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About Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol has a broad range of side effects. Though it is legal to consume, it’s far from harmless. Alcohol abuse is still a widespread problem in the United States that genuinely impacts society, families, and individuals.

When a person loses the power of choice over their drinking, this is called alcohol abuse or an alcohol use disorder (AUD). At least 8% of the adult U.S. population meets the criteria for an AUD, which comes out to almost 27 million Americans. The good news is that excellent help is available for people ready to overcome their alcohol abuse and find a better way to live.

What Is Alcohol?

Alcohol abuse has been with humanity for about as long as fermentation. Alcohol remains the most popular drug in America. Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, is the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages that causes intoxication.

The lowest alcohol content by volume (ABV), at an average of 5%, is Beer. A typical 12 oz glass or can of beer is roughly the amount of alcohol the average human body can process in an hour. In other words, most adults can drink that amount in one hour without becoming intoxicated. Beer might be considered the “gateway drug” in alcohol abuse. But some young people start with more palatable “hard seltzers” and sweeter drinks.

Wine has an average of 12% ABV, and its higher alcohol content makes it more potent than beer but less potent than hard liquor. A standard glass of wine is about 5-6 ounces, which is also considered to meet the “one drink” standard often referenced when assessing alcohol abuse.

Whiskey, rum, tequila, gin, and vodka are “hard” liquor examples. They are frequently mixed with other non-alcoholic beverages to create mixed drinks. 40% (80 proof) is the average ABV for liquor, and the standard drink is typically 1.5 ounces (about a shot glass).

When consuming alcohol, 20% of it is absorbed through the person’s stomach, and 80% of the alcohol gets absorbed through the person’s small intestine. It then makes its way through the rest of the body by the bloodstream. It then begins to change the body’s system’s normal routine functioning. The liver then metabolizes most of the alcohol.

The liver is often adversely affected when alcohol abuse becomes habitual and long-term. It can also cause more health-related issues as well. Neurotransmitters in the brain are also affected and change the functioning of awareness, perception, and mood. Long-term, heavy alcohol abuse devastates the body and brain.

Serious health risks can present themselves with long-term use and misuse. Alcohol has been linked to more than 200 diseases and health conditions.

Cancer, liver cirrhosis, unintentional injuries, and addiction can all be caused by drinking alcohol. In addition to these health concerns, alcohol addiction can lead to relationship and family stressors. Other long-term health issues listed below are:

  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • High blood pressure
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Heart disease
  • Digestive problems
  • Brain and nerve damage
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dementia

Immediate Effects Of Alcohol

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant with short-term effects. These effects include coordination issues, slurred speech, drowsiness, distortion of senses and perception, loss of consciousness, problems with memory, and lowered inhibitions.

Alcohol’s short-term effects depend on the amount of alcohol and how quickly it is consumed. Other factors determining the intensity are body weight, genetics, gender, and the food consumed before drinking. Women overall are at a higher risk of experiencing effects because they metabolize alcohol at a slower rate than men, even if they consume the same amount.

>Immediate Effects Of Alcohol

Drinking Patterns and Understanding Them

In the past year, 70% of adults in 2019 in the US reported having drunk alcohol. It’s hard to distinguish causal drinking from abuse. No amount of alcohol is considered risk-free; there are patterns of usage that lower the risks of forming AUD and health risks.

Drinking heavily comes with significant risks. It is classified by having three or more drinks a day for women and four more drinks a day for men, or eight drinks per week for women and fifteen drinks per week for men.

Another unhealthy drinking pattern is binge drinking. For women, drinking four or more drinks in two hours would be considered binge drinking, and for men, it would be drinking five or more drinks in two hours. This pattern is pervasive and can lead to addiction.

Alcohol Addiction Signs

There are many signs of alcohol addiction:

  • The increased amount of drinking, when not intended
  • Unable to stop drinking, especially when trying
  • Needing to increase alcohol to achieve the same effects
  • When not drinking, you begin to experience withdrawal symptoms
  • Drinking impacts your responsibilities like school, work, or family
  • Setting aside other activities and interests to drink
  • Continuing to drink despite being aware of the health consequences
  • Having intense cravings to drink daily

High-Functioning Alcoholics

Those who do not have the typical characteristics of a person who struggles with AUD are considered High-Functioning alcoholics. They can keep their disorder from imposing on their professional or daily obligations. Their lives may appear put together; however, they struggle with intense cravings for alcohol and several unsuccessful attempts at quitting. High-Functioning Alcoholics seldom recognize or admit they have a problem unless they have severe alcohol-related consequences. This can continue for years while they remain in denial. High-Functioning alcoholics are still susceptible to long-term health risks like those with AUD.

The New York Times in 2009 estimated that as many as 50% of all alcoholics are high-functioning, and large portions are professors, doctors, and lawyers. With prolonged use, alcoholism is a progressive disorder because it impacts the individual’s health as they continue to use. For this reason, treating AUD in the early stages is more accessible, and Detoxing from alcohol is the first step of treatment.

Detoxing can create symptoms such as headache, vomiting, nausea, insomnia, and sweating. Although there are other symptoms, they vary in severity. These symptoms usually dissipate within 48 hours after the last drink. Of those who go through alcohol withdrawal, about five percent will experience delirium tremens, which come with severe hallucinations and delusions.

Alcohol or substance abuse detox should be completed in a medical facility. This allows medical professionals to monitor and assist in making the process as safe and less stressful on you and your body as possible. Treatment should continue after successfully detoxing, whether through inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation. These extended programs, support groups, and continued therapy help lower the chances of relapse.

Alcohol Mixed with Other Drugs

It’s common in today’s culture for alcohol to be abused with other drugs, especially Benzodiazepines, including some painkillers. Alcohol combined with other substances can be deadly – even alcohol alone is potentially lethal.

Finding Help For Alcohol Addiction

Recovery from addiction can be very challenging, and the good news is that you don’t have to go through it alone. Several people who struggle with addiction, especially alcohol, find it difficult or even impossible to quit without assistance or support from others.

Many support groups are designed to help you receive the assistance you need. You can increase your chances of a full and successful recovery with the help of The Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center.

Contact us today to discuss our unique treatment options.


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