Alcohol is the most commonly used drug in the United States. Although it is legal and widely consumed, it can be very dangerous. It is highly addictive, with regular use, can lead to mental and physical dependence.
In New Jersey, 15.2% of adults drink to excess. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that two in 100,000 deaths in the state are related to alcohol.
Alcohol addiction can be a confusing and frightening experience. It is characterized by people having reduced control over the amount they drink and continuing to drink despite negative consequences.
Some people are more prone to alcohol addiction than others, for reasons outside their control. It is possible to recover, and this usually starts with detox, where the user breaks their physical dependence on alcohol.
Because the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol can be dangerous, it is recommended that this takes place in a medical detox setting and continues in residential rehab. This ensures that the person will receive extra care and support during the vulnerable few months after detox. The Excel Center expertly treats those suffering from alcohol addiction with the respect and compassion they deserve.
Short Term Effects of Alcohol
Our bodies can process one standard shot of liquor per hour, and the effects of alcohol last between four to six hours.
The short term effects of alcohol include:
- Feeling social
- Being impulsive
- Nausea and vomiting
- Memory loss
- Lowered coordination
- Reduced inhibitions
- Slowed breathing
Long Term Effects of Alcohol
Prolonged alcohol exposure can cause many health complications. This can result from the toxic effects of alcohol on the body and the behaviors whilst under the influence.
Some of these include:
- Liver disease (cirrhosis)
- Mental dependence
- Physical dependence
- Brain damage
- High blood pressure
- Increased cancer risk
People can rely on alcohol without actually being physically addicted. This is when they use it as a coping mechanism.
With some people, this can escalate to a full-blown physical addiction, so it is important to be aware of these signs:
- Fixating on alcohol
- Planning events or meetings around alcohol
- Drinking to excess alone
- Waking up and drinking
- Lying to people about the amount you drink
- Hiding alcohol around the house
- Failing to control the amount you drink
- Needing more alcohol to feel the effects
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
- Drinking in inappropriate situations, such as when you must drive
- Missing school or work due to alcohol
Alcohol addiction is when your body becomes physically dependent on alcohol to function. Alcohol depresses the nervous system. When people repeatedly drink, their nervous system is used to needing to ‘fire’ more frequently to work. When alcohol is removed, this system ‘fires’ uncontrollably, which causes the withdrawal symptoms.
There is no definite time frame for how long it takes to become addicted to alcohol, but it can range from weeks to months.
Some signs of alcohol withdrawal are:
- Slight shaking
- Being more sensitive to lights and sounds than usual
- Dry retching
- Shaky hands
- Being easily startled
- Pins and needles
- Seeing or hearing things which aren’t there
- Sweating heavily
- Extreme shaking of the whole body
These symptoms usually start around eight hours after your last drink and peak between 24 and 72 hours later. It takes people around five days to completely detox, although there may be symptoms which linger for months. This period is especially vulnerable for those attempting to recover from alcohol addiction, so it is essential that they are in a caring and supportive environment.
Because of how uncomfortable and in many cases, dangerous these symptoms are, people who are addicted to alcohol must receive professional help. In some instances, people have died from attempting to withdraw from alcohol on their own. With proper medication and support, these symptoms can be managed effectively.
Severe Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, Around 50% of people identified as having alcohol use disorder will go through withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop, with 3-5% of these experiencing severe symptoms.
Factors which can increase the severity of withdrawal include:
- Abnormal liver function
- History of alcohol addiction
- Low sodium levels
- Pre-existing dehydration
- History of seizures, particularly during alcohol withdrawal
Alcohol Addiction and Other Disorders
It is more common than many people think for alcohol addiction to occur at the same time as other mental health conditions. Of all the mental health conditions, anxiety and depression are the most common.
This can occur due to the conditions existing before the alcohol use. Many people who have not received a proper diagnosis will drink to ‘self-medicate’ and relieve the symptoms. Self-medication can cause a negative spiral, as alcohol use only masks the symptoms for a short time. Drinking can make these symptoms worsen over time, with the person then drinking more to try and gain further relief, and it forms a vicious cycle.
People who are addicted to alcohol often use other drugs such as opiates, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, or benzodiazepines to increase the effect. This is especially dangerous, as combining alcohol with these drugs can be fatal.
The Excel Center employs experts who are qualified to diagnose co-occurring disorders and treat their root cause. We offer a range of treatments to support our clients and work with them towards a happy and sustainable recovery.
During our initial assessment, we will find out how much the person is drinking and what previous health conditions they may have. This enables us to prepare a personalized detox plan to ensure that their first steps into recovery are as easy as can be.
The first and most important step is to stabilize the person safely. During the detox phase, your symptoms will be monitored continuously to ensure that your health is not at risk during the process. If necessary, medication will be administered to reduce the risk of seizure and make the whole experience as comfortable as possible.
If you only experience mild withdrawal symptoms, it is likely that you won’t need medication for your detox.
If your symptoms are moderate-to-severe, medication used can include:
- Benzodiazepines – these reduce the risk of seizure and withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and shaking. They include Librium, diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan).
- Nutritional support – often those who suffer from alcohol dependence neglect their dietary health. Doctors may administer nutrients such as folic acid, vitamin B12, and magnesium to correct these levels and reduce withdrawal symptoms.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)
This is the second stage of withdrawal. In this period, people experience fewer physical symptoms but increased mental ones.
These symptoms can include:
- Changes in mood
- Low energy
- Impaired concentration
- Craving alcohol
During this phase, your brain is still getting used to functioning without alcohol. Over time, the symptoms will gradually reduce as your brain chemistry returns to normal. Although it can be uncomfortable at first, our brains have a fantastic ability to repair themselves.
This stage of early recovery can be a vulnerable time. The symptoms can be confusing, and one must learn how to live life without using alcohol. Many people experience intense desires for alcohol during this time. For this reason, most medical professionals will recommend engaging in a treatment program after detox.
At the Excel Center, we empower our clients by teaching them coping strategies for when they crave alcohol. We also work with our clients to uncover the cause of why they misused alcohol in the first place.
When armed with this knowledge, our clients have the best possible chance of sustained and successful recovery.
What Causes Alcohol Addiction?
Alcohol addiction is a medically recognized disorder. It is thought to have many causes. There are several genetic markers which research has shown make someone more vulnerable to developing a problem with alcohol. Many people with a history of trauma also turn to alcohol as a form of ‘self-medicating’, and the negative effects can persist for years.
There is no ‘expiry date’ on developing a problem with alcohol. Many people who were once ‘responsible drinkers’ can find themselves developing a problem later in life. At Excel, we treat a wide range of ages, from teens to those in their middle age. We understand the unique factors that can play a role in problem drinking at any age and offer customized recovery programs to match this.
Scientific research has shown that being part of a community benefits recovery. It is often said that the opposite of addiction is connection – and Excel Treatment Center is brilliantly positioned to help you achieve that.
We are partnered with several sober living facilities in New Jersey. This gives those in early recovery a chance to live in a structured environment with rules and boundaries, which is focused entirely on recovery. There are also many mutual aid meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, which provide free support for those seeking to maintain their sobriety.
The Excel Treatment Center is pleased to be partnered with several detoxification facilities that patients are referred to before seeking inpatient or outpatient treatment related to substance abuse. Our partner facilities are professional, licensed, and insurance friendly treatment providers who are committed to providing the highest quality of care. Reach out to us about a referral to a detoxification facility today at (973)-989-7500.