What is Alcohol?

 

Alcohol, consumed for pleasure (ethyl alcohol), is a fermented drink. It is the fermentation process that provides the liquid, beer, wine, etc. with its drug effect, the higher the alcohol proof, the higher the intoxication level.

 

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. Those who consume a glass may initially feel more relaxed. As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol reduces the number of receptor firings; receptors are the body’s communication system.

 

Any substance which alters the receptors functioning will also have an influence on mood. A person who is not predisposed to alcoholism will feel a pleasant sense, a release of or a lowering of some inhibitions when drinking in moderation. Alcohol can quickly or slowly grab onto a person’s psyche and make them believe that alcohol is the answer to their discomfort. A tolerance for the alcohol will occur. Once that happens, a person is on his or way to developing alcoholism or alcohol abuse.

 

Alcohol has been made and consumed for thousands of years and for thousands of years people have become alcoholics. Present day researchers now understand the impact of alcohol and drugs on the brain and, therefore, the impact of substances on the body’s normal functioning.

Standard Equivalents:

 

  • 12 oz of Beer equals 1 drink (5% alcohol)

  • 12 oz of Malt Liquor equals 1.5 drinks (7% alcohol)

  • 750 ml or 25 oz of Table Wine equals 5 drinks (12% alcohol)

  • 1.5 oz of 80 proof Spirits or Hard Liquor equals 1 or more drinks (mixed drinks equal more) 16 oz equals 11 drinks or more (40% alcohol)

 
What are the Effects of Alcohol?

 

Alcohol affects everyone differently. Many things influence how quickly alcohol impacts a person’s body including:

 

  • Gender

  • Height

  • Weight

  • Age

  • Physical health

  • Mental health

  • Presence of other drugs etc.

 

Once consumed, alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the blood stream through the small blood vessels in the stomach and small intestine. It travels to the brain and to the liver. The liver can filter only a certain amount of alcohol at a time converting it from a toxic to a non-toxic substance. On average, the liver can filter one standard size drink per hour. That leaves the remainder of the alcohol circulating throughout the body’s organs, tissues, and cells.

 

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Consumption

 

Like other central nervous system drugs, alcohol alters the brain’s response to stimuli. Alcohol is known to lower inhibitions and emotional and psychological filters that keep people rational, safe, and appropriate. A person can develop a tolerance for alcohol- a physical need to drink more. That tolerance leads to alcohol addiction or alcoholism. Alcoholic drinking affects a person’s mental, physical, emotional, and psychological ability to respond in healthy, productive ways. Just a few drinks can produce:

 

  • A sense of relaxation

  • Slower reflexes

  • Increased confidence

  • Slurred speech

  • Headache

  • Nausea

  • Flushes

  • Vomiting

 

Higher levels of alcohol consumption can produce:

 

  • Headaches

  • Tremors

  • Nausea

  • Coma

  • Decreased respiratory function

  • Death

 

People who like to drink a great deal in a relatively short period of time indulge in binge drinking (consuming 5 or more drinks). Binge drinking can be life threatening. It can produce the inability to feel pain and/or produce toxic levels of alcohol in the body. A person can go into a coma, or suffer death when toxic levels of alcohol are in the body.

Alcohol abuse can cause cancer, heart disease, liver and kidney disease as well as brain damage. Damaged organs will remain damaged regardless of the age of the drinker. Other effects are:

 

  • Accidents or injuries

  • Alcohol poisoning

  • Psychological problems

  • Liver Disease

  • Brain damage

  • Vitamin B deficiency (Wernicke’s Encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s Psychosis)

  • Loss of appetite

  • Ulcers


 

Understanding the Different Types of Alcohol Addictions

There are different types of alcohol use disorders, which vary in terms of habits and severity. It is important to understand these differences when applied to alcohol treatment.

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is most common for individuals between the ages of 18-21, but can occur at any age. This type of addiction is classified as having more drinks in one session than the body can process effectively. For women, it’s more than 3 drinks, for men, it’s more than 5 drinks.

The consequences of binge drinking can result in school or work absenteeism, poor academic or work performance, hangovers, memory loss, and risky behavior which may result in injury, assault, or impulsive sexual activity.

Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse occurs when an individual is drinking too much or too often, and negative effects on their life begin to manifest.

These effects may include impaired driving, neglect of daily responsibilities including work and family, strained relationships, and legal/financial problems related to alcohol misuse.

Alcohol Addiction or Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol addicts incur the same problems as abusers, but they have the added symptom of dependence. This means that is is especially difficult to cut back or quit, as it results in serious and sometimes deadly withdrawal effects including cravings, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideations, shakiness, tremors, and seizures.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

 

If you drink regularly, regardless of age, you most likely will suffer alcohol withdrawal when you stop drinking. Alcohol withdrawal can begin within 5-10 hours from the last drink. It can start several days later and reach a peak between 45-72 hours after the last drink. Symptoms can continue to reappear for weeks.

Some common symptoms are:

 

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Confusion

  • Mood swings

  • Nightmares

  • Shakes/tremors

  • Headaches

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Sweating

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Hallucinations

  • Fever

  • Seizures

  • Irregular respiration

  • Abnormal heart rate

 

Moving safely through withdrawal may necessitate hospitalization depending upon alcohol consumption and abuse levels.

 

Detox and Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

 

Detoxing from alcohol can be life threatening. If you have been consuming heavy doses of alcohol for years, there is a greater chance of physical damage to the organs and brain. Even if you have only recently started drinking but have consumed large quantities of alcohol, a closely monitored detox may be necessary. Alcohol withdrawal can send the body into Delirium Tremens (sudden and severe shifts in mental and nervous system). Close monitoring and medications to regulate heart rate and stop seizures and life-threatening hallucinations are at times needed. Once the alcohol has been safely removed from the body, alcohol addiction treatment is needed.

 

Infinite Mindcare does not provide detox services. If it is determined at the Pre-Assessment session that detox is needed, recommendations to a proper doctor or detox facility will be made.



 

Resources

http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/alcohol-abuse/alcohol-abuse-and-dependence-topic-overview

http://www.wakehealth.edu/Health-Central/What-Drives-Alcohol-Addiction/

http://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=31788

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcoholism/basics/definition/con-20020866

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/09/26/steps-toward-recovery-from-alcohol-addiction/

Alcoholism

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