Overcoming Alcohol Abuse
Withdrawal symptoms are one of the most frightening side effects of any substance abuse disorder. However, in the case of alcohol dependence, receiving alcohol addiction treatment is vital to avoid the most intense – and sometimes deadly – alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Many people may not consider alcohol abuse to be as serious as substance abuse – mostly because it’s legal. But the truth is, alcohol use disorder is equally as deadly, if not more deadly, than drug abuse. What makes alcohol dependence so dangerous? The list is a mile long.
If you or someone you love is suffering from alcohol use disorder, AUD treatment might be the only way to safely escape the clutches of alcohol addiction and stop drinking for good. Not only are the withdrawal from alcohol addiction potentially deadly, but the fringe effects from drinking and being drunk can be equally as deadly to you or, even worse, to someone else.
Continue reading to find out how Icarus Behavioral Health Nevada can help you identify and find relief in the form of alcohol addiction treatment if you’re struggling with alcohol abuse.
Defining Alcohol Addiction
An addiction is defined as a dependence on a specific substance or activity. Unlike individuals who merely drink occasionally, those with this condition will also have a craving for the substance that they are addicted to. Being an alcoholic is a physical condition that involves an alcohol addiction.
The changes caused by a person’s consumption of a lot of alcohol can affect their brain and trigger withdrawal symptoms. Some of these include nausea, sweating, insomnia, and anxiety. If a person is experiencing dependence, they would require more alcohol to reach their desired level of intoxication, which quickly increases the more they continue to drink.
Significant changes in appearance and mood take place from a bout with alcohol abuse. These may include some or all of the following:
What are the Signs of an Alcohol Use Disorder?
- Constant intoxication
- Angry/mood swings for no reason
- Lack of personal care
- Constant worry about whether alcohol is available
- Shaking when there is no alcohol in their system
- Hoarding alcohol
- Waking up in the middle of the night to have a drink
- Drinking first thing in the morning
- Disregard for work and family over alcohol
- Slurred speech
- Red, flushed skin
The Cycles of an Alcohol Use Disorder
The effects of alcohol on the brain are similar to those of other drugs in the way it makes it incredibly difficult to stop drinking because of the rewiring of the brain. It can stimulate the pleasure of drinking alcohol and blunt negative feelings, making people drink more and continue doing so even though these could lead to serious health consequences.
For example, those who drink to relieve stress continue to do so even though many report stress increases between bouts of drinking. This is just one of the negative mental health issues associated with alcohol use disorder.
Those who continue to drink alcohol may develop changes in their brains that could affect their ability to control their consumption. These changes are what make alcohol use morph into alcohol misuse and, eventually, alcohol abuse and dependence.
The Lingering Effects of Alcohol on the Brain
The changes may continue even after an individual stops drinking alcohol, which can contribute to a relapse. The three phases of the addiction cycle are linked to the different domains of executive function, motivation, and negative emotional states.
The domains are located in different parts of the brain. For example, the areas of the prefrontal cortex and the extended amygdala are involved in the development of the addiction cycle. Individuals can go through the entire process over a period of weeks or months.
They can also enter the cycle at any point, depending on the person. This is what makes alcohol use disorder so unpredictable and why it’s so difficult for many people to stop drinking.
The Progression of Alcohol Use
Let’s look at the cycles of alcohol addiction after a long period of alcohol use disorder.
1. Intoxication or Reward Stage
The reward system in the basal ganglia is activated as a person experiences the benefits of alcohol, such as the reduction of anxiety and the feeling of euphoria. Repeated activation of it can increase the likelihood of continuous alcohol use disorder.
These stimuli can trigger an urge to drink alcohol, and repeated consumption can also cause changes in the part of the brain that controls the development of habits.
2. Withdrawal Stage
Withdrawal symptoms appear in those with an alcohol use disorder who cease abruptly. These include feelings of discomfort, insomnia, illness, and irritability. The negative effects of withdrawal can be attributed to two different sources.
The reduction in the activation of the reward systems in the basal ganglia can make it hard for individuals to enjoy the pleasures of daily living. Second, an increase in the stress levels in the brain’s extended amygdala can contribute to feelings of irritability and anxiety. At this stage, the individual stops drinking alcohol to avoid the low feelings that are caused by chronic alcohol misuse.
3. Anticipation Stage
Those who stopped drinking alcohol for a certain amount of time and then relapsed fall into this category. This occurs when they become fixated on its consumption and look forward to consuming it again. The part of the brain responsible for organizing activities and thoughts is also compromised in people with alcohol addiction. The region known as the prefrontal cortex plays a crucial role in this stage.
What Are the Effects of Alcohol Use Disorders and Continuing the Cycle of Addiction?
Alcohol use disorder has extremely powerful social, behavioral, and physical consequences. It leads to the deterioration of relationships and health, causing cancer and other serious diseases. People with alcohol use disorder, especially if they have a serious problem with alcohol addiction, are more prone to consuming alcohol at higher levels than those without it. Young individuals are especially at risk due to their vulnerability to alcohol abuse.
When you drink at a younger age, the impact of alcohol on the brain raises the chances of you developing alcohol use disorder later in life. Regardless of their age, people with alcohol use disorder can still benefit from an alcohol addiction treatment facility.
Alcohol Use Disorder: Dealing With Withdrawal and the Recovery Process
One of the most necessary parts of alcohol use disorder is the alcohol detox process. It’s recommended that anyone suffering from alcohol use disorder (AUD) seek medical detox as part of their addiction treatment.
After detox, those entering a treatment center will find either inpatient or outpatient treatment the most beneficial, depending on their treatment plan and the involvement of family therapy and other support pillars like Alcoholics Anonymous. The following section outlines what happens when you go through alcohol detox from alcohol use disorder.
Detoxing from Alcohol When You Seek Treatment
The process of alcohol detox involves the body’s expulsion of alcohol. When consumed, the alcohol goes to the brain and blocks certain receptors responsible for controlling your actions and inhibitions like impulse control and decision-making. This is the reason why many people end up using alcohol again and again.
As you continue drinking alcohol, you get used to the larger quantities, which eventually leads to physical dependence. This increase eventually leads to withdrawal symptoms occurring once the alcohol concentration in the body reaches zero.
The body begins to remove the harmful substances accumulated during drinking. The withdrawal process increases in severity as the amount of alcohol consumption increases.
Some of the withdrawal symptoms that can occur during an alcohol detox are life-threatening. You should know the primary side effects of this process so that you can prepare yourself mentally and physically for this trying period. You’ll deal with:
- Increased Heart Rate
- Increased Blood Pressure
- DT (delirium tremens)
What Causes Someone With Alcohol Problems to Experience Withdrawal?
The withdrawal process is triggered by the sudden cessation of alcohol consumption. It can be caused by various factors, such as physical dependence and the amount of alcohol that the body has become used to.
The effects of withdrawal on the brain can be seen as a reduction in the functioning of the receptor system and other vital components – but with marked physical symptoms. Your level of dependence is directly influenced by your alcohol intake.
Several screening tools are used by specialists at any treatment program to gauge your level of severity regarding withdrawal and the detox process. These are known as the MAST and the CAGE screening questionnaires.
The MAST is a screening tool used by specialists to check for alcohol dependence. It can be used in combination with other procedures to diagnose this condition. The CAGE questionnaire is composed of four questions that are designed to help clinicians identify alcoholism.
If you’re aware of the withdrawal timeline, you can prepare for the most intense side effects of the withdrawal process and, if nothing else, become better prepared mentally for the experience. The following section provides a potential timeline for alcohol detox. Depending on the individual’s alcohol dependence and the length of time they’ve been drinking, the process might take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks.
The Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline
If you’re planning on refraining from alcohol use, you’re going to detox – whether it’s in or out of treatment. It’s highly recommended that you opt for a treatment plan to help you “brace for the fall” into withdrawal.
In reality, the right treatment plan will keep you marginally comfortable and, at the least, take the edge off of the uncomfortable feelings of alcohol withdrawal. It’s important you have a way to avoid the risk of DTs and seizures, which are the primary causes of death while undergoing detoxification. The withdrawal timeline looks something like this:
Starting on day 1 and up to day 3, most of your symptoms will include a gradual increase in severity of things like hot and cold sweats, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, anxiety, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and restlessness. You’ll find it difficult to sleep – it’s usually during this period that most people relapse and take a drink, as the discomfort is high and you’re not far removed from your last drink.
Days 3, 4, and 5 are typically the most severe. This is when your odds of experiencing DTs increase significantly, and your anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate are extremely high. The risk of dehydration increases this effect. Combine all of this with no sleep, and your body is in a very compromised position.
During days 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10, the worst of the acute physical symptoms will gradually taper down. Each day you’ll begin to experience more relief than the previous, and you’ll begin to feel a slight sense of relief in the fact that you’ve made it through the worst of the physical side effects. However, it’s important that you take this with a grain of salt – you may have completed detox, but you’re nowhere near finishing recovery.
In fact – recovery never stops. It’s something that will always require your attention and a proactive attitude. Once you cross the line into alcohol dependence or dependence on any drug, for that matter – you’ll always have a substance use disorder. The difference is whether you’re actively using or if your disorder is in remission.
Each day will require a conscious effort for you to say no and stay on top of your cravings. But with time comes healing, and the long clean time you build up, the easier it becomes to maintain your sobriety. Eventually, you’ll hit a point where you no longer have to count the minutes or the hours – but the weeks, months, and hopefully, years.
Put Alcohol Addiction in Your Past with Our Support
Get active in your recovery journey- contact the Icarus Behavioral Health team in Nevada. We specialize in dealing with those who suffer from alcohol abuse challenges in combination with other underlying disorders. Our therapy options include CBT, EMDR, the 12-Step Approach, SMART Recovery, holistic healing, and more.
To find out how we can help you overcome your alcohol addiction, contact the admissions team at Icarus Behavioral Health in Nevada today!