Alcohol is a depressant which means it inhibits the central nervous system (CNS). This essentially impairs physical and psychological activity. CNS depressants like alcohol reduce brain activity and awareness by blocking messages from nerve receptors to the brain; this changes a person’s judgments, perceptions, movements, emotions, and senses.
Alcohol is made through the process of fermentation – when yeast or bacteria react with the sugars in food creating ethanol and carbon dioxide. Wine and cider are made by fermenting fruit, while fermented cereals such as barley and rye form the basis of beer and spirits. Mankind has been intentionally producing and consuming alcohol for more than 9,000 years.
Alcohol in today’s society is heavily prevalent and widely accepted, which creates a misconception it is safe. Ample health effects contribute to the dangers of drinking. Most people drink alcohol socially, but even those who drink responsibly can develop the chronic disease alcohol use disorder or alcoholism.
Why do People Drink?
Despite the legal constraints, drinking usually starts in the adolescent to teenage age group. Most people drink to loosen up, socialize, and relax. The lowered inhibitions caused by the depression of the CNS relieves anxiety and causes people to be more social. This is why alcohol is so popular during social events and parties.
At times there can be a fine line between drinking regularly and having a problem. When not used in moderation like special occasions, alcohol is usually used to help cope with problems, such as a loss, stress, or anxiety. This, unfortunately, ends up leading to greater problems.
Effects of Alcohol
- Slow Reaction Time
- Poor Reflexes
- Reduced Brain activity
- Lowered Inhibitions
- Blurry Vision
- Difficulty Breathing
- Brain Defects
- Liver Disease
- Diabetes complications
- Increased Risk of Cancer
- Vision Damage
- Bone Loss
- Heart Problems
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death for alcoholics. Overall an estimated 88,000 Americans die from excessive alcohol use each year.
Alcohol is damaging both physically and mentally, but it also harms those it surrounds. Many relationships are damaged from the control alcohol takes on a person’s life. While the effects of alcohol can ruin relationships, there are also other very serious consequences. When intoxicated emotions are unstable, inhibitions decrease, and reaction times delay; which leads to many dangerous situations such as domestic abuse and driving accidents.
Alcoholism, referred to as alcohol use disorder is the abuse of alcohol which leads to dependence and addiction. When a person struggles with alcoholism, they feel as though they cannot function normally sober. Due to their dependence on alcohol, certain aspects of their life are jeopardized – professional goals, relationships, and overall health.
Why is it Addictive?
Different people obtain an addiction for different reasons, but primarily there is a stepping stone path that leads them there. Alcohol affects the brain in the same way many addictive substances do. Dopamine and endorphins, the neuroreceptors in our brain that regulate our pleasure and reward system, are directly affected by alcohol. When alcohol is consumed more of these receptors release, giving the feeling of relaxation, happiness, and sociability. Naturally, our brain craves whatever creates this effect. After chronic alcohol consumption, eventually these neurotransmitters are suppressed, and more alcohol is eventually needed to feel the same effects.This is partly how a tolerance is formed. When the neurotransmitters are suppressed, the user is eventually dependent on the drug to feel normal. At this state, if the person tries to quit drinking entirely he/she will have measurable withdrawal symptoms. If the individual cannot overcome their withdrawal symptoms, they will turn to alcohol to relieve their symptoms creating an addiction.
Some withdrawal symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Rapid Heart Rate
There are many different factors and variables that lead to alcoholism, but there are certain types of risk factors that can increase these chances. These types of risk factors fall under two main categories.
- Recent studies have shown that genetics can be a large factor. Having the genetic makeup to metabolize alcohol in such a way that the positive effects are more prominent than the negative increases the chances of addiction. Individuals who have family members who have suffered from alcohol addiction are more prone it alcoholism themselves.
Being surrounded in an environment where family, friends, and colleagues drink heavily can dramatically increase the chance of becoming addicted.
Other environmental risk factors include:
- Lack of parental support or communication
- Easy availability to alcohol
- Exposure to trauma or abuse
- Exposure to advertisements for alcohol
- Poor school performance
- Alienation or isolation
- Conduct issues
Recognizing warning signs is extremely helpful. Finding out early on if you or a loved one has a problem can dramatically increase the chance of getting better. Sometimes the signs of alcoholism are very apparent, while other times they can be more subtle and take longer to surface. It’s hard to tell the difference between having a good time multiple days a week and actually having a problem. Some of the subtle signs can be:
- Getting into trouble after drinking
- Not being able to stick to limits
- Behaving compulsively to obtain alcohol
- Drinking to relieve stress
- All plans involve alcohol
- Sneaking Alcohol
Alcoholism can be self-diagnosed, but for many this is hard. Because of their environments, many people believe their actions are completely natural. In short, many are in denial because they believe they are special and believe they can function while drinking heavily. People in denial fail to recognize the long term effects associated with their actions. If an individual is unsure, a health provider can diagnose someone based on how many symptoms they have.
It can be difficult to convince loved ones they need treatment. If you have tried to confront them about their problem and they seem resistant, consider contacting an interventionist. Interventionist are specialized in using effective techniques to communicate with loved ones suffering from alcoholism and other forms of addiction.
Treatment for alcoholism can come from many different avenues. If the problem is relatively new, it may be possible to recover with help from friends, family, and support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. When this help is not enough, supervised treatment can be the answer. Treatment centers allow people to overcome their addiction in a safe setting, allowing health professionals to ease their experience with around the clock monitoring and care. At times, especially after years of chronic use, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be very severe. Alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs to withdrawal due to the severe withdrawal symptoms called delirium tremens. Delirium tremens cause confusion, rapid heartbeat, and a fatal fever in some cases. Recovery programs utilize medical professionals to prescribe medications to ease the many different symptoms of withdrawal. After the medical detox from alcohol, counseling and therapy are vital for preventing relapse. Patients will learn to live without alcohol through establishing positive reinforcement and learning to identify and overcome the underlying issues of their addiction.
Addiction is a disease, but there is help. If you or anyone you know needs help, don’t hesitate to reach out – that’s why we’re here. If you live in the Tampa, Fl area we can even help faci
Coalition Recovery offers an incredible clinical program for drug and substance abuse in the Tampa Bay area and is innovating a new approach to aftercare through higher education increasing the chance of achieving long-term recovery. Don’t wait. A better tomorrow starts here. Because Tomorrow Matters.