Effects of Alcohol
Alcohol not only affects your mental state but also has a profound effect on your body. Alcohol is a toxin that can have lasting effects even after you stop drinking. Alcohol abuse harms every organ in the body, but alcohol’s most dangerous impact is on the brain and nervous system.
Immediate effects of alcohol:
Alcohol reduces inhibitions and causes personality changes
Alcohol impairs reaction time, coordination, motor skills, vision, and judgment
Alcohol slows down brain function, affecting many of your senses, such as speech and hearing
Long-term effects of alcohol:
Negative effects on the heart and liver
Alcoholics often suffer from malnutrition because alcohol decreases appetite and impedes vitamin absorption in the stomach
Digestive problems such as gastritis or ulcers are common among alcoholics because the stomach is forced to work overtime to process all of this harmful toxin
Alcohol can also cause pancreatitis, which happens when your pancreas malfunctions and cannot produce enough digestive enzymes
Increased risk for liver diseases such as cirrhosis or cancer
Damaged brain function that can cause dementia, memory loss, and other mental disorders
Alcohol Addiction and Abuse
Once you understand the signs of alcohol abuse, you’re in a better position to help loved ones avoid alcoholism.
Understanding drinking patterns
Someone’s drinking patterns can help you determine if they are drinking excessively. Alcohol abuse often leads to the development of alcohol addiction, so it’s essential to know the difference between normal social drinking and harmful or risky drinking.
Signs of risky drinking patterns include:
Drinking to get drunk
Binge drinking (consuming more than four drinks for women or five drinks for men in a two-hour period)
Consuming alcohol every day
Mixing alcohol with medication or other drugs
A high-functioning alcoholic is someone who can handle their normal daily tasks such as going to work, paying bills, participating in social activities, etc., without displaying the full range of clinical impairments that are often associated with being an alcoholic. But just because someone hasn’t experienced external consequences because of their drinking doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from professional help.
Signs of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse comes in many different forms, and not everyone will always show the same signs. Below are some common signs to look out for.
Physical signs of alcohol abuse:
Alcohol smell on the breath
They get drunk more easily than others and have trouble controlling their drinking
Alcohol is a frequent topic of conversation, or their stories frequently reference alcohol
They drink alone, in secret, or come up with excuses for why they want to drink
Psychological signs of alcohol abuse:
Alcohol use is a means of coping with stress, anxiety, or depression
Alcohol abuse leads to difficulty maintaining social relationships and fulfilling responsibilities at work, school, or home
Social signs of alcohol abuse:
Alcohol is often a factor in fights or arguments
Alcohol negatively impacts relationships with family and friends
How Addictive Is Alcohol?
Multiple factors determine how addictive alcohol is to an individual.
Brain chemistry during alcohol abuse
When you drink alcohol, your brain chemistry is affected. This is because alcohol affects the neurotransmitter GABA, which inhibits brain signals. Alcohol also alters dopamine levels in your brain’s reward center by increasing its release and blocking its reuptake, so it stays in the body longer than usual.
Alcohol tolerance is when a person needs to drink more and more alcohol to feel the desired effects. As your body becomes used to the presence of alcohol, you will need more and more drinks to achieve the same buzz or high. Alcohol addiction is often a result of this tolerance development.
After a while, alcohol dependence can set in. Alcohol dependence is a physical and psychological need to drink alcohol, even if it’s causing problems in your life. You may feel like you can’t start your day or function without a drink, and when you don’t drink, you may experience withdrawal.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include:
Anxiety or agitation
Nausea and vomiting
Withdrawal from alcohol is not only uncomfortable, but it can also be dangerous. If you try to quit drinking cold turkey, you may experience seizures or even death. Alcohol detoxification is a necessary process to ensure your safety during withdrawal.
Different options exist for treatment. Seek the option that gives you the best chance for success.
If you’re serious about quitting alcohol, you need to go through detoxification. You’ll be placed under medical supervision and given treatments such as medications or other therapies that will help ease withdrawal symptoms so you can recover comfortably.
Residential or inpatient rehab services
Alcohol rehab can take place in either an outpatient or residential setting. Inpatient alcohol treatment centers provide 24/7 care and require that patients live at the facility for the duration of their stay–usually 30, 60, or 90 days.
Outpatient rehab services
These offer a less restrictive setting, visits are usually three times per week for two to four hours. This type of rehab is best suited for those with a strong support system at home.
Overcoming Alcohol Addiction
Once you complete detox, it’s important to have a game plan.
Plan for triggers and cravings
One of the most important things you can do when overcoming alcohol addiction is to create a plan for dealing with triggers and cravings. This may include avoiding certain people, places, or activities that make you want to drink, as well as having healthy coping mechanisms in place for when temptation strikes.
Handling setbacks in your recovery
Recovery from alcohol addiction is a long-term process, and there will be times when you stumble or relapse. When this happens, it’s important to remember that it’s not a failure—it’s simply part of the journey. Don’t give up on yourself; instead, pick yourself up and keep moving forward.
How to help someone stop drinking
If you have a loved one struggling with alcohol addiction, there are things you can do to help them stop drinking.
First and foremost, be supportive and understanding, and offer your support without judgment
Second, make sure they get professional help
Third, make sure they don’t drink around you. Alcoholics are often in denial about their addiction and may try to convince themselves (and others) that it’s okay to have one or two drinks now and then
It’s important to have a strong support system when overcoming alcohol addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous((A.A.) or other 12-step programs are great options for support, as well as counselors and therapists who can provide both emotional support and guidance during treatment. To help find a local Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) meeting visit https://www.aa.org/find-aa or contact our staff and we can help assist you.
Enlisting the help of family members is also an option—just make sure they’re supportive and understanding and that they don’t enable the addiction by giving in to your demands for alcohol.
FAQs About Alcohol Addiction
How many drinks a day is considered an alcoholic?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the amount of alcohol that constitutes an addiction varies from person to person. However, most experts agree that anyone who drinks more than two drinks per day is at risk of developing an addiction.
What causes a person to be an alcoholic?
Alcohol addiction can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, environment, and lifestyle. However, research suggests that there is a strong correlation between alcohol addiction and brain chemistry.
Why is alcohol addictive to some people and not others?
Louisiana’s Premier Addiction Treatment Program
Addiction is not your fault, but it is your responsibility. If you’re on our site, you’re likely facing a critical situation. We are here for you and committed to providing the care you need.
NOLA Detox offers same-day admissions and is available 24/7.
Admissions by appointment only.