Get the Facts on Alcohol Abuse

Short- and Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system (CNS). In small quantities, a drinker will feel relaxed, talkative and more confident. These effects increase as more alcohol is drunk, together with a gradual loss of balance, coordination and judgment, which can lead to accidents occurring. At higher levels, a drinker may vomit, become unable to walk, lose bladder control or even pass out. Dangerously high levels of alcohol can even cause coma or death.

Because alcohol is toxic in high concentrations, chronic abuse can lead to long-term health issues including:

  • Liver diseases
  • Heart disease
  • Psychiatric and social problems
  • Increased risk of some cancers

Dependence, Abuse and Addiction

Regular drinkers often develop tolerance to alcohol, meaning they need to drink more to experience the same effects. In some cases, drinkers can become dependent on alcohol, where it becomes a central part of their lives and much of their days will revolve around obtaining, consuming and recovering from alcohol. This can cause people to slip into a cycle of abuse and addiction, where they can find it difficult to stop drinking, or even moderate the amount of alcohol they consume.

Understanding Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning occurs when alcohol concentrations in the blood become so high that involuntary bodily functions, such as breathing and gag reflexes, become impaired. While a fatal level of alcohol will stop these functions altogether, lives can be in danger long before this stage. If left untreated, alcohol poisoning can cause sufferers to:

  • Choke on their own vomit
  • Breath irregularly or even stop altogether
  • Experience irregular heartbeats, or even a total stop
  • Have a low body temperature (hypothermia)
  • Become extremely dehydrated, leading to other serious issues

It is vitally important to get immediate medical attention for anyone you suspect may have alcohol poisoning. Alcoholic/Problem Drinker Assessment Formal diagnostic criteria have been developed to assess whether someone is an alcoholic. In general, alcoholics will display:

  • An strong compulsion to drink
  • A lack of ability to moderate drinking
  • Physical withdrawal symptoms—such as nausea, sweating, shaking and anxiety—after stopping drinking
  • An increased tolerance to alcohol

Heavy drinkers that do not conform to the clinical classification are often classified as problem drinkers. This means they are still consuming excessive amounts of alcohol but do not have a pattern of dependence. In some cases, they may be able to cut down their consumption to safer levels, but a total cessation may be recommended instead.

Getting Clean and Sober

When alcoholics decide to become clean and sober of their own volition, there are a number of treatment options available (discussed in more detail below) to aid the transition to a clean and sober lifestyle. If you or a loved one has made the decision to stop drinking, please call (800) 943-0566 or fill out this quick form so we can help get you the support you need.

How an Intervention Works

Interventions seek to increase alcoholics’ desires to quit by confronting them with the effects of their behavior.

Often, alcoholics will show no desire to change their behavior, or they may not even recognize it as being a problem. Interventions seek to increase alcoholics’ desires to quit by confronting them with the effects of their behavior. Employers or therapists can initiate these, but they are thought to be most effective when involving family members and close friends.

During an intervention, affected people communicate, honestly but compassionately, about how they have been hurt by the subject’s alcoholism. This combination of confrontation and support often provides the initial desire for change that is necessary to progress.

Methods for Alcohol Withdrawal and Detoxing

Withdrawing from alcohol can be difficult, but there are medications available to moderate the physical effects of withdrawal. There are also oral medications available to reduce the craving for alcohol that often follows.

Rehab and Alcoholism Treatment Options

Following withdrawal and detox, a rehab program is usually recommended to equip alcoholics to handle life without alcohol. Depending on the individual case, this can be done either on an inpatient basis or on an outpatient basis with a tailored program. Possible treatments can include:

  • Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Medications to target brain chemicals involved in addiction
  • Counseling

If you want to know more about treatment options available to you or a loved one, call (800) 943-0566 or fill out our simple form to find out about services in your area.

Aftercare and Relapse Prevention

Aftercare is mostly concerned with preventing relapses immediately after treatment. This could involve staying in sober-living residences, which are provided in some cities. These residences do not provide additional treatment, but they do provide a sober environment in which recovering addicts can provide each other with support.

Alcoholics Support Groups and Recovery Tools

Because alcohol is so prevalent in society, recovering alcoholics can sometimes find it hard to stay sober, especially during periods of stress or sadness. Support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, can be a considerable help in staying sober in the long term. Regular meetings are often held nationwide, enabling those in recovery to find support from others with similar problems. New members may also be assigned a sponsor, an existing member that will provide valuable support and advice, especially during harder times.

Common Questions and Answers about Alcoholism and Problem Drinking

Can a problem drinker or alcoholic simply cut down their drinking?While a problem drinker may be able to achieve this, a clinically diagnosed alcoholic will not be able to. It is an inherent part of alcoholism that sufferers are unable to moderate their consumption, at least in the long term.

What are the safe levels of drinking?For most healthy adults, two drinks per day for men and one for women is believed to be acceptable, where a drink can be a 12-oz. bottle of beer, a 5-oz. glass of wine or similar. Some people should avoid alcohol completely, such as recovering alcoholics, those on certain medications, those with certain medical conditions, and those driving or using machinery that requires care and concentration.

Can women drink during pregnancy?Research has established that heavy drinking during pregnancy can harm the baby. That said, it is still unknown if there is any safe level, so total abstinence is recommended for pregnant women.

Isn’t alcohol good for my health?While some studies do support that moderate drinking can be beneficial in some cases, the negative health effects of excessive drinking far outweigh these. This should never be used as a justification to continue drinking.

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