Drug and Alcohol

Alcohol Abuse: Get the Facts About This Shadow Epidemic

Each year, over 145,000 Americans die from alcohol-related effects. Learn more about the shadow epidemic of alcohol abuse in our blog.

Alcohol Abuse: Get the Facts About This Shadow Epidemic

Table of Contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

November 22, 2022

The Edge Treatment Center

Over 145,000 deaths in the United States can be attributed to alcohol usage between 2015 and 2019, as the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported.

Alcohol disorders are when a person's drinking leads to injury or suffering. According to estimates, an alcohol consumption disorder affects 5% of adult women and 10% of adult men. Their drinking causes health issues and issues at work, at home, in the classroom, and with the law. Many of them have lost control over their drinking; despite grave health risks and the loss of important activities or relationships, they are unable to stop or reduce their use.

Alcohol is frequently considered a recreational drug, but it can have terrible effects when used excessively. The CDC estimates that 95,000 fatalities in the US annually occur due to excessive alcohol use. This places it as the nation's top preventable cause of death.

Deaths in the United States Caused by Excessive Alcohol Consumption

In the United States, excessive alcohol use claims more than 140,000 lives annually. Overindulgence-related fatalities each year include a reduction in the average lifespan of those who passed away by 26 years, resulting in a loss of roughly 3.6 million years of potential life.

Those deaths were primarily brought about by the long-term health impacts of excessive drinking, including several cancers, liver diseases, and heart diseases.

What Are the Consequences of Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol abuse can harm a person's relationships, quality of life, and health. A few detrimental effects can include:

  • Accidents (e.g., falls, workplace accidents, motor vehicle accidents)

  • Violence

  • Chronic conditions (e.g., liver cirrhosis, stroke, dementia, heart disease)

  • Cancers (e.g., breast, rectal, liver)

  • Dangerous sexual practices

  • A lack of attendance at work or school

  • Negative pregnancy results, such as fetal alcohol syndrome

Alcoholism Symptoms, Signs, and How It’s Diagnosed

Alcohol misuse disorders are severe and developing diseases. However, it is curable. Learn more about the condition and seek assistance from your doctor if you believe that you or someone you care about has an alcohol use disorder.

Early signs of alcoholism include drinking more than is intended, continuing to use alcohol despite warnings from others, and making repeated attempts to reduce or stop drinking. As alcohol misuse worsens, the person becomes more tolerant of it. However, they need to consume more alcohol to experience the desired high or become drunk.

Alcohol dependence causes a person to experience withdrawal symptoms, including headache, nausea, and exhaustion when unable to consume alcohol.

As alcohol consumption increases, the person can lose control as they get obsessed with drinking. They might experience blackouts, in which someone entirely forgets what happened while intoxicated, even if they were awake at the time.

Lastly, personality alterations take place. Alcoholism can make a person more violent and substantially impair their capacity to function (keep down a job or uphold friendships and family ties). In addition, heavy drinkers may experience seizures, hallucinations, panic attacks, confusion, and tremors.

Alcohol-dependent individuals frequently drink by themselves and claim to do it to relax or fall asleep. However, excessive drinkers may also drive or engage in unsafe sexual activity while intoxicated. Additionally, they are more likely to get dependent on other medications.

Alcohol intoxication impairs decision-making by slowing speech and reflexes, making it difficult to focus and remember things, and impairing memory. A pattern of binge drinking may indicate alcohol abuse. Typical indications of alcohol abuse include: attempting to stop drinking but failing to do so while also trying to protect it by concealing how much alcohol is being misused, being ignorant of the severity of the alcohol abuse issue, putting drinking ahead of a job, family, and social activities, getting upset about the possibility of being without access to alcohol, and engaging in risky actions (e.g., drunk driving), speech slurring and lack of coordination, weak memory, and impaired reasoning.

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How Does Alcohol Abuse Impact the Body?

Alcohol consumption levels can have a variety of repercussions on your health. Experts concur that women can have up to one drink per day while males can have up to two. Overdoing it increases your likelihood of experiencing immediate risks like automobile accidents and falls. On the other hand, chronic heavy drinking can seriously harm the liver and lead to heart disease. Your best option is to consume alcohol in moderation.

At the same time, an excessive amount of alcohol has terrible repercussions on the body. Heavy alcohol consumption has several adverse health effects, such as pancreatic inflammation, liver inflammation, stomach and esophagus bleeding, impotence, and perpetual brain and nerve damage (such as tingling or numbness, imbalance, an inability to coordinate movements, forgetfulness, blackouts, or memory problems).

Meanwhile, long-term excessive alcohol consumption can also worsen the symptoms of tuberculosis and pneumonia, damage the heart, resulting in heart failure, and produce liver cirrhosis, which results in liver failure.

Along with all of these, your brain clogs up; alcohol can change how your brain functions and looks if you drink a lot for a long time. Its cells begin to alter and even shrink. Your brain can shrink if you drink too much. And that will significantly impact your capacity for thought, learning, and memory. It may also make managing your movements and maintaining a constant body temperature more challenging. For women, heavy drinking is defined as eight or more drinks per week, whereas for men, it's 15 or more.

Does Alcohol Aid in Sleeping?

Due to the slowing effect of alcohol on your brain, you may fall asleep more quickly. But you won't get much rest. The night is spent processing alcohol by your body. After the effects fade, you find yourself tossing and turning. Your body doesn't obtain the quality REM sleep required to feel rested. And your chances of experiencing nightmares and vivid dreams are higher. Additionally, you'll probably wake up more frequently to use the restroom.

If you are a strong drinker, your body may revolt if you completely stop drinking. Cold sweats, a racing heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, trembling hands, and severe anxiety are all possible side effects. Some individuals even experience convulsions or experience hallucinations (hallucinations). To help you get through it, your doctor or substance abuse therapist may recommend medicines like benzodiazepines or carbamazepine.

The Effects of Drinking Alcohol

Emotions of euphoria or giddiness, feelings of relaxation or drowsiness, mood alterations, decreased inhibitions, uncontrollable behaviors and slurred or delayed speech, nausea and dizziness, diarrhea, headache hearing, vision, and perception alterations, and inability to coordinate. After just one drink, some of these benefits, including lowered inhibitions or a relaxed attitude, could become apparent. However, additional symptoms may appear after a few drinks, such as loss of consciousness or slurred speech.

Even while these impacts might not endure long, they are nonetheless noteworthy. Impulsivity, lack of coordination, and mood swings can impair your judgment and conduct and have more severe consequences, such as contributing to mishaps, injuries, and decisions you'll later regret.

Effects of Alcohol Abuse Over Time

Drinking alcohol can also result in longer-lasting issues beyond your well-being and happiness. For example, regular alcohol consumption may have the following long-term effects:

  • Persistent mood swings, including irritation and anxiety

  • Insomnia and difficulty getting sleep

  • Changes in libido and sexual function and a reduced immune system increase your risk of getting sick more frequently

  • Memory and concentration challenges

  • Changes in appetite

  • Family life and relationships can suffer

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Are There Advantages to Drinking Alcohol in Moderation?

Alcohol consumption has a lot of hazards, but there may also be some advantages to moderate consumption. For men, this means a daily limit of two drinks and a daily limit of one drink for women. 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 112 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits are considered to be one drink.

The risk of heart disease, stroke, and other circulatory illnesses appears to be reduced by moderate drinking. In addition, there is proof that a small amount of alcohol can increase blood levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), a healthy kind of cholesterol, and decrease plaque build-up in blood vessels.

How Do You Determine What a Safe Amount of Alcohol Is to Drink?

Don't start drinking if you don't already. Regular alcohol consumption is more dangerous than it is beneficial. If you consume alcohol, do it in moderation—no more than one drink for women and two for men daily.

Women who are attempting to get pregnant or are already pregnant, those who plan to drive or handle machinery that needs concentration or skill, and those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications that can make you drowsy are among those who shouldn't drink.

Additionally, alcohol can affect how poisonous and effective a drug is. For example, some drugs raise blood alcohol levels or amplify the adverse effects of alcohol on the brain.

Addressing Alcoholism

The person who needs assistance with an alcohol addiction may be the last to recognize a problem. A group like Al-Anon can provide help and support to family members even if the addicted person rejects treatment.

Many comparable drug and alcohol recovery clinics give family members therapy, so they can learn how to support and help the addicted individual in the best way possible. These programs are crucial components of making the drinker accountable for their actions and assisting the family in ceasing protecting the drinker from the repercussions of drinking.

The first step in treating alcoholism is assisting the drinker in realizing that there is a problem, and that assistance is required. Once a drinker decides to stop, treatment might occur in a hospital inpatient program or an outpatient setting (such as through regular counseling sessions) (where the treatment is much more intensive).

Most treatment programs focus on complete abstinence from alcohol and other substances, and almost all see alcoholism as a chronic, progressing disease.

Beginning with detoxification—supervised withdrawal from alcohol—inpatient therapy typically involves using medication to lessen the dangerous side effects of alcohol withdrawal, such as agitation, restlessness, hallucinations, delirium, and seizures. Alcohol withdrawal can be fatal in its most extreme forms.

The physiological and psychological effects of alcohol addiction are also addressed in alcoholism treatment. Health care specialists advise the individual and family about the nature of addiction and assist the individual in identifying healthy alternatives to alcohol use. Healthcare experts also help the patient cope with associated issues, such as depression, work-related stress, drinking-related legal repercussions, or problematic interpersonal connections.

Recovery is the phrase used to describe the long-term process of maintaining sobriety. Alcoholics Anonymous and other fellowship organizations are frequently very beneficial.

Continuous counseling and medical therapy may also be necessary. People who want to take medication to avoid drinking may use disulfiram (Antabuse). However, if someone takes disulfiram and consumes alcohol, they will feel sick because disulfiram prevents the liver from breaking down alcohol.

Another medication, naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol), eliminates the enjoyment that comes from drinking alcohol, decreasing the desire to consume it. Acamprosate (Campral), a third medication, lessens the uncomfortable sensation that alcoholics experience when they don't drink.

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The Edge Treatment Center Provides Expert Treatment for Alcoholism

Consult a specialist if you're unsure how to control your drinking. You can learn more about how much you should consume each hour, day, or week from a doctor. In addition, it would help if you comprehended how drinking naturally induces depression. A relaxed state can be achieved with even a tiny amount of alcohol.

However, this can quickly develop into drowsiness and become a health danger for you and those around you. If somebody starts to lose consciousness when you are drinking with a group, try to keep an eye out for the early signs of overdose and call the emergency team. Only medical professionals should attempt to administer any alcohol poisoning remedies.

We offer experienced and caring direction, counseling, and clinical know-how at The Edge Treatment Center in Orange County, California, helping to end long-term alcohol addiction and enabling you or a loved one to recover and reclaim a better, more fulfilling life.

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