Alcohol Dependency & Detox
Reprinted from: http://www.lunaliving.org/
Alcohol is the drug of choice for most Americans. It can be the beginning of addiction.
Besides being legal, alcohol is relatively inexpensive and considered by most to be socially acceptable. Alcohol has been “sold” to us for thousands of years as a feature of good living. Our society celebrates special moments with champagne and drowns sorrows with drink.
From childhood we learn to hide or lie about liquor when we drink too much, or are underage. But apart from feeble resistance from a few religious groups, and a state’s legal restrictions, there is no barrier. Americans consume over $212 billion worth of alcohol per year.
If alcohol use is so widely accepted then what’s wrong with drinking? For most people alcohol isn’t a dangerous drug. But for the person with the chronic brain disease called Addiction, alcohol is pure poison and can be life-threatening.
Although the medical community acknowledges certain health benefits of moderate alcohol use (1 drink for women and 2 for men), they post a clear WARNING: More than three drinks a day for women, or four for men, puts you at high risk of irreparable brain damage.
An Alcohol Damaged Brain
Chronic alcohol abuse severely compromises your mental ability. In the short-term it can cause you to drink and drive. And, in the long-term it can irreversibly affect memory formation, abstract thinking, problem solving, attention, concentration, and emotions.
Alcoholics who abstain from drinking can recover from some alcohol-induced brain damage. But no one knows how much alcohol it takes to cause irreversible brain damage? Drinking can be like playing Russian roulette.
Alcohol immediately passes through the blood brain barrier, which is why people often say, “The drink went straight to my head”. Alcohol’s rapid absorption, in high concentrations (i.e., multiple drinks ingested quickly), can suppress the centers in the brain that control breathing causing you to pass out or even die.
Additionally, alcohol causes the release of a neurotransmitter in the brain called dopamine. Dopamine, labeled by neuroscientists, as the “addiction molecule” is responsible for the rewarding effect that keeps you drinking. For many this reward can be limited to a single cocktail but for an alcoholic this “pleasurable moment” can quickly turn into a life-threatening physical disease.
HOW MUCH CAN ONE DRINK depends on many factors – the rate of consumption, the quantity, how much fat and muscle mass you have, and whether or not you eat while drinking.
The kind of alcohol we drink is called ethanol. Once ethanol hits your bloodstream it travels to every organ in the body, which is why
heavy drinking is so physically, mentally, and spiritually debilitating.
HOW YOU DRINK ALCOHOL ALSO AFFECTS YOUR RISK. “Binge drinking” is particularly dangerous. When young people drink too much, too fast, they risk passing out and dying. Never leave someone who has passed out from alcohol alone. Too much alcohol suppresses normal breathing and is extremely dangerous. If in question, call 911.
Combining alcohol with drugs is a huge NO-NO! All sedatives can become deadly when combined with alcohol. Mixing alcohol with narcotics can result in overdose.
Alcohol should not be mixed with any drug that makes you sleepy – opiates (heroin, oxycodone, and morphine), Valium-like drugs (benzodiazepines, sleep medications (Ambien) and antihistamines found in cold medications.
• Mixing alcohol with antibiotics can cause convulsions (seizures), nausea, and vomiting.
• Mixing alcohol with antihistamines can enhance sedation and excessive dizziness, which is particularly dangerous for older adults.
• Mixing alcohol with Tylenol (acetaminophen) creates a chemical that causes liver damage.
• And, the list goes on.
Alcohol Dependence vs. Alcohol Abuse
In general, alcohol abuse refers to patterns of drinking that cause health problems or social problems, or both.
Alcohol dependence, more commonly known as alcoholism, refers to the brain disease we know as Addiction.
Addiction leads to lack of control over drinking and life. Signs of physical dependence (withdrawal) appear within hours of stopping to drink and may manifest as anxiety, hallucinations, seizures and tremors.
Alcohol dependence (alcoholism) is characterized by cravings. A person, who suddenly stops, without the proper medical care, can experience severe and sometimes deadly withdrawal symptoms. If you are an alcoholic do not try detox on your own. Seek medical help immediately! Don’t drink if you are pregnant
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) is the full range of neurological, cognitive, behavioral, and learning disabilities associated with prenatal alcohol exposure. Alcohol passes the blood brain barrier and immediately, and negatively, affects an unborn fetus. There is absolutely no safe level of drinking during pregnancy. Children born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) suffer learning impairments for life.
Addiction is a primary, chronic brain disease that affects brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. Without treatment and engagement in recovery activities, it often results in disability or premature death.
HOW DO I KNOW I AM ADDICTED? Addiction is characterized by your inability to consistently abstain; cravings; a dysfunctional emotional response and a diminished recognition of significant problems with your behavior and interpersonal relationships. Like other chronic diseases, Addiction can involve cycles of relapse and remission and premature death if left untreated.
A widely used screening test is CAGE. If you have two or more positive responses it is likely you have a problem with alcohol.
• Have you ever felt the need to cut down on your drinking?
• Have you ever felt Annoyed by someone criticizing your drinking?
• Have you ever felt Guilty about your drinking?
• Have you ever felt the need for an Eye-opener? (a drink at the beginning of the day)?
NO ONE IN MY FAMILY IS AN ALCOHOLIC. AM I AT RISK? Overexposure to alcohol can lead to alcohol dependence. Alcohol changes the brain of everyone! Anyone that chronically abuses alcohol will eventually become dependent. If you drink to self-medicate for co-existing conditions it is likely you will become addicted, if you aren’t already.
Alcohol sedates your brain. Your brain works 24/7 to protect you, to do its job the brain offsets the sedative effects of alcohol consumption by producing larger and larger quantities of norepinephrine, a chemical similar to adrenaline. Although you abruptly stop drinking, your brain needs time to respond. It may take a few days to rebalance your brain chemistry, which is why the excess norepinephrine in your bloodstream causes withdrawal symptoms.
Only about 5% of alcoholics experience a dangerous withdrawal, known as delirium tremens, or DTs. Because your brain is unable to adjust to the quickly changing chemistry, you can experience confusion, hallucinations, and you are at increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. There is no way of knowing in advance if you are one of the 5%, which is why you should seek medical care to detox your body.