If you or a loved one is struggling with drinking, reach out for help. Mountainside’s team of experts can help you obtain the healthy, alcohol-free life you deserve.
What is alcohol? Alcohol, also known as “booze”, “juice”, and “brew”, is one of the most well-known and culturally accepted substances around the world. Classified as a Central Nervous System (CNS) depressant, alcohol will induce stimulant effects first, then inhibit vital functions in the body. In the U.S. alone, 15.1 million adults aged 18 and older have an alcohol use disorder. Continue reading below to learn more about excessive drinking, short and long-term effects, and alcohol addiction treatment options.
What Is Alcohol?
Alcohol is a beverage that contains a significant amount of ethanol, a depressant. It is the most commonly abused substance in the United States. Alcohol can often be found at most celebratory events, from parties to work outings. Some common forms of alcohol are beer, wine, vodka, and other liquors.
Alcohol can be both physically and psychologically addictive. When an individual consumes alcohol, it is absorbed into their bloodstream from the stomach and small intestine and circulates throughout the body. On a physical level, drinking releases endorphins and dopamine, producing euphoric sensations that make the user crave the substance more. Many people use this substance as a coping mechanism to deal with stress, anxiety, pain, or other unwanted feelings. Additionally, habitual drinking can cause liver damage, increased risk for cancer, and other psychological issues.
What Are Common Street Names?
Popular names for alcohol include:
- Hard stuff
- Liquid Courage
- Cold One
What Is Considered Excessive Drinking?
Excessive drinking, also known as binge drinking, is the consumption of enough alcohol to raise your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08. Typically, that means four drinks for women, and five for men ─ in a period of two hours.
Oftentimes, binge drinking occurs when a person consumes alcohol uncontrollably and “blacks out,” or experiences memory loss, during or after drinking. Even if binge drinking doesn’t occur on a regular basis, consuming many alcoholic beverages in a short period of time can have negative health consequences down the road. Studies have shown younger people who binge drink are three times more likely to develop alcoholism, otherwise known as alcohol use disorder, as adults.
An alarming new trend that increases the risk of alcoholism is called High-Intensity Drinking (HID), which promotes consuming “alcohol at levels that are two or more times the gender-specific binge drinking thresholds.” This harmful trend is common among many populations, especially males, and HID becomes more prevalent on celebratory events like New Years Eve and 21st birthdays.
What Are the Short-Term Effects of Alcohol?
Alcohol reduces inhibitions and can have a relaxing effect. The substance is often consumed at social functions as a way to unwind, relieve stress, and connect with others, but excessive drinking presents dangerous short- and long- term health risks.
Stimulatory effects of alcohol include:
- Becoming more talkative
- Mood boost
- Increased heart rate
Depressant effects of alcohol include:
- Poor coordination, dizziness
- Slurred speech
- Reduced cognitive skills
- Distorted social judgment
- Slower reaction time
- Passing out
Why Is Alcohol Harmful?
Because alcohol is legal, many downplay the dangers of excessive drinking. However, alcohol addiction is just as dangerous as drug addiction. Even moderate drinking (defined as one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men) can negatively impact an individual’s memory. In fact, chronic alcohol abuse can cause permanent brain damage and increase the risk of dementia in older adults.
About 95,000 Americans die from the alcohol-related incidents each year. Binge drinking can promote risk-taking and harmful behaviors, leaving individuals more vulnerable to sexual assault, injuries, and car accidents. Drinking can also lead to alcohol poisoning, pancreatitis, and strokes, and is especially life-threatening when mixed with prescription painkillers, cocaine, ecstasy, and sedatives.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Heavy Drinking?
Repeated alcohol misuse can lead to addiction and health problems, including:
- Liver disease
- Cancer of the skin, mouth, stomach, and throat
- Heart disease
- Brain damage
- Kidney disease
What Are the Signs of Alcoholism?
Psychological & Behavioral Symptoms
- Shortened attention span
- Harm to one’s professional career and familial relationships
- Only attending social activities that include drinking
- Concealing drinks in public
- Stomach cramps
- High blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
What Does Alcohol Poisoning Look Like?
Alcohol poisoning occurs when an individual consumes a toxic amount of alcohol, often over a very short period of time. Because that amount depends on age, gender, size, weight, health, how quickly an individual has been drinking, how much they have eaten, and whether they have consumed other substances, it is impossible to know how much alcohol will lead to an overdose. Acute alcohol poisoning can be deadly, which is why individuals who overdose require immediate medical attention. Signs of an overdose include:
- Slurred speech
- Slow breathing
- Blue or pale skin
How Is Alcohol Addiction Treated?
The first step in treating alcohol addiction is to allow the body to rid itself of all toxic substances. Because detoxing from alcohol can pose both serious physical and mental health risks, detoxing at home is extremely dangerous and often deadly. To ensure safety, it is important that individuals detox under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Then, doctors can monitor for physical and mental withdrawal symptoms and help make you as comfortable as possible. In some cases, doctors may supplement traditional therapies with Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) and prescribe FDA-approved medicines to make the detoxification process safer and easier. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Involuntary movements
Detoxing from alcohol is only one piece of the puzzle and focuses on the physical impact that addiction had on the body. Addressing the substance’s psychological impact is just as important, and individuals should seek addiction counseling and recovery support through inpatient (residential) programs or outpatient programs.
Traditional therapies and clinical modalities help form an individual’s foundation for recovery and supplementing them with holistic therapies builds upon and strengthens that progress. This well-rounded approach to addiction treatment better prepares individuals for life after treatment. Because alcohol abuse can severely damage the heart, the liver, the pancreas, and the brain, individuals in recovery from alcoholism can reap the rewards of activities that encourage both physical and mental healing.
Those in recovery should replace their alcohol consumption with nutrition education, which explores how to build nutritious meals and undo the damage caused by alcohol. In addition, individuals suffering from a weak immune system can go on hikes and walks to physically strengthen the body. People who drank to relieve their stress can find similar relaxation through Qigong. For other activities that encourage healthy habits, visit our Wellness page.