ALCOHOL ABUSE AND ALCOHOLISM
Studies published by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, indicate that alcohol abuse affects 1 in 12 adults, and those numbers exclude many more who binge drink or exhibit other unhealthy drinking patterns. While individuals may legally drink alcohol beginning at age 21 in the United States, those aged 12 to 20 will consume 1 out of every 10 drinks served.
The legality, prevalence and acceptance of alcohol make determining whether an individual has an alcohol abuse problem — or alcoholism — very difficult. Simultaneously, for those struggling with abuse issues, the wide availability of alcohol and its incorporation into a variety of activities, festivities and social gatherings poses unique challenges.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has defined alcohol use in the following manner:
Moderate Drinking – Moderate drinking is defined as two drinks daily for men and one drink for women, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Heavy Drinking – Heavy drinkers consume five or more drinks on one occasion at least five times in a 30-day period.
Binge Drinking – This category also must be considered when determining whether an AUD is present. Binge drinking is classified as five or more drinks in a single occasion at least once in a 30-day period. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has expanded the definition of binge drinking to any pattern of drinking that raises the blood alcohol concentration to more than 0.08 g/dL. For most women, that occurs after four drinks, while men typically reach that level after five drinks within a two-hour period.
In addition to the additional health risks of heavy drinking, this pattern can also increase the likelihood you will develop an AUD over time. According to the NIAAA, approximately 16 million people in the U.S. meet the criteria for an AUD.
SIGNS OF ALCOHOL ABUSE AND DEPENDENCY
When regular alcohol use continues, it can increase your risk for abuse and dependency. Here are a few of the indications that an AUD might be present:
- Drinking more or longer than intended
- Wanted to cut back on drinking but unsuccessful
- Increased time spent obtaining, using and recovering from alcohol
- Continued consumption even if it results in personal, professional or legal problems
- Reduced interest in people or activities because of drinking
- Continued drinking even if it is causing health problems
- Intense cravings for alcohol
- Drinking more to get the same effects (tolerance)
- Withdrawal symptoms when alcohol is stopped (insomnia, shakiness, anxiety)
Once an AUD is identified, it may be challenging for the individual to stop drinking without professional treatment. Withdrawal from alcohol can also be an intense and even dangerous process that often necessitates medically-supervised detoxification to ensure it is both safe and successful.
SYMPTOMS OF ALCOHOL ABUSE AND ADDICTION
Individuals who suffer from alcohol abuse can often easily hide symptoms from family, friends and colleagues, yet signs will still remain detectable. You or your loved ones may experience any of the following symptoms.
- difficulty remembering or memory loss
- inability to cut back or stop drinking
- shaking hands
- motor issues like frequent accidents or falls
- difficulty driving, including tickets and accidents
- feelings of guilt after drinking
- hiding evidence of drinking
- impulse control issues
- others expressing concern about your drinking
- sensitivity to comments about your drinking
- causing emotional or physical harm to others, attributable to drinking
- relationship or work problems, attributable to drinking
ALCOHOLISM’S LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES
You or your loved ones may readily see signs of early-onset alcohol abuse, but symptoms of long-term abuse or alcoholism may present only to the sufferer or their doctor.
Symptoms of long-term, heavy use or alcoholism include:
- pancreatitis (inflammation and impairment of the pancreas)
- reduced ability to absorb nutrients (pancreatitis induced)
- hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia or symptoms associated with diabetes (pancreatitis induced)
- cirrhosis (inflammation, scarring and impairment)
- increased levels of body toxins (cirrhosis induced)
- damage to the central nervous system
- frontal lobe damage
Going through alcohol detox will be a tough trial both physically and mentally. For five to seven days, your body will be experiencing a multitude of symptoms associated with your drinking addiction. At Serenity Oaks Wellness, we try to make your detoxification treatment as comfortable and easy as possible.
Each instance of alcohol withdrawal is different. Due to your medical history, how long and how heavily you have been drinking, mental health, family history, drug use, natural stress levels and the existence of any childhood trauma, the severity and length of detox might change. At Serenity Oaks Wellness Center, our goal is to make sure that you safely and comfortably progress through your detox so that you can move on to working on your recovery.
STAGE 1 (MILD)
This stage will typically be achieved when you are not trying to detox. Once you begin to feel the effects of withdrawal after drinking, you decide to have another drink. You may have heard the term “Hair of the Dog” which refers to how that extra drink in the morning will calm shakes and headaches associated with withdrawal.
6-8 hours since your the last drink
Symptoms: nausea, abdominal pain, anxiety, insomnia, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, tremors, depression, foggy thinking, mood swings and heart palpitations
STAGE 2 (MODERATE)
You should expect to see elevated blood pressure and heart rate during this stage. The sudden lack of alcohol in your system can send your body into shock. Heavy drinkers who have damaged their body significantly will begin to see the beginning stages of organ failure. A doctor should be present at this point in the detox.
1-3 days after your last drink
Symptoms: irregular heart rate, mental confusion, sweating, irritability, increased blood pressure, increased body temperature, increased respiration and heightened mood disturbances
STAGE 3 (SEVERE)
Stage 3 is the most dangerous and requires medical treatment, especially if you are developing delirium tremens. Delirium tremens, or wet brain occurs in three to five percent of individuals with alcoholism and is a rapid onset of confusion and disorientation. While the physical side effects of alcohol withdrawal will taper off, some of the psychological ones may continue for weeks after treatment.
Symptoms: fever, seizers, hallucinations, agitation, and severe confusion
SYMPTOMS OF WITHDRAWAL FROM ALCOHOL
Your decision to stop drinking will benefit your health in numerous ways, however, you will experience many symptoms of withdrawal before you begin to feel better. Your symptoms’s severity will vary depending on the length and extent of your alcohol use.
Symptoms common to alcohol withdrawal include:
- heavy perspiration
- irregular heartbeat
- high blood pressure
- a feeling of nervousness
- shakiness or tremors
- seizures, hallucinations and delirium, in more extreme cases
- delirium tremens, in more extreme cases
MANAGING YOUR PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS
At Serenity Oaks Wellness Center, our certified and experienced professionals will take care of you as soon as you walk through the door to assure that your symptoms are managed with as much comfort as possible. We will monitor and control your symptoms through “medical detox” which uses medications to taper off nausea, dehydration, insomnia and seizures. We make sure to monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, body temperature as well as anything else unique to your medical history.
Depending on the severity of your alcoholism, we may decide to provide you with a tapering schedule that weans you off alcohol in a doctor controlled and monitored environment to avoid some of the more serious side effects. We will also provide a nutritional plan and regular sleep schedule which will significantly aid in your recovery. Please do not attempt to detox without professional help. Symptoms can pop up unexpectedly and can be too intense to manage yourself.
MANAGING YOUR EMOTIONAL SYMPTOMS
Many are aware of the physical symptoms of an alcohol detox, however there are many psychological and emotional issues that require professional intervention. We utilize mental health professions to help with some of the very powerful emotional side effects typical with your recovery from detox.
Depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide are common and can be managed by a doctor through medications as well as therapy sessions. At Serenity Oaks, we use three different FDA approved medications: naltrexone, disulfiram and acamprosate. In order to prevent relapse, these medications are designed to discourage drinking and manage withdrawal symptoms in a variety of ways. Disulfiram makes you sick if your drink alcohol. Naltrexone blocks opioid receptors in the brain to reduce cravings. Acamprosate stabilizes the chemical balance in the brain that otherwise might be disrupted by drinking. Our team of doctors and experts know how to treat you. Let them do their job and help in your detox.
THE CRITICAL NEED FOR SUPERVISED DETOX
The symptoms of withdrawal, as outlined above, can put tremendous stress on the body and mind. The elimination of alcohol can have devastating effects upon many of your body’s natural functions, including your motor functions. The symptoms of withdrawal can also impair your basic perceptions, mental functions and the quality of your thoughts.
Further, the scope and severity of symptoms can vary widely among individuals. Unsupervised, you face risks not only to your sense of well-being but also to your health and safety. A medically-supervised detox provides the safest way to absent yourself from alcohol with the greatest possible comfort, safety and highest likelihood of remaining sober.
SERENITY OAKS WELLNESS CENTER’S INTEGRATED APPROACH TO DETOX
Serenity Oaks Wellness Center believes that an integrated approach which treats your body’s medical needs, as well as your psychological health in consort, gives you your best chance of success. Treating one or the other segment alone leaves open a pathway for continuing addiction and abuse. You want to get better, and we want to ensure you have it all covered. We understand not only the risks but also the pain that living with addiction causes — in addition to the physical pain you likely experience every day.
With our patient, committed and compassionate therapists and staff standing by you throughout your recovery process, we can help you face and overcome the psychological underpinnings of your use. Healing these underlying psychological concerns which alcohol use has masked — and equipping you with techniques and strategies to avoid use and opt for healthier alternatives in the future — will help ensure a lasting sobriety. We hope you will choose Serenity Oaks Wellness Center as your guide and friend on your journey to wellness.