Spot Symptoms of the Other, High Functioning National Crisis

hunters-race-408744-unsplash

The opioid crisis has been staking headlines across national and local media, but another substance has been quietly taking lives by the thousands for years: alcohol.

In 2016, more than an estimated 64,000 people died from drug overdose; meanwhile, an average of 88,000 have died from alcohol-related causes every year.

Alcohol use has been more normalized compared to other substance use. Because alcohol has become ingrained in mainstream American culture, it has become harder for people to distinguish between someone who enjoys having drinks in moderation and a person who is suffering from alcohol addiction. Further, the stereotype of an “alcoholic” at rock bottom who drinks all day and can’t hold a job does not reflect the vast majority of people living with alcohol use disorders.

One of those people could be your boss, who comes to work on time every morning, cleanly shaven and impeccably dressed, and finishes every task—then goes home and drinks bottles and bottles of beer. Or your neighbor down the street, who juggles raising kids and working a full-time job while never missing a single one of their games, but drinks an entire bottle of wine after putting them to bed.

The reality is that we all most likely know someone struggling with or affected by alcohol addiction. About 16 million people in the United States have alcohol use disorder, ranging from mild to severe. However, less than 15 percent of people receive any treatment.

Alcohol does not affect everyone the same way and every addiction story is different, but these 11 questions can help you distinguish whether enjoying drinks in moderation has turned into a problem:

1.) Are you drinking more alcohol, or for longer, than you originally intended?

2.) Are you having unsuccessful efforts to cut back or quit?

3.) Are you spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from the effects of drinking?

4.) Are you experiencing cravings for alcohol?

5.) Are you having issues with carrying our roles at home or at school or at work because of alcohol?

6.) Have you continued drinking even though it was causing problems with loved ones?

7.) Are you getting into dangerous situations (like driving intoxicated or having unsafe sex) while or after drinking?

8.) Have you continued to drink even after experience negative side effects, such as depression, anxiety, and memory blackouts?

9.) Have you stopped participating in activities that were once enjoyable and drink instead?

10.) Do you have to increase the amount of alcohol consumed to feel the same effects as before?

11.) Do you have withdrawal symptoms after the effects of alcohol wear off, including shaking, trouble sleeping, anxiety, depression, nausea, or restlessness?

There are three categories for severity of alcohol use disorder: mild, moderate, and severe. Even if you or someone you care about is experiencing a mild case—the presence of two to three symptoms—seek out professional help.

And this April, Alcohol Awareness Month, let’s all reconsider the use of alcohol in our lives.

How Does Alcohol Abuse Effect Your Body?

Alcohol Doesn’t Mix Well With Your Body

alcohol-abuse-effectsDo you know alcohol can be toxic to your heart? Over the longer term, heavy drinking can lead to high blood pressure, enlarged and weakened heart, congestive heart failure and stroke. Binge drinking can be associated with a trial fibrillation, a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. If the heart’s components don’t work together properly it can even lead to a stroke, advises the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The scary thing is that you may not even feel the symptoms.

All of these are reasons why your doctor encourages you not to drink alcohol. You can take care of your heart through good nutrition, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. Other health issues associated with alcohol abuse include:

  • Alcohol abuse increases the risks of cancer. For women, even moderate drinking can increase chances of developing breast cancer by 10%.
  • Although alcohol can make you feel energetic or uninhibited, it is actually a depressant. Alcohol shuts down parts of your brain. When the amount of alcohol in your blood exceeds a certain level, your respiratory system slows down markedly, and can cause a coma or death because oxygen no longer reaches the brain. This is referred to as alcohol poisoning.
  • Daily alcohol intake may impact the ability of adults to produce and retain new cells, reducing new brain cell production by nearly 40%.
  • Alcohol abuse is related to cirrhosis, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FAS), malnutrition, ulcers, hepatitis, among other things
  • Poorer outcomes from surgical procedures due to alcohol’s effects on the person’s health, malnutrition, and the depressive effects of alcohol on the body
  • Heavy drinking affects the body’s ability to stop bleeding because the liver has difficulty producing the proteins that cause clotting
  • Alcohol abuse can result in brain damage, slower thinking, unsteadiness and slurred speech
  • Alcohol doesn’t mix well with many prescription drugs

Your Brain

Drinking alcohol leads to a loss of coordination, poor judgment, slowed reflexes, distorted vision, memory lapses and even blackouts.

Your Body

Alcohol can damage every organ in your body. It is absorbed directly into your bloodstream and can increase your risk for a variety of life-threatening diseases, including cancer.

Self-Control

Alcohol depresses your central nervous system, lowers your inhibitions and impairs your judgment. Drinking can lead to risky behaviors, such as driving when you shouldn’t, or having unprotected sex.

It Can Kill You

Drinking large amounts of alcohol at one time or very rapidly can cause alcohol poisoning, which can lead to coma or even death. Driving and drinking also can be deadly. In 2003, 31% of drivers age 15 to 20 who died in traffic accidents had been drinking alcohol.

Know the Law

It is illegal to buy or possess alcohol if you are under age 21.

Can the body recover from excessive drinking?

Research even suggests that brains too can recover from damage caused by alcohol abuse.

Studies have found that after a month of sobriety, an alcoholic’s brain begins to repair itself, and brain volume, which tends to shrink from excess alcohol, is increased by a few percentage points. Patients’ ability to concentrate is also improved.

Is Drinking In Your DNA?

Drinking habits are often ingrained well before one reaches the legal drinking age. Heredity, culture, economic standing, family and lifestyle all play a role in shaping how much an individual drinks. If alcohol dependence runs in your family, it is particularly important to be vigilant about sticking to moderate drinking guidelines because you are more susceptible to developing alcohol dependency than someone without a family history of alcohol abuse.

Research suggests the body can bounce back once a person stops drinking. The liver, one of the few organs that can compensate by growing new cells, has remarkable regenerative powers. A liver mildly inflamed by alcohol can recover fairly rapidly once the drinking stops. Even a scarred liver can halt the process of cirrhosis if alcohol abuse is stopped in time.

Print the “Get the Facts on Alcohol” PDF (Requires Adobe Reader)

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol dependency, please call Gateway Foundation‘s 24-Hour Helpline to arrange a free and confidential consultation at 877-505-HOPE (4673).

%d bloggers like this: