
- Blue-tinge to the skin
- Brain damage
- Cardiac arrest
- Cold and clammy skin
- Depressed breathing
- Difficulty remaining conscious
- Dulled responses
- Fast heart rate
- Inability to wake up
- Irregular breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Irregular pulse
- Lack of proper physical coordination
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Loss of gag reflex
- Low blood pressure
- Low body temperature (or hypothermia)
- Mental confusion
- Pale skin
- Passing out (or unconsciousness)
- Severe dehydration
- Stomach cramps
- Stopping breathing
- Unresponsiveness while still conscious
If you suspect that you may be overdosing or that someone else is displaying any of these symptoms, it is essential that you call 911 or your local poisons control center as soon as possible. This is because alcohol poisoning is considered to be an emergency that requires immediate medical attention.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
If you have been drinking frequently or heavily for a given period of time, you may develop physical dependence on alcohol. This means that you will experience withdrawal symptoms if you significantly reduce the amount of alcohol that you abuse or completely stop drinking.
Some of the signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include but are not limited to:
- Elevated heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Issues with concentration
- Stomach cramps
- Trouble sleeping
Often, alcohol withdrawal will begin a couple of hours after your last drink. They will also peak in about one day or two before showing an improvement within 5 or so days. However, you also need to realize that this condition might turn out to be more life-threatening than unpleasant.
In particular, if you have been drinking heavily for a long time, you are going to need medically managed detox services to ensure that you do not suffer life-threatening withdrawal.
For this reason, it is recommended that you seek emergency medical assistance in case you suffer any of the following symptoms of alcohol withdrawal:
- Extreme agitation
- Severe vomiting
These symptoms might point out the fact that you are struggling with DTs or delirium tremens. This is one of the most severe forms of alcohol withdrawal. Although it is a rare condition, it is considered to be an emergency because it can cause significant changes in the ways in which your brain regulates your breathing and circulation. It is for this reason that you should seek medical help once you start displaying these symptoms.
The Best Options for Alcohol Addiction Treatment
If you have been struggling with an alcohol use disorder for any given period of time and you have noticed that it has started affecting your everyday life, it is essential that you seek addiction treatment and rehabilitation services.
These services are often provided on an inpatient basis due to the nature of alcohol use disorders. However, you can also go for outpatient treatment if your alcoholism is not deemed severe enough to require inpatient or residential treatment.
The important thing is that you seek help as soon as you realize that you have a drinking problem. There are many addiction recovery centers across the country that can help you overcome your alcohol use, abuse, and addiction.