Alcohol Abuse Guide

Signs, Symptoms, Timelines & Treatment Options

Alcohol is by far one of the most abused substances on the planet, mainly because of the social acceptability that can help a person hide their addiction easier than with other substances. In most surveys alcohol use almost always outweighs other drugs, in fact in 2015, 51.7% of Americans over the age of 12 reported drinking alcohol within the last month. Of those who sought treatment in 2015, 50% of admissions were for alcohol abuse. Due to the addictive nature of alcohol and the way society accepts and encourages drinking, abuse of the substance is very common. Just watch any American movie about the college experience and you will see people being encouraged to binge drink. The good news is unlike with other drugs, the stigma attached to alcoholism is mostly all gone. This is due in large to the Alcoholics Anonymous movement that began in 1934, and the fact that research and treatment prior to the early 2000’s are focused largely on alcohol abuse.

What is Alcohol? Why Is It Abused?

Alcohol, or ethanol, the consumable form of alcohol, is a beverage that is made through the fermentation process, typically with grains, fruits and sometimes honey. The longer the fermentation process takes, the stronger the alcohol content will be. The most common forms of alcohol are beer, liquor, and wine. When a person consumes alcohol, it acts as a depressant in the brain and causes the user to be intoxicated once a certain amount is ingested. Once a person reaches the point of intoxication they can exhibit decreased motor skills, slurred speech, an inflated ego, difficulty walking and lowered inhibitions. When alcohol abuse first began to take hold of society was during the Great Depression era in U.S. history. It was during this time that Bill W. began Alcoholics Anonymous, a 12 step program for alcoholics that was a free, daily support group to help middle-class men overcome alcoholism. Although alcohol abuse was still deemed by some as a “moral failing”, the stigma quickly turned around when these former alcoholics began to become productive members of society again. As it became more understood that alcoholism was a disease of the mind, doctors looked into the causes of the addiction and consequential continued use of the alcoholic despite having consequences. While an exact cause has yet to be discovered for alcoholism, today we do know what risk factors can lead to alcoholism. These can include:

  • A family history of alcoholism, especially if in the immediate family.
  • Co-occurring mental illnesses, like depression and anxiety.
  • Regular binge drinking.
  • Low self-esteem and self-worth.
  • Exposure to alcohol at a young age. The younger the person is, the greater the odds of developing an addiction.
  • Peer pressure, especially during high school and college age.

What are the Signs & Symptoms of Alcoholism?

If you are trying to figure out whether you or a loved one is abusing alcohol there is a defined criterion that a person needs to meet in order to be diagnosed as an alcoholic. Some of the most common signs of alcoholism, according to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, include:

  • Being unable to control the amount of alcohol that is consumed.
  • Building a tolerance, meaning that you need to drink more to achieve the same effect.
  • Craving alcohol when you are not drinking.
  • Alcohol has begun to interfere with you neglecting your personal responsibilities like work or school or family care.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms during bouts of drinking.
  • Wanting to stop drinking, but being unable to actually follow through.
  • Behaving differently after drinking alcohol.

Unlike some other substances, the immediate physical effects of alcohol can be easy to spot, unless the user is not at a level past intoxication. The physical, short-term signs and effects of alcohol include:

  • Slurred speech.
  • Bloodshot, or red eyes.
  • Lack of coordination.
  • Difficulty walking or standing.
  • Being disorientated; unable to pay attention.
  • Repeating language, difficulting finishing sentences.
  • Being irritated, having anxiety, being overly sensitive and/or experiencing aggression.
  • Blank stares; emotionless expression.

What are the Long-Term Health Effects of Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol is one of the more harmful substances to the human body, especially over time. The long-term health effects of alcoholism include complications that can lead to death. Drinking too much, even on a single occasion can lead to damaging effects on a person’s overall health. These short-term health effects and complications include:

  • Slow reaction times and poor reflexes, which is what makes driving while intoxicated such a dangerous situation.
  • Reduced activity in the brain.
  • Lowered inhibitions, which can lead to dangerous drug interactions and effects.
  • Blurred vision or dizziness.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Difficulty breathing; Slowness of breathing.
  • Restlessness and irritability.

Additionally, alcohol can create some other complications to your health after long-term use. This is why it is suggested that you get treatment right away, at a facility like Pax House, so you can quit before you have to deal with any of these long-term effects:

  • Brain defects and damage, such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (also known as wet brain).
  • Liver damage and liver disease.
  • Diabetes complications.
  • Bone decay or loss.
  • Lowered immune system.
  • Damage to your vision.
  • An increased risk of developing cancer.
  • Heart problems.
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What Happens During Alcohol Withdrawals?

Withdrawals from alcoholism can be some of the most dangerous a person can experience, they can even be deadly. When a person is physically dependent on alcohol, there are numerous symptoms that will be displayed. It is always suggested that if you are ready to quit drinking, that you find an alcohol detox program, such as the one at our Pasadena center, that can help you safely detox. Detoxing at home can be very dangerous and even lead to death. One of the most identifiable symptoms of alcohol withdrawal is delirium tremens, also known as the DT’s. This happens when your body is physically dependent on alcohol and when you stop drinking, there are physical and mental changes to your nervous system. The DT’s are commonly known as “the shakes”, and typically occur in people who have been drinking alcoholically for 10 years or more, although it does happen to those who drink heavily for a shorter period of time. Symptoms of delirium tremens can begin anywhere from 48-96 hours after your last drink and can last anywhere from a week to 10 days. Other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can appear in as little as 6 hours after your last drink, which is why a medical detox program is always suggested when quitting alcohol. Some other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Shakiness
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Abdominal cramps

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

8 Hours after Last Drink Typically mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms begin around 6-8 hours after the last drink. This includes anxiety, nausea, and other symptoms that are not severe but can become extremely uncomfortable.
24-48 Hours after Last Drink By this point, symptoms begin to worsen, and new symptoms such as high-blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, fever, and confusion.
72+ Hours after Last Drink This is where symptoms can become dangerous and increase rapidly. Hallucinations, irritability, and seizures are likely to occur in this stage of withdrawals making this the point where medical attention may be necessary.
5-7 Days after Last Drink When the fifth day is reached, typically most people see symptoms begin to taper, although it is possible for symptoms to last up to 10 days and beyond. After that, some Post Acute Withdrawl Symptoms can occur for months after the alcohol detox process.

What Happens During Alcohol Detox? Does It Really Help?

When you enter an inpatient detox program such as the one offered by Pax House in Pasadena, CA, you can expect to be treated in a comfortable, safe environment that is monitored 24/7 by medical staff. Many people avoid detox because of the fear of withdrawal, but a detox program for alcohol is the safest option when quitting. Most detox programs last 7-10 days for alcohol specifically but can be extended or shortened based on your personal situation. If you have identified that you have an alcohol addiction, detox is really the safest option with the risk of death during withdrawal as a real threat. A good detox program typically offers medications, prepared meals, snacks, television, massages and other relaxing activities to assist with your withdrawals. The goal of any alcohol detox program is to successfully rid your body of alcohol once and for all.

Medications Used for Detox

Medical detox programs for alcohol use a combination of medications to help you feel as comfortable as possible during the process. Some typical medications specific to alcohol include:

  • Benzodiazepines including Librium, Valium, and other anxiety reducing medications that also assist with preventing seizures.
  • Anticonvulsant or anti-seizure medications can be used on top of benzos to increase prevention methods of seizures.
  • Antidepressants are used to help manage the overwhelming depression that can occur once you remove alcohol from your system.
  • Anti-nausea medications are used to assist in calming nausea, vomiting, and dizziness that happens during withdrawals.
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Treatment, Aftercare & The Recovery Process

Inpatient Drug Rehab Programs

Typically when someone completes a detox program, it will be suggested to enter a residential inpatient facility. Inpatient drug rehab programs like Pax House near Pasadena will offer programs that typically last 30-90 days depending on each person’s unique situation. While inpatient, clients can expect to attend daily groups and individual sessions. A variety of therapies are used throughout the course of treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy, relapse prevention, life skills education, group therapy, addiction education, neurofeedback, EMDR for trauma, creative arts therapy, music therapy, 12 step integration, and more. Combining treatment methods helps professionals utilize the best options for each client. What works for one, may not always work for someone else, so seek treatment at a program that does use a variety of therapies.

There are many other techniques and therapies that can be used depending on the individual’s situation. The rehab process aims to be a safety net in a way, by providing a drug-free, structured environment for clients to learn how to live life again without addiction holding them back.

Ready to Quit Abusing Alcohol? Contact Our Pasadena Alcohol Rehab Program

Although it may seem impossible, recovery from alcohol addiction is real. Attending an alcohol addiction treatment program can help you increase your success greatly. The treatment program at Pax House, near the foothills of San Gabriel mountains close to Pasadena, CA, will help you begin your journey of recovering from alcoholism. If you or your loved one is ready to take the first step and escape addiction for good, call us today at 1-888-822-2279 and speak to one of our caring treatment consultants today.

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