Can You Die From Alcohol Withdrawal?

Can You Die From Alcohol Withdrawal? | Harmony Recovery Center

Although relatively rare, death as a result of alcohol withdrawal is possible. Severe alcoholics or people who drink alcohol excessively (e.g., binge drinking) and stop abruptly may face life-threatening complications. 

Death from alcohol withdrawal is usually related to a condition called delirium tremens (DTs). About 5% of people experiencing alcohol withdrawal will develop delirium tremens. DTs is a condition hallmarked by profound confusion, disorientation, hallucinations, and seizures. The risk of DTs manifesting is higher if the person has been drinking a lot each day for a long time. 

About 1 in 20 people who develop DTs will die, but the risk of death is significantly reduced for those who receive medical care during detox from alcohol. This fact may be the most compelling reason why people who are addicted to alcohol should receive professional medical supervision during detox.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

When someone has reached a state of alcohol dependence, they will experience withdrawal symptoms shortly following discontinuation of use. Withdrawal is a very uncomfortable experience, both physically and psychologically. Therefore, many heavy drinkers will return to drinking despite adverse consequences to avoid withdrawal symptoms. 

Withdrawal occurs because persistent, excessive alcohol consumption will eventually alter the brain’s functioning and disrupt neurotransmitters that carry messages through the central nervous system (CNS). The primary neurotransmitter linked to the production of feelings such as relaxation and sedation is gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA also helps generate endorphins in the brain, which serve to produce feelings of well-being. 

Excessive alcohol use results in an imbalance of GABA, and commonly leads to several adverse physical and mental symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, including the following:

  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Mood swings
  • Confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shakiness and tremors
  • Sweating

Delirium tremens symptoms may include:

  • Altered mental functions
  • Deep sleep
  • Fear and paranoia
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Abrupt mood changes
  • Overexcitement
  • Hallucinations

Can You Die From Alcohol Withdrawal? | Harmony Recovery Center

Other severe symptoms of acute withdrawal may include:

  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Kidney and liver dysfunction
  • Seizure-related head injury
  • High blood pressure
  • Hyperventilation
  • Dehydration

In addition to alcohol’s dehydrating effects, detox can be dangerously dehydrating to the body. Moreover, the body uses any means necessary, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and sweating, to eliminate alcohol and its toxic byproducts. Combining an alcohol user’s pre-existing dehydrated condition with withdrawal-related dehydration can induce life-threatening seizures.

The intensity of withdrawal symptoms depends on many factors that vary between individuals. Factors may include the following:

  • Length of time alcohol has been abused
  • Amount of alcohol consumed
  • The frequency of alcohol consumption
  • History of addiction or polysubstance use
  • A family history of addiction
  • Gender, weight, and age

If you are detoxing alone (not advised), it is vital to contact a medical provider if you begin to experience severe withdrawal symptoms after you quit using alcohol. As noted, withdrawal symptoms can become life-threatening if left unaddressed.

Alcohol Withdrawal Facts

Alcohol releases dopamine, a “feel-good” chemical neurotransmitter linked to the body’s reward system, a center that also regulates energy levels and feelings of enjoyment and motivation. This surplus of dopamine can trigger some of the pleasant feelings that addicts covet. 

As the body begins to develop a higher tolerance for alcohol, the brain grows more dependent on the substance for the release of dopamine. When a chronic, excessive drinker abruptly stops drinking, dopamine production halts, resulting in physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms as the body attempts to restabilize.

Alcohol detox usually lasts for several days, but withdrawal is different for each person. As the liver metabolizes alcohol and moves the drug through the system, withdrawal symptoms onset. It can take 30-120 minutes for the body to assimilate one serving of alcohol into the bloodstream. 

Most alcohol detox programs last from a few days to up to one week, and withdrawal usually subsides within that timeframe. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms come in three different stages: mild, moderate, and severe. Mild withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, mild tremors, and nausea, typically onset 6-12 hours after a person’s last drink. 

Moderate side effects of withdrawal, including vomiting, sweating, confusion, and fever, typically onset within 12-24 hours. Those who suffer severe withdrawal symptoms, such as delirium tremens, may begin to experience them between 48-72 hours after alcohol use has ceased.

What Causes Delirium Tremens?

Researchers are still attempting to determine the exact cause(s) of delirium tremens. Recent studies have shown, however, that during alcohol withdrawal, the brain releases glutamate, an excitatory neuron. This finding may explain the hyperactivity and other symptoms of delirium tremens that manifest.

Potential lethal complications associated with delirium tremens include respiratory arrest, cardiac arrhythmia, and aspiration pneumonitis. An individual may be at an increased risk for delirium tremens if they are middle-aged or older, or have experienced or is experiencing any of the following:

  • Seizures or DTs during previous withdrawal
  • Co-occurring mental health condition
  • Impaired liver function
  • Abuse of alcohol for a prolonged period

Delirium tremens can be challenging to identify, as some symptoms are similar to those of acute alcohol withdrawal, such as trembling and confusion. However, acute alcohol withdrawal is rarely fatal, while DTs, as noted, can be lethal. Also, the risk of death associated with DTs is higher when the condition is not properly addressed using effective medical treatment.

Can You Die From Alcohol Withdrawal? | Harmony Recovery Center

Alcohol Detox Process

There are two ways a person can detox from alcohol: “cold turkey” (abruptly discontinuing use) or by gradually reducing consumption, which is a method known as “tapering.”

Many people who detox on their own without medical assistance opt for the cold turkey method. This approach, however, can be dangerous, as it can result in the onset of withdrawal effects being more intense. In the face of harrowing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, the person going through detox may relapse hard and put themselves in danger of alcohol poisoning and other complications.

If a person undergoes detox at an accredited facility, such as Harmony Recovery Center, he or she has a higher chance of experiencing a safe withdrawal. Delirium tremens often requires high-level pharmacotherapy, and, in extreme instances, the individual with DTs may even need to stay in an intensive care unit. Alcohol withdrawal can be fatal in certain situations, so it’s vitally important for those detoxing to do so in a specialized medical facility. 

NOTE: The tapering method is rarely used in medical settings because it’s not required. Instead, it is effectively replaced using medication and other treatments that relieve symptoms and make the entire process easier and safer for the patient.

Simply put, a professional medical detox is the safest and most comfortable option for those who wish to stop drinking. Harmony Ridge Recovery monitors patients around-the-clock during detox to manage pain, ensure vital signs are at normal levels, and forestall any life-threatening complications from occurring.

Treatment for Alcoholism

Following detox, patients are ready to begin treatment for alcohol addiction. Harmony Recovery Center offers many different treatment options, including both inpatient and outpatient rehab. 

We offer a comprehensive approach to the treatment of alcoholism and address both the physical and psychological aspects of the disease. During rehab, patients are provided with multiple services that are clinically-proven to be vital to the recovery process. These include behavioral therapy, counseling, group support, aftercare planning, and more.

If you are suffering from an addiction to alcohol, contact us today! Discover how we can help you free yourself from the grips of substance abuse and begin to experience the fulfilling and happy life you deserve!

Is it Dangerous to Quit Drinking Cold Turkey?

Quit Drinking Cold Turkey | Is it Dangerous? | Harmony Recovery Center

Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States. Despite its legality and high availability, alcohol, when abused, can result in a wealth of physical and emotional problems. Also, over time, the brain becomes accustomed to its presence, and when a person tries to quit, they will experience adverse and sometimes even life-threatening effects.

When alcohol enters the brain, it produces increased levels of dopamine and GABA. Both are neurotransmitters that the brain uses to tell the rest of the body how to feel and respond. Dopamine affects feelings of pleasure and reward, motivation, and many other essential functions. Meanwhile, GABA controls and moderates stress reactions. As GABA levels increase, the central nervous system (CNS) becomes depressed, and breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure are all reduced. 

Alcohol abuse adversely alters the natural levels of these vital chemicals. The more the brain grows accustomed to this abnormal intrusion, the more it will become reliant on alcohol to keep levels in balance. Once a person becomes addicted to alcohol, dopamine and GABA activity are persistently altered, leading to unpleasant and even dangerous complications when they attempt to quit drinking abruptly. 

Moreover, a person should never quit drinking cold turkey without medical care and supervision. According to Dictionary.com, the phrase “cold turkey” describes “the abrupt and complete cessation of taking a drug to which one is addicted.”

Dangers of Alcohol Withdrawal

Most people who are dependent on alcohol will experience some withdrawal symptoms when they quit drinking cold turkey. Research findings have varied, but it has been suggested that at least 3% of people who do this will suffer from a severe condition known as delirium tremens (DTs). This disorder is characterized by seizures, confusion, agitation, hallucinations, or all of the above. 

In addition to these, people may also experience perilously high fevers. Seizures, hyperthermia, arrhythmias, and other complications related to co-occurring disorders can prove fatal during DTs without immediate medical attention.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually begin within around eight hours following the last drink and are at their worst in about 2-3 days. In the case of DTs, hallmark symptoms may not manifest for up to three days after a person decides to quit drinking cold turkey. This fact makes the condition even more dangerous since the person may falsely believe the problem has resolved and they do not need medical attention.

In general, the severity of the effects of alcohol withdrawal is closely associated with the intensity of the person’s dependence. This fact implies that someone who drinks excessively on a regular basis for a prolonged period will suffer the most. 

Combining other drugs, particularly other CNS depressants, can advance a person’s level of dependence and further compound withdrawal symptoms. Also, the presence of co-occurring mental health or medical problems can exacerbate the risks and intensity of withdrawal.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from relatively mild to life-threatening. The following are potential withdrawal symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle weakness
  • Aggressiveness
  • Clammy skin
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Appetite loss
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Mood swings
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Short-term memory loss

Quit Drinking Cold Turkey | Is it Dangerous? | Harmony Recovery Center

Other Hazardous Side Effects of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol addiction and episodes of regular drinking can result in malnourishment, as people may eat fewer balanced meals. Also, alcohol withdrawal can cause stomach upset and appetite loss. Alcohol abuse can deplete the body of much-needed vitamins and nutrients as well.

For example, alcohol can cause a deficiency of vitamin B1 (thiamine), and, in fact, as many as 80% of people struggling with alcoholism suffer from it. A thiamine deficiency can induce a condition known as Wernicke’s encephalopathy (WE). WE is a disorder that can result in profound mental confusion, as well as a lack of control over eye movement and motor coordination. 

Most of the time, Wernicke’s encephalopathy progresses into Korsakoff syndrome. This condition is characterized by difficulty forming new memories, learning problems, confusion, and confabulation

Impairment in learning and memory deficiencies in addition to problems with motor skills make Korsakoff syndrome a severe disorder that requires specialized treatment. In fact, it is estimated that only about 25% of people will recover fully from the disease.

Dehydration is yet another possible complication of alcohol withdrawal, and this can result in a profound electrolyte imbalance. Alcohol itself is dehydrating, and the vomiting and diarrhea that often occur during alcohol withdrawal serve to make this problem even worse. 

Severe dehydration can result in mental confusion and a disturbance in the autonomic functions of the CNS. This further increases the potential for a dangerous withdrawal period. High levels of anxiety, panic, and depression can also be challenging during alcohol withdrawal and may result in suicidal thoughts or self-harm.

Minimizing the Risks of Alcohol Withdrawal

Quit Drinking Cold Turkey | Is it Dangerous? | Harmony Recovery Center

Alcohol withdrawal can be severe and very uncomfortable. The adverse effects and intense cravings for alcohol often make it hard for people to avoid relapse unless they have a safe, alcohol-free environment and medical help.

Indeed, the risks associated with alcohol withdrawal can be minimized through medical detox. This method is always recommended in instances of alcohol withdrawal.

During a medical detox program, the person will be supervised in a special facility where they can safely stop drinking while toxins related to alcohol are processed out of their system. Oftentimes, medications such as benzodiazepines or barbiturates can be used to replace the effects of alcohol. 

Other pharmaceuticals may be beneficial in helping to manage certain symptoms of withdrawal. Sleep aids, mood stabilizers, pain relievers, and medications to ease upset stomach and vomiting may also be administered.

During detox, intravenous fluids can also be given to prevent or reverse dehydration. Nutritional balance can be reestablished through carefully planned meals. Medical professionals will monitor vital signs and emotional health regularly to ensure each patient is safe and as comfortable as possible during medical detox. 

On average, a person will remain in a medical detox program for between 5-7 days. This period may be shorter or longer, depending on the individual needs of the patient. 

Support during detox can also address the potential dangers related to alcohol withdrawal and help the person to become physically and mentally stable. One of the primary goals is to ensure the patient is prepared to enter a comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment program immediately following withdrawal. 

Getting Help for Alcoholism

Detox is a vital first step, but it should be immediately followed by a complete addiction treatment program that includes the following:

  • Behavioral therapies
  • Individual and family counseling
  • Support group participation
  • Substance abuse education

Harmony Recovery Center offers an integrated, research-based approach to addiction treatment. We design our programs to be unique to the individual to ensure their needs and goals are met. We are dedicated to providing each client with the tools they need to have the best chance for long-term success.

If you are motivated to break free from alcoholism, contact us today! We can help you reclaim your life and experience the joy and fulfillment you deserve!

Stages of Drunkenness

Stages of Drunkenness | Harmony Recovery Center

When a person drinks alcohol, the full effects can take some time to become evident. The onset and intensity of effects depend on several factors, including the following:

  • Amount of alcohol consumed
  • Rate of consumption
  • Sex (male or female)
  • Bodyweight
  • Metabolic rate
  • Ethnicity
  • Amount of food in stomach
  • Fat content of food
  • Tolerance

Despite the variability between individuals, there are some predictable stages of drunkenness through which a person may progress, depending on their blood alcohol content (BAC), as their drinking episode continues.

The Stages of Drunkenness

Stage 1: Sobriety

At a BAC of 0.05 or less, the individual is unlikely to appear intoxicated. Depending on the person, judgment and reaction time may be mildly impaired. One drink will typically result in a BAC beneath this threshold for both men and women.

Stage 2: Euphoria

The second stage of drunkenness, euphoria, occurs between 0.03-0.12 BAC (or around 1-4 drinks for a female or 2-5 for a male). In this stage, the person may feel more confident, talkative, social, and mildly euphoric. Inhibitions also begin to be reduced.

While many of the effects of alcohol at this time may be desirable for the drinker, the adverse effects of alcohol, such as impaired judgment, memory, and coordination, will also begin to appear. At this stage, a person’s motor skill responses may also be substantially more delayed than when sober.

Likewise, alertness is impaired, the person may begin having difficulty processing information, and they will not identify danger as rapidly. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that a drunk driver is up to four times more likely to be involved in an auto accident than a person with a BAC of zero. Operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or above is illegal and can result in arrest.

Stage 3: Excitement

Having a BAC of 0.09-0.25 places a person into the third stage of drunkenness, also known as excitement. They may begin to exhibit emotional instability, a loss in judgment, and a notable delay in reaction time. They may also experience the following:

  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired perception
  • Memory loss
  • Vision problems
  • Impaired coordination
  • Clumsiness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

At this stage, those around the individual will likely notice that they are visibly intoxicated.

Stages of Drunkenness | Harmony Recovery Center

Stage 4: Confusion

Someone with a BAC of 0.18-0.30 is in the confusion stage of drunkenness, which is hallmarked by emotional instability and disorientation. Coordination is noticeably impaired, to the extent that the person may stagger when walking, may not be able to stand upright, and may experience dizziness.

Those in this stage of intoxication are likely to have a complete memory lapse, otherwise known as “blacking out.” When this occurs, the person is essentially a walking, talking zombie operating on autopilot, but they are not quite to the point of passing out. Also, a person in this stage may have a significantly increased pain threshold, meaning they could cause harm to themselves and not feel the effects until much later.

Stage 5: Stupor

Stupor can occur at a BAC of 0.25-0.40. Someone in this stage of drunkenness is profoundly intoxicated and in dangerous territory, as they are at a high risk of alcohol poisoning and death. They will have lost most or all of their motor control, and they cannot respond appropriately to stimuli. Also, they may be:

  • Unable to stand or walk
  • Vomiting
  • Unresponsive or completely passed out
  • Unable to voluntarily control certain bodily functions

Someone in this stage usually needs immediate medical help to survive. People who are left to “sleep it off” may end up experiencing hazardously slowed breathing or complete respiratory arrest, or they may aspirate on their own vomit. Other risks include hypothermia, heart arrhythmia, and seizures.

Stage 6: Coma

A person who has a 0.35-0.45 BAC is at high risk of slipping into a coma. Respiration and circulation are perilously depressed, motor response and reflexes are barely present or absent, and the person’s body temperature is low. A person who has reached this stage will most likely die without medical treatment.

Stage 7: Death

At 0.45 BAC or above, many people are unable to sustain essential life functions, and the risk of respiratory arrest and death occurring is almost certain.

Understand the Risks and Get Help

It’s important to understand that because the amount of alcohol needed to reach various states of drunkenness can vary depending on the person, what might be a lethal amount for one individual may not be for another. Heavy alcohol use comes with a vast array of risks. If you find yourself drinking excessively and frequently reaching the later stages of intoxication associated with severe risks, you may need professional help.

Harmony Recovery Center offers research-based treatment that provides the necessary skills and tools that people need to manage alcoholism and maintain long-term sobriety.

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism, contact us today!

8 Benefits of Not Drinking Alcohol

Benefits of Not Drinking Alcohol

Updated On Aug 16, 2019

1. Feeling Better

Alcohol isn’t a healthy substance—it’s a toxin. When a person drinks excessively, the body is forced to work harder to process the substance. The liver can be pushed to its limits trying to metabolize it. The brain fights to re-establish equilibrium, and the heart pumps at an irregular rate.

Conversely, people who don’t drink tend to be much healthier. They aren’t vulnerable to alcohol’s impact on the body. And because the system is free from toxic chemicals, it can focus its energy elsewhere. As a result, the mind and body can begin to function optimally.

Drinking isn’t good for mental health, either. In excess, it often causes people to make choices they later regret. Therefore, alcohol abuse is often associated with feelings of shame, guilt, and remorse. Over time, this can harm a person’s emotional health. One of the most significant benefits of not drinking alcohol is the cessation of guilt.

2. Looking Younger

Alcohol use tends to make people appear older than they are. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it dehydrates the body, resulting in drier skin that becomes less elastic.

It also causes body tissue inflammation, and this is why some people get flushed in the face when they drink. That flushed redness is their skin becoming inflamed. Initially, the redness usually goes away once alcohol leaves their system, but over time, constant inflammation will damage their skin and may become more permanent.

In most people, alcohol reduces collagen, which is a protein that connects the skin cells and strengthens the tissue. When it breaks down, the skin starts to become more loose and saggy.

3. Saving Money

The advantages of quitting drinking aren’t just physical—it has financial benefits, as well. As anyone who drinks regularly knows, the cost of alcoholism can add up. When purchased once in a while, the price of a couple of beers or a bottle of wine is only a few dollars. But, when someone drinks every day, the costs add up over time.

Also, poor decisions often accompany drinking. If any legal issues, such as being charged with drinking and driving occur, the cost can be tremendous. Former alcoholics are usually happy to discover that their wallets are much fuller once they quit.

4. Losing Weight

Benefits of Not Drinking Alcohol | Harmony Recovery Center

Alcohol is very high in calories, and these calories are empty. The body processes and retains alcohol as sugar, which eventually turns to fat. People who drink excessively often weigh more than those who abstain. In fact, research shows that excessive alcohol use is associated with obesity. The more alcohol a person drinks, the more likely it is that they’ll carry extra weight.

Of course, some people have faster metabolisms than others and may be more or less active. Thus, there is not necessarily a direct correlation between someone’s weight and the amount of alcohol they drink. But, if a person is looking to shed some weight, they should start abstaining from alcohol.

5. New Activities and Hobbies

Alcohol dependence itself takes up considerable time, and when you add the time it takes to recover from drinking, you might find you have a lot more time on your hands when you quit.

Therefore, finding a new hobby or activity is essential for maintaining sobriety. Some former alcoholics turn to exercise, for example, and some prefer to read, paint, or garden. It’s not terribly important what the hobby is, as long as it gives the addict something to do to occupy their mind and the time they used to spend drinking.

6. Healthy Liver Function

Drinking alcohol is notoriously bad for the liver. When a person consumes an excessive amount, the liver must exhaust itself to process it. In severe cases, alcoholics can develop liver disorders such as fatty liver, hepatitis, or cirrhosis. These conditions can result in both internal and external damage to the body, and liver cirrhosis is irreversible.

Fortunately, the liver is a continually regenerating organ, and can often repair itself when it’s given an appropriate amount of time to do so. It creates new cells with the intention to fix any problems that may arise. Alcohol impairs the regenerative system, however, and when used excessively, the liver has a difficult time regenerating.

Over time, the liver may deteriorate and become fatty, inflamed, and even scarred. To prevent damage from worsening, heavy drinkers should stop drinking and give their liver some time to recover.

When a person quits drinking, their liver begins to flush out the leftover byproducts that were produced over time. This process usually takes several weeks, but in extreme cases, may take a few years. After the byproducts have been cleared, the liver can return to normal functioning.

Unfortunately, some liver damage, such as cirrhosis, is irreparable. In most cases, though, people who decide to abstain will experience the benefits of not drinking alcohol within a few months.

7. Making Amends and Righting Wrongs

Benefits of Not Drinking Alcohol | Harmony Recovery Center

Most people have done things that they regret. But heavy drinkers tend to do more regrettable things—one of the greatest benefits of quitting is having the opportunity to apologize and to make amends for those things. Sobriety gives people the chance to right their wrongs and start over.

Alcoholics often behave in ways that cause their family or friends to distance themselves. But when the person quits drinking, they offer concrete proof that they are taking steps toward becoming a better person. As long as they remain sober, at least some of the people around them will impart forgiveness.

8. Improved Sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, despite the fact that alcohol is a depressant and can induce sleep, it can ultimately interfere with quality sleep in several ways.

Drinking alcohol before bedtime is associated with more slow-wave sleep patterns called delta activity that allows for memory formation and learning. Consecutively, however, another type of brain pattern known as alpha activity is also initiated. Alpha activity doesn’t usually occur during sleep, but instead while a person is relaxing quietly.

Together, the alpha and delta activity in the brain that ensues after drinking may inhibit restorative sleep and can interrupt circadian rhythms. Experts believe it does this by interfering with the normal production of chemicals in the body that cause drowsiness after being awake for some time, and wane when sleep is sufficient.

After drinking alcohol, production of adenosine, a chemical that induces sleep, is increased. This action allows for a fast onset of sleep but also subsides almost as quickly as it came, making one more likely to wake up before being truly rested.

According to sleep experts, alcohol also inhibits REM sleep, can aggravate breathing problems and can lead to an increased need to urinate and frequent trips to the bathroom. The benefits of not drinking alcohol, therefore, include a much better night’s sleep and feelings of restfulness the following day.

For many people, quitting alcohol may feel like an impossible task. It’s especially challenging for those who are addicted—often, alcoholics feel as if, for them, there can be no life without it. Despite all of the adverse effects it has on their well-being, they continue to drink.

Fortunately, however, achieving abstinence is possible, and the benefits of not drinking alcohol are astounding. Through long-term abstinence, people have been able to improve their lives—sometimes immediately—in unlimited ways.

Ready to stop drinking?

Many people have difficulty quitting drinking on their own. Most addiction professionals recommend that individuals dependent upon alcohol undergo a medical detox following by a long-term inpatient or outpatient program. The most effective approaches to treatment are comprehensive and focus on evidence-based services, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, counseling, and group support.

Our center employs knowledgeable staff who specialize in addiction and deliver these services to each client with care and expertise. We provide clients with the tools and support they need to achieve sobriety and enjoy long-lasting wellness and harmony.

Please contact us today to find out how we can help you get started on your journey to recovery!

Dangers of Grain Alcohol

Grain Alcohol Dangers | Harmony Recovery Center

Grain alcohol is a refined form of ethanol produced by distilling fermented grain. The ethanol itself is created through the fermentation of sugars by yeast in grain before repeated distillation.

Due to its high alcohol content, grain alcohol is considered to be extremely dangerous. Consuming more than a small amount can rapidly result in intoxication, impaired thinking and motor skills, and lowered inhibitions. Any person who uses grain alcohol to excess is at a high risk of alcohol poisoning, other severe health consequences, and injury to oneself or others.

Other specific dangers include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Tolerance
  • Dependence
  • Addiction
  • Exacerbation of mental illness
  • Car accidents
  • Risky sexual behaviors
  • Brain damage
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Increased risk of cancers
  • Stroke or heart disease
  • Fetal alcohol disorders
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of falls
  • Memory/learning problems
  • Suicide

Grain Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse and the chronic patterns of drinking associated with it can also lead to severe problems in a person’s life, such as those associated with family, school, career, and finances. It can rapidly lead to legal issues as well, such as drunk driving or open intox convictions.

Alcohol abuse has also been associated with several mood disorders. Harmful drinking patterns can impact a person’s mental health. Indeed, it can cause or aggravate certain mental health problems, such as anxiety, ADHD, and depression.

More on Grain Alcohol

The term “grain alcohol” can be used to refer to any ethanol derived from grain, or it may be reserved for alcohol that is at least 90% pure. Examples of brand name grain alcohols include Everclear (most popular in the U.S.), Gem Clear, Century, and Graves. Grain alcohol is a colorless, odorless liquid that has no added flavor. Most people say that purified alcohol has a medicinal taste and a mild chemical odor.

Grain’s alcohol’s high proof and relatively low price make it attractive to some drinkers, particularly teens and young adults students. Regardless of a person’s age, drinking Everclear can be very dangerous, even in small amounts.

In college or party environments, a person may consume grain alcohol without their knowledge. It’s often mixed into high alcohol content drinks, such as “Jungle Juice.” Conversely, a person who is addicted to alcohol and has a high tolerance may intentionally drink grain alcohol to increase the pleasurable effects.

Grain Alcohol Dangers | Harmony Recovery Center

About Everclear

As noted, Everclear is one of the most popular brands of grain alcohol in the U.S. It comes in three concentrations: 60%, 75.5%, and 95%, representing proofs of 120, 151, and 190 respectively. Comparatively, many other popular liquors, such as rum and vodka, are about 40% alcohol or 80 proof on average. Everclear is, on average, at least twice as potent.

Because of Everclear’s high ABV and the tremendous risks that surround it, the 190 proof version is illegal in many U.S. states. However, some will go to great lengths to obtain it, such as having a friend or family member bring them a bottle from out of state.

It may be nearly effortless to drink a dangerous amount of Everclear in a short amount of time. Despite Everclear’s strength and warnings against consuming it, Everclear abuse does happen. When this happens, it puts a person’s life in immediate jeopardy.

According to makers of Everclear, it is intended to be diluted or used to make an alcoholic beverage of a lower proof. Despite this warning, many people continue to drink it in a way other than intended, which can rapidly place them at risk of serious harm.

While consuming Everclear, a person may overdose on alcohol after a small number of drinks. Acute alcohol poisoning can prove to be fatal, especially if emergency medical attention is not sought it time to render treatment.

Alcohol Poisoning

The consumption of alcohol is considered to be socially acceptable by many. However, a fine line exists between fun levels of intoxication and alcohol poisoning. Many people don’t realize that alcohol poisoning is an acute overdose of alcohol.

An alcohol overdose occurs when a person’s body, particularly the liver, can no longer keep up with the amount of alcohol overwhelming its system. The liver can only process about 1-2 standard alcohol drinks per hour. Grain alcohol is far and above a “standard” drink, which is 40% for liquor. Just a couple of shots of grain alcohol in one hour can lead to intoxication.

This excess amount of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream causes impairment to the nervous and respiratory system, and these effects can be life-threatening. As this occurs, the number of toxins produced from the metabolism of alcohol accumulates. When severe, these effects can result in basic life support functions in a person’s body shutting down.

Like drug overdoses, without immediate medical help, severe alcohol poisoning can be deadly. Around 2,200 people die each year from alcohol poisoning. While this number is relatively low compared to some other substances, such as opioids, it does reveal that fatalities from an alcohol overdose occur on a regular basis.

What to Do in Case of Overdose

If a person is exhibiting stupor, barely able to stay awake, or is unconscious, emergency medical attention may be necessary. Being able to recognize the signs of an alcohol overdose can help to save someone’s life.

If you witness the following signs of alcohol poisoning, call 911 or visit the nearest ER immediately:

  • Bluish or pale skin
  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Profound confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Low body temperature
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach/intestinal bleeding
  • Stupor
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma

Fortunately, many people recover from an alcohol overdose, but, tragically, others do not. In the most extreme scenarios, a person could choke and aspirate on their vomit or fall into a coma and die.

Grain Alcohol Dangers | Harmony Recovery Center

Alcohol Poisoning Tips

Other tips for helping someone who is overdosing on alcohol:

1) Get as much information as you can about the person who is overdosing and what they consumed. Provide this information to a 911 operator.
2) Try to keep the person in an upright position. If the person must be lying down, turn them on their side to prevent them from choking on their own vomit.
3) Do not leave the person alone and do not assume they will merely “sleep it off.”
4) Do not attempt to give them a cold shower. This action could lead to hypothermia.
5) Do not attempt to give them food (they may choke) or coffee, which could dehydrate the person further.

Getting Treatment For Alcohol Abuse And Addiction

Harmony Recovery Center offers comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment programs that provide people the opportunity to foster sobriety and heal from the destructive effects of chronic alcohol abuse.

Alcohol withdrawal, especially for those who have drunk excessively on a regular basis for a prolonged period, can be life-threatening. While many symptoms of withdrawal will be minor and can be treated through outpatient care only, others have the potential to be lethal. Without prompt medical attention, this condition can lead to death.

After a person has undergone detox and their bodies have returned to normal functioning, next it is vital to work on treating the psychoemotional aspects of addiction. Alcohol rehab programs, such as those offered at Harmony Recovery Center, focus on teaching a person to balance their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a more positive way through the aid of behavioral therapies.

Contact us today if you or someone you love is ready to break free from the cycle of alcohol abuse for life!

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

How long does alcohol stay in the blood? | Harmony Recovery Center

Factors such as age, weight, gender, and amount of food eaten can affect how long alcohol can stay in your system.

  • Blood: Up to 24 hours
  • Breath: 12-24 Hours
  • Urine: 12-80 Hours
  • Saliva: 12-24 Hours
  • Hair: 90 Days

Alcohol Intoxication

Shortly after having a drink, about 20% of the alcohol travels into blood vessels on the way to the stomach and then to the brain. The rest travels into the small intestine, where it is absorbed into the bloodstream. The point at which blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is highest before it begins to be metabolized is called the peak BAC.

The rate of intoxication for each person may depend upon individual factors. Alcohol is broken down at about the same rate for everyone, assuming they have a healthy liver. Other factors that may affect the rate of intoxication include the following:

  • Age and sex
  • Ethnicity
  • Body fat percentage
  • Rate of alcohol use
  • Amount and fat content of food in GI tract
  • Presence of other substances in the body
NOTE: One standard drink of alcohol is considered to be 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, or 1 oz. of liquor/spirits.

More specifically, factors that influence BAC:

Weight – the heavier you are, the more water is in your body, and the more the alcohol gets diluted.

Sex – alcohol consumption doesn’t impact men and women in the same way. Men have a higher amount of a stomach enzyme that helps metabolize alcohol, so they process it more rapidly. Women usually have less water and more fat. Female hormonal changes can affect BAC.

The number of drinks, their strength, and how fast they were consumed.

How much food was eaten and of what content. High-protein food hinders the processing of alcohol.

Testing for Alcohol

Alcohol tests may be performed for many reasons, including field sobriety testing, pre-employment screening, workplace testing, or probation or parole. Blood testing for alcohol is the most dependable and accurate method currently available. Unlike urine tests, a blood test can determine a person’s precise BAC at the time the test is conducted.

The most commonly employed test for the presence of alcohol, however, is a breath test, also known as a breathalyzer. This method is not as accurate or reliable as a blood test, but it is useful for ascertaining whether a person has been drinking and can estimate BAC. The breathalyzer is the standard sobriety test used by law enforcement in the United States because it is easily administered, much less invasive than a blood test, and the results are instantaneous.

Effects of Alcohol

The effects of alcohol typically begin as pleasant and rewarding, which is the primary reason why people enjoy drinking it. Nevertheless, there are many short- and long-term side effects and very few, if any, positive long-term effects of alcohol use. Alcohol’s short-term impact on the body is determined by a person’s BAC.

Short-term effects include the following:

At 0.03–0.12% BAC:

  • Improved mood
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Reduced attention span
  • Flushed face or skin
  • Impaired motor coordination
  • Reduced ability to execute good judgment

At 0.09–0.25% BAC:

  • Sedation
  • Memory loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensory impairments
  • Impaired balance and equilibrium
  • Reduced comprehension and reaction speed

At 0.25–0.40% BAC:

  • Amnesia
  • Staggered movements
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Incontinence
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Transient consciousness or unconsciousness

At 0.35–0.8% BAC:

  • Loss of pupillary light reflex
  • Profound respiratory depression
  • Very weak or slow heart rate
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Coma
  • Death

Other Alcohol Effects

Once a person’s BAC reaches 0.40% or above, life-threatening occur in many cases. Depending on a person’s tolerance, when this level is reached, coma or death may be forthcoming. If someone you know is suffering from severe alcohol poisoning, please call 911 immediately. Do not let them “sleep it off” and do not leave them alone until medical help arrives.

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include the following:

  • Confusion
  • Severely impaired coordination
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures (fairly uncommon)
  • Stupor or unresponsiveness
  • Reduced body temperature
  • Paleness or bluing of the skin
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severely depressed breathing

Long-term effects of excessive alcohol use include the following:

  • Gastrointestinal ulcers
  • Hypertension
  • Anemia
  • Interrupted brain development
  • Reduced attention span
  • Reduced sperm count
  • Hepatitis B and C
  • Cirrhosis

Moreover, chronic alcohol abuse increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as cancers of the mouth, larynx, pharynx, breast, and esophageal and gastrointestinal system.

Tolerance, Dependence, and Withdrawal

The more and more often a person drinks alcohol, the higher their tolerance will become. Tolerance is an altered state that is produced in response to excessive alcohol use. It occurs because the body compensates for its presence by dedicating more enzymes to break it down more efficiently. This reaction leads to a diminished response to alcohol as a result of repeated exposure.

Tolerance is a defense mechanism employed by the body because alcohol is essentially a poison. In fact, it can effectively reduce a person’s risk of alcohol poisoning. While tolerance does not always coincide with dependence, the development of a high tolerance is a hallmark sign of severe alcoholism.

Alcohol dependence is hallmarked by the brain’s need for alcohol to function normally, as well as the onset of withdrawal symptoms when the person tries to quit. These symptoms can vary in intensity from mild to severe, and, in extreme circumstances, result in life-threatening complications and death.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include the following:

  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Lack of appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia or nightmares
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Shakiness and tremors
  • Irritability and moodiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Fever
  • Racing heart or palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Impaired mental function
  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens

Alcohol addiction includes both tolerance and dependence, and also one more element: compulsive drug-seeking behavior despite the occurrence of negative consequences. That is, those who are addicted to alcohol will regularly obsess over the procurement of alcohol and its consumption. They will also do so even though it destructive to their lives, including their health, relationships, and financial and legal troubles that come about.

Treatment for Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a serious and often devastating disease that can result in a myriad of health problems, financial and legal trouble, and put enormous strain on interpersonal relationships. The longer that active alcoholism remains untreated, the higher the chance that these difficulties, as well as others, will occur.

Alcoholism is a lifelong disease, and, unfortunately, there is no one simple cure that works for everyone. Almost no one who is an alcoholic will ever be able to return to ‘normal’ drinking or fully recover their lives when engaging in any form of alcohol use.

Fortunately, alcoholism is very treatable. Modern treatment approaches employ services clinically proven to be effective. These services may include psychotherapy, counseling, group support, and medication-assisted treatment.

Harmony Recovery Center offers these services in both partial-hospitalization and outpatient formats. We provide clients with the tools, resources, and support they need to experience a full recovery and enjoy long-lasting healthy lives.

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction, please contact us as soon as possible to discuss treatment options. We are dedicated to helping people escape the clutches of addiction so they can look forward to a fulfilling future free from drugs and alcohol!

DUI vs. DWI

DUI vs. DWI | What's the Difference? | Harmony Recovery Center

DUI vs. DWI: What’s the Difference? DWI stands for Driving While Impaired, and DUI means Driving Under the Influence. Although you might have heard both terms used, the state of North Carolina does not make a distinction between them. … Being charged with a DWI usually denotes a higher crime on the scale than if you were charged with a DUI.

DUI vs. DWI

It may be a little confusing when a state uses both terms. Often, one will refer to the use of alcohol and the other to impairment by drugs, but this can also vary from state to state, depending on the state’s laws. Also, in some states, DWI refers to driving while under the influence of alcohol with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) over the legal limit. Meanwhile, the term DUI may be used to charge a driver with being under the influence of either alcohol or drugs.

OUI vs. OWI

In some states, an intoxicated driver can also be charged with an OWI (operating while intoxicated) or an OUI (operating a vehicle under the influence). Regardless, being charged with any of these offenses can have severe consequences.

At the time of this writing, these acronyms are only used in Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. The “operating” distinction comprises more than just driving a vehicle. Even if the vehicle is stopped and the motor is not running, a person can be arrested and charged with operating under the influence.

When Charges Can Occur

A police officer should only pull a person over when he/she has probable cause to suspect that the driver may be under the influence of a substance. Examples include violating a traffic rule, swerving, or driving dangerously. Once a person has been pulled over, the officer will try to determine if he or she is intoxicated and to what extent.

The driver will likely be asked to perform a field sobriety test. These are often relatively simple tasks, like standing on one leg while counting, or walking in a straight line and then turning around. An officer might also ask a driver to follow a light with their eyes.

Whether or not a person passes the field sobriety test, he or she will probably be asked to use a breathalyzer. A breathalyzer is a tool that is used to determine a person’s approximate BAC. Refusing to take this test can result in additional penalties, including fines and license suspension.

Importantly, a person can still be charged and convicted of driving while impaired without taking a breathalyzer test. If he or she fails the field sobriety test or has an accident, these are examples of situations that could still land a person in jail. Moreover, refusing to use a breathalyzer might not be a good idea, since, in many cases, it would only result in more problems.

If the field tests or breathalyzer indicate that a driver is intoxicated (the legal limit is usually a BAC of 0.08%), the vehicle will likely be searched for open alcohol or drugs. The person will then be arrested and charged, and the vehicle will be towed to an impound location.

DUI vs. DWI | What's the Difference? | Harmony Recovery Center

After Arrest

After law enforcement arrest a driver at the scene, he or she will probably be booked at a local station. This process typically involves being photographed and fingerprinted, followed by short-term incarceration in a jail cell.

A person might also be asked to undergo a blood or urine test. Like breathalyzers, in some states, there are penalties for refusing to take these other tests. The police will also ask questions, but, as with any arrest, you have the right not to answer and to speak to a lawyer.

After being booked, many people can be released on bail if they can post it. At this point, it’s best to retain an attorney if one has not been already. Next is the process of arraignment, where the person pleads either guilty or not guilty. Sometimes it can take weeks or months to get to this part, depending on whether a plea deal has been agreed upon and some other factors.

In any case, a guilty plea is swiftly followed by sentencing from a judge. If this is a plea deal, most of the time, a defendant will have a good idea of what the outcome will be. If the plea is not guilty, the case will go to trial in front of a judge or jury to determine the verdict.

Sentences vary widely depending on the severity of the circumstances and a person’s criminal record. For example, a second DUI would warrant a stiffer sentence than the first. Conditions of sentencing may include jail time, probation, and community service. The person may also be required to undergo therapy or counseling, random or routine breathalyzer tests, and substance abuse education.

Treatment for Alcoholism

If you have been charged with a drunk driving offense, you may be required by law to seek treatment for substance abuse. Even if you are not required, there is a reasonable chance that drinking has become problematic and you could benefit from professional help.

Harmony Recovery Center offers comprehensive programs for the treatment of addictive substances in both partial hospitalization and outpatient formats. Using evidence-based services, such as psychotherapy, we provide clients with the tools and support they need to succeed at recovery.

Give us a call today, 100% Confidential

704-970-4106
⟹ READ THIS NEXT: Negative Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol Shakes and Tremors

Alcohol Shakes and Tremors | Harmony Recovery Center

Alcohol Shakes and Tremors – Alcoholic shakes, commonly referred to as tremors, are physical manifestations that most commonly become evident following sudden withdrawal from chronic drinking. Acute alcohol shakes indicate a person is very ill. They can be accompanied by even more dangerous complications, such as psychosis and seizures.

Uncontrolled shaking and trembling of the hands or other parts of the body are common among those experiencing alcohol addiction. Much of the time, a person with a drinking problem who shakes is showing signs of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, but there are other reasons why someone dependent on alcohol might shake.

Causes of Alcohol Shakes and Tremors

Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant with a high potential for abuse and addiction. Alcohol reduces brain activity and energy levels, and excessive drinking can cause profound sedative effects. And when someone drinks large amounts of alcohol frequently, their body adapts to the continued presence of alcohol.

In an attempt to compensate for the depressant effects of alcohol, the brain releases more excitatory neurotransmitters than usual, which increases nerve activity and keeps the body in a more alert state. These changes in brain chemistry are one reason why chronic, heavy drinkers often do not appear as intoxicated as they should be. But, when a long-term drinker abruptly quits drinking, the brain continues to function as if alcohol were present.

In this overactive condition, a person will begin to encounter symptoms of withdrawal, such as tremors, anxiety, hyperactivity, sweating, and an elevated heart rate, among other possible effects. Shaking and other signs of alcohol withdrawal can onset as soon as six hours after a person has had their last drink. This fact is why some alcoholics wake up shaky and anxious in the morning and need a drink to calm nerves and feel steady.

Some people develop a very severe form of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens (DTs) that can induce severe shaking, shivering and tremors. Other symptoms of DTs include hallucinations, agitation, hypertension, fever, and seizures. Because delirium tremens symptoms can be lethal, it’s recommended that chronic drinkers who are detoxing from alcohol undergo a clinical detox supervised by medical professionals.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are usually at their most intense between 10-30 hours after the last drink, and they usually recede within 40-50 hours. Nonetheless, some people develop a more protracted condition called post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which is hallmarked by psychological symptoms that can persist for up to a year.

Alcohol Shakes from Brain Damage

According to research, frequent and excessive alcohol consumption can damage the cerebellum, a region of the brain found near the top of the brain stem that controls balance, coordination, and fine motor movement.

Damage to the cerebellum caused by alcoholism can produce what is known as an intention tremor. An intention tremor is a specific type of trembling that is most pronounced when a person makes a deliberate or goal-oriented movement toward an object, but the tremor may also manifest when at rest.

Other symptoms of alcohol-related cerebellar dysfunction include impaired coordination and balance, clumsiness, an unsteady walk, and involuntary back-and-forth eye movements (nystagmus). Some people also develop damage to the peripheral nervous system, which can result in muscle weakness, numbness, tingling, and pain in their arms and legs. This condition is known as peripheral neuropathy, and it can contribute to falls and injuries.

Damage to the cerebellum from alcohol use usually takes about a decade to occur and can be seen on an MRI as shrinkage in the cerebellum. It is believed to be the result of alcohol’s toxic effects on the brain coupled with nutritional deficiencies (e.g., the B vitamin thiamine) commonly found among alcoholics.

Once symptoms of alcohol-related brain damage manifest, they will continue to get worse if drinking continues. The only way to prevent a worsening of symptoms is to quit drinking entirely. Although, as noted, this should not be attempted without medical help in cases of severe alcohol dependence.

Alcohol Shakes and Tremors | Harmony Recovery Center

Alcohol Shakes from Liver Disease

Alcoholism can also cause liver disease, which, in its advanced stages, can produce a characteristic flapping or shaking of the hands (asterixis). While there may be few observable symptoms in early liver disease, long-term liver dysfunction can produce a number of complications, including a potentially deadly brain disorder called hepatic encephalopathy (HE).

Hepatic encephalopathy develops when the liver becomes unable to effectively eliminate toxins that can damage brain cells from the blood. As these toxins, including ammonia, manganese and other substances, begin to accumulate in the brain, the individual will start to experience sleep disturbances, mood swings and difficulties with motor control, including a flapping tremor. Some people may develop tremors similar to those witnessed in individuals who have Parkinson’s disease.

While HE can also result in coma and death, fortunately, the condition can usually be resolved with treatment. Regardless, the development of HE is a foreboding sign. According to research, around half of all patients with liver cirrhosis die within one year of their first episode of HE, and 80% die of liver failure within five years.

Treatment for Alcoholism

Shaking that occurs as a result of long-term, excessive alcohol consumption is a surefire indication of a serious problem. Shaking during withdrawals likewise indicates alcohol abuse, and if it occurs frequently, should be treated by addiction specialists.

Harmony Recovery Center offers outpatient detox services as well as comprehensive addiction treatment in partial-hospitalization and outpatient formats. Our services include those clinically-proven to be essential for the recovery process, such as psychotherapy, counseling, and group support.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, contact us today. Discover how we help people reclaim their lives so they can experience the long-lasting wellness and sobriety they deserve!

Understanding Blood Alcohol Concentration

Blood Alcohol Concentration | Harmony Recovery Center

Understanding Blood Alcohol Concentration – Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) describes the level of alcohol (usually ethanol) in the bloodstream at any given time. Law enforcement frequently uses this measurement to ascertain that person is legally intoxicated.

Medical professionals also use it to calculate health risks related to alcohol poisoning. An understanding of BAC necessitates an understanding of the characteristics of ethanol and how it affects the body as levels continue to increase.

Ethyl Alcohol Basics

Ethyl alcohol (ethanol) is derived from a chemical process known as fermentation, which occurs when sugar contained in various types of grains, fruit, honey, or other substances get broken down by microorganisms called yeasts. Alcohol is a waste byproduct created by yeasts during the breakdown of sugar.

There are four main kinds of alcoholic beverages derived from the fermentation process: beer, malt liquor, wine, and distilled liquor. A number of other drinks have evolved in recent years that also include hard seltzer water and cider but usually fall into the category of beer.

Each fermentation method produces ethyl alcohol at a different rate, meaning that means that each type of alcoholic beverage has a different average alcohol content. As an overall comparison of alcohol content, scientists use a measurement referred to as a “standard drink,” which equals about 0.6 oz. of ethyl alcohol.

Beer has the lowest alcohol content by volume (ABV) with 0.6 oz. in a 12 oz. serving. Malt liquor contains 0.6 oz. of ethyl alcohol per 8 oz serving, while wine contains 0.6 oz. of alcohol per 5 oz. serving. Distilled spirits such as rum or vodka that are 80-proof contain 0.6 oz. of alcohol in each 1.5 oz. serving.

These numbers equate to an ABV percentage of about 5% for beer, 12% for wine, and 40% for liquor, but this can vary widely. For example, very light beers can contain as little as 2.5-3% ABV, and it’s not uncommon for modern craft beers to contain as much as 8% alcohol or more. Some foreign specialty beers can contain up to 65% ABV. Realistically, wine can vary anywhere between 5-20% alcohol.

It’s important to realize that the high ABV of some of these alcohols is a better determining factor of a “standard drink” in related to its potential for intoxication than referring to them as “one serving” of beer or wine. Moreover, if you drink an entire 12 oz. beer at 65% ABV, that is roughly the equivalent of eight 1.5 oz. shots of liquor, not one.

Intoxication and Blood Alcohol Concentration

Although we don’t always think of it this way, alcohol consumption is actually a form of poisoning. The body confronts this poisoning by passing the ethanol in your bloodstream to your liver. This organ then gradually metabolizes the alcohol, rendering it nearly harmless.

However, the liver can only process what researchers call one standard drink per hour, and if a person consumes more, this will start to overwhelm its efficient but somewhat limited abilities. Intoxication occurs when the liver cannot process the alcohol as fast as it’s being consumed. Essentially, it backs up, and alcohol begins collecting in the bloodstream.

Blood Alcohol Concentration | Harmony Recovery Center

BAC and Effects

Blood alcohol concentration is measured by the weight of ethanol contained in a given volume of blood.

A BAC of .02-.04% may induce mild relaxation and lightheadedness.

At .06%, effects can include increase relaxation, mild euphoria, increased sociability and talkativeness, and some degree of judgment impairment.

A BAC of .08% is the standard for legal intoxication in all fifty states. This level is typically reached by drinking two standard drinks in two hours. Typical depressant effects of this level include clear impairment of judgment and muscle coordination, as well as impaired vision, hearing, and self-control.

A BAC from .10-.20% reveals increasing degrees of intoxication accompanied by increasingly impaired muscle function, balance, judgment, and memory.

As BAC nears or surpasses .20%, the truly toxic nature of ethanol begins to reveal itself. Effects associated with this level of intoxication include vomiting, blacking out, and decreased pain sensations resulting in a failure to notice or respond to injuries.

When BAC reaches .30%, passing out is common, and it may be difficult to arouse someone who has reached this point. A person with this much alcohol in their system can die from alcohol poisoning.

When BAC climbs to .35%, the affected person may stop breathing entirely. Percentages of 0.40% or higher commonly result in coma and death. However, some individuals have been reported to survive BACs much higher, presumably due to unique factors.

Symptoms of Acute Alcohol Poisoning

Being able to recognize the symptoms of alcohol poisoning is critical. If someone you know is experiencing this condition, they will be in no condition to help themselves and could die or incur severe injuries and complications as a result.

Warning signs include the following:

  • Confusion
  • Profoundly impaired coordination
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Irregular, shallow breathing
  • Blue-tinged or pale skin
  • Low body temperature
  • Stupor
  • Unconsciousness

Acute alcohol poisoning is a life-threatening medical emergency. If you suspect a person is suffering from alcohol poisoning, do not assume they will “sleep it off.” Call 911 immediately or visit the nearest emergency room as soon as possible.

In the meantime, do not try to make the person walk around (risk of falling) or put them in a cold shower (risk of hypothermia). Do not attempt to make him or her vomit or offer them food (risk of choking). Do not offer the person caffeinated beverages (risk of further dehydration).

Instead, try to keep the person conscious if you can. If he or she is unconscious, keep them sitting up or lay them on their side to ensure they do not choke on their own vomit, which is common due to alcohol’s ability to impair the gag reflex.

Blood Alcohol Concentration | Harmony Recovery Center

Factors that Affect BAC

In addition to the sheer amount of alcohol consumed and the speed at which it was consumed, several other factors can influence a person’s BAC. These include sex (male or female), weight, and the amount and type of food in the stomach.

In general, females produce a higher BAC than males for any given level or rate of alcohol use. Part of this equation is body fat, not one’s overall size. The presence of fat allows alcohol easier access to the bloodstream, and people with higher body fat levels tend to get intoxicated more quickly than some others with less fat. Women typically have more body fat than men.

Also, alcohol consumption being roughly equal, people with a relatively low body weight will typically incur higher BAC levels than those with higher body weights. The presence of food in the stomach tends to keep a person’s BAC lower by delaying the entry of alcohol into the bloodstream. Fatty foods and protein, in particular, help to hinder alcohol absorption.

One misconception is that a person’s tolerance may affect their BAC level. However, this is not the case. Instead, among those with a high tolerance, the liver does tend to become more efficient at metabolizing alcohol, meaning that it may take more alcohol to induce the outward signs of intoxication.

Treatment for Alcoholism

Chronic or excessive drinking can result in devastating consequences and wreak havoc on a person’s health and well-being. Those who engage in problematic drinking behaviors, such as binge-drinking or drinking every day, should seek professional treatment before the situation gets worse.

Harmony Recovery Center offers specialized addiction treatment in both partial-hospitalization and outpatient formats, comprised of evidence-based approaches proven vital to the process of recovery. These services include psychotherapy, counseling, group support, aftercare planning, and more.

If you or someone you love is suffering from an addiction to alcohol or other drugs, please contact us today to find out how we can help!

Alcohol and Anxiety Disorders

Alcohol and Anxiety Disorders | Harmony Recovery Center

Alcohol and Anxiety Disorders – Anxiety is a normal human reaction that is related to the brain’s “fight or flight” response mechanism. For some, however, anxiety is not merely a temporary concern—it tends to be pervasive and may increase in intensity over time. As a result, symptoms may begin to interfere with a person’s functioning and everyday activities and responsibilities, such as academics, work, and relationships.

There are many different types of anxiety disorders, but generalized anxiety disorder is the most common among them. Other disorders include obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and phobia-related disorders.

Alcohol and other drugs are sometimes abused by those who suffer from anxiety disorders as a misguided means to self-medicate. One or two drinks may help the average person relieve stress and inhibitions, but chronic excessive drinking has not been shown to reduce anxiety and, in fact, may worsen it or, in some cases, be a direct cause of it.

What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), is a mental health condition characterized by chronic anxiety and excessive worry and stress, even in circumstances where there appears to be minimal provocation. People who are diagnosed with GAD have experienced undue anxiety or distress on a daily basis for at least six months. These worries can be associated with any number of issues, including health, work, social interactions, and normal life situations. This anxiety can then result in additional significant problems in many of these same areas of life.

GAD symptoms may include the following:

  • Feeling restless or on edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Being agitated or irritable
  • Feelings of tension
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Uncontrollable anxious feelings
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Insomnia or sleep disturbances

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 20% of Americans with a mood or anxiety disorder also suffer from a substance use disorder.

Alcohol and Anxiety Disorders | Harmony Recovery Center

Other Anxiety Disorders Associated with Addiction

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder can be a very debilitating condition and is hallmarked by sudden, repeated episodes of extreme dread and feelings of impending doom or being out of control. These feelings are often by physical, terror-fueled symptoms, such as accelerated heartbeat and palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, crying, sweating, crying, and trembling.

Panic attacks can be entirely spontaneous but are most often instigated by some particular fear of a thing or situation, such as a centipede or flying in an airplane during extreme turbulence.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by chronic, unwanted thoughts and obsessions and compulsive, repetitive behaviors. These behaviors include activities such as excessive hand-washing, cleaning, counting, and neatly organizing everything in one’s environment.

The strict performance of these routines is required in order to temporarily repress compulsive thoughts. People who live with OCD only get a short respite from these anxious feelings through the act of these rituals, and performing them can further worsen anxiety.

Common symptoms of OCD include the following:

  • Germophobia, a fear of germs or contamination leading to excessive washing
  • Undesired or forbidden thoughts and feelings involving religion, sex or self-harm
  • Aggressive thoughts toward oneself or others
  • Having things placed symmetrically or in a specific order, arranging things in a precise way
  • Repeated checking on things, such as frequently reassuring oneself that the door is locked
  • Compulsive counting

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a potentially devastating mental health condition that can onset after a person has experienced a psychologically catastrophic event in which physical and/or intense emotional harm occurred in some manner. Such events include physical and sexual assault, childhood abuse or neglect, natural disasters, and military combat.

Having feelings of anxiety and fear both during and after a traumatic event is natural and serves the purpose of protecting us from future harm. However, individuals with PTSD continue to experience these feelings during circumstances that are, in reality, not at all threatening.

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

Not every person who encounters a traumatic event or events will experience PTSD, and not everyone who suffers from PTSD has been exposed to an event that threatens their physical well-being directly. For example, some people can develop PTSD after a severe illness or the death of a family member or other loved one.

Symptoms usually manifest within three months of a precipitating event, but sometimes stay dormant until years later. In any case, to be diagnosed as having PTSD, the following symptoms must continue for more than thirty days and be severe enough to adversely impact relationships, academics, or career. These include the following:

  • One or more reexperiencing symptoms, such as flashbacks or nightmares
  • One or more avoidance symptoms, such as avoiding places or events that remind the person of the experience
  • Two or more reactivity or arousal symptoms, such as being easily startled or having explosive outbursts
  • Two or more mood or cognition symptoms, such as having negative thoughts about oneself or having feelings of self-blame

Once people experience traumatic circumstances, they may also develop feelings of guilt and shame that can manifest in alcoholism or drug addiction. Alcohol dependency can worsen PTSD symptoms and induce very uncomfortable side effects.

Alcohol and Anxiety Disorders | Harmony Recovery Center

Phobia-Related Disorders

A phobia is hallmarked by the intense fear of a specific object (e.g., needles), a living thing (e.g., spider), or situation (e.g., being in confined in a small space). Anxiety may be considered to be a natural reaction in many of these circumstances, but people who suffer from phobias experience terror and sometimes panic that is dramatically out of proportion to a situation’s actual potential for danger.

People with a phobia may present the following signs:

  • Having an irrational or unrealistic worry about being exposed to the object or circumstance that terrifies them
  • Making an effort to avoid the object or situation
  • Experiencing sudden and intense anxiety/panic when encountering the object or situation
  • Enduring contact with unavoidable objects or conditions while experiencing severe anxiety and fear

Other anxiety disorders include separation anxiety disorder (a fear of being apart from a person to whom one is emotionally attached) and social anxiety disorder. The latter, which is also sometimes referred to as social phobia, is hallmarked by an intense fear of social situations or situations in which the person has to perform or speak in front of others. Because alcohol lowers inhibition and is therefore known as a “social lubricant” it’s not uncommon for people with social anxiety to be heavy drinkers.

Anxiety Disorders and Substance Abuse Treatment

Substance use disorders (SUDs) are found much more often among people who suffer from anxiety disorders than the general population. Anxiety disorders, when left untreated, often lead people to experiment with drugs or alcohol as a means to self-medicate. Emotional symptoms caused by the use of these substances, such as depression, irritability, and general malaise, often exacerbate anxiety disorders and can perpetuate a never-ending cycle of substance abuse and mental health problems.

Alcoholism does not usually exist in a vacuum, and instead, tends to co-exist with another mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression. For this reason, a comorbid mental illness must be treated simultaneously with substance abuse, and not addressed as a separate entity.

Both anxiety and substance abuse are very treatable and should be addressed as soon as possible. Harmony Recovery Center offers comprehensive, evidence-based addiction treatment that includes behavioral therapy, counseling, group support, and aftercare planning for long-term sobriety.

Recovery from addiction and mental illness is a lifelong process, but it can begin now with our help! Contact us today to discover how we help people free themselves from the chains of addiction and begin to enjoy the healthy and satisfying lives they deserve!