About Alcohol Abuse

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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 program in the United States that has a very real impact on society as well as 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 meet the criteria for an AUD. That comes out to almost 27 million Americans. The good news is there is excellent help available for people who are 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 considered to be 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 the world of alcohol abuse. But some young people start with more palatable “hard seltzers” and sweeter drinks these days.

Wine has an average of 12% ABV. 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 that’s often references when trying to assess alcohol abuse.

Whiskey, rum, tequila, gin, and vodka are examples of “hard” liquor. They are frequently mixed with other beverages that are non-alcoholic to create mixed drinks. 40% (80 proof) is the average ABV for liquor. 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. 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. Majority of the alcohol is then metabolized by the liver.

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 has devastating effects on the body and brain.

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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.

The alcohol’s short-term effects depend on the amount of alcohol and how quickly it was consumed. The other factors that determine the intensity are bodyweight, genetics, gender, and the food consumed prior to 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.

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, addiction to alcohol 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

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.

It is recommended that a person of legal age drink moderately. Moderate drinking is defined as one standard drink a day for women and two for men.

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

Another unhealthy drinking pattern is binge drinking. It involves elevating a blood alcohol content or BAC to or above 0.8 g/dl. Drinking four or more drinks in two hours for women would be considered binge drinking. For men it would be drinking five or more drinks in two hours. This pattern is very common, even though results can be fatal, it is popular among college students. The results do also lead to addiction.

Alcohol Addiction Signs

There are many signs of alcohol addiction:

  • Increased amount of drinking, when not intended
  • Unable to stop drinking, especially when tying
  • Needing to increase alcohol to achieve 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 in order to drink
  • Continuing to drink despite being aware of the health consequences
  • Having strong cravings to drink on a daily basis

High-Functioning Alcoholics

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

The New York Times in 2009 estimated in an article that as many as 50% of all alcoholics are high-functioning. Large portions of these people are professors, doctors, and lawyers. With prolonged use alcoholism is a progressive disorder being it impacts the health of the individual as they continue to use. For this specific reasoning it is easier to treat AUD in the early stages. 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 and they vary in range of severity. These symptoms usually dissipate within 48 hours after the last drink. Those who go through alcohol withdrawal, about five percent will experience delirium tremens. It comes with severe hallucinations and delusions.

Completing alcohol detox or any substance abuse detox is highly recommended to be completed in a medical facility. This allows medical professionals to monitor and assist in making this process as safe and as less stressful on you and your body as possible. Treatment should continue after successfully detoxing, whether through inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation. These extended programs help continue to treat addiction. Support groups and continued therapy is helpful with lowering 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 though alcohol on its own is dangerous, and has the potential to be lethal.

Finding Help For Alcohol Addiction

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

There are a plethora of professionals and support groups created and 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, for us to discuss the unique options, specialized just for you, of how we can begin your success of treatment.

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