Alcohol is one of the most popular substances in the United States, with 55.9% of adults drinking at least monthly. While alcohol is legal, it is highly addictive and can damage your heart and liver. Since alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, mixing it with substances like opiates or benzodiazepines is dangerous. Such mixing can lead to a fatal overdose. Because alcohol can cause physical dependence, usually detoxing requires treatment. Some withdrawal symptoms, like delirium tremors, can be life-threatening.
About half of all adults who drink monthly binge drink. Binge drinking occurs when you consume a certain number of drinks within two hours. For women, four or more servings of alcohol in two hours or less is binge drinking. Five is the cut-off for men. 1 in 6 adults in the United States binge drinks at least four times a month, making alcohol abuse somewhat common among regular drinkers.
What is Alcohol Abuse and Dependency?
Alcohol can cause both physical and psychological dependency. Ethanol, the active ingredient causing intoxication, is a neurotransmitter inhibitor that can damage your liver. When you drink, your brain releases a rush of GABA, a neurotransmitter creating the positive affects experienced during intoxication.
Your liver is responsible for filtering impurities like ethanol. However, it is only able to process one serving of alcohol within an hour and a half. What this means is binge drinking, and alcohol abuse cause your liver to become overworked. Thus, your risk of developing cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, and cancer increases. Alcohol also impairs your judgment and coordination. Alcohol abuse puts you at a heightened risk of engaging in dangerous or impulsive behaviors or of suffering an injury.
When you develop a physical dependency on alcohol, your body needs alcohol to feel normal. Your brain also becomes unable to release neurotransmitters unless you drink. If you immediately stop drinking, detoxing from alcohol can be painful. Withdrawal symptoms can begin within hours of your last drink.
Detoxing from Alcohol
Once you decide to quit drinking, detoxing from alcohol is dangerous without treatment. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can become life-threatening, and can include:
- Shakes, tremors, and chills
- Disorientation, confusion, and seizures
- Delirium tremors
- Changes to your heart rate and breathing
- Vomiting, stomach pain, and nausea
- Dehydration, aches and muscle cramps
The severity of your symptoms depends on a variety of factors, including:
- How much you drink
- How long you have been drinking
- Whether you have a co-occurring or comorbid condition
- Your physical and emotional health
Most withdrawal symptoms begin to alleviate within five days of your last use, which is why detoxing from alcohol is best done at a treatment center. When you detox from alcohol at a rehab or detox center, medical professionals reduce symptoms and limit discomfort through medication. Another reason why detoxing from alcohol at a treatment center is necessary is because alcohol withdrawal can cause severe dehydration.
Other times, some withdrawal symptoms require medical attention because over-the-counter medications aren’t effective. If you have a co-occurring or comorbid condition, withdrawal symptoms can become more severe or worsen your underlying conditions.
Finding Help for a Drinking Problem Today
When you are struggling with alcoholism, you can feel exhausted, frustrated, and defeated. Alcoholism can damage your health, family life, and career. Since alcoholism is a progressive disease, symptoms will continue to become more and more damaging until you receive help. Detoxing from alcohol is difficult without help, but a necessary first step in your recovery. If you are ready to start treatment or discuss your treatment options, call us today at 855.259.1624.