What is Alcoholism?
In short, alcoholism is a disease that is defined by drinking excessively but being unable to stop. Ambrosia Treatment Center, our alcohol rehab center with locations in West Palm Beach, Singer Island, and Port St. Lucie, Florida, is proud to treat people from around the country who are suffering from this disease. More than 21 million Americans suffer from alcoholism. The American Society of Addiction Medicine utilizes four criteria to define alcoholism:
- Lack of control
Those who grapple with this disease have difficulty controlling their alcohol intake, are overly preoccupied (or “obsessed”) with the acquisition and consumption of alcohol, experience consequences directly related to their drinking behaviors, and are in denial that their behaviors are problematic. At Ambrosia Treatment Center, our treatment programs help individuals discover the underlying issues, create sustainable change, and recover from the devastating effects of alcoholism.
Effects and Risks of Alcoholism
Alcohol is not a substance that can be abused without causing consequence. The reality of the situation is that struggling with an alcohol use disorder can and will impact your life in a number of ways. You may experience effects that are both short and long-term, such as legal issues, chronic health conditions, or damage to personal relationships. There are a number of effects and risks you may face simply as a result of your alcohol use disorder.
Short-Term Effects and Risks of Alcoholism
Part of the problem with alcoholism is related to time. The longer that you drink, the more damage that accrues. However, other issues are immediate and they can harm you even if you are early on in your alcoholism.
The most severe of all risks tied to alcoholism is alcohol poisoning. This is a life-threatening condition that occurs when someone drinks to excess and overwhelms the central nervous system. When this happens, a person’s body temperature drops, respiratory rate slows, and vomiting may occur, which can lead to choking. Without the proper medical attention, alcohol poisoning is often fatal. But, even if you do not experience alcohol poisoning, there are still several risks that are associated with alcohol abuse and addiction, including the following short-term problems:
- Physical and/or verbal arguments
- Unprotected sex
- Legal repercussions
- Motor vehicle accidents
Some of the most common effects associated with alcoholism include motor vehicle accidents and DUI’s. Alcohol impairs driving ability significantly, which is why driving with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.08% or higher can lead to a DUI. When your BAC reaches this point, your concentration and cognitive abilities decrease, all while you struggle to maintain your ability to reason. If you receive a DUI, you could face one or more of the following repercussions:
- Paying a fine
- Doing time in jail
- Community service
- Take alcohol education classes
Long-Term Effects of Alcoholism
Many of the effects and risks covered so far reflect what can happen while inebriated. But, those who find themselves drinking to excess and for longer periods of time can develop long-term effects and face severe risk to their overall wellbeing. Each year, approximately 88,000 Americans lose their lives to a health issue related to alcohol use. The many different types of disease that can contribute to that total most frequently include the following:
- Bone disease
- Heart disease
- Immune system disease
- Nerve disease
- Stomach ulcers
Signs of Alcohol Related Liver Damage
Of the many health-related complications that often turn life-threatening, complications with the liver are by far the most common. The liver processes every bit of alcohol that you consume, as it is the role of this organ to filter fluids in the body. However, regular exposure to alcohol can cause the liver to experience chemical changes and dehydration that can lead to severe, potentially fatal outcomes. Unfortunately, most individuals are unable to tell that their liver is in need of help until about 75% of it is damaged. At this point, signs that something is wrong can become extreme.
- Distended abdomen
Liver disease may be a condition that many people consider to impact long-haul alcoholics, but studies show that age is not always a defining trait. Experts say that liver disease is rising in people between the ages of 25 and 34. And while some liver complications can be treated, many can result in death, which is the most costly of all consequences caused by alcoholism.
It is a common misconception that these effects, especially the long-term effects, are not applicable to people who drink alcohol, but not on a 24/7 basis. These effects can occur in those who abuse alcohol in different ways, such as through binge drinking.
What is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is simply defined as drinking an excess amount of alcohol in a small period of time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) further defines this through gender:
- Men are considered to be binge drinking when they consume five or more drinks in two hours
- Women are considered the same when they consume four or more drinks in two hours
Binge drinking is most common in college students and the 18-24 year old age group, however it is something that affects people of all ages. Signs of binge drinking in both women and men include the following:
- Drinking excessively on the weekends
- Becoming irritable or anxious after a night out
- Deciding on how many drinks to consume but drinking more than that total amount
- Blacking out frequently
- Developing health problems related to binge drinking
- Always binge drinking when consuming alcohol
- Negative effects to one’s personal and/or professional life due to drinking
The NIAAA reports that nearly 30% of individuals 30 and older binge drink each month. They also report that about 13% of people ages 12 to 20 binge drink. Unfortunately, many people who consume alcohol on a regular basis and those who binge drink also face additional dangers if they combine their alcohol with prescription and/or over-the-counter medications.
Dangers of Mixing Alcohol with Medications
Nearly 50% of Americans consume at least one prescription medication each day. When you consider that alcohol is the most commonly abused mind-altering substance in the country, it comes as no surprise that many Americans are mixing their medications with alcohol — both knowingly and unknowingly. Some of the most dangerous combinations of medications and alcohol include the following:
Antidepressants and Alcohol
Antidepressants, such as Zoloft, Prozac, Lexapro, and Wellbutrin help to treat different forms of depression. However, when combined with alcohol, they can worsen the side effects of the medication and interfere with the function of the antidepressant. Drinking alcohol while taking antidepressants can be counterintuitive to attempting to treat depression because of these effects.
Anxiety Medications and Alcohol
Anxiety medications like Ativan, Xanax, and Klonopin work to suppress certain functions of the body, as does alcohol. Being that both of these substances have depressant qualities, it becomes easier for individuals to suffer slowed respiratory rates, unconsciousness, impaired cognition, organ failure, and even coma.
Antibiotics and Alcohol
Antibiotics like amoxicillin, Augmentin, and metronidazole are designed to help treat bacterial infections. But when someone is drinking at the same time they are on a course of antibiotics, they can dramatically reduce the effectiveness of the antibiotics. This can lead to continued infection and complications associated with that.
Over-the-counter Medications and Alcohol
OTC’s, such as ibuprofen and Benadryl, are not less dangerous to combine with alcohol just because they are available without a prescription. Drinking alcohol while taking OTC’s can lead to several complications, ranging from liver problems to respiratory distress.
When drinking alcohol, even responsibly, several interactions can occur if someone is taking medications. Some of these interactions can create short-term impacts while others can be fatal.
Begin Alcohol Rehab in West Palm Beach, FL
At Ambrosia Treatment Center, our alcohol rehab programs in West Palm BEach, Singer Island and Port St. Lucie, Florida give individuals the space needed to recover from the disease of alcoholism. Our multidisciplinary team of professionals understand what it takes to recover. If you or your loved one are in need of treatment for alcoholism, start the admissions process today.