Chronic Alcoholism

Chronic Alcoholism: A Devastating Disease – In order to help others gain a better understanding of alcohol addiction, researchers at the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse have identified five different subtypes of alcoholics. These subtypes include the following:

  • Young adult subtype
  • Young antisocial subtype
  • Functional subtype
  • Intermediate familial subtype
  • Chronic severe subtype

What is Chronic Alcoholism?

Chronic alcoholism, also referred to as the chronic severe subtype, is the rarest but also the most destructive form of alcoholism. It affects more than 9% of alcoholics who are, on average, 38 years of age. They began drinking early in life (around 16) and developed an addiction to alcohol later (about age 29.) The majority are male (nearly two-thirds, 65%).

Tragically, this group of individuals have the highest drinking rates and consume alcohol on an average of 247 days per year. They also binge drink on 69% of these days and consume a maximum of 15 drinks.

These alcoholics have the highest rate of divorce, and less than 29% have actually been married. Only around 9% have a college degree, and they also have the lowest rate of employment. Less than half (about 43%) are employed full-time.

Chronic severe alcoholics also have the highest rate of family members who also suffer from alcohol dependence, – 77%. They are most likely to experience mental health conditions, including the following:

  • 55% experience depression
  • 47% have antisocial personality disorder
  • 34% have bipolar disorder
  • 26% have social phobia
  • 25% have dysthymia
  • 24% have generalized anxiety disorder
  • 17% have panic disorder

These individuals also tend to engage in other substance abuse, including cigarette smoking and using marijuana, cocaine, or opioids.

Chronic alcoholics tend to experience the most persistent, widespread symptoms, including the following:

  • The highest rate of emergency department visits related to drinking.
  • 94% drink larger amounts for longer than intended.
  • 92% continue to drink despite encountering problems from drinking, such as drinking at work or school, strained relationships, or drunk driving.
  • 88% experience withdrawal symptoms.
  • 83% have repeatedly tried to cut back on their drinking.
  • 64% spend significant time recovering from drinking.
  • About two-thirds (66%) have sought help for their alcoholism.

About Chronic Alcoholism

An individual suffering from chronic alcoholism is most likely what the average person imagines when the term “alcoholic” is used, though this designation only accounts for about 9% of the U.S. alcohol-addicted population. A chronic severe alcoholic probably began drinking and struggling with alcohol-associated issues at a young age and is currently middle-aged. This subtype also experiences antisocial personality disorder at high rates and routinely has legal troubles as well.

Chronic severe alcoholics also suffer from psychiatric disorders more often than other subtypes of alcoholics, including bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety disorders. Close to 80% of chronic severe alcoholics have a familial link to alcoholism, meaning that a close family member, such as a parent, also suffered, or suffers, from alcoholism.

People who suffer from chronic alcoholism often encounter severe life problems related to their drinking, such as homelessness, unemployment, strain on relationships, legal issues, and health conditions. They also suffer from behavioral, social, and emotional concerns that make them more likely to seek professional help.

Indeed, these individuals are the most frequently represented type of alcoholic in treatment programs – as noted, about two-thirds of chronic severe alcoholics receive help for their drinking.

Do You Suffer From Chronic Alcoholism?

If you or someone you know can answer yes to some of the following questions, chronic alcoholism is likely present:

1. Are you middle-aged, and started drinking and engaging in problematic drinking habits early in life?

2. Did you come from a family environment where a close family member suffered from alcoholism?

3. Do you have difficulty maintaining employment, a home, or relationships?

4. Have you had legal problems and engaged in criminal behavior?

5. Do you have antisocial personality disorder or other psychiatric disorders, such as an anxiety disorder, depression, or bipolar disorder?

6. Do you also smoke cigarettes and marijuana, or engage in the abuse of illicit substances such as cocaine or heroin?

7. Have you already sought help for your drinking and already been through a treatment program?

Treatment for Alcoholism

Chronic, severe alcoholism is an absolutely devastating disease that can emotionally, socially, and physically cripple those who suffer, as well as significantly impact their loved ones. Seeking treatment for alcoholism is the first step toward a new life.

Our center offers an integrated, evidence-based approach to addiction that includes essential therapeutic modalities such as psychotherapy, individual and family counseling, group support, and more.

We employ caring medical professionals who specialize in substance abuse and deliver services to our clients with compassion and expertise. We provide clients with the tools, knowledge, and support they need to achieve abstinence and prevent relapse.

You can restore sanity and harmony to your life, and learn how to sustain long-lasting sobriety and wellness. Call us today to find out how we can help!

The Dangers of Mixing Sleeping Pills and Alcohol

Sleeping Pills and Alcohol: The Dangers

Combining sleeping pills and alcohol can be life-threatening. An increasing number of Americans are relying on sleep medications that when mixed with alcohol, can cause harmful and dangerous side effects.

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Sleep Aids and Prescription Sedatives

According to some estimates, nearly half of all Americans have suffered from symptoms of insomnia, which include difficulty falling or remaining asleep or getting sufficient rest. Many of these Americans turn to either OTC or prescription sleep aids for help with their sleeping. The following statistics suggest that the use of sleep aids is indeed ubiquitous:

  • 10-20% of Americans use over-the-counter sleep aids each year, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
  • As many as 30% of American women reported using some kind of sleep aid each week.
  • 4% of Americans were prescribed a sedative or hypnotic medication for sleep within the past month, and prescriptions for sleep aids have increased three-fold among Americans between the ages of 18-24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Even when taken infrequently and as directed, these sleep aids can have unpleasant and potentially severe side effects. Also, according to the CDC, a shockingly large number of Americans reported misusing these pills, taking them far longer than intended or not as directed by a physician.

Moreover, research from Brown University and the University of Rhode Island revealed that 60% of people using prescription drugs that should not be taken with alcohol (including sleep aids) still drink.

Combining sleeping pills and alcohol is, in fact, a common form of misuse, according to research by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Recently, the number of emergency department related to zolpidem, the active ingredient in Ambien and a number of other sleep aids, nearly doubled between the years 2005-2010. Referred to as “overmedication” – using too much zolpidem or taking it in combination with alcohol and other drugs – this misuse of substances was reported as the main cause of this dramatic increase.

Also, 14% of all zolpidem-related emergency department visits involved alcohol in combination with zolpidem.

The Dangers of Combining Alcohol and Sleeping Pills

The dangers of mixing alcohol and sleeping pills or other prescription or illicit drugs are not to be minimized – a study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics found that using alcohol in conjunction with zolpidem doubled a person’s chances of being admitted into an intensive care unit.

Alcohol and sleep medications each affect the central nervous system and influence the same GABA receptors in the brain, so when used together, they can exponentially intensify possible side effects. Among the most dangerous is respiratory depression. Sedative and hypnotic medications for sleep suppress breathing, and in conjunction with alcohol, this effect can be intensified and result in cessation of breathing and cardiac arrest.

In addition to decreased or labored breathing, alcohol mixed with sleep aids can be related to occurrences of unusual and possibly life-threatening behavior. For instance, zolpidem medications like Ambien have been associated with episodes of sleepwalking and “sleep-driving” that have put the physical well-being of users and others at high risk.

Also, some people have reported engaging in sexual intercourse while on zolpidem and have later been unable to recall the incident. Drinking alcohol can increase the likelihood of these dangerous experiences which may be described as dissociative or fugue-like in nature.

In a study from 1995, researchers evaluated impairments in 24 healthy males who were given acute doses of zolpidem, both alone and combined with alcohol. The skills assessed included information processing ability/rate, immediate memory, and sustained attention. Both alcohol and zolpidem significantly impaired performance on each task, and in general, “additive” effects of alcohol were detected when consumed with 10mg of zolpidem.

Other negative reactions from using sleeping pills and alcohol may include the following:

  • Extreme drowsiness and sleepiness
  • Memory impairment
  • Impaired motor functioning

Commonly Used Sleeping Pills and Alcohol: Interactions

In addition to hypnotics and sedatives containing zolpidem, a number of other sleep aids are known to have interactions with alcohol. They include but are not limited to the following:

  • Lunesta
  • Prosom
  • Restoril
  • Sominex
  • Unisom
  • Certain herbal supplements, such as valerian root, chamomile, and lavender

Addiction Treatment

If you are addicted to sedatives, alcohol, or other drugs, there is treatment available. Our center offers comprehensive, integrated treatment that includes evidence-based services such as psychotherapy, psychoeducation, individual and family counseling, group support, and aftercare planning.

We employ professional medical staff who specialize in addiction and deliver services in both inpatient and outpatient formats. We provide clients with the tools they need to be successful at sobriety and enjoy a long-lasting recovery.

We can help you restore sanity to your life and experience the happiness you deserve – contact us now to find out how!

Alcohol Abuse Treatment

Alcohol Abuse Treatment | Harmony Recovery North Carolina

Alcohol Abuse Treatment – According to recent data, more than 16 million adults have an addiction to alcohol. Alcohol is the 4th leading preventable cause of death in the United States and is responsible for the death of around 88,000 people a year. In fact, more than 40% of all addiction treatment admissions in the U.S. are related to alcohol.

The sad truth, however, is very few people who need treatment actually receive it, and this disparity is not due to a lack of treatment centers. Indeed, alcohol abuse treatment options are more available to the general public than ever before. Unlike just two decades ago, there are now thousands of programs that treat a variety of addictions and specialized treatment facilities that cater to a wide demographic.

No two alcohol abuse treatment centers are identical. Although most programs blend some form of therapeutic and educational modalities and many include a detox program, the way in which they are executed can be very different from one program to the next.

Specialized treatment for alcohol abuse and addiction can be implemented in either an inpatient, partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient format. Inpatient treatment lengths vary, but frequently they last between one to three months and may have the potential to continue for a longer duration if necessary. Cost is an important consideration, as inpatient treatment often costs more than outpatient, although it can also provide a higher level of care.

Principles for Effective Alcohol Abuse Treatment

Treatment facilities that tailor programs to patients have the highest rates of success. Each patient has unique needs, and a customized treatment plan should consider these differences.

Treatment must be accessible around-the-clock every day. One of the hardest barriers to overcome is getting the person into rehab, and if treatment is not available at the precise time they resolve to seek help, an opportunity to save someone may be lost.

Effective alcohol addiction treatment programs address a wide variety of problems, including those that are physical, emotional, psychological, and social. People that solicit help for alcoholism tend to have many underlying issues that also need to be addressed. Without attention to all aspects of a person’s life, the chance of long-term success decreases considerably.

Alcohol treatment of any duration has the potential to help a person with their recovery. According to studies, however, patients that continue treatment for longer periods exhibit higher rates of success than those who receive treatment for a brief amount of time. To ensure patients remain in treatment for an ideal amount of time, tools must be used to engage patients and encourage them to participate actively.

Alcohol abuse treatment facilities without sufficient behavioral therapies and counseling services do not adequately provide patients with the skills they need to address the motivation behind their abuse, employ coping mechanisms, and implement problem-solving abilities. These capabilities are critically important when patients leave a rehab center and attempt to re-establish healthy and productive lives.

Many medical addiction treatment centers, such as Harmony Recovery, combine behavioral therapies with medication. Pharmacotherapy may be even more important for those with a drug or alcohol use disorder and a mental health condition. In most cases, the integration of multiple treatments is critical to successful outcomes.

The potential for relapse also exists, especially during the initial rehab period. Alcohol addiction treatment programs supervise their patients closely and allow professionals to identify what is or is not working for a patient. Moreover, these programs may also implement treatment adjustments for each person as necessary.

Alcohol Detox and Withdrawal

Alcohol Abuse Treatment | Harmony Recovery North Carolina

Importantly, those who have been drinking excessively for an extended period can experience a dangerous period of acute alcohol withdrawal not long after their last drink. On average, this period can start a few hours after the last drink and can persist for up to one week.

A medically managed detox can be implemented during this time to help a patient get through this uncomfortable, and possible dangerous withdrawal period as safely and comfortably as possible. A person experiencing acute withdrawal might develop a condition known as delirium tremens (DTs) that, if left untreated, can progress into life-threatening seizures.

A reputable alcohol abuse treatment facility will provide medical supervision and may administer a benzodiazepine, barbiturate, or other sedative medication to ensure that such complications do not occur. Additional medications, including anticonvulsants, can also be administered if needed.

Pharmacotherapy for Addiction Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an approach increasingly incorporated into the management of alcohol abuse as well as other substance use disorders. Certain medications may be prescribed to the patient and then monitored by a physician or other trained addiction professional.

Medications that may be prescribed for alcohol abuse treatment include Acamprosate (Campral), Disulfiram (Antabuse), and Naltrexone (ReVia, Vivitrol).

Getting Alcohol Abuse Treatment

Harmony Recovery is dedicated to helping clients recover and providing them with the tools, resources, and support they urgently need to achieve abstinence and enjoy long-lasting sobriety and well-being. If you or someone you love has a substance abuse problem, please contact us today to discuss treatment options and begin the journey to recovery!

How to Define Binge Drinking

Define Binge Drinking | Harmony Recovery NC

How to Define Binge Drinking – Binge drinking is characterized by a dangerous pattern of excessive alcohol use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that binge drinking will cause a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to climb to 0.08% or above, and is defined as having at least four to five drinks within a two-hour period for women and men, respectively.

In the U.S., binge drinking is most common among people aged 26 and older. In fact, this age group accounts for around 70% of all binge drinking episodes. For some, especially those on prescription medications or other drugs, it may take a smaller amount of alcohol to achieve a BAC that reflects a binge drinking level.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines one “drink” as any of the following:

  • 12 oz. of beer
  • 5 oz. of wine
  • 1.5 oz. of distilled spirits

A single instance of binge drinking does not constitute an alcohol use disorder (AUD), but binging does, however, significantly increase the likelihood of developing an AUD. A shift from sporadic binge drinking to full-blown alcoholism can occur rapidly, and considerable health effects and other harmful consequences will follow.

Roughly 80% of people who report binge drinking are not physically dependent on alcohol. Nonetheless, binge drinking accounts for the highest percentage of alcohol-related deaths. Because alcoholism is such an insidious condition, binge drinking, if left unchecked, threatens to overtake a person’s life, and could very well kill them.

Reasons for Binge Drinking

Define Binge Drinking | Harmony Recovery NC

As time goes on, binge drinking is becoming more and more prevalent despite the ever-increasing amount of research that indicates just how dangerous it can be. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption is not only socially accepted but encouraged in many cultures.

Binge drinking is not the same as alcohol dependence or alcoholism, though it can be just as harmful. Consuming mass quantities of alcohol in a short period profoundly compromises a person’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being. What’s more is that drinking not only affects the drinker but may also impinge on the lives of their friends and family.

Some reasons for binge drinking include the following:

To Avoid Problems

Probably the most common reason that people engage in binge drinking is to relax and forget about your problems for a little while. After one or two drinks, a person starts to feel like everything is alright, so they continue to drink to maintain that feeling.

To Have Fun

One of the characteristics that define binge drinking is that people find it fun. A significant number of social events that people attend – parties, weddings, holiday get-togethers – involve alcohol in one way or another. Binge drinking at every occasion can rapidly lead one to become dependent on alcohol.

To Test Tolerance

Drinking games are a staple at many parties. During these games, binge drinking is turned into a friendly competition, as people seek to prove who has the highest alcohol tolerance.

Side Effects of Binge Drinking

Binge drinking has been linked to a wide range of health and behavioral issues. While some side effects are mild and only temporary, others can cause irreversible damage.

Short-lived side effects of binge drinking include the following:

  • Impaired coordination
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Memory loss
  • Poor decision making
  • Shakiness

Consuming too much alcohol too rapidly puts one at risk for a variety of health problems and possible trauma. For example, alcohol slows reaction time which can put a person and other drivers and passengers in danger if he or she drives. Also, excessive alcohol use impairs judgment, leaving one at risk for accidental injuries such as sexual assault, domestic violence or acute alcohol poisoning.

In addition to short-term side effects, regular binge drinking can result in a multitude of long-term complications.

Several harmful and longstanding side effects of binge drinking include:

  • Brain damage
  • Liver disease
  • Stroke
  • Heart problems
  • Increased risk of some cancers
  • Pancreatitis

The side effects of binge drinking depend on the amount and speed at which it is consumed, weight/height ratio, gender, other drugs involved, and medical history. Binge drinking impacts women differently than men – because females generally have less body water than males, they achieve a higher blood alcohol concentration level more rapidly.

Treatment for Binge Drinking

Recognizing the dangerous effects of binge drinking is the first step toward recovery. Those who regularly engage in binge drinking are urged to seek treatment for alcohol abuse on an inpatient or outpatient basis.

Our center offers an evidence-based approach that includes essential therapeutic services such as psychotherapy, psychoeducation, individual and family counseling, and group support.

Don’t let alcohol abuse lead you down a path of self-destruction. Our addiction specialists can provide you with the resources and tools you need to recover and enjoy long-lasting wellness and sobriety! Call us today to find out how we can help!

Is Alcoholism Genetic?

Is Alcoholsm Genetic? | Harmony Recovery Center

Is Alcoholism Genetic? – Addiction is a chronic disease that affects the brain’s reward center, and researchers have long debated over possible genetic and hereditary contributors to addiction. Alcohol use disorder (also referred to as alcoholism or alcohol abuse) is a massive problem in the U.S. In fact – one estimate proposes that as many as 18 million adults in the country suffer from alcohol use disorder – or approximately one in 12 people.

Like the abuse of any psychoactive substance, alcoholism can lead to an extensive list of adverse effects, behaviors, and consequences, including:

  • Inability to limit alcohol consumption
  • Neglect of personal responsibilities due to alcohol use
  • Financial or legal issues such as driving while intoxicated
  • Social isolation/family conflict
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Apathy
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Liver damage – inflammation and cirrhosis
  • Increased risk of cancer, including mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, breast, colon, and rectum
  • Pancreatitis
  • Alcohol-related dementia

How Genetics Contribute to Alcohol Use Disorder

Is Alcoholism Genetic? | Harmony Recovery Center

Alcoholism has indeed been associated with certain genes. Having a parent, sibling, or another close relative who suffers from alcohol use disorder increases the risk that the person will also experience the same addiction.

Although heredity and genetics are closely linked (parents pass genes down to children, and children, therefore, inherit genes) from a medical standpoint, there are some differences when considering hereditary vs. genetic diseases.

Moreover, a person with a genetic disease has a specific abnormality in their particular genome (the complete set of genes or genetic material existing in a cell or organism) a person with an inherited disease has received that genetic mutation or trait from one or both parental sets of DNA. When researchers argue whether alcoholism is genetic or hereditary, they debate whether the disease is a product from a larger gene set passed down from a parent, or if the condition stems from mutations in certain genes.

Research

Science suggests that genetics are roughly half of the underlying reason for AUD. If an individual is predisposed to metabolize alcohol in a manner in which the pleasant effects (such as euphoria and sociability) are more outstanding than adverse effects (such as nausea and moodiness) the person may be more likely to develop an AUD if they engage in alcohol use.

A study from 2008 by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) examined research on AUD and a possible genetic association. The study found that genetic factors accounted for 40-60% of the variance among those who suffer from an AUD. Since that time, certain genes that contribute to AUD have been discovered, and they correlate with the reward center of the brain and how it develops.

A phenotype is a set of observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment. How exactly a phenotype is expressed is complicated – for example, a person with one parent with green eyes and one parent with brown eyes has genes for both colors – yet usually, only one color will be expressed. But strong genes are an exception – moreover, a gene responsible for the movement of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in synapses between neurons appears to be a strong gene linked to a higher chance of an AUD. Yet is still unknown how exactly this genetic array ultimately impacts a person’s outcome.

Genes that impact a person’s propensity for alcoholism can be expressed in a variety of ways. For one, individuals with a family history of AUD have been found to have a smaller than average amygdala, the part of the brain that is thought to play a key role in emotions associated with cravings.

Also, people who have a genetic predisposition to AUD may experience fewer or different warning signals from their body and brain when they need to stop drinking. Finally, abnormal levels of serotonin (a mood-regulating neurotransmitter) have been linked to people who are predisposed to an AUD.

Is Alcoholism Hereditary?

Although children of alcoholics have as much as a fourfold increased risk of suffering from an AUD later in life, a 2011 survey revealed that less than half of them actually experience an AUD. This can be explained, in part, by the non-inheritance of alcoholism-associated genes or by an environment that resulted in a specific expression of those genes.

A family history of AUD, statistically, is associated with an increased chance of AUD, depending upon the closeness of the relationship. Children with just one parent who experiences an AUD has a 3-4 times increased risk of having an AUD themselves. Having other relatives, such as aunts, uncles, etc. who suffer from alcoholism does not have as strong of an association, however.

Environmental Factors

Is Alcoholsm Genetic? | Harmony Recovery Center

While this correlation can impact whether a person inherits certain genetic mutations that make them vulnerable to an AUD, growing up in an environment affected by addiction can also predispose an individual to the disease.

Moreover, the environment influences how genes are expressed, and learned behaviors can alter how a person perceives alcohol or drug use.

When individuals are exposed to significant amounts of an addictive substance, over time, it is probable that the substance use will “hijack” or rewire the person’s brain to crave it. Even with a genetic predisposition, a person can still inherit a tendency toward AUD as a result of the culture they are emersed in.

Other environmental factors that can impact the expression of alcoholism genes include the following:

Alcohol use at an early age – people who consume alcohol in their youth are more likely to develop an AUD, and those who avoid alcohol until the legal drinking age are less apt to experience alcoholism.

A history of abuse – children who grew up in stressful environments, particularly those who were physically, verbally, or sexually abused are at a heightened risk of suffering from an AUD in adulthood.

Mental health conditions – psychiatric illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and PTSD place an individual at an increased risk of developing AUD. For these people, alcohol or other drugs is often used as a means to self-medicate against certain mental health symptoms.

Peer groups – people, especially youth, who hang out in social groups that use alcohol or drugs are more likely to use themselves. This could be because they are already predisposed to substance use, but it may also be caused by a need to fit in and the utilization of substance as a social lubricant.

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

Detoxing with the assistance of medical supervision, followed by participation in a rehab program, is the best approach for an individual struggling with alcohol addiction. Therapy and social support are critical components offered in a rehab program, and these treatments help the individual understand their addiction, avoid triggers and prevent relapse, and sustain a sober, healthy lifestyle.

Our center offers these services in resident, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient formats. All tracks include behavioral therapy, counseling, and participation in 12-step programs. Our expert medical and mental health staff specialize in addiction and provide patients with the tools and insight they need to recover and maintain longstanding wellness and sobriety.

The fulfilling and healthy life you deserve is within your reach, and we can help!

Signs of Alcohol Abuse

signs of alcohol abuse | Harmony Recovery Center

Signs of Alcohol Abuse – Because drinking is so ubiquitous in cultures around the globe and the effects of alcohol use vary widely between individuals, it’s sometimes difficult to determine when a person has crossed the line between social drinking and problematic drinking. If any of the following signs of alcohol abuse apply to you, you may have a drinking problem:

  • You feel guilty or ashamed about how much, when, or how long you drink.
  • You deceive others and conceal your drinking habits.
  • You need to drink to relax or improve your mood.
  • You “blackout” – don’t remember much or all of what you did while you were drinking.
  • You are drinking when you first wake up to quell hangovers or have a “hair of the dog.”
  • You regularly drink more than you originally intended.
  • You have made efforts to quit or cut back but have been unsuccessful.

How alcohol affects you, your life and the people around you determines whether or not you have a drinking problem. If your drinking has resulted in negative consequences in your life, then by definition, you have a drinking problem.

Risk Factors for Alcohol Abuse

Risk factors for developing difficulties with alcohol rise from many interconnected elements, including genetics, how a person was raised, social environment, and one’s emotional health. For example, people who have a family history of alcoholism or drug abuse or who associate closely with unapologetic, heavy drinkers are more likely to develop a drinking problem. And those who experience mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder are also particularly vulnerable because alcohol is often used as a means of self-medication.

On the Path to Alcoholism

Not every person who abuses alcohol will develop full-blown alcoholism, but those who consistently exhibit the signs of alcohol abuse are by far the most likely to become alcoholics. Nonetheless, alcoholism can onset suddenly in response to a stressful life event, such as divorce, retirement, grief, or other loss. More often, however, it gradually sneaks up on you as your tolerance to alcohol increases. If you frequently binge drink or consume alcohol every day, it goes without saying that the risk of becoming an alcoholic is high.

Signs of Alcohol Abuse or Problem Drinking

Substance abuse experts differentiate between alcohol abuse and alcoholism, which is also referred to as alcohol dependence. Unlike alcoholics, alcohol abusers have some control and the capability to set limits on their drinking. However, their alcohol intake is still self-destructive and frequently dangerous to themselves or others.

Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Routinely shirking responsibilities at home, work, or school, such as performing poorly at work or school, neglecting children, or ducking out of commitments to drink or recover from a hangover.
  • Consuming alcohol in circumstances where it’s physically dangerous, such as driving or operating machinery while intoxicated or combining alcohol with prescription medication or other psychoactive substances.
  • Encountering repeated legal issues due to drinking, such as getting arrested and charged for drinking and driving or drunk and disorderly conduct.
  • Continuing to drink although alcohol use is causing conflicts in relationships, fighting with family members, friends, or a spouse over negative drinking behavior.
  • Drinking as a way to relax or alleviate stress. Many alcohol use disorders begin when people start using alcohol to self-medicate, such as drinking at the end of a stressful day or reaching for a bottle after arguing with a spouse or boss.

Alcoholism

Alcohol Dependence

Alcoholism is the most serious kind of drinking problem. Alcoholism is associated with all the signs of alcohol abuse, but it also includes another feature: physical dependence on alcohol.

If you depend on alcohol to function or feel physically compelled to drink, you’re an alcoholic. This condition means that your brain has become so used to alcohol’s presence that it is unable to operate normally without it, and thus, discontinuation of alcohol use results in withdrawal symptoms.

Tolerance

If you have to drink more than you used to to achieve the desired buzz or to feel relaxed, this is a hallmark symptoms of tolerance, which is a sign of alcohol abuse and a warning that the development of alcoholism is imminent. Tolerance means that, over time, a person requires more and more alcohol to feel the same effects, due to the brain’s propensity to reduce a substance’s impact in response to repeated exposure.

Withdrawal Symptoms

If you need a drink to steady your nerves in the morning – drinking primarily to relieve or prevent withdrawal symptoms – this is another sign of alcohol abuse and an early sign of alcoholism. When you drink excessively, your body gets accustomed to the alcohol and experiences withdrawal symptoms upon cessation.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Shakiness or tremors
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache

Drinking and Denial

Denial is one of the biggest impediments to receiving help for alcohol abuse or alcoholism. The desire to drink is so intense that the mind finds ways to rationalize drinking, even when the consequences are evident. By keeping a person from honestly examining their behavior and its adverse effects, denial continues to exacerbate alcohol-related problems with work, finances, legal issues, and relationships.

People who have a drinking problem tend to deny it by downplaying how much they drink and underestimating the negative consequences of their drinking. They may find themselves rationalizing drinking habits, being deceptive about them, or straight up refusing to discuss the topic. But if one honestly does not have a drinking problem, he or she should find no reason to conceal their behavior and make excuses.

Effects of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse can encompass all aspects of a person’s life. Long-term alcohol consumption can lead to serious health complications and affect nearly every organ in the body, including the brain. Problem drinking can also impair emotional stability, decimate finances, impede one’s career, and undermine one’s ability to build and maintain satisfying relationships.

The Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Loved Ones

Besides the potentially lethal damage that excessive drinking does to the body, which includes cancer, heart, and liver disease, the social consequences can be equally destructive. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse can also have a profound effect on one’s family, friends, and co-workers.

Those who abuse alcohol are more likely to get divorced, become involved with domestic violence, struggle with unemployment, and live in poverty. But even those who succeed at work or sustain their marriage can’t always escape the effects that alcohol abuse has on personal relationships. Drinking problems put a tremendous amount of stress on loved ones.

Oftentimes, family and close friends feel obliged to cover for the person with the drinking problem. So, therefore, they take on the burden of deception and concealment – but pretending that nothing is wrong and burying their fears and resentments can take a considerable toll. Children are especially sensitive and can experience lifelong emotional trauma when a parent or caregiver is an alcohol abuser

Getting Help for Alcohol Abuse

Admitting that you or someone you love has a drinking problem is a critical first step. It takes immense strength and courage to confront alcohol abuse and alcoholism head on. Reaching out for support is the next step.

A person’s recovery is directly impacted by continuing mental health treatment, learning and implementing healthier coping strategies, and making better choices when it comes to dealing with life’s challenges. Long-term abstinence also requires having to face the underlying problems that led to alcohol abuse in the first place.

These objectives can be accomplished using a comprehensive approach that includes long-term inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment and aftercare.

You can reclaim your life and experience the happiness and wellness you deserve. We can help – contact us now to find out how!

Alcohol Detox Timeline

alcohol detox timeline | Harmony Recovery Center

Alcohol Detox Timeline and Withdrawal Most American adults 18 and over have drunk alcohol at some point in time. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), nearly 87% of the adult population has consumed at least one unit of alcohol in their lifetime. Unlike most other psychoactive, addictive substances, alcohol is legal to consume over age 21 and is easily accessible.

Many people drink alcohol regularly and have few or no issues. Patterns of binge or heavy drinking, however, can signify a problem with alcohol, according to NIAAA.

Alcohol withdrawals do not strictly follow a specific, concrete routine but rather appear on a general timeline that varies between people according to the extent of their dependence on alcohol. The alcohol detox and withdrawal timeline consists of the following stages that occur after a person stops drinking:

Stage 1: 8 Hours Later

The early hours after a person suddenly stops drinking may be characterized by anxiety, nausea and vomiting, and stomach pain. Other symptoms may include the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors
  • Depression
  • Foggy thinking
  • Moodiness
  • Heart palpitations.

Stage 2: 24-72 Hours Later

Elevated blood pressure, body temperature, respiration rate, and heart rate can be experienced during this time, and these symptoms often peak and rapidly manifest at this stage. Other symptoms may include confusion, sweating, irritability, and profound mood disturbances.

Stage 3: 3-4 Days Later

Fever, agitation, and, more rarely, delirium tremens (characterized by hallucinations, seizures, and severe confusion) may appear at this time.

Stage 4: 5-7 Days Later

At this point in the alcohol detox timeline, all symptoms usually start to taper off, decreasing in severity. Psychological symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, however, may persist longer.

More About Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol Detox Timeline

The intensity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be quite variable, and are influenced by several factors, such as the following:

  • Duration of alcohol use
  • Average amount consumed during each session
  • Medical history
  • Presence of a co-existing mental health condition
  • Family history of addiction and substance abuse
  • History of childhood trauma
  • Stress level

The use of other drugs in combination with alcohol can also impact withdrawal and increase the possible dangers and side effects. The more dependent on alcohol a person has become, the more likely the person is to suffer from more intense withdrawal symptoms.

The most serious (but fortunately, rarest) form of alcohol withdrawal is delirium tremens (DTs). This condition occurs in less than 5% of patients undergoing alcohol withdrawal, and it can be fatal without treatment. About 1 in 20 people who suffer from DTs will die, but this death rate is significantly reduced among those who receive medical care. DTs will probably not begin until a day or two after alcohol is totally eliminated from the bloodstream, and it can occur suddenly and without warning.

It is for this reason that withdrawal symptoms should be closely monitored by a health care professional to ensure the patient’s safety throughout the alcohol detox timeline. Moreover, quitting drinking abruptly or “cold turkey” is never recommended without medical supervision. Alcohol withdrawal results in life-threatening complications, as the brain and central nervous system experience a “rebound” after being frequently subdued by alcohol for an extended period.

Managing Symptoms During a Medical Detox

After physical symptoms have been constrained, mental health professionals can help the patient overcome some of the more intense emotional side effects of withdrawal. Sometimes, this emotional instability, if not controlled, can become even more troublesome than the physical withdrawal symptoms.

Medications can control anxiety and depression, especially when used in conjunction with therapy and counseling. Preventing relapse is an essential part of any alcohol detox program, and group support and individual therapy can offer continual resources for clients through detox and beyond.

Alcohol detox centers may administer one of the following medications, which are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to reduce alcohol-related cravings: disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate. These medications work to control withdrawal symptoms and deter patients from drinking again.

Naltrexone attaches to and blocks opioid receptors in the brain, thereby mitigating cravings and potential rewards incurred from alcohol use. Acamprosate is purported to treat long-term withdrawal symptoms, and Disulfiram can cause people to be violently ill if they drink, therefore making drinking quite undesirable.

A fourth medication, an anti-seizure drug known as topiramate, has also shown some promise for the treatment of alcohol use disorders by interfering with the way alcohol “rewards” drinkers. Topiramate is in a class of medications called anticonvulsants, and its primary function is to decrease abnormal excitement in the brain.

Alcohol detox should not be attempted without the supervision of health care professionals in a medical setting or detox center, as symptoms can appear and intensify rapidly. Even after the physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal have been managed or have passed, protracted withdrawal, or the long-term experience of emotional symptoms and cravings, can persist and may result in a relapse without the appropriate level of support and treatment.

During the alcohol detox timeline, the first step is to monitor and control any existing physical symptoms and reach stabilization. Medications are often used to treat symptoms such as nausea, dehydration, seizures, and insomnia. Benzodiazepines, particularly Ativan, are sometimes used during alcohol detox to reduce over-activity in the central nervous system that may occur as the body attempts to restore its natural order.

Also, blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature are all closely monitored, and steps can be taken to guarantee that they stay within safe levels.

Some people dependent on alcohol may also suffer from malnutrition due to poor eating habits and the impact that alcohol has on organs and the digestion of nutrients. Vitamin supplements and the implementation of a healthy diet and regular sleep routine may lessen withdrawal side effects and expedite the healing process throughout the alcohol detox timeline.

How Alcohol Affects the Brain

Alcohol consumption boosts the brain’s levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward. For this reason, alcohol can temporarily elevate mood, increase self-confidence, and reduce inhibitions. As alcohol leaves the bloodstream, however, these feelings rapidly dissipate.

Repeated alteration of dopamine levels can cause the brain to grow accustomed to the presence of alcohol and, as a result, discontinue dopamine production at normal levels without exposure to the substance.

The more alcohol a person drinks, the more a person’s tolerance increases and the more dependent the brain may become on its intrusion. Tolerance is, essentially, a byproduct of the brain’s propensity toward “repeated exposure = diminished response” concerning psychoactive substances.

When the alcohol wears off, a dependent person will experience highly unpleasant and possibly dangerous withdrawal symptoms, ranging from mild to deadly.

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction After Detox

Following detox, those who suffer from an alcohol use disorder are highly encouraged to participate in an inpatient or intensive outpatient program that employs an integrated approach that includes evidence-based treatment modalities such as behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, individual and family counseling, and group support.

Our center is staffed with caring and knowledgeable medical and mental health care professionals who specialize in addiction. We provide clients with the resources they need to achieve abstinence, avoid relapse, and experience long-term happiness and sobriety.

We can help restore sanity to your life! Please contact us today to find out how we can help you on your path to harmony and wellness!

Take A Look At Our Facility

Our treatment center is a free-standing building in the heart of Charlotte that is both warming and comforting and is supportive of the recovery process.

It comprises of multiple group rooms, therapist and case management offices, medical offices, and more. All of our clinical and medical services, from the point of intake and assessment to discharge, are delivered at our treatment center.

At Harmony Recovery, we offer a multitude of different Addiction Treatment Programs in Charlotte that are able to help treat those struggling with addictions to some of the most dangerous substances.

 

Causes of Alcoholism

causes of alcoholism | Harmony Recovery Center

Alcoholism has no single cause, but rather, there is a myriad of risk factors that can play a role in the development of an alcohol use disorder (AUD). These risk factors interact uniquely in each individual and result in alcoholism in some, but not others – no one factor or collection of factors can determine whether or not someone becomes an alcoholic.

Both intrinsic and extrinsic factors can contribute to the development of an AUD. Intrinsic factors include biology/genetics, age, psychiatric conditions, personality traits, personal choice, and drinking history. Extrinsic factors include family, social/cultural norms, and education.

The endless number of factors that can impact the development of an AUD makes it nearly impossible to predict if an individual will experience a drinking problem. Although it is an individual’s own choice whether or not to begin consuming alcohol, research suggests that the development of an AUD after he or she has already started drinking is not often within a person’s control.

What is an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction (NIAAA), “alcohol use disorder” is a medical diagnosis given to “drinking that becomes severe” and “is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using.”

Psychological Factors

Psychiatric conditions can significantly increase the likelihood that a person will develop an AUD. For instance, persons who experience depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or social anxiety are much more likely to develop an AUD. In fact, more than 40% of bipolar patients and approximately one-fifth of depression patients abuse or are dependent on alcohol.

Many people with mental health issues use alcohol as a means of self-medication to cope with their symptoms. For example, some individuals with schizophrenia state that alcohol “quiets” the voices inside their head, and others with depression say that alcohol improves their overall mood. These habits may be more common among those who have not been diagnosed appropriately or who have been prescribed medication that is either ineffective or results in unpleasant side effects.

Personality and Personal Choice Factors

Certain personality traits may make it more likely that a person will develop an AUD than others. For example, people who are prone to be impulsive, disregard risk, or are less inhibited are more apt to engage in heavy drinking. Someone who wants to be “the life of the party” might become a heavy drinker because he or she erroneously believes that they are more likable or funny when intoxicated, and someone who is very shy and withdrawn might become a heavy social drinker to reduce their discomfort and inhibition in social situations.

The expectations that a person has about drinking also plays a key role – individuals who expect that alcohol’s effects will yield positive results are more likely to develop an AUD than those who have negative expectations about the use of alcohol.

Of course, it is a personal decision whether or not to consume alcohol. Moreover, someone who is determined never to drink (sometimes due to a family member who has an AUD) is certainly not going to develop an alcohol use disorder. Also, those who avoid social situations where drinking is common are also less likely to develop an AUD.

However, once a person begins consuming alcohol, personal choice has much less influence over whether they become an alcoholic when compared to other key factors.

Drinking History Factors

A person’s drinking history significantly increases their likelihood of developing an AUD. People with a lengthy history of drinking are more vulnerable to becoming an alcoholic than those who have drunk alcohol for much less time, and individuals who have consumed more alcohol on average than others are more likely to become an alcoholic. Alcohol use rewires the brain to desire and depend upon alcohol, and these effects are cumulative.

Genetic Factors

Contemporary research asserts that no single factor has as much influence on whether or not someone becomes an alcoholic as that person’s genetic makeup. The biological offspring of alcoholics are significantly more likely to develop alcoholism even if non-alcoholics raised them. Furthermore, the non-biological children of alcoholics who are brought up by alcoholics are less likely to develop alcoholism than biological offspring of alcoholics who are raised by alcoholics.

The genetic factors that contribute to an AUD are incredibly complex, but this is one thing we do know – a single gene does not directly cause alcoholism, but rather, a large number of genes are involved and interact with each other. More than 50 genes that influence alcoholism have been identified that impact many aspects of alcohol addiction.

For example, genetics dictate how easily and quickly alcohol is broken down in the system, how severe hangovers are, how alcohol makes a person feel, to what extent an individual engages in risky behaviors after drinking, and how likely someone is to quit or continue drinking.

Familial Factors

The family life of an individual may play a crucial role in whether they become an alcoholic. Growing up in a heavily drinking family not only provides greater access to alcohol but also may even encourage drinking altogether. Drinking within families such as these may be glamorized and potentially expected.

Furthermore, growing up in a wealthy family makes alcohol more affordable, mitigating the financial distress heavy drinking generally causes, thereby making heavy consumption more likely. Research indicates that 78% of people residing in a household with an annual income of $75,000 or more regularly drink alcohol, but only 45% of people in households that annually earn less than $30,000 drink regularly.

Social and Cultural Factors

Social and cultural factors play a crucial role in exposing individuals to drinking, as well as reinforcing it as a routine practice. On the one hand, in countries and states where alcohol consumption is either legally banned or forsworn for religious reasons, alcohol may be inaccessible because stores either will not sell it or are not legally allowed to sell it. Likewise, the social cost of alcohol use may outweigh any perceived benefits.

On the other hand, in countries and states where drinking is culturally acceptable or encouraged, alcohol is readily accessible, and, in general, rates of alcoholism are much higher where drinking is culturally and socially accepted. Indeed, alcohol consumption is not only common on college campuses across the United States, but embraced, celebrated, and glamorized. Thus, individuals living on college campuses are especially likely to drink to excess, as well as participate in binge drinking, which is even more dangerous.

Moreover, sociocultural perceptions of alcohol affect treatment. Cultures that condemn drinking are less likely to establish treatment programs, and individuals within such cultures may avoid entering treatment because they might incur the social stigma of being labeled an alcoholic.

Age Factors

A person’s likelihood of developing alcoholism is significantly tied to their age. The general trend of alcohol use in association with age reveals that individuals usually begin drinking in their late teens or very early twenties, have their drinking peaks in their mid- to late twenties, and slow their drinking down by their early thirties. As such, individuals entering their drinking peaks in their early or mid-twenties exhibit the highest rates of suffering from alcohol use disorders.

Curiously enough, the younger a person is when they first begin consuming alcohol, the more statistically likely they are to develop alcoholism later in life, well past the years where others slow their drinking down. And, this is most likely in people who begin drinking before age 15.

Educational Factors

Education also correlates directly with alcohol consumption, such that the more highly educated an individual is, the more likely they are to drink. In the United States, 80% of college graduates regularly consume alcohol, compared to just 52% of those individuals who have not attended college. Furthermore, college grads who regularly drink are 61% more likely to have consumed alcohol within the previous 24 hours than those who have not attended college or graduated.

Treatment for Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a devastating condition but can be treated effectively using a long-term integrated, evidence-based approach that includes behavioral therapy, counseling, psychoeducation, and group support.

Our addiction treatment center employs caring medical staff who specialize in addiction and deliver these services with compassion and expertise. We provide clients with the tools they need to recover and enjoy long-lasting sobriety and wellness.

You CAN restore happiness and harmony in your life – contact us now to find out how we can help!

Pancreatitis and Alcohol Abuse

Pancreatitis and Alcohol Abuse | Harmony Recovery Center

Pancreatitis and Alcohol Abuse – Many health problems can be caused by excessive alcohol consumption, and one of these is pancreatitis. But how exactly are pancreatitis and alcohol abuse related to one another?

Most people don’t worry too much about their pancreas, an organ located behind the stomach and below the ribcage. However, one should know that despite its small form, and the nominal amount of discussion it invokes, it’s pretty darn important.

The pancreas creates two substances essential for life: digestive liquids that the intestines use to break down food, and hormones, such as insulin, which are also involved in digestion and the regulation of blood sugar levels.

Pancreatitis occurs when the organ becomes inflamed, and its cells are damaged. There are two types of pancreatitis – acute, which is temporary and short-term, and chronic, which is prolonged and may never go away. Heavy alcohol consumption can be responsible for both of these conditions.

Acute vs. Chronic Pancreatitis and Alcohol Abuse

Acute pancreatitis

Most cases of acute pancreatitis develop rapidly. The pancreas incurs inflammation, but it only remains in this condition a few days and usually does not result in permanent damage. However, one in five cases of acute pancreatitis are considered severe, as enzymes from the pancreas can reach the bloodstream and result in more serious conditions, such as kidney failure.

Scientists aren’t entirely sure how alcohol causes this condition. One generally accepted theory is that the molecules in alcohol interfere with pancreatic cells and prevent them from working correctly. Regardless of the cause, however, make no mistake there is a definite association between acute pancreatitis and alcohol abuse – and the more you drink, the higher the risk of developing the condition.

Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain, usually behind the ribs and spreading through to the back
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever

Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed and remains in this state, then stops working correctly.

Symptoms include:

  • Recurring, severe pain behind the ribs and in the back
  • Weight loss
  • Presence of greasy, foul-smelling feces
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

Chronic pancreatitis is usually the result of repeated episodes of acute pancreatitis, most often caused by heavy drinking (although it can also be caused by gallstones). Over time, the pancreas suffers irreversible damage and becomes permanently inflamed. It may also be worse if you smoke tobacco – cigarettes are thought to amplify the harmful impact of alcohol on the pancreas.

Damage from chronic pancreatitis can be permanent, and if you are diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, you should stop drinking immediately and adopt a low-fat diet. These actions will decrease your risk of another episode and developing chronic pancreatitis.

The outlook for many cases of chronic pancreatitis is not great. The damage is irreversible, and people often need to go on medication to help them digest food and maintain blood sugar levels. It’s a painful disorder, but after years of treatment, the pain can improve or even subside altogether.

Chronic Pancreatitis Can Increase the Risk of Other Health Conditions

About one-third of people with chronic pancreatitis also develop diabetes. Because of damaged inflicted on the pancreas, it can no longer make the insulin needed to regulate blood sugar. However, it usually takes several years after a diagnosis of pancreatitis for this to happen.

Chronic pancreatitis can also cause a complication called pseudocysts, which are sacs of fluid that develop on the pancreas’ surface. In most cases, they don’t cause symptoms, but in some, they may lead to bloating, indigestion, and stomach pain.

Chronic pancreatitis also increases one’s risk of developing pancreatic cancer, which has a low survival rate (only 7% live for five years or longer).

And, of course, like any health condition that causes a tremendous amount of pain, chronic pancreatitis can profoundly affect a person emotionally and harm one’s mental health.

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

If you’ve been diagnosed with either acute or chronic pancreatitis and alcohol abuse is a problem for you, the most important thing you can do is to stop drinking alcohol immediately. By doing so, you may reduce the amount of pain you experience and prevent further damage to your pancreas.

Due to complications that can arise from abruptly halting excessive alcohol use, you should also strongly consider participating in a medical detox, a process that should then be closely followed by an inpatient addiction treatment program that can provide you with the tools and support you need to sustain long-term sobriety.

Our center offers comprehensive, evidence-based services that include behavioral therapy, counseling, and group support. Furthermore, we employ certified medical health professionals who specialize in alcohol addiction and deliver these services with care and compassion to all of our clients.

You can restore wellness and harmony to your life – contact us today to find out how we can help you recover!

Alcohol Dementia

Alcohol Dementia | Harmony Recovery Center

What is Alcohol Dementia? – There are many health effects related to alcohol use, both short- and long-term. Chronic, excessive alcohol consumption can result in an increased risk of developing many types of cancer, and can also result in a higher risk of liver-related disease.

However, it’s not only our physical health that we have to be concerned with regarding alcohol abuse – there are also a host of psychological effects that can develop due to, or be exacerbated by excessive drinking.

Alcohol dementia, also sometimes referred to as alcohol-induced dementia or alcohol-related dementia, is a term used to describe mental impairment caused by the overuse of alcohol. It is characterized by weakened cognitive and neurological functioning and is the result of massive alcohol intake over many years.

Of note, dementia from alcohol use can develop at any age and destroy the lives of its sufferers and those close to them.

Alcohol-Induced Dementia

Alcoholism is defined as the uncontrollable use of alcohol, despite adverse consequences that arise. Alcoholism can result in liver cirrhosis and a wide variety of other health conditions, but can also alter brain chemistry and damage/destroy brain cells.

Alcohol-related dementia (ARD) is a type of alcohol-induced dementia, in which patients who regularly abuse alcohol begin to experience symptoms related to damage to the front lobes of their brain. This can manifest as a loss of inhibition and consideration for the consequences that their behavior may incur.

But alcoholism can also contribute to brain dysfunction due to vitamin deficiencies that damage the brain and result in personality changes. Moreover, malnutrition can play a key role in the cognitive damage caused by alcoholism. The two main pathways to ARD are believed to consist of the following:

Wernicke’s encephalopathy (WE)

Also known as Wernicke’s disease, this condition is the result of thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency, which is most often caused by alcohol abuse and related vomiting and malnutrition. WE symptoms include mental malaise, confusion, erratic eye movement, impaired coordination, and amnesia.

Korsakoff’s Syndrome (KS)

KS, also caused by a lack of vitamin B1, is often a secondary consequence of alcohol abuse in many people and can result in vision changes and severe memory impairment.

The collective damage to the brain and body usually starts when sufferers first develop Wernicke’s encephalopathy. As the alcohol dementia stage progresses, WE can then cause Korsakoff’s syndrome. When both conditions are present at the same time, the resulting condition is referred to as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

People sometimes die from this condition because they do not receive appropriate treatment, or the people who suffer from it have irreversible brain damage.

In fact, around 25% of people with permanent brain damage from KS require long-term care in an institutional environment.

Other Effects of Alcohol Dementia

When a person develops dementia from excessive alcohol use, it can sometimes be challenging for this to communicate and perform complex motor tasks in addition to the memory problems. People who have abused alcohol may also suffer from nerve damage in the extremities, which can make some activities even harder.

Secondary symptoms and other conditions can also appear, including depression, anxiety, and psychosis. The damage done to the alcoholic’s brain in the frontal lobe can sometimes be confused with depression when in actuality, it is dementia.

How is Alcohol-Induced Dementia Diagnosed?

Of note, there are many similarities between alcohol-induced dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, although they are distinct from one another. Signs of alcohol dementia can include memory loss, problems performing tasks that should normally be familiar (e.g. dressing), judgment impairment and language problems. People close to the person suffering may also notice personality changes.

With KS, a condition which is characterized by the brain becoming atrophied, there can also be paranoia and agitation present. Sufferers may also experience a loss of muscle coordination and involuntary eye movements.

Alcohol-Induced Dementia Treatment

Alcohol Dementia | Harmony Recovery Center

If a person is experiencing dementia due to alcoholism and nutritional deficiency, dietary changes and quitting drinking may help. However, in those who have progressed past this point, there may be little that will help.

In any case, the first step should be to engage the person in an alcohol treatment program. If the signs of alcohol dementia are caught early on, it is still entirely possible for the person to recover and lead a fulfilling life, despite some damage that has already been done.

Moreover, if you think that you are an alcoholic, you should seek treatment as soon as possible to avoid the progression of your disease and the resulting effects that can occur, including alcohol-induced dementia.

Our center offers medical and mental health treatment for persons suffering from alcoholism and its many complications, including behavioral therapy, counseling, group support, and access to medications that can ease cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Alcoholism recovery is a lifelong endeavor, but you don’t have to suffer for the rest of your life – and we can help.