Effects Of Alcohol Dependence On The Body
Being alcohol dependent can lead to a whole range of serious health problems. If youre dependent on alcohol, you increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, stroke, coronary alcohol-related heart disease and alcohol-related liver disease.
Prolonged heavy drinking damages your liver. An estimated seven out of 10 people with alcoholic liver disease have an alcohol dependency problem5.
How Does Alcohol Dependence Develop
No one sets out to become an alcoholic, but regular, heavy drinking can result in alcohol dependence and alcoholism.
When we drink, alcohol enters the brain and disrupts the delicate balance of chemicals called neurotransmitters that keep the body functioning normally. This disruption leads to the numerous behavioral changes and physical signs associated with intoxication, such as euphoria, loss of inhibition, impaired coordination, slurred speech and drowsiness.
Fortunately, these effects are temporary and wear off after the body breaks down the alcohol. But when exposure to alcohol is ongoing, the brain seeks to compensate for these effects, and a complex cascade of long-term chemical changes begin to occur.
To counteract the brain-slowing effects of alcohol, for instance, the brain increases the activity of excitatory neurotransmitters, which stimulate nerve activity and heighten arousal. As these changes occur, people require increasingly larger amounts of alcohol to become intoxicated. As a result, their drinking will often escalate.
At the same time, the drinker will likely begin to experience intense cravings for alcohol and distressing physical withdrawal symptoms, such as sweating, anxiety, tremors, an elevated heart rate and insomnia, when they stop drinking.
To avoid these uncomfortable symptoms, which can occur as soon as six hours after people who are dependent on alcohol consume their last drink, a person may begin drinking frequently or around-the-clock.
When Should Someone Seek Help
Individuals often hide their drinking or deny they have a problem. How can you tell if you or someone you know is in trouble? Signs of a possible problem include having friends or relatives express concern, being annoyed when people criticize your drinking, feeling guilty about your drinking and thinking that you should cut down but finding yourself unable to do so, or needing a morning drink to steady your nerves or relieve a hangover.
Some people with drinking problems work hard to resolve them. With the support of family members or friends, these individuals are often able to recover on their own. However, those with alcohol dependence usually can’t stop drinking through willpower alone. Many need outside help. They may need medically supervised detoxification to avoid potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures. Once people are stabilized, they may need help resolving psychological issues associated with problem drinking.
There are several approaches available for treating alcohol problems. No one approach is best for all individuals.
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What Causes Alcohol Dependence
Usually several different factors contribute to someone becoming alcohol dependent. Stressful events, such as bereavement or losing a job, can also trigger heavy drinking, which can then lead to alcohol dependence.
Alcohol dependence can run in families. Its partly down to your genes, but is also influenced by your familys attitudes to alcohol and the environment you grow up in.
People who are alcohol dependent have higher rates of other psychiatric disorders than people in the general population particularly depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis and drug misuse. Often, people drink to try and reduce the symptoms , but in the long term alcohol makes these disorders worse because it interferes with the chemical balance in our brains.
Some people believe that theres such thing as an addictive personality which leads to alcohol dependence. But theres not much strong evidence to support this view.
Do Not Become An Enabler
There are many ways, both subtle and not so subtle, to enable an alcoholic to continue abusing alcohol. This could be providing money to drink, constantly cleaning up the messes the alcoholic makes, or simply becoming an excuse maker for the actions of the alcoholic. Tough love is key here.
Alcoholics by nature can become extremely manipulative if need be to facilitate the continued usage of alcohol. Those around the addict must disqualify themselves as vehicles that can be used to prolong this self-destructive behavior pattern.
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Why Professional Detox Is Important
When addicts resolve to get clean, many of them decide that they want to detox at home, because they feel safe there, or because they dont realize there are effective and affordable detox facilities available to oversee their withdrawal. This is a natural impulse, and for some individuals, it is also a viable option. For most individuals, however, detoxing at home will make them much more vulnerable to relapse, as well as put them at risk of serious, possibly fatal health problems.
Not only can your drug of choice cause dangerous withdrawal symptomsfor example, withdrawal from long-term, heavy alcohol use can cause seizures that could be life-threatening without medical attentionbut the withdrawal symptoms themselves can lead to serious health complications. For example, the withdrawal syndromes of many drugs include diarrhea and vomiting, which can lead to dehydration and dangerous electrolyte imbalances that affect heart function.
What Gateway Foundation Offers Clients
The effects of alcohol addiction impact all areas of life. When people are ready to make a significant change and work toward a lifetime of sobriety, alcohol treatment centers are ideal. Gateway offers clients a full continuum of care, which means that clients can find the programs that best fit their needs, their health and their schedules.
Clients can also expect to find a wide range of recovery strategies. From evidence-based to holistic, some of the most successful programs include:
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Unable To Quit Or Cut Back
People who have become addicted may experience intense cravings for alcohol. These can be very overwhelming, and cravings can arise from a response to a variety of thoughts and feelings. The cravings for alcohol are the strongest when beginning recovery. Often, people experience a tug of war between the part of their brain that wishes to quit drinking and the part that wants to still feel the pleasures of alcohol. If you find yourself unable to quit or cut back your drinking, you might be becoming addicted to alcohol.
Be Willing To Stay The Course
The road to conquering alcoholism will not be without bumps or curves. Setbacks are inevitable and there will be times that may cause one to question their own willingness to continue to help an alcoholic loved one. However, it is the greatest importance that the alcoholic knows that he can depend on the support of loved ones with no fear of facing abandonment.
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What Is Moderate Drinking
According to the “Dietary Guidelines for America, 2020-2025,” published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture , drinking in moderation means limiting alcohol intake to two drinks or less per day for men and one drink or less per day for women.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests that heavy alcohol use involves drinking four or more drinks a day for men and more than three drinks a day for women.
NIAAA defines binge drinking as consuming five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women in two hours or less.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
How Long Does It Take To Quit Drinking
The length of time it takes to quit drinking varies from person to person. Some people decide to quit cold turkey and never drink alcohol again. Others decide to give up alcohol temporarily and do so with short-term success.
However, if someone has AUD or is addicted to alcohol, quitting drinking is a long process.
In general, it takes about 6 to 24 hours to detox from alcohol .
Giving up alcohol long-term for a heavy drinker with an addiction is a life-long process.
As an alcoholic, maintaining sobriety is a daily effort. Its important to remember that heavy drinkers require medical supervision when giving up alcohol.
If you’re addicted to alcohol, the first days of quitting are difficult. Your body will go through withdrawal symptoms.
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Cessation Of Alcohol Intake
Cessation of alcohol intake in individuals that have alcohol dependence is a process is often coupled with substitution of drugs, such as benzodiazepines, that have effects similar to the effects of alcohol in order to prevent alcohol withdrawal. Individuals who are only at risk of mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms can be treated as outpatients. Individuals at risk of a severe withdrawal syndrome as well as those who have significant or acute comorbid conditions can be treated as inpatients. Direct treatment can be followed by a treatment program for alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder to attempt to reduce the risk of relapse. Experiences following alcohol withdrawal, such as depressed mood and anxiety, can take weeks or months to abate while other symptoms persist longer due to persisting neuroadaptations. Alcoholism has serious adverse effects on brain function on average it takes one year of abstinence to recover from the cognitive deficits incurred by chronic alcohol misuse.
The Following 11 Questions Are Designed To Help You Better Understand Your Relationship To Alcohol They Will Help You To Tell If It Resembles Abuse Or Addiction Or Is If It Closer To Average
1. Do you tend to drink more than you expected to? And for longer periods of time?
2. Do you wish you could drink less, and struggle to cut down your alcohol intake?
3. Does drinking consume much of your time? In other words, do you spend a lot of your time trying to obtain, use, or recover from alcohol hangovers?
4. Do you have very strong cravings or urges to drink? Does it feel like you need it to get by?
5. Does drinking cause problems for you at work, in school, or in your family obligations? Does this happen frequently?
6. If drinking does cause these social and interpersonal problems for you, do you continue to drink anyway?
7. Have you given up activities that used to be meaningful for you? For example, have you quit a sport or left friendships because you dont seem to have the time or energy anymore?
8. Do you use alcohol even when it makes your activity physically dangerous? This could be drinking while driving, using certain prescription drugs, or working with heavy machinery.
9. Do you continue to drink even after discovering that it exacerbates, worsens, or even causes other physical or mental illnesses?
10. Are you developing a tolerance for alcohol? This could show up as a decreased effect after drinking the same quantity of alcohol that you used to use, or having to drink more and more alcohol to achieve the desired level of intoxication.
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How Old Were You When You Started Drinking
The younger you are when you start drinking, the more likely you are to get addicted to alochol. Subsequently, you will probably also become addicted to alochol more quickly. Teenagers have something known as dopamine deficiency. What happens is when we are teenagers the brain produces less dopamine than usual. Have you ever wondered why teens tend to be thrill seeking, sex crazed, drug doing maniacs? This is why! They are trying to get a dopamine rush that their brains arent giving them.
Alcohol plays a role in this because it hijacks the dopamine reward system. When you drink it releases dopamine and makes you feel good. So the result is that you want to drink more. For brains that are already deprived of dopamine this happens even worse. So that psychological dependence we talked about earlier might happen more quickly in teenagers.
Studies have shown that the younger people are when they start drinking, the more likely they are to develop alcohol addiction later in life. Particularly people who started drinking before age 16 tended to have much higher rates of alochol dependence than those who started drinking after age 20. However, there is no research that tells us exactly how long it takes for a 16 year old to become addicted vs. a 20 year old. We can deduce based on dopamine deficiency and higher rates of addiction that it happens more quickly for people who start drinking at a young age.
Refrain From Drinking Around An Alcoholic Loved One
It would be highly inconsiderate to drink around a loved one who has recently began the search for sobriety. This is not a lifetime ban on drinking in the personâs presence as the hopes are one day that person will no longer suffer from alcohol cravings. But in the beginning the cravings for the person will be strong and to drink in his or her presence can have terrible consequences.
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Make It Comfortable To Talk About The Underlying Cause Contributing To Their Drinking
Very rarely do people drink simply to drink. Often they struggle with depression or anxiety and drink as a way to self-medicate. It is important to acknowledge that you think there may be an underlying mental health issue that results in drinking. Try not to sound accusatory, especially if the person may not know they suffer from depression or anxiety. Instead, ask them gently if they think there could be a contributing cause to their drinking. Feel out their response, and go from there.
Confront The Person In A Non
This is a difficult conversation. Plan what you’re going to say ahead of time. Wait until your loved one is sober and relatively emotionally stable. Make sure you are also feeling calm, as it is important that your loved one doesn’t feel attacked. Avoid accusatory language such as, “You’d better get help or else.”
During this first discussion, it’s important to show how much you care about your loved one. Be genuine and honest about your concerns, including how their drinking is affecting their health and the family as a whole. You can mention a particular problem that is arising from drinking, such as financial or relationship troubles.
Let your family member know you want to support them in stopping. Offer to help them find a treatment program, such as a 12-step program or a rehab facility, and perhaps to take over some of their responsibilities at home while they are taking time out for recovery.
Expect some pushback. The person may be in denial. Or if they aren’t, they might suggest that they can quit on their own. This rarely ever works. However, you might discuss a timeframe and when you can expect changed behavior.
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Sign #: You Place Personal Needs Above Gods Boundaries
Wait a second, youre making it sound like I could be addicted to myself, and not just another person
If thats the thought thats running through your mind right now, I think youre onto something! After all, didnt I mention at the beginning that it might not actually be people-addiction, but an addiction to how we feel about the doing for and the being with people that gets us in trouble?
One of the least talked about topics in the Christian realm seems to be the simple issue of boundaries. Im not certain as to why, especially considering that even God is three-in-oneconnected, but distinct. What does that word mean anyway? Boundary.
A boundary is simply where one person ends, and another person begins. Its the place where one human releases a responsibility and ownership, and another picks it upits a lot like crossing over state lines. God assigns jurisdiction based on what He wants us to do, and with whom…and though most of it is lawful, not all of it is actually helpful, depending on the person.
Think about the church body for a moment …the hands, feet, and all the rest. Its entirely possible that we could learn to handstand walk upside down, two hands pressed against the ground, right? And sure, well travel a short distance before tiring, but wouldnt it be more efficient if the feet were called into action?
Have you ever given advice instead of encouraging a friend to spend time in prayer and to reflect on scripture first?
What Can I Do To Get Them To Stop
If your loved one has an alcohol use disorder, it’s natural to wonder how to make them see that they need help. For you to be asking this question, it’s likely that your loved one has gotten to the point that they continue to drink in spite of obvious problems caused by their drinking.
Personal, social, and even legal problems that would cause most people to conclude that their drinking should be curtailed or eliminated don’t typically affect people with an alcohol use disorder in the same way.
It’s important to understand that this is not a weaknessrather, the drinker is psychologically and physiologically addicted to the substance of alcohol and requires professional help.
The challenge to this is that many people with an alcohol use disorder are in denial that there is a problem. No matter how obvious the problem seems to others, the alcohol-dependent person may loudly deny that drinking is the cause of their troubles, and may blame the circumstances or people around them instead.
When people ask how to help the drinker in their lives, the answer they usually receive is, “Unfortunately, there is not much anyone can do until the person with an alcohol use disorder admits they have a problem.”
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