Stages of Alcoholism

Stages of Alcoholism | Recovery By The Sea

Addiction to alcohol is a serious condition that can begin with the first few drinks and can end in long-term suffering and death. There are seven recognized stages of alcoholism, but unfortunately, many people do not seek help until the later stages if they decide to seek help at all.

Initial Use

Initial use of alcohol often occurs in the teenager or early adult years. Often, in the first stage of experimentation, it may be just a drink or two.

Some people never surpass this stage, and quickly find that they either don’t care to drink alcohol or chose to do so only on rare occasions. Those who do increase to regular but non-abusive use enter in the social stage of alcoholism.

Example: Donna has a glass of beer at her party at age 16. She doesn’t care for the taste and doesn’t drink again until her 21st birthday when she is encouraged to do so by friends.

Social Use

The typical social drinker may consume alcohol up to a few times per month but sometimes can go for days or even weeks without a drink. Also, then they do imbibe, it’s usually low-key and only a couple of servings, such as two glasses of beer or wine with dinner.

People who drink socially may or may not ever progress to high-risk use, which is the next stage.

Example: Joe, age 30 and his family go out to eat at their favorite restaurant twice a month for dinner, and sometimes meet up with friends. He usually orders two beers, and she orders one margarita. Neither drink at home or outside of setting similar to this.

High-Risk Use

Stages of Alcoholism | Recovery By The Sea

High-risk use often involves either binge-drinking or drinking just enough to pose a danger to oneself or others, such as getting behind the wheel of a vehicle or becoming too intoxicated to ward off sexual advances or assaults.

During this stage, hangovers may become more frequent, as well as partaking in a “hair of the dog” the next day to help ease acute withdrawal symptoms such as shakiness, headache, and lethargy.

Example: Taylor, age 22 is in college, and she and her friends go out once or twice a week to parties or clubs. On those nights, Taylor has been regularly seen drinking several beers and multiple shots of tequila.

One morning, Taylor found herself in her dorm by herself but didn’t remember how she got there.

Problematic Use and Early Dependency

Problematic use is characterized by an ongoing pattern of adverse consequences related to drinking. These can include family conflict and relationship strain, legal troubles, financial difficulties, and neglect of responsibilities such as school or work due to alcohol.

Early dependency is identifiable when alcohol withdrawal symptoms are regularly occurring when the user undergoes periods of sobriety.

Some alcoholics hold it together better than others, however – in this stage and the next, “high-functioning alcoholics” can continue to exist. These are people who manage somehow to regularly drink to excess yet still tend to other priorities and maintain a livelihood for themselves and their family.

Example: David, 35, works a 40-hour-per-week job, is married, and has an infant daughter. Every day, he goes to the bar after his shift with co-workers and drinks several beers to the point he is moderately intoxicated.

Despite being over the legal limit, he drives home and spends an hour or so with his daughter before he and wife put her to bed. His wife is generally unhappy with this habit, however, and has asked him several times to cut back or quit.

Middle Dependency

Stages of Alcoholism | Recovery By The Sea

In the middle stage of dependency, both drinking habits and problems continue to worsen.

During this stage, the person is probably going to great lengths to hide the severity of their problem, such as stashing alcohol and sneaking around to get it.

At this point, adverse effects may become irreversible depending on how long the drinker remains in this stage. Marriages may crumble, jobs may be lost, and legal troubles such as multiple DUIs may have occurred. There may be damage to critical organs such as the liver or pancreas, and brain functions such as memory and concentration may be noticeably impaired.

Example: Abby has been drinking heavily on and off for about 15 years, and is currently an active alcoholic. She was convicted of a series of DUIs years earlier, and at age 45, has been unable to regain a driver’s license or own a car.

She is separated from her husband of ten years because he couldn’t take the drinking any longer and she refused to get help. Abby used to own a home with her husband, but now she stays in her elderly parent’s guest room and does odd jobs in between binges. She suffers from early stage alcoholic liver disease and high blood pressure due to alcoholism.

Crisis

At the crisis stage, the alcoholic probably knows that he or she is in a “do or die” situation and receives an ultimatum from loved ones or oneself. At this point, he or she must choose to seek treatment or be willing to succumb to their condition.

Moreover, drinking has become synonymous with waking life, and without intervention, the person suffering is unlikely to get any better.

Example: Larry, age 65, started drinking with his older brother when he was 14. Now retired for about two years, he has regularly spent several hours a day at the local bar drinking with others in a similar situation.

Larry isn’t just drinking at the bar anymore, however. He takes a drink when he first awakens and doesn’t stop until he passes out. He’s always intoxicated and has fallen several times in the past few weeks. He’s also visited the emergency room on multiple occasions due to excessive alcohol use.

Conclusion

The deeper into the stages of alcoholism you enter, the tougher it is to quit drinking. While some people seek help in the high-risk stage, most do not until they reach some level of problematic use and dependency. While treatment can be successful at any stage, early intervention is always desired to minimize damage to both the person suffering and their loved ones, as well as give families the earliest possible opportunity to heal.

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What Is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

Alcohol Syndrome | Recovery By The Sea Addiction Treatment

Women who drink alcohol while pregnant can give birth to babies who have a disorder known as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). FAS belongs to a category of conditions known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). These disorders can vary in severity from mild to severe and can lead to many mental and physical congenital abnormalities and impairments.

Types of FASDs include:

  • Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)
  • Partial fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Alcohol-related birth defects
  • Alcohol-related neurodevelopment disorder (ARND)
  • Neurobehavioral disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure (ND-PAE)

FAS is the most severe type of FASD. Children with FAS may have problems with hearing, vision, attention span, and the ability to communicate and learn. Much of the damage is long-lasting or permanent.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Causes

When a woman who is pregnant drinks alcohol, some of the alcohol passes through the placenta to the unborn fetus. The body of a developing baby cannot process alcohol as efficiently as an adult. Therefore, the alcohol becomes more concentrated in the fetus and can impede oxygen and nutrition from getting to the infant’s vital organs.

Damage is often incurred in the first few weeks of gestation because a woman may not be aware that she is pregnant. The risk increases further if the mother is a heavy drinker and continues to drink throughout the pregnancy.

According to studies, the use of alcohol tends to be the most detrimental during the first trimester of pregnancy. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that alcohol consumption at any time during pregnancy can also be dangerous for the fetus.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Symptoms

Fetal alcohol syndrome can include a wide range of problems, so there are many potential symptoms, which may include the following:

  • Small head
  • Lack of focus and hyperactivity
  • Impaired coordination
  • Impaired judgment
  • Problems seeing or hearing
  • Heart problems
  • Kidney defects and abnormalities
  • Deformed limbs or fingers
  • Mood swings
  • Below average weight and height
  • Very thin upper lip
  • Small, wide-set eyes
  • Flat ridge between lip and nose
  • Delayed development
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Learning disabilities
  • Speech and social skill issues
  • Uncoordinated movement

Diagnosing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Alcohol Syndrome | Recovery By The Sea Addiction Treatment

A medical exam of the infant may discover a heart murmur or other cardiac concerns. As the child grows, there may be other signs, including the following:

  • Slow growth rate
  • Abnormal facial features
  • Abnormal bone growth
  • Vision problems
  • Hearing problems
  • Slow at learning
  • Delayed language development
  • Small head
  • Impaired coordination

To diagnose FAS, a physician must determine that the infant has abnormal facial features, slower than normal growth, and central nervous system (CNS) problems, which could manifest either physically or behaviorally. They may exhibit hyperactivity, a lack of focus, and learning disabilities.

Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder

Alcohol-related neurodevelopment disorder (ARND) refers to a spectrum of disabilities in neurodevelopment and behavior, self-regulation, and adaptive skills caused by prenatal alcohol exposure. People with ARND do not have the characteristic facial abnormalities of FAS. Instead, they generally have some of the developmental disabilities, including structural CNS dysfunction (e.g., brain damage) and learning and behavioral problems.

Neurobehavioral Disorder Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure

A child with neurobehavioral disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure (ND-PAE) will have problems in three areas:

  • Thinking and memory, in which the child will have difficulty planning or will soon forget material he or she has already learned
  • Behavioral problems, such as tantrums, moodiness (e.g., irritability) and difficulty shifting attention from one task to another
  • Trouble with daily living activities, which can include difficulty bathing, dressing, and engaging in playtime with other children

FASD In Adulthood

A fact that remains largely unaddressed is that, as they get older, people with FASD conditions face a higher risk for developing a substance or alcohol use disorder. According to a study from 1996, substance addiction was experienced by 30% of people with FASD. Of the adults with FAE, 53% of males and 70% of females experienced substance abuse issues—more than five times the rate of occurrence than that of the general population.

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Use During Pregnancy

In the long run, FAS can contribute to a myriad of secondary disorders and problems that tend to make life more challenging for those who suffer it, as well as their caregiver.

The most prevalent secondary conditions include the following:

  • Mental health conditions, including ADD, depression, and psychotic disorders
  • Academic difficulties due to learning impairments and the inability to work well with others
  • Legal issues related to anger control problems and a lack of understanding of social cues
  • Alcohol and drug abuse and addiction

Secondary Conditions of FASD During Adulthood

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The effects of FASD can be especially challenging to navigate during adulthood when the individual is expected to take responsibility for him or herself. Adults who suffer from effects related to fetal alcohol exposure often need help as they try to find employment, housing, and transportation or manage activities of daily life.

Unfortunately, a significant number of those afflicted will never receive the resources and support they need to be successful. According to a University of Washington study of people with FAS age 6-51, nearly 80% had problems finding and maintaining employment. What’s more, over 60% of those age 12 and over had legal troubles, and 35% had alcohol and drug use disorders.

As people with FAS enter adulthood, both they and their caregivers face additional difficulties. Specialized coaches and counselors may be needed to help these individuals live happy, relatively independent lives.

There are also a number of secondary effects that most people with FAS experience, such as the following:

  • Mental health disorders
  • Inability to live independently
  • Unemployment and homelessness
  • Disrupted academic success
  • Victimization
  • Difficulty raising children

Late Diagnosis and Treatment

Unfortunately, FAS is not always easy to recognize, and it may take years for symptoms to be accurately identified for what they are. Tragically, individuals who are not diagnosed until later in life will not have benefitted from therapy and other resources directed at assisting people with FAS at an early age.

Also, it may be difficult for someone to receive these services once adulthood has been reached, as most of these therapies are designed for children. Finally, at this point, effects may be amplified by alcohol and drug abuse, mental health conditions, or other issues that may cause FAS to manifest differently or exacerbate symptoms.

Preventing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

A woman can prevent her fetus from developing FAS by not drinking any alcohol during pregnancy. Women who have an alcohol use disorder who would like to get pregnant should seek help from a physician or addiction treatment center. Even for social drinkers, any alcohol consumption during the first trimester of pregnancy can be risky.

Getting Treatment

Persons who suffer from an alcohol dependency should undergo specialized treatment on either a partial-hospitalization or outpatient basis—or a combination of both. At Recovery By The Sea, our treatment programs include behavioral therapy, counseling, group support, aftercare planning, and more.

We employ healthcare professionals who specialize in addiction and provide our clients with the tools, knowledge, and support they need to recover from alcohol addiction and sustain long-term wellness and sobriety.

If you are battling alcoholism, please contact us today. Discover how we help people free themselves from addiction, prevent relapse, and foster healthy and fulfilling lives!

What Is the Lethal Blood Alcohol Level?

Lethal Blood Alcohol Level | Recovery By The Sea

What Is the Lethal Blood Alcohol Level? – According to the University of Notre Dame, a blood alcohol concentration of 0.250-0.399% is considered to be alcohol poisoning, and a loss of consciousness can be expected. At .40%, coma and death due to respiratory arrest are possible.

However, a study from 1990 that examined 175 fatal cases of alcohol poisoning, the mean blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of the decedents was 355 mg/100ml or .355%. Researchers noted that this finding was “less than that quoted in many standard textbooks on forensic medicine.” Moreover, .40% is the figure that is widely considered to be the lethal blood alcohol level.

A more recent study (2015) found that, in 2012, of 1191 emergency department patients on whom BAC testing was performed, a small number (37) had a BAC higher than the allegedly lethal level of 400 mg/100 mL. This number included three patients above 500 mg/100 mL. Of note, no deaths or transfers to ICU were recorded for anyone in this group.

The highest BAC ever recorded was of a Polish man was involved in a car crash—his BAC was measured at 1.48%. Doctors stated he somehow survived this level of intoxication but later died due to his injuries from the car crash.

Another man, from Bulgaria, was taken to the hospital in 2004 following a car accident in which he sustained minor injuries. According to reports, the man, who had a BAC of .914%, appeared to be “fine” and had communicated coherently with doctors.

Indeed, there have been many more reports of people surviving remarkably high blood alcohol levels that would have presumably killed most others. And still, according to the previously mentioned 1990 study, a significant amount of deaths have occurred in the .30% range. This wide range of possibilities is related to the fact that there are a variety of determinants in addition to the sheer volume consumed that influence the outcome of a person who has been drinking excessively.

What influences BAC levels?

1. How Rapidly Alcohol Is Consumed

The faster a person drinks, the more rapidly their peak BAC will increase, and the more quickly he or she will become intoxicated. The liver breaks down alcohol at a rate of around one standard drink per hour (as noted below). When more than one drink per hour is ingested, the liver is unable to keep up, and more alcohol will begin to circulate in the blood until the liver can catch up.

Here is one tragic example: At midnight on November 4, 1998, Bradley McCue’s 21st went with a group of friends to a bar in East Lansing, Michigan to celebrate his 21st birthday the next day. While there, he drank 24 shots of liquor in about 1.5 hours. He made it home alive as his BAC continued to steadily rise, but according to the coroner, he died shortly thereafter at approximately 4:30 a.m. on his birthday with a BAC of .440%

2. Body Weight and Sex (Male or Female)

On average, males have 76 c.c. of blood /kg body weight versus 66 c.c. in females. Males have more blood in which to dilute alcohol due to their larger size, but even males of roughly the same weight as women have slightly more blood because muscle contains more water than fat. Moreover, men have more muscle and less fat on average than women, and will, therefore, have about 10% more water in their bodies.

3. Food Content in Stomach

About 20% of alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream through the walls of the stomach, while 80% is absorbed through the small intestine. If there is food in the stomach, however, alcohol is absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream. Food in the stomach impedes the absorption of alcohol by preventing it from moving directly to the small intestine, where the majority of alcohol enters the bloodstream.

Fatty foods hinder alcohol absorption moreso than some others because they are more difficult to digest. Carbohydrates are passed through the stomach more rapidly, which causes both the food and alcohol to enter the small intestines faster than high-fat content foods.

4. The Alcohol Content of a Drink

Generally, the higher the alcohol content of a drink, the faster the alcohol will be absorbed into the bloodstream. While one standard drink of hard liquor has about the same alcohol content as a regular beer, when taken as a “shot,” liquor is less diluted and therefore the effects will onset more rapidly.

What Is a Standard Drink?

A standard drink in the USA is equivalent to the following:

  • One 12 fl oz. (355 mL) bottle of beer, wine cooler, hard seltzer, etc. at about 5% alcohol content
  • One 5 fl oz. (148 mL) glass of wine at about 12% alcohol content
  • One shot or one mixed drink containing 1.5 fl. oz. (44 mL) of 80-proof liquor, such as whiskey, vodka, or rum

Nonetheless, the concept of a standard drink is not, by any means, an ideal guideline for estimating an individual’s BAC. This is partly because bartenders sometimes estimate and pour varying amounts of alcohol, and party-goers may be treated to elaborate mixed drinks such as “jungle juice” that contain multiple shots of different types of alcohol. In other words, what appears to be one standard drink may have the alcohol equivalent of more.

Also, some beers and wines have higher alcohol percentages than average. It’s not uncommon to find craft beers well above the 4-5% range, and wine can be found at up to 18%.

5. The Type of Mixer Used

Water and fruit juices combined with alcohol slow the absorption process, while carbonated beverages accelerate it. Carbonated drinks expedite alcohol through the stomach and intestine into the bloodstream, producing a faster rise in BAC.

Signs and Complications of Alcohol Intoxication

Warning signs and complications of acute alcohol intoxication include the following:

  • Bluish or pale skin color
  • Coma
  • Dilation of blood vessels
  • Hypertension
  • Hypotension
  • Hypothermia
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Irregular breathing
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Confusion
  • Poor judgment
  • Profoundly slow reaction time
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech
  • Vomiting
  • Stupor
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Coma

It is not necessary for someone to exhibit all the above signs or symptoms before medical help should be sought. A person with alcohol intoxication who is unconscious and cannot be awakened is at risk of dying. Someone who consumes a lethal dose of alcohol will eventually stop breathing, and even if revived, he or she can incur irreversible hypoxic brain damage.

What You Need to Do

If you suspect that someone is experiencing severe alcohol intoxication or poisoning, do not assume they will “sleep it off”—seek medical assistance by calling 911 immediately.

While waiting for help to arrive, do not leave the person alone, and do not attempt to feed them or make them vomit. Alcohol impedes the gag reflex, so someone who is highly intoxicated may choke on their own vomit and die.

If a person is vomiting, try to keep him or her sitting up. If the person must lie down, turn his or her head to the side to help prevent choking. If the person is responsive, try to keep him or her awake to prevent a loss of consciousness.

Treatment for Alcoholism

According to statistics, around 2200 people in the U.S. die from alcohol poisoning each year—that’s about six per day. Compared to deaths by illicit drugs such as heroin, this number is relatively small. However, those who drink to excessive levels are a very high risk of developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

AUD (sometimes also referred to as alcoholism or alcohol addiction) is a chronic disease that tends to result in a myriad of other adverse consequences surrounding one’s health and well-being and also dramatically impacts the lives of loved ones.

Recovery By The Sea offers an integrated approach to addiction treatment that includes services essential to the process of recovery, such as psychotherapy, counseling, and group support. We employ caring addiction specialists who provide clients with the knowledge, tools, and support they need to achieve a full recovery and learn to lead more happy and fulfilling lives.

If you or someone you love is suffering from an alcohol use disorder, contact us today to discover how we help individuals free themselves from the chains of addiction!

Alcohol and High Blood Pressure

Alcohol and High Blood Pressure | Recovery By The Sea

Alcohol and High Blood Pressure – Although alcohol use is enjoyable for many people, even moderate use can increase certain health risks. Consuming more than three drinks in a single episode will temporarily cause your blood pressure to rise, but prolonged binge drinking or routine alcohol use can cause a persistent increase in blood pressure.

What Is High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)?

The heart pumps blood throughout the body whenever it beats. For the blood to adequately circulate, a certain amount of pressure is required. A healthy heart that is functioning normally will pump blood throughout the body at relatively low pressure.

High blood pressure is a condition in which the heart must pump harder in order to circulate the blood throughout the body. This strains the arteries, as they have to work harder to carry the blood that’s now flowing through the body at a higher pressure.

Having high blood pressure, however, is often asymptomatic for many people for quite some time. One of the most hazardous aspects of this disease is that those who have it may not know it. In fact, about one-third of people who have high blood pressure are unaware of it, meaning that it can remain undiagnosed until a major health complication occurs.

Still, according to WebMD, some signs and symptoms of extremely high blood pressure may include the following:

  • Severe headache
  • Fatigue or confusion
  • Vision problems
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pounding in the chest, neck, or ears

How Alcohol Affects Blood Pressure

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over time can cause an increase in blood pressure. When a person consumes alcohol above a level the body can efficiently process (including during binge drinking), this causes your blood pressure to increase. For the duration of an episode of drinking, and for some time thereafter, blood pressure will remain elevated.

Although persistent, excessive drinking is perhaps most commonly associated with liver disease, it can indeed adversely affect blood pressure. Over time these effects will only compound, and dangerously high blood pressure can develop.

Alcohol and High Blood Pressure | Recovery By The Sea

The Dangerous Consequences of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can produce a myriad of health issues, such as damage to the kidneys and even retinal disease. High blood pressure can also result in potentially life-threatening consequences such as the following:

Stroke

High blood pressure puts a strain on the arteries and blood vessels throughout the entire body, including those in the brain. Continued stress will cause the vessels to clog or weaken. When this happens, there is a blockage of blood or bleeding in the brain – a stroke.

How a stroke impacts a person depends on where the stroke occurs and how much the brain is damaged. Someone who had a relatively minor stroke may only have largely inconsequential problems such as temporary weakness in an arm or leg. People who have larger strokes, on the other hand, may become irreversibly paralyzed on one side of the body or lose the ability to speak entirely. Some people completely recover from strokes, but more than 2/3 of those who survive will sustain some type of disability.

Heart Attack

Having high blood pressure significantly increases the risk of heart attack. Because high blood pressure makes the heart work harder and increases the overall strain, there will be an increased risk of chest pains, breathlessness, and heart attack.

A heart attack occurs when the network of coronary arteries that surround the heart muscle and supply it with oxygen and nutrient-rich blood is suddenly blocked, preventing blood flow to the heart muscle and damaging it.

Aneurysm

Increased blood pressure can cause blood vessels to weaken and bulge, forming an aneurysm. If an aneurysm ruptures, it can be lethal.

Other Factors

There are many other factors besides alcohol consumption that can contribute to the development of hypertension. These include hereditary factors, being over age 65, the use of tobacco, being overweight, not getting enough physical activity, and eating a diet high in salt or low in potassium.

Seeking Treatment for Alcoholism

To lower blood pressure to a healthy range, it’s vital to decrease the amount and frequency at which alcohol is consumed. Some heavy drinkers can find ways to cut back to moderate levels of drinking over a sustained amount of time, but for many, reducing alcohol intake to normal levels is extremely difficult and medical intervention is necessary.

If you or a loved one wish to recover from alcoholism, we urged you to seek the support of an addiction treatment center, such as Recovery By The Sea, who employs experienced addiction specialists. Programs that include behavioral therapies and medication-assisted therapy can help ease the transition to sobriety, prevent relapse, make the recovery process more comfortable.

Recovery By The Sea uses a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to addiction treatment. Our highly-skilled staff are dedicated to providing each client with the tools and support he or she needs to achieve abstinence and sustain long-term sobriety and wellness. Contact us today and discover how we can help you begin your journey to recovery!

Physical Signs of Alcoholism

Physical Signs of Alcoholism | Recovery by the Sea

Alcoholism is a disease that is commonly stigmatized by society, and for this reason, many people who abuse alcohol and those close to them deny or overlook overt signs of abuse. This is a destructive and potentially life-threatening approach, however, as abuse can rapidly turn into an addiction, and devastating health, legal, social, and financial consequences can occur at any time.

Physical signs of alcoholism include, but are not limited to the following:

  • The smell of alcohol on the breath
  • Noticeable weight loss or gain
  • Flushing appearance and broken capillaries on the face
  • Brittle hair and fingernails
  • Dry skin
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Premature aging such as wrinkles and age spots
  • Intoxication-related bruises due to accidents or violence
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes) indicating liver dysfunction

If you or someone you are close to is exhibiting these signs, an addiction to alcohol may be developing or full-blown. It’s critical that alcohol abusers and their loved ones identify the warning signs of alcoholism and seek help before it’s too late.

Hiding or Lying About Drinking Habits

People who have a drinking problem tend to conceal and be deceptive about their habit, expecting that others might not notice or those who are suspicious will not garner enough evidence to be convinced that a severe problem is ensuing.

Moreover, those with a drinking problem tend to engage in the following behavior:

  • Drinking alone or hiding in their room or somewhere locked away to drink.
  • Lying about drinking habits.
  • Go to great lengths to be secretive, such as buying alcohol from different stores to avoid making people around them suspicious.

Not Being Able to Stop Binge Drinking and Experiencing Blackouts

Physical Signs of Alcoholism | Recovery by the Sea

If a person regularly finds that he can’t stop drinking until alcohol is depleted, a blackout occurs, or he passes out, the person likely has a severe drinking problem. Not being able to regulate how much one drinks is a clear indicator of alcohol abuse.

If drinking results in a blackout and the person emerges from the episode with little or no memory of it, this indicates that he or she has drunk way too much. If these episodes are frequent, they point to a drinking problem.

Drinking in Risky Situations, Inviting Trouble, and Being Impulsive

If someone has an alcohol use disorder, she will drink despite knowing about (and even having experienced) the adverse consequences in which these actions may result. A person will often exhibit the following behavior:

  • Drinking despite a doctor’s warnings.
  • Consuming alcohol despite awareness of an underlying health condition – such as heart disease or liver cirrhosis – that the use of alcohol will exacerbate.
  • Drinking and driving a motor vehicle or operating machinery, sometimes even after being charged with a DUI or other crime involving alcohol use.
  • Drinking alcohol before going to work or school.
  • Stealing money or other items to obtain alcohol.

Such risky behavior reveals that the person is intoxicated to the point that he is less capable of understanding the consequences of his actions and prioritizes alcohol over personal well-being or the safety of others.

Denial

Hiding a drinking problem often goes far beyond deception and into straight denial. It’s extremely common for people who abuse alcohol to deny they have a problem or minimize it. They do so to justify their actions or to assure others that their habits are not concerning.

The following are common characteristics of denial:

  • Understating how much alcohol one consumes
  • Disregarding or minimizing negative consequences of drinking
  • Asserting that people who voice concern are exaggerating
  • Blaming drinking habits on other people, such as a spouse, or circumstances beyond one’s control
  • Believing that a drinking habit is not a problem because one is functioning in the workplace or at school
  • Contending that the habits of “real” alcoholics are worse than oneself (e.g., drinking liquor versus beer or drinking every day)

Alcohol Has Become the Focus of Life

The person who has a drinking problem has few things in mind besides alcohol and when she can have the next drink. These are signs that a person is becoming preoccupied with alcohol:

  • Spending excessive amounts of time seeking, obtaining, and consuming alcohol as well as recovering from the effects of drinking
  • Spending money on alcohol to the point of financial distress
  • Seeking out and attending only activities where alcohol is being served and consumed
  • Preferring to hang out with people who have a drinking or drug problem than family or loved ones who do not drink

Giving up Hobbies and Activities Once Enjoyed

Physical Signs of Alcoholism | Recovery by the Sea

People who have an alcohol use disorder tend to forgo hobbies and activities they once considered enjoyable. These choices can be the result of physical symptoms, and it is also likely that after engaging in alcohol-related activities, these persons have no time or energy left for activities they once relished.

Drinking as an Escape from Life’s Stresses

Many people who begin drinking do so as a way to escape stressful conditions in their environment or to self-medicate away negative feelings such as depression, anger, frustration, resentment, or sadness.

These are common signs of a drinking problem:

  • Drinking due to stress or to ignore problems
  • Believing that just one drink can help one manage stress and feel better
  • Consuming alcohol to feel “normal” or to relax

Performance at the Workplace or School is Suffering

Chronic alcoholism takes over the life of the user. Focusing on and spending time on obtaining/using alcohol and battling the physical and emotional effects of alcohol use render a person far less capable of performing up to par in other areas of life.

The following consequences may indicate a drinking problem:

  • Falling or failing grades in school
  • Absenteeism at work or school
  • Worsening performance at the workplace

Neglecting Duties and Obligations

Those who abuse alcohol often neglect their personal and professional duties and responsibilities for the following reasons:

  • They are intoxicated or recovering from intoxication, they are physically incapable of completing the tasks required of them.
  • They are mentally incapable of concentrating on duties and carrying them out competently.
  • They would rather dedicate their time, physical energy, and focus on activities associated with alcohol use.

Maintaining Relationships is Challenging

People who abuse alcohol often find it difficult to form and maintain healthy relationships. Moreover, they may exhibit the following behavior that is detrimental to relationships:

  • They are deceptive about their drinking habits.
  • They are irritated, aggressive or violent with others who confront them with concerns.
  • They sometimes blame loved ones for their drinking habits.
  • They isolate themselves from others to hide their drinking habit or to avoid questions and accusations.
  • They voluntarily break ties with loved ones when they feel they are trying to interfere.
  • They neglect responsibilities, which puts a physical or financial burden on loved ones.
  • They may find themselves in legal trouble due to alcohol-related crimes.

Finally, covering up for the transgressions of a loved one or misleading others about a friend or family member’s alcoholism tends to strain relationships, especially over a long period.

Physical Signs of Alcoholism – Developing a Tolerance

Chronic alcohol use almost always results in the building of a tolerance, meaning that the person progressively needs more drinks to achieve the same level of intoxication. Increasing tolerance should serve as a clear signal that abuse is developing into an addiction.

Physical Signs of Alcoholism – Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms

The presence of withdrawal symptoms is another indisputable sign of alcoholism. The occurrence of these symptoms indicates that the body has gotten so accustomed to having alcohol in the system that it responds violently when drinking is discontinued.

The following are classic alcohol withdrawal symptoms:

  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Tremors
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Depression
  • Insomnia and sleep disturbances.
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite

Not Being Able to Quit Despite Numerous Attempts

Physical Signs of Alcoholism | Recovery by the Sea

The physical and emotional damage that alcoholism can cause is well documented and backed up by a tremendous amount of evidence. Many people who have a drinking problem are informed about these potential consequences and as a result, genuinely want to quit.

Others wish to reclaim their lives, professional careers, or relationships that alcohol use has destroyed. Having the desire to stop drinking and failing/relapsing is a definite sign of alcoholism.

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

People who experience alcoholism or drug addiction are encouraged to undergo a medical detox followed closely by a transition to long-term addiction treatment, which should include evidence-based approaches such as behavioral therapy and group counseling.

Treatment is offered by our center on an inpatient (residential) or outpatient basis. Regardless of format, our services are delivered by caring medical and mental health professionals who provide our clients with the skills they need to fully recover and experience happiness and sobriety for the rest of their lives.

You can reclaim your life and the wellness and harmony you deserve! Please contact us now!

What is the Lean Drug?

Lean Drug | Recovery by the Sea

Lean is a liquid drug “cocktail” that consists of prescription cold medication, a soft drink such as Sprite, and hard candy. It’s also known as purple drank, purple lean, and sizzurp, among other names.

The prescription cough syrups contained in the lean drug typically contain codeine, an opioid that is used as a cough suppressant but can also produce pain relieving and sedating effects. The antihistamine promethazine is another potential ingredient, and can also cause sedation and the impairment of motor functions.

When codeine is consumed in large amounts, it can result in extremely harmful effects. Because the drug is in the form of a drinkable liquid, consumers can quickly lose track of how much of the psychoactive ingredients they have consumed. This is mainly due to the cough syrup’s flavor being masked by soda and candy, and this is where the real danger lies.

Also, the combination known as lean or purple drank has been touted as a desirable high by several celebrities, most notably musicians such as Lil Wayne and Justin Bieber. While lean’s “cool” media presence may compel young people to use, the reality is, even those who have been credited with making the concoction famous have suffered from health problems -for example, Lil Wayne reportedly began having seizures several years ago after a long history of lean abuse.

Lean Drug | Recovery by the Sea

There have been a view notable celebrity deaths associated with lean, as well. In November 2000, DJ Screw, who popularized the drink, died of a codeine-promethazine-alcohol overdose. Then in October 2007, Big Moe, a DJ Screw protégé who has been described as having “rapped obsessively about the drug” died at age 33, after suffering a heart attack, and it was believed that purple drank may have played a key role in his death.

Side Effects of the Lean Drug

Side effects may gradually increase as a person drinks an increasing amount of lean. First-time users, however, may also experience unpleasant side effects such as dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, and memory impairment.

The routine use of purple drank can also cause widespread health issues. Individuals who drink lean on a regular basis report suffering from tooth decay and other dental problems, constipation, unwanted weight gain, and urinary tract infections.

People who engage in prolonged abuse of purple drank or use the drug in a sufficiently large amount may also experience life-threatening complications such as an overdose, particularly when its used in combination with other depressant drugs or alcohol.

Lean Drug Addiction

Codeine, an opioid, the psychoactive ingredient in purple lean is behind its desirable yet hazardous effects. Opioids are a class of drugs linked to an extremely high rate of abuse and dependence.

The incredibly addictive nature of opioids is due, in part, to the rewarding and pleasant effects that they induce, including euphoria, relief from anxiety, and decreased aggression.

Because codeine is legal when prescribed and many people use it to manage coughing or pain legitimately, it’s challenging to track rates of abuse and addiction. The chronic abuse of opioids, however, can result in the development of drug tolerance or dependence. As tolerance builds, people often find themselves needing to use increasing amounts of the drug to experience the coveted effects.

This increase in drug-using behavior can be the catalyst for the development of physiological dependence. Opioid-dependent persons are then likely to suffer from a wide range of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to discontinue drug use. In the early stages of withdrawal from an addictive drug, the person may experience:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Agitation
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Teary eyes and a runny nose
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Sweating

If a person has used purple drank for a prolonged period or in very high doses, they may experience more intense withdrawal effects, including nausea and vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.

To avoid, stop, or postpone withdrawal symptoms, people addicted to the lean drug will often relapse, or return to consuming the drink or other opioid drugs, thus perpetuating an endless cycle of abuse that can devastate their mental and physical health.

Treatment for Codeine Addiction

Because withdrawal symptoms caused by codeine addiction can be so unpleasant, many patients opt for an inpatient detox and then immediately transfer to an addiction treatment program.

Treatment is comprised of two formats or phases: inpatient and intensive outpatient treatment. Both include evidence-based approaches to substance abuse treatment including behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling, and support groups.

During treatment, medical and mental health staff who specialize in addiction care for patients and provide them with the skills they need to navigate a drug-free life after treatment has been completed.

At our center, we can help you regain your life free of addiction to drugs and alcohol. Please call us as soon as possible to find out how!

Alcohol and Diabetes

Alcohol and Diabetes | Recovery by the Sea

Alcohol and Diabetes – Substance use disorders are characterized by the abuse of alcohol or drugs that causes multiple physical and mental impairments in addition to a loss of social, academic, and professional functions. An otherwise healthy individual may experience a reversal of many of these problems if he or she receives substance abuse treatment and quits drinking.

However, this may not hold true for persons with diabetes – substance abuse can be immediately life-threatening in ways that would not affect others.

Types of Diabetes

Diabetes, also referred to as diabetes mellitus, is a condition in which the body is unable to regulate blood sugar levels properly. There are two forms known as type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes, develops as a result of a loss of cells in the pancreas responsible for making insulin, and therefore, leads to a lack of production of insulin. Type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed in childhood.

Type 2 diabetes, which is more common, is caused by the body’s inability to use insulin properly and is referred to as insulin resistance. At the onset, the pancreas starts to make extra insulin in an effort to override the body’s resistance, but eventually, the pancreas cannot produce the amount of insulin needed to maintain blood sugar levels.

Uncontrolled Diabetes – Medical Problems

Alcohol and Diabetes | Recovery by the Sea

Uncontrolled diabetes may lead to dangerous conditions such as hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia. Hyperglycemia is described as abnormally high blood sugar levels, which happens when insulin in the body is insufficient. Hypoglycemia, conversely, refers to abnormally low blood sugar levels and occurs when there is a surplus of insulin in the body and inadequate sugar in the blood as glucose.

Both of these complications can result in dangerous health problems such as the following:

  • Organ damage if hyperglycemia develops
  • Increased vulnerability to high blood pressure
  • Damage to blood vessels in the eyes, which can result in blindness
  • Nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy) which can cause skin ulcers and other injuries that heal inadequately
  • Paralysis and the amputation of limbs as a result of nerve damage or other injuries
  • Blood vessel damage in the heart, which raises the risk of atherosclerosis, strokes, and cardiac arrest
  • Coma or death due to either hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia

Also, when insulin levels are insufficient, the body may begin to break down fat to use as energy, but this, in turn, causes acids called ketones to accumulate in the bloodstream. This condition is known as diabetic ketoacidosis and is a medical emergency. Complications such as these are exacerbated by alcohol or drug abuse. Finally, alcohol abuse in conjunction with a poor diet has been identified as possible causes for type 2 diabetes.

Alcohol and Diabetes: The Impact

If a person with diabetes already experiences high blood pressure, nerve damage, or eye problems, the use of alcohol is not recommended. This is because, at least in part, wine and beer contain carbohydrates that can be transformed into glucose (sugar) and therefore, drinking alcohol may cause blood sugar levels to increase rapidly.

Alcohol Impairs the Liver

Drinking alcohol also prevents the liver from releasing stored glucose, which can result in dangerously low blood sugar levels. It takes approximately two hours for the liver to break down the alcohol that is contained in just a single drink. This energy spent could be otherwise used for the regular release of stored glucose.

Overall, alcohol reduces the body’s reaction time, interrupts the liver’s ability to release glucose, and may cause individuals with diabetes to develop hypoglycemia gradually.

For people with Type 1 diabetes, even a small amount of alcohol can lead to the onset of hypoglycemia hours later. These types of problems can worsen substantially for individuals with diabetes who drink heavily.

And terrifyingly, the symptoms of intoxication and hypoglycemia can be similar. Failure to identify a hypoglycemic episode (versus alcohol intoxication) can result in the diabetic person not receiving appropriate care.

Alcohol Exacerbates Nerve Damage

Alcohol and Diabetes | Recovery by the Sea

Among the complications of unmanaged diabetes is nerve damage, and excessive alcohol use can make the symptoms worse. When diabetic nerve damage develops, it can impact both sensory and motor function.

Alcohol abuse can also result in hyperalgesia, a condition in which damaged nerves become more sensitive to pain. Moreover, if a person with diabetes is already encountering pain from nerve damage, heavy alcohol use can significantly intensify the amount of pain experienced.

Also, alcohol abuse can cause the perpetual release of certain hormones that function to control pain and limit additional damage to the body. What occurs, however, is a continued increase in central nervous system activity, which will actually serve to increase pain signaling.

Ultimately, excessive alcohol intake makes it much more difficult for the body to manage pain developed from diabetic nerve damage, and in doing so, causes the person’s condition to worsen dramatically.

Alcohol Abuse and Eye Problems

Alcohol abuse can exacerbate any eye disease that is due to diabetes. Alcohol decreases brain activity, which causes pupils to respond slower and thus hinders their ability to widen or constrict correctly.

Over time, this can also permanently weaken the eye muscles, and as a result, heavy alcohol use can result in blurry vision permanent double vision – especially in diabetics who already have existing vision problems.

Alcohol consumption also prompts blood vessels in the eyes to swell, and this causes the characteristic red, bloodshot appearance.

Other Problems Associated with Alcohol and Diabetes – Food and Medication

Alcohol and Diabetes | Recovery by the Sea

Alcohol also diminishes the effectiveness of insulin injections/pumps that many type 1 diabetics use, as well as certain medications that foster insulin activity in type 2 diabetics. Some diabetes drugs (such as sulfonylureas and meglitinides) also lower blood glucose levels by stimulating the pancreas to make more insulin. Combining the blood-sugar-reducing effects of the medication with alcohol can result in hypoglycemia.

Drinking alcohol can dramatically increase hunger in many people, and intoxicated persons often make unfortunate food choices, overeat, forget to eat, and sometimes eat but then forget just a short time later that they consumed food. The combination of overeating in addition to alcohol’s potential to reduce the effectiveness of medication can easily lead to high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia).

Finally, alcohol has a lot of calories and doesn’t do great things for the body’s metabolic rate. For people who are overweight, which is common among those with type 2 diabetes, drinking alcohol will only add empty calories and make it very difficult, if not impossible to lose weight.

Treatment for Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a devastating disease regardless of the individual’s physical or mental well-being, but people with diabetes are at a much higher risk of life-threatening problems and irreversible damage to one’s health.

Alcohol addiction is most effectively treated with a comprehensive approaching that includes detox, therapy, counseling, group support, and long-term aftercare. Our center offers 24/7 supervision on an inpatient basis, as well as intensive outpatient treatment for those who have completed an inpatient stay or require a more flexible schedule for treatment.

If you or someone you love has an alcohol use disorder, please contact us as soon as possible. You CAN regain your life and experience the happiness and wellness you deserve!

Alcohol Detox at Home

Alcohol Detox at Home | Recovery by the Sea

For those with an alcohol addiction, quitting for good can seem like an impossibility. Alcohol dependency results in highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and cravings upon cessation, and it is these effects that often compel would-be recoverers to relapse.

While staging an alcohol detox at home without medical supervision is not advised and in rare cases can be fatal, people do frequently choose this method. Those who, for whatever reason, must forego a clinical detox should be aware of the risks involved and under no circumstances should do it without someone else there in case of a medical emergency.

The Risks

Some people opt for an alcohol detox at home for comfort reasons. Keep in mind, however, that this “comfort” is often more psychological than physical. Moreover, physical comfort and safety are often better achieved with a clinical detox, as medications can be administered that alleviate many of the worst – and possibly life-threating – symptoms of withdrawal.

Unfortunately, there is much uncertainty associated with detox from alcohol. Relapse aside, there is also a very real possibility of severe depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideations. Finally, a condition known as Delirium Tremens (DTs) can occur. Symptoms include confusion, hallucinations, and seizures, and complications can ultimately result in death.

Preparation

If you do decide that detoxing at home is right for you, it’s critical that you do it safely. Here are some things to consider when undergoing an alcohol detox at home:

  • Remove all alcoholic beverages from your home – this may sound obvious, but it’s an essential first step when self-detoxing. Moreover, when you first begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms, you may not be able to control your cravings. It’s far better to avoid the temptation altogether.
  • Free up your schedule – For some, clearing one’s schedule for days or weeks may seem implausible, but it’s necessary for a detox to be successful. There will likely be benefits from taking time off work or school and relinquishing some responsibilities – at least temporarily – to focus on recovery.
  • Find support – Just because you’re undergoing an alcohol detox at home doesn’t mean you should suffer through it alone. Find a friend or family member who can keep you safe during the process and who can get help if withdrawal symptoms get too serious.

Nutrition and Hydration During Alcohol Detox

Alcohol Detox at Home | Recovery by the Sea

When your body is going through withdrawals, food will probably be the last thing on your mind. Alcohol withdrawal causes a wide variety of symptoms including fatigue, anxiety, depression, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting.

These symptoms typically last between 24-72 hours and may significantly curb your appetite.

Remember that these symptoms are normal, but make sure you drink plenty of fluids and stay hydrated during this time as it will help rid your body of toxins.

Water, juice, and broth are healthy choices during the early stages of withdrawal. Don’t forget, however, that eating healthy is an important part of your recovery because alcohol alters how your body breaks down and uses nutrients.

Once you can start eating again, it’s crucial to focus on consuming a healthy, balanced diet. Eat foods from all food groups in sufficient amounts to help meet your caloric needs. Eat as many fruits and vegetables as you can stand, but don’t neglect whole grains and lean protein.

Take Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

If you’ detox at a hospital or inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment center, you will usually be prescribed medications to help relieve withdrawal symptoms. At home, you won’t have that luxury. But there are vitamins and mineral supplements you can take, however, that can be beneficial and help remove toxins. Some of these include B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, and multivitamins.

Pros and Cons

Alcohol Detox at Home | Recovery by the Sea

Alcohol detox can be a hazardous process, which is why most medical professionals and addiction experts believe it is best handled in a reputable clinical environment.

Alcohol detoxification causes physical and emotional symptoms that can be severe, and in many cases, very challenging to suffer through without medical assistance.

While detoxing at home may seem like the best method financially, it’s also very risky. While an alcohol detox at home is most often discouraged by medical professionals, it can be done. If you opt to detox from alcohol at home, make sure you’re in a safe, alcohol-free environment and have access to support from family and/or friends who can help you get through it.

Please remember, if at any point the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are too painful or severe, you should seek help from a medical professional immediately.

Treatment for Alcohol or Drug Addiction

If you are able to undergo a medical detox, this will be the first step in treatment for addiction. Those who detox at home should also strongly consider professional treatment following this process. Once the body has rid itself of toxins, those seeking a full recovery should seek participation in either an inpatient or outpatient environment that includes evidence-based approaches such as behavioral therapy, counseling, and group support.

Our programs are comprehensive, customized, and include medical and mental health staff who specialize in addiction. We can provide you with the tools and support you need to regain your life and enjoy longstanding sobriety, happiness, and wellness.

How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain?

How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain? | Recovery by the Sea

Short-term effects of alcohol use on the brain are evident – impaired people exhibit difficulty walking, slower reaction times, blurred vision, slurred speech, and memory problems. Some of these effects are identifiable after only a drink or two and rapidly abates once the drinking stops. But alcohol’s effect on the brain goes far beyond short-term manifestations.

Moreover, an individual who consumes an excessive amount of alcohol over an extended period of time may develop brain deficits that continue long after he or she becomes sober.

Researchers now know that heavy drinking can have extensive and longstanding effects on the brain, ranging from memory lapses to a permanent, debilitation condition that requires custodial or palliative care. In fact, even moderate drinking can result in temporary impairment.

Several factors influence how and to what degree alcohol impacts the brain, including the following:

  • How frequently and how much an individual drinks
  • The age that a person begins drinking, and the duration of regular drinking
  • The individual’s age, education level, gender, genetic profile, and family history of alcohol and drug use
  • If the person is at risk due to exposure to alcohol in utero
  • General health status and overall wellness

The following describes some common disorders associated with alcohol-related brain damage and the individuals at a heightened risk for impairment.

Blackouts and Memory Loss

How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain? | Recovery by the Sea

Alcohol use can lead to identifiable memory impairments after just a few drinks, and the extent of the impairment increases in correspondence with alcohol consumption. Large amounts of alcohol, particularly when drank rapidly and/or without food can result in a “blackout” – a period of time in which an intoxicated individual later cannot remember some of all events that transpired.

Blackouts are more common among social drinkers than once thought and can be a result of acute intoxication regardless of whether the consumer is dependent upon (or addicted to) alcohol.

In one study, nearly 800 college undergraduates were surveyed about their experiences with blackouts after a night of drinking. Of those who had ever drunk alcohol, more than half (51%) reported blacking out at some time in their lives, and 40% reported experiencing a blackout in the past year.

Among those who reported consuming alcohol in the two weeks before the survey, 9.4% stated they had a blackout during that time. The students said they learned later than they had engaged in potentially hazardous activities they could not remember including unprotected sex and drinking and driving.

Binge Drinking

Drinkers who experience blackouts generally consume too much alcohol too quickly, causing their blood alcohol concentration to increase rapidly. College students may be at an especially high risk for blackouts, considering a large number engage in binge drinking (defined as consuming four to five or more drinks in two hours for women and men, respectively.)

An equal number of women and men report experiencing blackouts, despite the fact that men tend to drink more often and more heavily. This fact implies that regardless of the amount consumed, women may be at a greater risk than men for experiencing blackouts.

A female’s propensity to black out more easily likely results from variations in how women and men metabolize alcohol. Women may also be more vulnerable than men to lesser forms of alcohol-related memory lapses or impairments, even when both sexes drink similar amounts of alcohol.

Are Women More Vulnerable?

How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain | Recovery by the Sea

Women are more susceptible to many of the physical and mental consequences of alcohol abuse. For example, women with alcoholism develop liver cirrhosis, alcohol-related heart disease, and nerve damage after fewer years of heavy alcohol consumption than do male drinkers. But what about brain damage?

In two studies, brain shrinkage (a common indicator of brain damage) was compared between alcoholic men and women and control subjects, and both revealed that drinkers had significantly greater shrinkage. Research has also shown that both women and men have comparable learning and memory impairments as a consequence of heavy alcohol consumption.

The main difference was that alcoholic females reported that they have been using alcohol excessively for only around half the time of the alcoholic males – suggesting that women’s brains, similar to other organs, may be more susceptible to alcohol-related damage than men’s.

Brain Damage via Other Causes

Individuals who have been consuming excessive amounts of alcohol for long intervals face the risk of developing severe and persistent brain changes – damage may be a consequence of alcohol’s direct effects or may result indirectly from poor health or liver disease.

Moreover, a deficiency in thiamine is a common result for individuals with alcoholism and results from poor nutrition. Thiamine (B1) is a key nutrient needed by all tissues, and the brain is no exception. Thiamine can be found in foods such as meat, whole grains, nuts, beans, and peas. In fact, many foods in the U.S. are often fortified with thiamine, such as bread and cereals. As a result, most people ingest a sufficient amount of thiamine.

Wernicke–Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS)

As many as 4 in 5 alcoholics, however, experience a thiamine deficiency, and some of these will eventually develop brain disorders such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS.) WKS is a condition that includes two separate syndromes, a brief but severe disease known as Wernicke’s encephalopathy and a longstanding and debilitation conditions referred to as Korsakoff’s psychosis.

Wernicke’s encephalopathy symptoms include confusion, oculomotor disturbances (nerve paralysis of the eyes) and poor muscle coordination. For example, people with Wernicke’s may be too confused to navigate out of a room or may not even be able to walk.

A large percentage – around 80-90% – of alcoholics with Wernicke’s also develop Korsakoff’s psychosis, a long-term syndrome characterized by learning and memory impairments. People with Korsakoff’s are forgetful, easily frustrated, and have difficulty with coordination.

While these patients have trouble recalling old information, it is their difficulty in obtaining new information that is the most prominent. For example, these people may be able to discuss, in detail, an event earlier in their lives, but an hour later may not remember engaging in the conversation.

Liver Disease

How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain? | Recovery by the Sea

A relatively unknown consequence of liver dysfunction (e.g., cirrhosis) is damage to the brain. This damage can result in a severe and potentially fatal brain disorder referred to as hepatic encephalopathy, a condition that can cause altered sleep patterns, mood, and personality, in addition to anxiety and depression, shortened attention plan, and problems with coordination.

Researchers have studied the brain regions of patients with alcoholic liver disease and found that at least two toxic byproducts, manganese and ammonia, play a role in the development of hepatic encephalopathy. Liver cells damaged by alcohol use permit an excessive amount of these harmful substances to enter the brain and damage brain cells.

Treatment for Alcoholism

The best way to prevent alcohol-related brain damage, whether short- or long-term, is to stop drinking and participate in our evidence-based treatment program. Our center offers comprehensive, evidence-based therapies and counseling in both inpatient and outpatient formats.

Our professional staff specialize in addiction and can provide our patients with the tools they need to succeed at recovery and sustain long standing wellness and sobriety. Recovery from addiction is a lifelong process, but you don’t have to do it alone. With our help, you regain your sanity and enjoy the happy and fulfilling life you deserve.

Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol Dependence | Recovery by the Sea

Alcohol dependence, also referred to as alcoholism, is the most serious type of drinking problem. While there is no definitive number of drinks per day that is characteristic of alcohol dependence, health experts have designated a limit above which the risks of alcohol consumption increase markedly.

Alcoholism is relatively common, and in the U.S., it is estimated that about 1 in 16 develop a severe problem with drinking, and millions more engage in alcohol consumption that is considered “risky” by medical experts. A recent analysis showed that nearly one-third (30%) of U.S. residents reported experiencing an alcohol use disorder (AUD) at one point in their lives.

Key characteristics of alcohol dependence including the following:

Tolerance

Tolerance is a condition defined as the need to drink more alcohol than before to achieve the same effect, or the ability to drink more than others without getting as intoxicated. The development of tolerance often compels the drinker to consume increasing amounts and thus, significantly raises the risk of many alcohol-related problems, such as disease, injury, legal and financial issues, relationship conflicts, and overdose (alcohol poisoning.)

Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol Dependence | Recovery by the Sea

Someone with alcohol dependence, by definition, has come to rely on alcohol use psychologically, physically, and emotionally. Withdrawals occur when a regular alcohol user tries to cut back or quit drinking altogether. Over time, the brain becomes accustomed to alcohol’s presence, and when the drinker reduces or halts intake, the body’s adapted environment is altered dramatically, thus resulting in withdrawal symptoms.

Such symptoms include anxiety, depression, sweating, tremors and shakiness, insomnia, nausea and vomiting, and in serious cases, seizures, confusion, and hallucinations. Rarely, the effects of alcohol withdrawal syndrome can be lethal.

Other characteristics of alcohol dependence include:

  • The desire to stop drinking, but finding oneself unable to do so.
  • A loss of control over the amount of alcohol consumed.
  • A preoccupation with obtaining alcohol and drinking.
  • The neglect of other life activities, hobbies, and responsibilities.
  • Ignoring problems related to alcohol use, even those that are very obvious.

Alcohol Dependence: Adverse Effects in Every Aspect of Life

Alcoholism is associated with numerous psychological, interpersonal/social, economic, legal, and medical difficulties. Overuse increases the risk of depression and suicide and is related to violence such as homicide, assault, and domestic abuse. It also causes traffic accidents and personal injury (e.g., falls) and unsafe or criminal sexual behavior, resulting in pregnancy, STDs, or sexual assault.

Alcohol Dependence | Recovery by the Sea

Dependence on alcohol also increases the risk of liver disease, cirrhosis, heart disease, stroke, brain damage, pancreatitis, and several types of cancer.

Pregnant women who drink run of the risk of giving birth to a child with fetal alcohol syndrome, a long-lasting condition characterized by facial deformities and a host of physical, mental and emotional defects and impairments.

Contributing Factors

Problems related to alcohol use develop from a combination of biological and environmental influences.

Biology – People who drink and have a family history of using alcohol or drugs, such as opioids, are at a heightened risk for developing an addiction themselves. For example, a child who has a parent who is dependent on alcohol is has a four-times greater risk of developing their own dependency.

This is due in part to inherited genes that increase susceptibility, and frequently, alcohol is also used to self-medicate for underlying mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or childhood trauma.

Environment – The experience of watching parents engage in alcohol use and the corresponding negative effects that it produces mentally and emotionally may contribute to the desire to use alcohol abusively oneself. Alcohol may also be a large (and often destructive) part of a person’s peer group and a person may use alcohol themselves to fit in or attempt to cope and get relief from stress.

Symptoms

Alcohol dependence can result in any of the following behavioral symptoms:

  • Experiencing long periods of intoxication
  • Drinking by oneself
  • Experiencing work or financial problems related to drinking
  • Carelessness about personal appearance/hygiene
  • Experiencing blackouts/memory loss
  • Drunk driving
  • Hurting oneself or someone else during intoxication
  • Hiding alcohol containers to conceal evidence of drinking
  • Exhibiting mood and personality changes

Alcohol dependence can result in any of the following physical symptoms:

  • Nausea or shaking upon waking
  • Malnutrition due to a poor diet
  • Abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Flushed face and palms
  • Numbness, weakness or tingling in the extremities
  • Frequent accidental injuries – particularly falls

Alcohol Dependence: A Real Life Case Study

Alcohol Dependence | Recovery by the Sea

Melissa is a 45-year-old whose parents were both heavy alcohol users and she witnessed them drinking as she was growing up. At the age of 13, her mother allowed her to have two beers – she enjoyed the feeling and never forgot it.

As a young adult, she abused alcohol occasionally at parties, clubs, and bars. In her late 20’s, she became a heavy wine drinker and started having blackouts. Around 30, she was diagnosed with depression and was put on antidepressants, but continued drinking to excess.

At age 35, she was arrested for a DUI. She was put on probation but continued to drink whenever she could. For the next ten years, she remained a “high-functioning” alcoholic, held down a job, and got a graduate degree.

At age 45, her addiction progressed to the point in which she was no longer capable of functioning. She stopped working and started drinking non-stop for several weeks. Eventually, she was able to enter a rehab program where she got clean and began to maintain a sober lifestyle.

Diagnosis

Although alcohol use disorder is quite common, only a small percentage of people identify the problem and seek help. For this reason, screening for alcoholism by health providers, friends, and family is to recognize and help those suffering.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommends that primary care providers ask a very simple, but specific questions, including the following:

How many times in the past year have you consumed:

Five or more drinks in a day? (Men)
Four or more drinks in a day? (Women)

The objective in asking this question is to get a sense of whether or not the patient is at risk for incurring alcohol-related conditions. The recommended limits for men and women differ due to discrepancies in how alcohol is absorbed and processed by the body. Therefore, the risk increases for men who consume more than four drinks per day (or more than 14 per week) and women who consume more than three drinks per day (or 7 drinks per week.)

Of note, people who consume more alcohol than they should often feel defensive about their drinking and do so in secret, or minimize the problem. There is also a societal stigma attached to alcoholism, so it is very common for alcoholism to go unaddressed.

The CAGE test (an acronym for CUT DOWN, ANNOYED, GUILTY, AND EYE OPENER) may also be helpful, and questions may be easier for concerned loved ones to ask, since alcohol dependents may be hesitant to truthfully answer questions about quantity.

These questions include the following:

  • Do you ever worry that you should CUT down on your drinking?
  • Do you ever feel ANNOYED because other people have criticized your drinking habits?
  • Do you ever feel GUILTY about drinking?
  • Do you need a morning EYE OPENER drink to calm your nerves or to fight off a hangover?

Treatment for Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol dependence is a devastating and potentially life-threating condition that adversely affects the life of the person suffering as well those close to him or her. Treatment requires a full detox in a medical setting followed long-term intensive therapy in either an inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment program.

Our center offers a comprehensive approach that includes behavioral therapy, individual and group therapy, family counseling, and complementary practices such as yoga, meditation, and art and music therapy. After discharge, former patients can take advantage of our aftercare planning services, which identify local resources such as therapists, counselors, and 12-step meetings for ongoing treatment and support.

Recovery from alcohol addiction is a lifelong process but you don’t have to do it alone. We can provide you with the tools you need to maintain long-lasting sobriety and regain the life, health, and wellness that you deserve.

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