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What is Alcohol? Why is it Addictive?

alcoholism

Alcohol, the beverage form known as the ethyl alcohol, is a distilled chemical compound added to fermented fruit and grains. Scientifically, it is classified as a depressant drug, meaning it slows down vital organs and bodily function. Someone who has consumed a lot of alcohol (“drunk”) may experience impaired judgment, loss of coordination, and confused speech. People commonly drink alcohol to celebrate or relax. Though in excess, it can be unpleasant and harmful long term, the effects depend on the volume consumed and person’s body tolerance. Many people can drink a few beers at a party and be relatively fine, but it can be addictive, and some are genetically predisposed to alcohol addiction. Whether your decision to drink is a personal choice, but there are inherent dangers, particularly with drinking and driving, drinking underage, and binge drinking.

There are several different forms of alcoholic beverages that range in their volume percentage of ethyl content. Generally, these are:

Beer
2-6%
Cider
4-8%
Wine
8-20%
Tequila
40%
Rum
40%
Brandy
40%
Gin
40-70%
Whiskey
40-50%
Vodka
40-50%
Liqeurs
15-20%

Drinking Underage

Teens, and increasingly younger children, often think drinking alcohol will make them cool, popular, and accepted. However, the chemical properties are detrimental to developing brains, can lead to alcohol poisoning, and immediate death. Underage drinking can cause permanent brain damage, and studies have linked it to lower academics, drinking-related accidents, suicidal thoughts and actions, and a higher risk of long term dependence. One study found that people who started drinking before age 15 were 4 times likely to develop a strong alcohol dependence and addiction later in life.

Underage drinking severely impacts emotional development by increasing activity of the neurotransmitters known as gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which blocks stress signals to the brain. This effect results in a numbing sensation and high levels of depression and anxiety. Alcohol releases an overload of dopamine, a natural pleasure inducing chemical. This “feel good” vibe from drinking will quickly fade away and trigger a depression phase in young minds without it. Many teens may try to drink as a way to cope with depression without realizing it actually worsens psychological disorder long term. Habitual drinking in teens is linked to alarming levels of suicide. According to a report by John Hopkins University, youth who are heavy drinkers are about 26% more likely to commit self-harm and attempt suicide.

Alcohol, especially in developing minds, damages the cerebral cortex, resulting in impaired judgment. This condition can lead to teen believing themselves more confident and making risky decisions, including drinking and driving. In fact, 77% of youth have reported driving while under the influence, resulting in accidents and vehicular manslaughter. Long term effects of underage drinking can also lead to short term memory loss.

Other risky behaviors from drinking include unsafe and illicit sexual activity. Underage drinking is associated with wild college parties and sexual assault and rape. Often young females are taken advantage of when the effects of drinking numb their senses. With their judgment clouded, young men can misinterpret body language and cues to fit the party peer pressures. One study from the National Institutes of Health found 67% of girls reported drinking related sexual harassment and 48% any form of sexual harassment, including unwanted hugs, kisses, and sexual touches. A similar study found that 49% of all underage drinking related sexual assault victims required immediate emergency treatment. Ultimately, these cases can lead to rape, unwanted pregnancies, and STDs.

Drinking underage does not make you cool or powerful.

Instead, it has very detrimental effects on your overall physical and mental health. Worldwide, alcohol kills more teenagers than all other drugs combined. Seek help immediately if you or your child is engaging in underage drinking.

Drunk Driving

Driving while under the influence of alcohol is illegal and highly dangerous. As previously mentioned, alcohol impairs cognitive ability, motor skills, reaction times, and memory. Without being in the right mindset, it is never safe to drink. Alcohol can boost confidence and fool you into thinking you can drive. Any level of it can induce drowsiness leading you to fall asleep at the wheel. In every state, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content volume of .08%, but often people are unaware of their limit. The statistics behind drinking and driving related accidents are frightening. According to the CDC, driving under the influence causes 16% of all car accidents across the nation. In fact, every day 28 people die a day from drunk driving. That’s means you have a 1 in 3 chance of being affected in your lifetime!

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is defined as consuming large quantities of alcohol in one session, usually 5 or more drinks for a man and 4 or more for a woman. The CDC estimates that about 40% of Americans admit to binge drinking, 90% of this population being underage. This chronic behavior of this kind can lead to permanent brain, liver, and kidney failure and many forms of cancer. This sudden and heavy consumption can induce a coma, “blackout” memory loss, diarrhea, vomiting, and death by alcohol poisoning, a stroke, and shallow breathing. As the body consumes excessive about of alcohol, the liver tries to flush it out but cannot react in time when binge drinking. Unsafe levels of ammonia and manganese enter the brain and create hepatic encephalopathy, resulting in constant personality and mood changes, ongoing psychological conditions, and immediate loss of consciousness. From habitual binge drinking, the pancreas, normally responsible for processing food, gets confused and actually begins to eat itself, leading to diabetes, many forms of cancer, and eventual death directly. Preexisting heart and stomach conditions can worsen the effects of binge drinking.

Heightened Abuse

Wild partying commonly mixes alcohol with other drugs, particularly cocaine. One study found that 12% of all alcohol dependents were also heavy users of illicit drugs. Many falsely believe this somehow lowers the dangerous effects of the drugs, but actually, it increases the likelihood of an overdose dramatically. Because combining cocaine and alcohol creates opposing effects, a rush of adrenaline and depressed body functions, the results range and can be very unpredictable This combination is perilous and can lead to immediate death due to heart attacks, respiratory problems, and violent behaviors. Many addicts also combine alcohol with prescription medications, like opioid-based painkillers, or marijuana. Joined with these drugs you are likely to experience much higher levels of loss of bodily control and numbness.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Tampa, FL

Treatment plans for alcoholism vary, but it is never effective to try quitting on your own. Talk with your doctor regarding the best recovery plan with your physical conditions, who may recommend a kind of inpatient or rehabilitation center. These facilities will provide 24/7 medical attention and proper dietary plans to detox the substance fully. This close monitoring by doctors and nurses may be needed to manage the withdrawal symptoms. Riverside Recovery offers alcohol addiction treatment in Tampa, Florida and can be of help to you or a loved one. Contact us today if you have any questions or concerns.

Withdrawal
Symptoms May Include:

  • Intense bouts of depression and anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach pains
  • Chest pain and general heart problems
  • Fevers
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • In some cases, seizures, and hallucinations

Recovery

Rehab centers also may provide necessary counseling and group therapy to help cope with emotional and spiritual recovery. Different seminars and trainings will equip you with life skills to repair relationships, find work again, and fully integrate back into your old life. A typical rehab center program may last up to a month. It’s vital afterward to continue managing recovery with close accountability with loved ones. You may find it helpful to attend weekly support groups. In some cases of chronic abuse, you may need to check into a residential treatment center. This step may be best if you don’t have a close net of support from loved ones.

Whatever option your doctor recommends, anyone can overcome alcoholism with the right level of commitment, accountability, and genuine care from others.

Alcohol Addiction FAQs

What Is the Difference Between Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Dependency?

Alcohol abuse is when drinking habits become unhealthy or excessive. Abusing alcohol can cause problems in a person’s life, often negatively affecting their job and relationships.

If this behavior becomes continuous, it’s likely that alcohol abuse can lead to alcohol dependency. The abuser may become mentally and physically addicted to drinking. The common signs of alcohol dependency are:

  • Withdrawal symptoms after periods of not drinking (anxiety, shakiness, nausea, sweating)
  • An intense craving for alcohol
  • An inability to quit drinking or control the amount of drinking at a given time
  • Drinking becomes a priority, often taking place of healthier activities
  • An excessive amount of time is spent drinking or recovering from drinking
  • Attempts to cut back on or quit drinking altogether have failed
  • A continuance of drinking even though relationships and physical health are deteriorating
  • Even after admitting there’s a problem, the drinking continues
  • Tolerance to alcohol gradually increases

When Should You Seek Professional Help for Alcohol Dependency?

It all starts with a few drinks, but sometimes habitual drinking can become alcohol abuse. Eventually, those habits will turn into a mental and physical addiction to alcohol. You should seek professional help if you notice any signs of alcohol dependency.

Who Do I Turn to for Alcohol Dependency Treatment?

If you have thought you may have an addiction to alcohol and need treatment, the first step is seeing a doctor for a diagnosis. While some seek help for this addiction, others are not aware of it or don’t want to fix it. It is not uncommon, however, for a doctor to notice an alcohol dependency even if you are there for something else.

Most doctors can help with treatment for alcoholism, but you can also turn to other health professionals such as addiction counselors and social workers.

There also support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, that you can turn to for support in recovery.

What Is the Treatment Process for Alcohol Dependency?

Treatment for alcoholism varies, and recovery can be a lifelong process. A doctor may recommend many things, but it usually includes a few types of counseling, group therapy, alcohol education and sometimes medicine. If you are physically addicted to alcohol, a doctor may compel you to detox. Sometimes a doctor may place you in a rehabilitation facility or clinic. Treatment not only helps you stop drinking, but it also helps you with your day-to-day problems in life. However, recovering from an addiction is never easy and requires a great deal of commitment and honesty.

What Kind of Treatment Programs Are Available?

There are three different types of treatment programs that are available. Your doctor will help you decide which one is best for your recovery. Outpatient treatment involves going to clinics, counseling sessions, and therapy sessions regularly. Inpatient treatment involves staying in a treatment facility for a number of weeks. Residential recovery involves living in a facility while you recover, which can take several months.

What Kind of Counseling Does Treatment Entail?

Treatment for alcohol addiction often includes one or more of these types of counseling:

  • Individual or group therapy, which includes talking about your recovery with a counselor or others in recovery
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps you learn to change your thoughts and actions to avoid alcohol
  • Motivational interviewing, where a counselor helps you overcome your mixed feelings about treatment and recovery
  • Motivational enhancement therapy, which helps you find the motivation to quit
  • Brief intervention therapy, which are very short sessions that off feedback and advice on quitting
  • Couples and family therapy, which helps you maintain healthy relationships during treatment and recovery

What Kind of Medicine Is Available for Treatment?

Treatment for alcohol dependency does not always require medicine, but there are some cases where it does. There are many different types of medicine that are used to treat various problems that can be caused by quitting alcohol. Some of these medicines help deter your cravings for alcohol. There are also medicine that will make you sick if you drink any alcohol. Other medicines help with side-effects of quitting as well as get your body back to normal after years of abuse.

Can I Quit Drinking on My Own?

While some cases of alcohol addiction do require a treatment plan, it is possible for some people to cut back on or quit drinking on their own. Keep in mind that it is much safer and quicker with a doctors help, but here are some things you can do to break your addiction or help you cut back on drinking:

  • Find your motivation. You know you have a problem and it is time to solve it. It helps to identify all the reasons that you have got to stop or cut back on drinking
  • Devise a plan to meet your goal. This may be baby steps, cutting back gradually. It may be possible to make it happen all at once. Come up with a plan that suits you, write it down, and do your very best to stick to it
  • Tell other people about your plan so you are not alone. Other people will help you to get better, and there is nothing wrong with asking friends and family for help
  • Throughout the course of your plan, assess your progress. Find a way to reward yourself when goals are met but don’t be too hard on yourself if they are not. Relapse is common with all addiction recoveries, but keep at it and begin again if it happens
  • Let the plan develop into new behaviors. Changing behavior is never easy, and it’s going to take some time. However, the more you continue practicing a new behavior, the quicker it becomes a habit
  • Avoid a lifestyle that is surrounded by alcohol. Find new friends, a new social spot, or even a new job
  • Find support groups to help you stay sober. This can be done all throughout your plan. It helps to have others with a similar problem when trying to recover. Even after your goal has been met, it is still good to attend these meetings

Seek Help Immediately
if you notice any of these signs:

  • You have no control or willpower to stop drinking
  • You drink in risky situations, such as driving, at work or school, or operating machinery
  • Your drink interferes with your ability to care for yourself properly, such as disregarding hygiene and appearance, a healthy diet, and sleep cycle.
  • You need to drink more alcohol more frequently to get the same effect
  • Your drinking habits harm your relationships with loved ones
  • You physically get sick often from drinking
  • You feel guilty about drinking and try to hide buying alcohol
  • You have experienced legal problems caused by too much drinking

Contact Us

Many people already suffering from depression, bipolar, and anxiety disorders may seek alcohol as a way to relax and escape, but the damage caused by alcoholism only multiplies and complicates the problems. If you know someone is an alcoholic, don’t preach or talk down to them. Instead, give them positive attention while being honest about their need for recovery.