Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

Nearly 86.3% of adults in the U.S. (ages 18 and older), have admitted to consuming alcohol at some point in their lifetime, with 55.3% of them reporting that they drank within the last month, and 70% admitting to having drank in the last year. But what is it that makes it safe for some to drink but for others drinking becomes a serious problem? Why can some people have just a few drinks, on occasion, while others find themselves drinking excessively, and struggling with severe alcohol addiction? Alcohol addiction is a disease that impacts 14.4M American adults aged 18 and older. Alcoholism is a serious, potentially life-threatening problem, that affects more than just a person’s drinking habits. Alcohol addiction can ruin lives.

 

At St. John’s Recovery Place we provide alcohol addiction treatment and recovery solutions that are tailored to each individual client that comes through our doors. Our goal is to help each client achieve lasting recovery and healing, and we realize that in order to do so we must provide specialized treatment programs that look beyond treating everyone with a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all standard of care. We provide individualized alcohol addiction treatment with careful consideration for each person we connect with. If you or someone you love has a drinking problem, call our admissions team at 833-397-3422 to learn more about the treatment programs available at our Florida alcohol rehab center.

Symptoms of Alcoholism

So, how can you tell if you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism or an alcohol addiction? What even is alcoholism? Alcoholism, alcohol addiction, and alcohol dependence are three terms, with very similar definitions, that often are used interchangeably and essentially lead into one another. Alcohol abuse typically has an onsetting factor, which normally begins with a pattern of binge drinking or drinking for fun. This drinking turns into a dependence that requires further drinking to feel ‘okay’ or to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Defined as a pattern of drinking that brings an individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above a 0.08 g/dlm, or greater, binge drinking often expands beyond one night of heavy partying, although it may begin in just that manner.

 

Once you start binge drinking on a more regular basis, you begin to form a pattern. Soon you are binge drinking every weekend, and as your tolerance levels toward alcohol grow, so does the amount you drink and before you realize it, you soon have an alcohol dependence problem, which left uncheck, can evolve into alcoholism.

 

There are different symptoms that occur at different stages of alcoholism. Some of these symptoms can be physical, some mental, and both can have long-term and short-term effects, with varying severities. So here are a few symptoms to look out for if you think you, or your loved one, may be struggling with alcohol addiction, or are developing a alcohol abuse problem.

Physical Symptoms of Alcoholism

The chances are, even if you have used alcohol moderately for most of your life, you have experienced some of the physical side effects it can produce. Now, imagine those side effects if you weren’t able to let them wear off, where you just continue to drink, and those physical effects only continue to grow more severe, making basic physical life tasks difficult to accomplish. It could be rather dangerous right? Right. The physical symptoms of alcoholism can range from mild, to moderate, and severe. The most common physical symptoms of alcoholism include:

 

  • Impaired motor function.
  • Taking part in activities that can be unsafe while drinking, like driving and swimming.
  • Spending a large amount of your time drinking.
  • Developing a high tolerance to alcohol.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when effects of alcohol begin to wear off – like nausea, headaches, sweating, shaking, vomiting.
  • Developing health conditions linked to your alcohol use – like liver damage, seizures, bone damage, heart and digestive issues, increased risk of cancer, and more.

Psychological Symptoms of Alcoholism

There are also many psychological symptoms that can accompany alcoholism. These symptoms again can range in a variety of severities, often linked to how often you drink, and how quickly you consume alcohol in any given setting. Psychological symptoms of alcohol abuse can be just as dangerous as physical symptoms, and often include:

 

  • Increased depression.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Experiencing strong cravings for alcohol.
  • Mental withdrawal symptoms – like restlessness, mood swings, hallucinations, and increased anxiety.
  • Believing everyone is judging you for your drinking.
  • Not being able to cut-back on the amount of drink you have, even though you continue trying to quit using altogether, or not as much, multiple times.
  • Self isolating.

 

The psychological symptoms of alcohol abuse and addiction can be rather trickier to decipher at times. Some of these symptoms can be a direct effect of alcohol consumption, like paranoia and mood swings for people who are currently drunk, and other effects can occur when an individual is more sober, assuming that their family and friends are against them, or judging them for their struggles, or as they try to reason with themselves that they actually do not have a problem.

 

Like any other kind of addiction, it is important to remember that alcoholism is a disease. And like any other type of disease, it can be hard to pin down to treat, and requires a great deal of love and patience to get a person through it. But remember, you and your family members and loved ones, are worth the time spent working towards recovery, it just may take some time, and it could be frustrating along the way, just do not give up! You and your loved ones deserve to live your lives, free of addiction, happily and healthily, with a great support system dedicated to helping you get better.

Other Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse is complicated. It may seem very much like one factor influences the other, and in a sense, it does, but there are so many other factors that contribute to a person’s habits with alcohol, and not just their over drinking, that relate to alcoholism. Thus, there are also other symptoms of alcohol abuse that can be a mixture of psychosocial and physical effects. Some of these “other” symptoms include:

 

  • Social isolation and socialising issues.
  • Problems occurring at or with work, as a result of drinking habits.
  • Problems occurring at or with school, as a result of drinking habits.
  • Financial struggles or instability.
  • Marital or relationship conflict or loss.
  • Alienation from friends, family, and even children.
  • Loss of drivers license (if caught while driving under the influence).
  • Cutting back on hobbies, or other “extracurricular” activities outside of work, school, and family obligations, to make more time for drinking.

 

Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between a side effect, sign, and a symptom. Oftentimes, when it comes to addiction, symptoms can lead into signs, which can lead into side effects, or be caused because of side effects. Don’t panic! When it comes to determining whether or not you, or a loved one, is suffering from an alcohol addiction, you can normally see an overall pattern of:

 

  • Drinking too much.
  • Being drunk too often.
  • Having severe adverse effects or mood swings while not drinking.
  • Self-isolating.

 

And generally caring poorly for oneself, or one’s family and friends they are responsible for. Remember, you don’t have to be 100% sure you, or someone you know, is engaging in alcohol abuse to talk with them about your concerns, or seek out help. Part of alcohol abuse is being diagnosed with the disorder, after a thorough medical examination, just like any other type of addiction diagnosis and treatment processing. At the end of the day, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Long-Term, Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Now, it should not come as a surprise to you, to learn that drinking alcohol excessively can have long-term effects on your body. Some of these effects can seem pretty straight forward, like the development of an alcohol addiction, but many of these effects are probably concerns you may have never considered. Also, it is important to note here, that you remember, the effects of alcohol abuse can take on a wide variety of severities. Just like other types of addiction, alcohol abuse effects vary depending on the individual, what may constitute drinking in excess for you, may not constitute drinking in excess for your great uncle Rodney who lifts 300 pounds daily, and is built like a lumberjack.

 

Nonetheless, any long-term effect of alcohol abuse can be very uncomfortable, dangerous, and even in some situations, potentially life threatening. Typically, long-term effect of alcohol abuse include:

 

  • Increased risk of developing diabetes.
  • Increased risk of developing further complications to diabetes, if you are already diabetic.
  • Development of liver damage.
  • Increased potential for liver failure, or cirrhosis liver.
  • Significant weight gain, and the bodily complications that surface with obesity.
  • Development, or increase in mental health issues, including thoughts of suicide.
  • Alcohol addiction, alcoholism, or alcohol dependence.
  • The development of other types of substance abuse.
  • Sexual performance issues.
  • Cancer – of the stomach, bowels, breast, mouth, throat, liver, oesophageal, or others.
  • Fertility issues – in both men and women.
  • Birth defects.
  • Higher risk of stroke.
  • Higher risk of developing dementia.
  • Brain damage, or severe brain-related conditions developing.
  • Heart damage.
  • Higher risk of a heart attack.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Social and financial issues can also persist, in a wide variety of degrees, but most severe – such as loss of a marriage, loss of home, or loss of job.

Short-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse

If you drink alcohol, even occasionally, you already know about how quickly alcohol begins to affect your senses. The short term effect of alcohol use is also subject to change on the individual, how high their tolerance is, and their typical drinking habits. These types of effects also normally come in different waves, and as the individual becomes more intoxicated, the more severe and dangerous the short-term effects become. If left unchecked, short-term alcohol abuse effects can lead into long-term consequences, some life-threatening in nature. Otherwise, some of the most common short-term effects of alcohol abuse include:

 

  • Binge drinking.
  • A heightened feeling of well being (in the beginning stages).
  • Being more talkative (in the beginning stages).
  • Feeling more confident (in the beginning stages).
  • Feeling more relaxed (in the beginning stages).
  • Accidental injury to self, or others.
  • Intentional harm to self, or others.
  • Alcohol poisoning.
  • Engaging in unprotected sex, or unwanted sex.
  • Driving or being involved in an accident because of excessive alcohol use.
  • Memory loss or blackout.
  • Possible loss of consciousness.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Possible loss of bladder control.
  • Feeling sleepy.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Mood swings.
  • Increased anxiety.
  • Higher potential to experience a panic attack.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Impaired vision.
  • Impaired reflexes.
  • Reduced inhibitions.
  • Impaired judgment.

Seeking Help From Alcoholism?

So, at this point, you may be feeling very nervous about either yourself, or your loved one’s drinking habits. But again, don’t panic! Alcohol dependence and addiction may be a serious issue, but you don’t need to fight through it alone. There are many alcohol addiction treatment centers around the country, willing to help you, or your loved one, recover from an unhealthy relationship with drinking.

 

There are many ways for you or your loved one to be treated for an alcohol addiction. First, you must acknowledge that you may have a problem, and schedule a visit with your doctor to discuss your concerns, and undergo a thorough evaluation. From there, it is time to do some research on treatment programs and facilities, and picking which program will work best for you. Once those initial steps are complete, it is time to work through the steps of your recovery program, and begin making your way through your alcohol addiction recovery journey. Alcohol treatment program types include:

 

 

It may be hard, scary, and uncomfortable at times, but you can do this! You deserve to live a life free of addiction, you just have to remember how you got there, and work towards learning new ways to help yourself from never going back. But do keep in mind, no one’s recovery journey is perfect, and it will take time. You will have times you mess up, or backtrack, and that is okay. Just don’t give up!

Co-Occurring Mental Health Conditions

The term “co-occurring mental health conditions” or “co-occurring disorders” may seem very scary. But what the term actually refers to, is when an individual suffers from both a separately occurring mental illness, and a substance abuse disorder. Co-occurring disorders are extremely dangerous, difficult to understand, and tricky to treat, especially when alcoholism is one of the disorders involved in the mix.

 

Co-occurring disorders can be the reason why another disorder, like alcoholism, was onset. An individual who is trying to cope with their depression for instance, may turn to drinking to numb their feelings, and as they use alcohol increasingly to cope with their emotions, they develop a dependence and addiction to the substance. When an individual is suffering from co-occurring mental health conditions, they are often treated for both of their disorders at once, in order to keep all aspects of the individual’s health moving forward.

 

In the case of addiction, there is no such thing as treating one problem first, and then moving onto the next, since both problems are usually co-dependent, and too dangerous to leave unchecked. This alone makes treatment trickier than normal. And besides taking on specialized treatment needs, it is also common for individuals suffering from co-occurring disorders, usually requiring longer treatment plans to be designed for them, as treatment plans need to be adjusted to fit a majority of issues, and not one singular complication. Do not fear though! Just because co-occurring disorders are harder to treat, and if left untreated, could be more dangerous, does not mean someone suffering from two or more disorders at once, is incapable of receiving help, It’ll just take them a little longer, and probably be more difficult for them to work through, which is why they need your support so much. You can do it, and so can they!

Alcohol Poisoning

We mentioned alcohol poisoning very briefly (in bullet point form) before. Alcohol poisoning is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition, with a quick and near-silent onset. Usually spurred on by large bouts of binge drinking, alcohol poisoning is caused when the levels of alcohol contained in your bloodstream rises to somewhere above a BAC of 0.15 – or lower / higher, depending on the individual. There are many adverse effects of alcohol poisoning everyone should be aware of, in the case of someone you know experiences such an event, and to help you yourself try and avoid ever having to deal with the situation personally. Common symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

 

  • Confusion
  • Hypothermia
  • Pale or bluish skin
  • The individual is unresponsive but conscious (a stupor)
  • Losses consciousness
  • Abnormal breathing (10 second between each breath at times)
  • Very slow breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Complete loss of breath (in more severe cases)
  • Potential to experience heart attack (in more severe cases)
  • Risk of choking on vomit (in more severe cases)
  • Severe dehydration
  • Potential to experience seizures (in more severe cases)
  • Potential to become hypoglycemic (which can also cause seizures)
  • High risk of slipping into a coma (in more severe cases)
  • Death (in extremely dangerous situations)

Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning by Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Levels

You may feel very worried about alcohol poisoning now. That is understandable, the symptoms of alcohol poisoning can be very similar to those someone may experience when they are just drunk, so you may be frightened about how to tell the difference or not. Remember, it is always better to be safe than sorry, and if you feel someone may be in danger of alcohol poisoning, it is best to call 9-1-1 to get them help as fast as possible rather than “wait the situation out”. Especially if you are not confident you know how to help them.

 

Either way, here is a list of symptoms broken down for you, to understand when someone’s BAC has grown too high, and it may be time to find help. Typical symptoms of alcohol poisoning by blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels include:

 

  • BAC Level of 0.0 – 0.05%
    • Talkative
    • Relaxed
    • Increased confidence
    • General feeling of well-being
    • “Tipsy”

 

  • BAC Level of 0.06 – 0.15%
    • Speech impairment
    • Attention issues
    • Impaied judgement
    • Impraied movement
    • Impiraed coordination
    • Reduced inhibitions
    • Balance issues
    • Imparied vision
    • Beginning of emotional instability
    • Nausea may begin

 

  • BAC Level of 0.16 – 0.30%
    • Increasing intoxication (drunkenness begins)
    • Increased mood swings
    • Increased aggression
    • Slurred speech
    • Memory issues
    • Potential blackouts
    • Further coordination impairment
    • Further balance issues
    • Further vision impairment
    • Slower reflexes
    • Further impaired judgment
    • Driving skills and judgment faculties are negated
    • Increased risk of injury to self and others
    • The potential loss of bladder control
    • Sleepy
    • Vomiting
    • Difficulty breathing

 

  • BAC Level of 0.31%
    • Severely slurred speech, or speech issues
    • Severe memory issues or loss of memory
    • Blackouts
    • Risk of stroke
    • Risk of heart attack
    • Near complete loss of coordination
    • Loss of attention span
    • Balance significantly impaired
    • Vision significantly impaired
    • All motor and driving skills severely impaired
    • Judgment and decision-making skills dangerously impaired
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Vomiting
    • Other symptoms of alcohol overdose are common

 

  • BAC Levels of 0.32% And Over
    • Complete loss of consciousness
    • The danger of life-threatening alcohol overdose
    • Coma
    • Severe risk of death due to loss of vital, life-sustaining procedure loss (like inability to breath)

 

Overall, an addiction to alcohol, alcohol dependence, or a binge drinking habit, is a serious, potentially life-threatening issue, with many complications. After reading about alcoholism and alcohol poisoning, you may be afraid of what may happen to you, your friends, or family members who may have an issue with substance abuse or co-occurring issues with substance abuse. It is okay to be scared, but you don’t need to live in fear or go through this process of trying to recover alone.

 

There are many facilities around the country, dedicated to helping people who struggle with alcohol addiction, and other types of substance abuse, to regain control over their lives. It can be a long, hard, frustrating and scary road, and you may not feel sure of the process or yourself all the time, but trust us, you and your loved ones are taking the necessary steps towards recovery. Don’t wait because you think you may be judged, we only want to see you and your family get better and remain healthy, We are here for you, and all of your recovery needs.

 

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National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism. Alcoholism and Co-Occurring Disorders. (1991, October). (2020, July 1).

 

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