At a personal level, the definition of “alcohol abuse” will vary from person to person. However, there are official criteria professionals use to diagnose someone with an alcohol use disorder. If drinking is having negative effects on someone’s life, it may be time to consider alcohol rehab California.
The effects of alcohol abuse are extensive. From a higher risk of heart and liver disease to unemployment and crime, there’s no shortage of potential harm when alcohol use disorder takes the lead in someone’s life. Understanding the risks that excessive drinking poses can help you identify the ways alcohol is affecting your life or that of someone you love. As important, recognizing the side effects can help you make a more informed choice when it comes to your treatment options.
What Alcohol Does to Your Brain
The side effects of alcohol on the brain can be broken down into two categories: physical and mental. From a mental standpoint, prolonged drinking can impact your brain’s ability to produce and regulate chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are necessary to maintain a healthy internal balance. Without them, mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, as well as suicidal thoughts, are more likely to occur.
People with an alcohol use disorder are also at risk of developing Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a condition that makes it more difficult for the body to absorb essential nutrients. The resulting symptoms include poor balance, jerky eye movements, difficulty thinking clearly, and memory problems. Alcohol abuse also leads to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
There is also the physical risk of a traumatic brain injury from intoxication. A 2010 report found that 35-81 percent of patients who receive treatment for a traumatic brain injury had been drinking. And it’s not only the brain that suffers. Any organ that processes fluids can also become damaged, including the kidneys, liver, stomach, and intestines.
The good news is with proper treatment, people in recovery can lower most of their risks through abstinence.
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The Impact of Alcohol Addiction on Mental Health
Drinking socially may provide temporary side effects like less anxiety. But science shows us that the long-term impact of alcohol use disorder far outweighs any of the short-term advantages. Drinking suppresses the central nervous system, which leads to the “numb” feeling many people have when they drink to cope with negative emotions.
However, drinking can also cause people to think more about painful memories. Rehashing these memories and dwelling on negative experiences while under the influence can lead to depression and an increased risk of self-harm.
Many individuals who develop an alcohol use disorder either had depression prior to or developed it after their addiction. The same goes for anxiety. A survey of 20,000 people by the National Alliance on Mental Health found two-thirds of adults had some symptoms that were consistent with an anxiety disorder. Other co-occurring mental health conditions such as eating disorders, mood disorders, and personality disorders are all at a higher risk of worsening when someone uses alcohol as a coping mechanism.
How Much Alcohol is Too Much?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classify a standard drink as 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol, which typically is found in:
- A 12-ounce can of beer
- 8 ounces of malt liquor
- A 5-ounce glass of wine
- A 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof distilled spirits
The CDC suggests that men should consume no more than two alcoholic drinks per day while women should only have one. Male and female bodies break down alcohol differently, even if they are roughly the same weight.
Warning Signs of an Alcohol Use Disorder
Addiction can creep up slowly on anyone, even those who thought they had complete control over their drinking. Some of the signs you may have a drinking problem are:
- Being afraid to stop drinking.
- Losing count of how many drinks you consume.
- Feeling anxious or depressed when you can’t drink.
- Finding it hard not to binge drink (more than two drinks per hour).
- Finding excuses to drink, especially during the day or other irregular times.
- Feeling a strong urge to drink whenever you are stressed, angry, upset or experience other uncomfortable emotions.
Alcohol Rehab California Options
The sooner you reach out to Ocean Hills Recovery about your concerns, the closer you are to receiving the support you or a loved one needs. The first step is often one of the most challenging to make, especially if you have yet to even confirm or admit you have a problem. You have nothing to lose by reaching out to a professional. And the reward in doing so could bring about freedom from alcohol and relief from any negative thoughts or feelings that have followed you.
Alcohol use disorder requires assistance. Quitting on your own can lead to significant medical problems. The physical side-effects of withdrawal and risks of health complications make a medical detox the safest choice. From there, you can transition into a personalized treatment program that aligns with your recovery goals.
There are many different types of addiction treatment. Rehab can involve living in a facility, attending weekly group meetings or even just seeing your own therapist. Whatever path you take, it’s important to reach out and recognize that there is a way out of all the suffering, and it starts with being sober. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, reach out to Ocean Hills Recovery today.
Sources: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325644#long-term-effects  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3837571/  https://www.nami.org/  https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm
About the author:
Greg opened his home and heart to alcoholics and addicts in 2003. He is a Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor (CATCI). Starting in 2009 Greg has fostered the growth of Ocean Hills Recovery into one of the most respected and effective treatment centers in the area and has been working with people with addictions since March of 2001. Greg believes in a holistic approach to recovery. His focus is on drug alcohol addiction treatment with a combination of 12 Step work, therapy and counseling, and the rejuvenation of the body through healthful eating and exercise. He has designed his program to foster a family-like atmosphere and believes that people in recovery are just beginning their lives. He encourages the people he works with to learn to enjoy life in sobriety. Greg is married to Nicole; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.