People abuse alcohol for many reasons. According to the book Alcoholics Anonymous,
“Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol.”
Whether that desired effects is to reduce anxiety, dispel depression, or heighten a good mood is all dependent on the individual and their current circumstance. Simply stated, people who abuse alcohol like the way that the substance makes them feel. The main problem, however, is in the way that the alcoholic feels when he or she does not have alcohol in their system. The emotions and thought processes that take place in the alcoholic’s mind when they are sober is the major driving force that brings people back to drinking.
A user continues to abuse alcohol after experiencing negative consequences for many reasons. Simply stated, the abuser has not found a sufficient solution to the way that they experience life without having alcohol change the way that they feel. The main problem for the alcoholic is the way that they feel when not drinking. At Serenity Springs Recovery Center, we realize that the main problem of the alcohol abuser is in the way that that person feels when there is no alcohol in their system. If the main problem was simple physical dependence, that person would likely never drink again after detox.
Some common warning signs that someone is abusing alcohol are as follows.
Some of the short-term consequences of abusing alcohol and alcoholism are impaired judgement, blackouts, vomiting, nausea, insomnia, lack of appetite, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, headaches, coma, and death.
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can produce numerous long-term negative physical, mental, and emotional consequences. The physical consequences of long-term alcohol abuse and alcoholism can include but are not limited to internal organ damage (liver and kidneys), brain damage (Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, aka “wet brain”), damage to central nervous system, cancer, ulcers, high blood pressure, and stroke.
The mental consequences of long-term alcohol abuse can be severe. A person that has abused alcohol for an extended period of time will alter their brain chemistry. One primary consequence of chronic alcohol abuse is depression and anxiety. Ironically, a person that used alcohol to treat anxiety and depression will likely usually find that these symptoms have increased when there is no alcohol in their system. Many abusers develop a mental dependence on alcohol. When they are not drinking, all the person can seem to think about is alcohol. In addition, long term abusers of alcohol can have difficulty with both their short-term and long-term memory. In extreme cases, a user can develop “wet brain”, in which a person essentially develops alcohol-related dementia, an irreversible form of brain damage.
Some of the most severe consequences from abusing alcohol are emotional. Emotional issues are usually one of the major driving forces behind an individual continuing to use despite negative consequences. After time, someone who becomes dependent on alcohol will be unable to control both good and bad emotions. Alcohol is a depressant, therefore it is not surprising for a person abusing alcohol to become depressed over time. Getting to and fixing someone’s root emotional issues is a key factor in ensuring someone’s long-term sobriety.
Some physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are shakiness, sweating, chills, and nausea. An individual experiencing the symptoms may feel as if they are getting the flu. Alcohol withdrawal can also affect a person’s mood and behavior, creating a feeling of restless nervousness coupled with anxiety. In more severe cases of alcohol withdrawal, a person may actually experience hallucinations and, in the most acute cases, can suffer from life-threatening delirium tremens, which can bring on seizures and even death.
Alcohol withdrawal can last weeks if left untreated. Alcohol withdrawal occurs in three stages. The first stage usually commences at approximately 8 hours from the last drink. In this stage, the person withdrawing usually reports high levels of anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, agitation, nausea, shaky hands, and sweating. The second stage of alcohol withdrawal occurs between 24 and 72 hours of the users last drink. During this stage, someone may experience heart palpitations, high blood pressure, along with many of the symptoms from stage 1 being exacerbated. Alcohol withdrawal peaks at approximately 72 hours after the last drink. This begins the third stage, the most severe of the three stages of alcohol withdrawal. During this time, people have been reported to experience hallucinations, high fever, seizure, and even death.
Recovery from alcohol addiction is possible. In order to successfully recover from any addiction, all three parts of the disease – mind, body and spirit – must be treated effectively. Many recovered alcoholics found success with residential or intensive outpatient drug treatment programs that emphasize 12 step immersion.
W., Bill. Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism. New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, 1976. Print.
“The Truth About Alcohol” Foundation for a Drug Free World. www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/alcohol/. Accessed 30 Jan 2018.
“The Effects of Alcohol Use” DRUGABUSE.COM. https://drugabuse.com/library/the-effects-of-alcohol-use/. Accessed 30 Jan 2018.
“Alcohol’s Effects on the Body” National institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. https://niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body. Accessed 31 Jan 2018.
“Alcohol Withdrawal” DRUGABUSE.COM. https://drugabuse.com/library/alcohol-detox-and-withdrawal/. Accessed 30 Jan 2018.