Hangovers Will Only Get Worse With Age

Hangovers Get Worse With Age

When we are young, we tend to feel invincible. We can pull an all-nighter, and still be awake – bright and bushy tailed – in time to face the challenges of a new day. Part of this optimism is just the youthful blessing of having a life of undiscovered adventure still awaiting us. Another part of this experience lies in the biological ability of a young body to regenerate itself. Both of these factors tend to diminish as we age, resulting in a lack of ability to spring back as readily from a drinking binge.

 

What Causes A Hangover?

The primary source of discomfort following a drinking binge is dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, which refers to anything which causes the body to relieve itself of fluids. The process of removing alcohol from the body activates this diuretic quality on two fronts. First, the introduction of the alcohol causes the body to react by transforming the attributes into a chemical called acetaldehyde, or ethanol. In large doses, this compound is toxic. The kidney, liver, and bladder are called upon to rid the body of this excess danger as quickly as possible, which results in the frequent urination which is often experienced. Valuable hydration is lost to the toilet, simultaneously, as the water which is normally stored within our cells is used to transport the acetaldehyde away.

A second form of dehydration occurs as a result of a decrease in the body’s production of vasopressin. Vasopressin is a hormone which causes the body to retain hydration and nutrients for the purpose of utilizing them effectively. Alcohol consumption limits the brain’s ability to order that this chemical process occur. With this hormone suppressed, liquids are told to pass directly through the body, and without first hydrating our cells. Our healthy water levels are sent down the drain.

 

Hangover Consequences

The physical response to this dehydration is most often a dry mouth, weak muscles, and a headache resulting from a shrunken brain mass. Along with the lack of fluids, the recovering body has also been depleted of vital nutrients, such as sodium; electrolytes; potassium; and glucose. This leaves a person feeling weak and lethargic, which often results in staying in bed for longer than intended. The body and brain are scrambling to find enough resources to function.

Polls have revealed that over 40 billion dollars are spent, annually, on the sick time used by those who are hungover.  Even for those who show up to work, productivity is negatively affected. Home life can also be negatively impacted, as those who are groggy with a hangover tend to be less patient, and more snappy. As we age, both work life and family life tend to increase in obligation, meaning that we aren’t as easily able to spare this recovery time.

 

Why Age Makes It Worse

It is a depressing aspect of aging that we tend to produce less energy and tend to recover from deficits more slowly than when we were younger.  The cells of our body lose the ability to duplicate effectively, over time. New cells which are produced are not as vibrant or resilient as the ones which came before. Robbing our cells of the nutrients which are negatively impacted by drinking provides these cells with even less fuel to use toward healthy duplication. This means that not only does the experience of recovering from drinking too much tend to get more uncomfortable as we age, we are also adding years to our life when we do it.

 

How to Stop Drinking So Much

Drinking, like many behaviors, can become a habit. The key to changing the habits which are no longer serving us is to develop and implement a strategy. Some strategies to consider are gaining education; maturing in friendships; engaging in new activities; and asking for help. You may benefit from one, or all, of these tactics toward reaping the benefits of maintained sobriety.

 

Educate Yourself About Health and Longevity

One of the best ways to change a behavior is to expose ourselves to new information. While simply stopping a behavior can be very difficult, replacing it with another one can make it easier. As you age, consider educating yourself on the types of things that your body and mind needs in order to reach a ripe old age. New diets, exercise routines, and self-care practices can become a part of your midlife resolutions. Your older self will thank you.

 

Socialize Differently

While younger years may consist of knocking one back with the boys during poker, or sipping that red wine during girl’s night out, socializing activities can mature along with our bodies. Your friends may look at you strangely when you initially begin to pass on that next round, but they will grow to respect the fact that your abstinence eventually results in your looking – and feeling – younger than the rest of them.

 

Find New Hobbies

Anyone who has been the owner of an aging canine knows that the popular adage is not true: You can teach an old dog new tricks. It may be the case that you have existed, thus far, on your nightly rum and coke, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t able to trade those habits for healthier ones. Even if you aren’t yet nearing your retirement years, establishment of some satisfying hobbies, now, can make that eventual transition much more fulfilling.

 

Seek Help

If none of these tactics are working for you, it may be time to ask for the help of a professional. Every year, over three million people reach out for assistance in reaching their goals of giving up the drinking, and there are many more who can benefit from it. In addition to the full experience of inpatient recovery facilities, many communities offer outpatient classes, support groups, and therapy for those who are desiring a life free from the negative impacts of alcohol.

 

 

How To Say “No” To Alcohol In A Social Setting

How To Say "No" To Alcohol In A Social Setting - TRC

Alcohol consumption is a very integrated part of our culture. It is hard to find a social setting – outside of recovery groups or church meetings – which do not serve it as a supposed enhancement to camaraderie.

For those who are seeking to abstain from alcohol, being surrounded by others who are imbibing can result in an uncomfortable position.

While battling our own temptations to drink, we may also be called upon to continually reject the suggestions from others that we “lighten up” with a drink or two. When facing the urge to give into something we already know is not good for us, it is helpful to be armed with some strategy toward staying strong.

Consider employing the following ideas as ammunition against the temptation to drink.

 

Understand the Brainwashing

Have you ever thought about the content of commercials for alcohol? Everyone is depicted as having a good time, whether dancing at a noisy club or resting on a sunny beach. When arriving at someone’s house for a party, a smiling guest – with perfect teeth, by the way – is always holding up a twelve pack. The media message is that drinking is a necessary part of being cool, having fun, and socializing.

There is a reason that these advertisements don’t use realistic settings. They don’t show the dive joint, where the old man has been sitting at a bar for years, destroying his liver and occasionally crying over his loneliness. They don’t train their cameras on the flashing red lights at an accident scene at 2:30 in the morning, as the firemen pull the bleeding drunk driver from the wreckage. And they don’t show the living room of the drunk couple, as they shout and throw things at each other while the children cry in the bedroom.

It is very important for the alcohol industry that drinking always – and only – be associated with friends and fun. Those who have observed the darker side of what alcohol can do are able to recognize this ruse.

The reality of the matter is that alcohol is a culprit in destroying the lives of many people. It is, in fact, ranked third as a factor in preventable cause of death.

 

Don’t Fight the Feeling, Fight the Action

Most of our temptations toward doing something counterproductive occur in the immediate moment.

We will be going along, just fine, and then suddenly be hit with an urge to drink. This urge can be particularly striking when we are surrounded by others who don’t appear to be having any trouble with using alcohol in moderation, and who are only observed as gaining the benefits of it. We can begin to feel as though we are doing well enough to get away with the same.

In between the feeling of desiring to drink, and the action of picking up the bottle, there is a small space. That space is the ability to think.

Rather than using that thought space to argue with yourself about the urge, try applying mindfulness techniques during that moment. Mindfulness involves acknowledging, rather than attempting to dismiss, the feelings which arise.

There is something about the feeling of temptation to drink which causes it to come back stronger, and with a vengeance, whenever it is suppressed or ignored. It can be like a pesky fly, landing on us again and again, whenever we are just intending to have a good time while sober.

Rather than batting that feeling away, over and over, take a moment to thoughtfully accept it. This feeling is real, and, wow, it can be powerful. Bringing that urge to drink out into the light of reality can diminish its impact, and can free us to continue our previous actions of socializing without it. Give that demon of temptation a name, and then tell it to sit back down.

 

Remember Your Past

Another way to resist the temptation to consume alcohol in a social setting is through taking the time to ponder why you stopped drinking, in the first place.

Chances are good that you didn’t start out with a full-fledged alcohol problem. You probably started slowly, with a few beers or glasses of wine while at dinner with friends, or while hanging out at the backyard barbecue.

The scenario which prompted you to start drinking, in the first place, may be the exact scenario which you find yourself in when the temptation hits you, now.

Not everyone eventually develops a problematic relationship with alcohol, but the fact that you are reading this indicates that you are not one who got away with drinking in moderation.

Some of us are more prone to act in extremism, or to seek to avoid emotional and mental discomfort through self-medicating. There was something about the alcohol which took you down a very wrong path, and the chances of escaping its grasp again – after being bound by its effects the first time around – aren’t in your favor.

While it is no fun to consider that the negative effects of something may be more powerful than we are able to withstand, for many, such is the case with alcohol. How many people were hurt by your drinking problem? How many chances were lost, and how much time was wasted?

These types of thoughts are called sobering for a reason. Calling upon them during times of temptation can cause them to work as your ally.

 

Remember Your Future

Another approach toward resisting the temptation to drink can piggyback on the considerations of why you choose not to drink.

When you envision your future, it is likely that the scenes which flash before your mind are not images of you drinking. They are likely images of you being successful in a career; being in a loving partnership; or enjoying time with the kids and grandchildren.

If you have already experienced the dark side of alcohol, you can probably surmise that these beautiful futures are unlikely to manifest with booze in the mix.

Socializing with Co-Workers When You’re Sober

Staying Sober with Co workers

It’s perfectly okay not to drink, and millions of people all over the country refrain from imbibing in alcohol out of religious reasons, personal preference, health problems, and addiction. However, it’s also important to acknowledge that drinking is a common pastime for many in the United States – and among company get-togethers and within exclusive clubs, bars, and meetings, alcohol can flow quite freely and may be commonly indulged in.

For many who are sober, this presents a great challenge. Many fear that refusing to drink might be a sign of disrespect, or that not drinking could potentially lower their chances of promotion. We’re here to not only dispel that fear, but to help you find ways to avoid awkward moments and deal with corporate situations wherein you might have to socialize with imbibing co-workers while completely stone-cold sober.

 

Drinking and Career Advancement

You can relax about your promotions – only a fraction of Americans attend happy hour with co-workers, and studies from not too long ago showed that Americans generally held a bias against people who are drinking at work. While that has changed and shifted, it’s important to remember that drinking is nonessential, and has no bearing on your effectiveness as a leader or decision maker.

While some studies suggest that those who drink during happy hour can come up with better unorthodox methods (thinking outside the box more often), your abilities as a sober person are more likely to have a bearing on whether you will be promoted than your abilities to perform while buzzed or tipsy.

 

Socializing While Sober

One of the greater fears for people in sobriety is that, when faced with having to socialize with others who are drinking, the difference in alcohol levels is likely to cause a little friction and awkwardness. However, there’s really not that much to worry about. People tend to avoid getting drunk at company socializing events, and a little alcohol, while likely to loosen some lips, is not likely to start anything you wouldn’t be able to handle while sober. You have to consider that if anyone did get seriously drunk, it would turn a ‘fun’ and loose event into something likely chaotic, destructive, and filled with serious consequences for the liable parties involved. Here are a handful of simple tips to help with the socializing.

 

Drink, But Do Not Drink Alcohol

The most awkward thing you could do during a corporate event involving alcohol is not drink at all. That doesn’t mean you need to imbibe in booze – stick to the classics, like a coke, a seltzer with lime, a club soda or some cranberry juice. Just don’t drink anything alcoholic, and don’t gulp your drink. Keep it easy, and simple. If someone offers to buy something for you, you can always just point towards your drink, give them a curt smile, and either continue the conversation with a different topic or walk away.

 

Avoid or Sandbag Talking About Sobriety

The first person to notice that you’re not drinking any alcohol is likely to ask you about it. Cue questions about religious background, addiction history or general substance abuse, and if you’re a woman, speculations that you might be pregnant. Don’t make a big deal out of it – if you feel it isn’t anyone’s busy, simply give them a short smile or chuckle and sandbag the topic. Immediately move onto something else or ask a question of your own.

If you do want to talk about your recovery, keep it short and simple. Don’t go into depth – just say whatever you feel comfortable revealing and control the conversation by moving onto a different topic or bringing a question for them to answer.

 

Focus on Good Small Talk & Work

The key to keeping things as minimally awkward as possible is to just have a breadth of topics to endlessly talk about. You can generally gauge how you should talk to a person depending on the information they convey through their choice of words, topics, and body language.

Someone feeling more lax and likely to make jokes is also going to be open to more informal topics of discussion. You could spend some time talking about whatever it is you may have in common, even if it’s as simple as a short opinion on the latest in cinema, or something you’ve been reading recently. If the conversation skews more towards something related to work, go with the flow.

Office small talk might not come naturally to you, especially if you’ve always felt a little out of your element and socially-awkward without the help of booze to loosen you up. However, practice is key. Start by keeping a simple little checklist of tips in your head and breathe. Don’t freak out or get nervous – you’re just talking.

Try and always ask questions. You’re generally going to minimize awkward pauses if you’re continuously asking questions. You’re also likely to get some questions in return, giving you the opportunity to talk about something you don’t have to come up with first. Keep your eyes on the person when they’re speaking, don’t interject verbally (just nod), don’t fidget too much with your hands (a little motion is fine, of course), and don’t talk too fast. Take a breath, slow down, smile. And, of course, consider the 60/40 rule: spend about 60 percent of the conversation listening, and just 40 percent of the conversation speaking.

 

If Possible, Suggest Activities Without Drinking

Happy hour at the office is an aspect of American work culture that has grown in recent years, but if you have any say in the team building activities your team or company engage in, try and skew the teambuilding into directions that generally forego drinking, for good reasons.

Go for a softball match, some paintball, indoor skydiving, and so on. There are countless ways to have fun as a team with your other co-workers and effectively socialize without a single drop of alcohol. All you need is an activity that doesn’t encourage alcohol, and a little imagination.

The Difference Between High & Low Functioning Alcoholics

High vs Low Functioning Alcoholics

You do not need to be the archetypal alcoholic to be struggling with alcohol use disorder. More than a caricature, alcoholism is a real and debilitating illness that can begin and develop in countless different ways, but always leads to the same tragic conclusion. Recognizing alcoholism means seeing the signs and catching the symptoms, rather than dismissing the possibility because it sounds too dramatic.

An alcoholic does not have to be desperate or functionally disabled to struggle with alcohol use disorder – sometimes, the addiction is hidden away, yet more powerful than most would assume. In many cases, people go on for years as functioning alcoholics before a specific event or time itself causes them to break down and experience a cascade of painful issues, both emotionally and physically. However, how do you differentiate a high functioning alcoholic from someone who struggles immensely to hide and deal with their alcoholism?

 

Defining Functioning Alcoholism

A functioning alcoholic can’t get through the day without a drink but can still perform their duties at the workplace and are present at home. Functioning alcoholics clearly have more control over their actions and are less affected by their own drinking, but they still have zero control over their addiction itself. Addiction is a progressive disease, in the sense that if you are not in treatment, your addiction will get worse over time as the effects of long-term alcohol abuse begin to set in both physically and mentally, and the urge to use grows stronger from week to week and month to month. All high functioning alcoholics either get treatment or eventually reach a point where they experience low functioning alcoholism. High functioning alcoholism can also be characterized by:

  • Alcohol is a requirement for stress relief
  • Friends and family have objected to the drinking, without avail
  • Often joke about being an alcoholic
  • Get drunk most days
  • Often drink alone, especially in the morning
  • Hide alcohol from others, or get angry when confronted about drinking
  • One or more legal issues related to drinking
  • Friends and family have had to cover for the drinking
  • In denial/unable to confront the possibility of alcoholism
  • Can maintain a job yet struggles some days
  • Still in a relationship, but with major issues/a codependent relationship

Many of the risks associated with being a high functioning alcoholic are the same as with low functioning alcoholics. High functioning alcoholics are still prone to making risky decisions, especially when drunk. These might range from regular black-out drinking (leading to potential memory problems, risk of alcohol poisoning, and major organ damage), to unprotected sexual encounters with strangers and drunk driving. High functioning alcoholics are still at a higher danger of engaging in violent behavior, inciting domestic violence, child abuse/neglect, and fetal alcohol syndrome.

The main characteristic of high functioning alcoholism versus low functioning alcoholism is the ability to hide the behavior and create convincing excuses for friends and family members. Neither an addict nor those who care about him or her want to believe that their behavior amounts to addiction. Addiction is hard, and takes time and effort to treat, and can ruin lives if left untreated.

However, it’s important to face the reality sooner rather than later, because an addiction is best treated when identified early. If you suspect that your loved one is an alcoholic, don’t wait for their condition to get worse, and don’t mistake ‘high functioning’ for healthy. Some people have a higher tolerance for alcohol than others, and people are free to choose to drink if they feel like it. But if their drinking is outside of their control, they may begin to not only engage in self-destructive behavior, but they may very well make choices that go on to endanger the lives of those they love and care for.

 

All Alcoholism Is Debilitating

Sooner or later, alcoholism becomes a disease that develops disability. Alcoholism can disable someone mentally as well as physically, severely impeding their ability to perform at work, at school, or even at home. Alcoholism can cause memory issues, can reduce a person’s functional attention span, can hamper their cognitive abilities and can lead to brain damage over time.

An alcohol-related illness or injury can put someone out of commission for months, years, or permanently. While ubiquitous and universally-loved, alcohol is recognized by the CDC as one of the leading causes of death in America. Excessive alcohol use has led to approximately 88,000 deaths each year from 2006-2010, with rising rates. Alcohol was deemed responsible for 1 out of 10 deaths in all working-age adults.

In moderation, the debilitating effects of alcohol use are minimal. Any alcohol use will cause negative side effects, and can cut down your life expectancy, but the same goes for many other things in life. But alcoholism does not understand ‘moderation’. For someone with an alcohol use disorder, the need to drink is compulsory, either due to an emotional drive or a physical dependency on the drug. In either case, however, treatment can help people make great strides towards long-term recovery.

 

It’s Never Too Late for Treatment

There is no deadline on when to begin treatment for alcoholism or any other form of addiction. And thankfully, there are no criteria for failing to recover from an addiction, other than the obvious one (death). Addiction treatment is meant to help addicts at any point in their journey, regardless of what factors contributed to the development of their addiction, from getting hooked on drugs at an incredibly young age due to a tumultuous and dangerous childhood, to relying on drugs as the only effective way to cope with a terrifying traumatic experience earlier in life. Many people get addicted to drugs, and they first turn to drugs for a large variety of reasons. Addiction treatment facilities do not judge people based on why they started using in the first place, but they do help individuals explore and consider how their past led them to drug use, and why they continue to rely on alcohol to stay happy.

Whether you find success in therapy, 12-step programs, rehab clinics or sober living homes, addiction treatment comes in many shapes and forms, changing and adapting to take into consideration any given patient’s circumstances and personal challenges.

 

Is Drinking Ever Again an Option?

Some high functioning alcoholics may feel that if they simply get over the reason for their addiction, they may be able to return to a life of casual drinking, and alcohol in moderation.

However, this simply isn’t very likely. Once you’ve gone through an addiction, that addiction will forever leave its mark on your brain. The cravings you experience from time to time (even years after rehab) are part of how addiction imprints on the mind, and a single drink can often be enough to send someone into an emotionally-fueled bender, often leading to death by overdose.

Life doesn’t have to be boring without booze – in fact, it can be much better. But it does take time to get there.

 

If you or someone you know needs help managing the recovery process, contact us today to see how we can help: 877-394-8810

7 Signs You’re an Alcoholic and Need Help

Need Help For alcohol

It doesn’t take a DUI, a tragic breakup or a classic sign of ‘hitting rock bottom’ to realize that you may have a problem with alcohol. Addiction can manifest in many ways, with various behaviors and patterns that might suggest maladaptive coping, or simply an inability to stop drinking. And, contrary to what some might think, you don’t have to go through the worst of it to finally be ready for help. Addiction can be treated the second it’s identified, provided that you go through the trouble of identifying it to begin with.

Before we get into the signs that might suggest you’re an alcoholic, it’s important to define alcoholism. While drinking often and drinking a lot is a strong sign, it’s not a dead giveaway. Plenty of people enjoy alcohol and have a high tolerance for it, but are not, in fact, addicted. It is by no means healthy to drink regularly (or to drink at all, for that matter), but addiction and preference are two different things. The difference is choice. An addict cannot choose – not while they’re still addicted, at least.

Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, is characterized by mild, moderate, or severe alcohol use in anyone meeting any two of 11 separate criteria consistently within a 12-month period. Like other addictions, alcohol use disorder is characterized by alcohol abuse (the excessive use of alcohol to cope with problems) and physical addiction (a dependence on alcohol, with withdrawal symptoms). DSM-5 asks several questions to help determine if someone is an alcoholic. Here are some signs that you may have an alcohol use problem.

 

If You’ve Wanted a Drink so Badly, Nothing Else Seemed to Matter

Alcohol has been a part of human culture for longer than most foods, languages, and laws – but there’s certainly such a thing as being too preoccupied with booze. You should never need to drink. It’s okay to want to drink, and it’s okay to have a drink now and again – but if you’ve ever felt for alcohol, chances are that your mind is already wired to think of booze as your first option for stress relief. This is a bad habit, and in some cases, it’s more advanced than you might think.

 

If You’re Still Drinking After Causing Trouble for Friends or Family

Another sign of alcoholism is continuing the habit despite clear consequences. It’s quite common, especially in a person’s younger years, to drink and cause a little bit of havoc with drunken behavior. Alcohol reduces a person’s inhibitions, and in teens and young adults especially, it is known for greatly increasing risk-taking behavior.

But there’s a line that if crossed clearly indicates that you should lay off the alcohol. If you’ve ever caused serious harm or potential harm to those around you due to alcohol but continue to drink, you should examine your priorities.

 

If Your Drinking Has Ever Gotten You Into a Situation Where You Could’ve Gotten Hurt

Fooling around is one thing, but if your alcohol use has led you to continue drinking and be drunk while driving, operating machinery, swimming in the ocean, or regularly engaging in unprotected sex, then you may have a problem with alcohol. Signs that indicate that you’re still prone to drinking when it can cause serious trouble for you can point to alcoholism, especially dependence.

 

If You’re Still Drinking Despite Health Problems Associated With Your Alcohol Use

Alcohol is very unhealthy. Alongside tobacco, alcohol use is a leading cause of death, contributing heavily to the declining heart health and organ health of hundreds of thousands of heavy drinkers around the country. Alcohol can increase the risk of many cancers, including cancer in the mouth, throat, larynx, colon, stomach, heart, lungs, and rectum. Alcohol also contributes to the risk of heart failure, stroke, and brain diseases associated with a rapid cognitive decline, including dementia. If you’ve been to a doctor and he has confirmed that your drinking may have contributed to a health issue you’re tackling (or is currently continuing to contribute to said health issue), it’s a good idea to stop.

 

If You’ve Tried At Least Once To Stop, Unsuccessfully

A clear sign of alcoholism is an unsuccessful attempt to stop drinking. You’re not in control of your habits if, in the middle of taking a break, you decide (for whatever reason) to drink again. There are plenty of ways to justify giving up a break from alcohol and going back to drinking, but if you’ve tried once or more to quit unsuccessfully, you’re very likely addicted to alcohol.

 

If You Spend a Lot of Time Drunk or Dealing With a Hangover

Drunkenness should not be a normal state, nor should post-drunken nausea and chronic headaches. Some people are “functioning alcoholics”, consuming alcohol in a near-perpetual state of inebriation, never too drunk, yet never quite sober either. If you start your day with alcohol and recall more time spent drinking than doing almost anything else, then it’s high time to address this destructive habit.

 

If You’ve Ever Felt Sick After Not Drinking for a While

In cases of physical dependence, the body begins to normalize drug use. Heavy alcohol use begins to numb the mind to the various ways in which the body is protesting your choice of drink and lack of other forms of nutrition, and the brain begins to get used to being drunk. Once you try to stop in that state, things go haywire. The accumulated damage dealt over time hits you all at once, and you’re in a state of nausea, with shivers, pain, and even hallucination. Alcohol is a particularly dangerous drug to stop cold turkey, because the withdrawal symptoms can be severe enough to cause death. Always quit drugs in the presence of a medical professional, or request detox treatment.

Addiction manifests itself in more ways than just one – but it doesn’t take too many signs to realize that you may have a problem with alcohol. If one or more of these signs applies firmly to you, then you should consider the possibility.

 

What Causes “Casual Drinking” to Cross the Line into Addiction?

Casual Drinking Can Become Addiction

Addiction is not a word to be taken lightly. It’s important to make sure that we understand the difference between liking something, doing something often, and being genuinely addicted to it. Addiction is not good, nor is it an indication that you’re fond of something. And when you’re at the point where you’ve realized you’re addicted, you often want to stop and would if you could but can’t.

For most people who have gone through being addicted, or are still addicted, the exact moment of when “casual use” ended, and addiction began, is unknown. It doesn’t just happen overnight, but it also isn’t something you really notice. It creeps up on you, like a gradual change. Much like a lobster in boiling water, you could very well be in too deep before you realize something is wrong.

Recognizing that you’ve gone past casual drinking and onto the ranks of addiction, however, is something else. You might not be able to pinpoint when it happened, but you can tell if it happened. But first, it’s time to define what it means to be a “casual drinker”.

 

Casual Drinking, “Problem Drinking”, and Alcohol Use Disorder

Contrary to popular belief, Americans don’t drink as much as you might think. This is increasingly becoming true in younger generations who drink much less than their parents and grandparents used to (part of a greater trend of avoiding a series of other vices). While the reasoning behind this change likely isn’t prudeness or a changing attitude towards alcohol and sobriety, it’s important to observe that the average casual drinker drinks much less than someone who might have a drinking problem.

About a third of the nation’s adults don’t drink alcohol at all. Another 30 percent drink less than one drink per week, either meaning they only drink on special occasions, or have a drink every other week. But the top 10 percent of drinkers in America consume over 10 drinks per day. That’s over 73 drinks in a week.

What this tells us is that over half of America either doesn’t drink, or drinks so rarely that they have less than a drink per week. In the meantime, the average drinks per day, per capita, if taking into consideration how much the whole nation drinks and splitting it evenly, we sit at about 9 drinks per week.

That doesn’t mean that 9 drinks per week are healthy, neither does it mean that 73 drinks per week immediately mean you’re an addict. A drink, by the way, is considered the rough equivalent of a single shot (1.5 oz), a single glass of wine (5 oz), or a single bottle of beer (12 oz). Note that alcohol content matters the most here, with a single drink corresponding to roughly 14g of pure alcohol.

According to the national Dietary Guidelines for Americans, men should be limited to two drinks per day, and women should be limited to one drink per day. However, countless news articles and studies contradict this, stating that drinking more often than thrice a week is a health hazard, and that drinking any alcohol at all is in fact detrimental to your health. It should be noted that the Dietary Guidelines clarify this by mentioning that if you don’t drink, you shouldn’t start.

So, what’s this all got to do with casual drinking? Not much, really. Rather, it’s to illustrate an important point:

 

It’s Not About the Amount

Casual alcohol use indicates any level of alcohol use that does not indicate alcohol misuse. This means casual drinking shouldn’t involve blacking out, vomiting, diarrhea, an upset stomach, excessive dizziness, shakiness, or delirium. Binge drinking, while technically referring to any alcohol use above the recommended amount, herein will be used to describe drinking more than a person is used to, moving past drunk and onto ill.

Everyone has a different alcohol tolerance level. This is determined by size, bodyfat, diet, health, age, drinking frequency, and genetics, among other factors. What might be too much for one person is barely enough to get tipsy for another, and so on. Understanding what your limit is can help you distinguish between casual or moderate alcohol use, and alcohol misuse. If you use alcohol to lighten the mood at a dinner, then it should be used more as an accompaniment to the food and conversation at the dinner table, than a means to tolerate an uncomfortable social occasion.

Alcohol use begins to veer off the side of moderation and towards “problem drinking” when drunkenness becomes a normal state of mind, when alcohol overuse symptoms become more frequent (including constant slurred speech, lack of restraint, dizziness, and memory problems), and when you continue to use alcohol despite clear legal and health issues. Once you realize that you can’t stop, you’ve reached the point of addiction.

 

Addiction Can Start at Any Time

A person can drink for years and not be an addict. Others get drunk the first few times in their early teens, and quickly find themselves dependent on booze. It’s difficult to predict whether addiction will happen or not, but a good indicator is when and how a person drinks. People who often drink to soothe themselves or go out drinking whenever they feel down are more likely to start relying on alcohol to the point that they become addicted to it.

Addiction is mostly a brain disorder, and it occurs physically rather than emotionally, but some people can be emotionally dependent on alcohol before they get physically hooked to the drug.

 

Identifying an Addiction in a Friend or Loved One

Identifying an addiction isn’t easy, especially if the addict knows how to cover their tracks. In the meantime, we might be quick to judge a friend for their alcohol use despite the fact that they aren’t addicted. You can drink on a daily basis and not be dependent on alcohol. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t advise your friend to reconsider their hobby for the sake of their health. Alcohol overuse, even if not part of a problem with alcoholism, can wreak serious havoc on a person’s liver, stomach, brain, and body.

If you think you or your loved ones are struggling with alcohol and genuinely can’t stop, you need to seek help. A professional can help you figure out how to stop, and how to stay sober.

You Can’t Drink Your Problems Away

Don't Drink Problems Away

It’s a simple but unmistakable truth – no matter how much you try to forget something, you can’t change the fact that it happened. But what you can do is change what you’re doing about it.

Many people start drinking as a way to cope with their present or their past. Sometimes, we just need to take the edge off. Sometimes, we’ve had enough and just need to check out. But we have to be conscious of the fact that once we’ve had our break, we’re back in reality – with nothing having changed.

There’s no denying that a break is important every now and again. No one can take constant stress – we’re just not built for it. But replacing your problems with an endless streak of highs is not the way forward, either. It’s more likely that you’re just piling onto an existing list of problems with even more issues, and everyone who still associates with you is getting hurt in the process.

Once you realize that, the question becomes: how can you move forward? The right answer is not easy, but it is simple – you need help.

 

Why Self-Medication Never Works

Self-medication is the process of taking a drug without it having been prescribed to you. In some cases, this is illegal at best, and harmful at worst. Antidepressants aren’t addictive, but the reason you still need a prescription for them is because they can have a series of unintended consequences, and the oversight and assistance of a trained psychiatrist is necessary to help you find the right medication for your symptoms and diagnosis.

Other prescription drugs, like anti-anxiety medication and narcotic analgesics like Vicodin and Oxycontin, is much more harmful, because these drugs can get you addicted very quickly. Sometimes, people start self-medicating with drugs that aren’t really medicinal, from alcohol to recreational marijuana.

Drugs are drugs, regardless of whether they have an RX label or not. Medicine is meant to heal and help – and if you don’t have a diagnosis that requires a specific drug, and are just taking it to feel better, then at best you’re in for a short time spent feeling just a little bit better, and at worst, you’re going to start needing the drug on a daily basis just to feel a semblance of normality while everything around you devolves into chaos.

Despite the name, self-medication doesn’t treat anything adequately. While you do feel better for a while, the long-term consequences are more severe than if you had done nothing at all. This is best described as a maladaptive coping mechanism – it helps you cope to some degree, but it doesn’t help you solve your problem at hand.

 

Maladaptive and Adaptive Coping Mechanisms

Other maladaptive coping mechanisms include going for illegal street races or speeding past local limits in nighttime joy rides, getting into fights, bullying others, engaging in otherwise risky behavior just to get off, or practicing self-harm. Any and all of these can be liberating and maybe even calming for a little while, but they can also leave you hurting even more.

Adaptive coping mechanisms are different. They help you cope, but they also help you either put yourself in a better position to solve your existing problems, or they directly contribute to solving your problems. Adaptive coping mechanisms include healthy levels of exercise, engaging in a paying hobby, creating art, writing in a journal, speaking to a friend or therapist about your issues, and making music.

One hurts you more, the other helps you feel better without putting you in harm’s way, or while even helping you with your situation.

Steadily eliminating maladaptive coping mechanisms while adopting healthier, adaptive coping mechanisms is an important part of being an adult, especially as we move past risky behavior to embrace ways of being that help us deal with all of the responsibilities and stress thrust onto us by life and others. But, not everyone can “steadily eliminate” their maladaptive coping mechanisms. If you’re seeing the bottom of a bottle (and the inside of a toilet bowl) more often than you’re seeing a resolution to your conflicts and issues, then you may have a drinking problem. Worse yet, if you can’t stop yourself no matter how much you want to, you’re likely addicted to the alcohol and have only added to a growing list of problems.

That’s when you need help. Asking for help is the first step in the right direction after struggling with addiction – this is not something you can just solve on your own, and even if you end up getting through it without professional help, it’ll take the support of your friends and loved ones to ride out the worst parts of recovery.

But past all that, you’ll still be facing your original stresses, problems, as well as anything new that might have cropped up in the meantime. When you can no longer resort to the drink (or any other kind of drug), it’s time to find better alternatives to help you cope.

 

Alternatives to Alcohol

Adaptive coping mechanisms have to just not hurt you or place you in even greater stress in exchange for a sweet but short ride. Many people get addicted because they start drinking excessively or using drugs out of a place of desperation rather than choice, but once you find the way out of that life, it’s even more important that you never find yourself in a situation where you’re going to have to plunge back in.

Start first by ensuring that you’ve got people who have your back. Relapses can be common in the early months of recovery, but even years after, it’s possible to slip up and go back to drinking if you’re having a particularly rough time and no good way to cope. Having friends there to keep you away from the bottle and help you out, even if just for a little while, is important. You need to learn to rely on others sometimes to get you out of a pickle. In exchange, be sure to be there and help them when they need you the most.

Good adaptive coping mechanisms combine a talent, interest, or hobby with something that’s likely to help you build off stress and unwind. Exercise is usually a good option, but it can be difficult to motivate yourself to hit the gym. Consider a form of exercise that you’re actually potentially passionate about, like dancing, or a competing sport.

If you’re more creatively oriented, then create. Take the time out of your day to dedicate an hour or so to making music, working on an art project, or writing articles or stories.

Drinking can help you forget that you have problems to begin with, but its only going to lead to more problems down the road. Pick coping mechanisms that help keep you sane and healthy, without being a cause for residential treatment and months of therapy.

 

Alcoholism Is Just as Deadly as Drug Abuse

Alcohol is Deadly

As a cultural icon, alcohol is one of the great mainstays of human civilization, alongside countless unique cuisines, and traditions of music, dance, and architecture. Almost every culture seemed to ferment crops and fruit for drink, at first by accident, or by influence. However, while we look at alcohol’s history through a glass of rosé, we have to realize that most drugs started this way.

Opium, although far more potent than your average spirit, was as important culturally as alcohol. Cannabis, natural hallucinogens like mushrooms and absinthe, and countless other drugs including coca and tobacco leaves have been discovered to not only evolve in use alongside human civilization, but they were used in prehistoric times as well.

We’re not the only animals to imbibe, either, as other animals purposefully consume fermented fruit and eat what might otherwise be hazardous to get a kick out of it. All this is to say that drugs are drugs, and alcohol is only one of several chemicals that we’ve relied on for millennia to have a “good time” – but that doesn’t change that it’s just as deadly as any other drug. In fact, alcohol is arguably one of the deadliest drugs in modern society.

 

Arguably the Deadliest

It’s important to specify that alcohol is considered one of, if not the most dangerous drug today due specifically due to the havoc it wreaks on society, as well as individuals. Alcohol and tobacco are two of the most carcinogenic drugs on the planet, and they’re also some of the most widespread, enjoying much more use – both casual and habitual use – than any other drug.

This is why alcoholism is considered the deadliest form of addiction. Because it is so widespread, binge drinking and heavy drinking have become serious issues, and as a result, the negative effects of alcohol are also significant and widespread. The correlation between alcohol being ubiquitous and the damage it can deal is correlated in Europe, which has higher rates of alcohol abuse and binge drinking among teens, as well as more alcohol-related deaths per capita. Individually, moderate to heavy alcohol use significantly increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, fatty liver, liver disease, stomach cancer, and stroke.

Societally, alcohol use correlates to higher workplace deaths, auto accidents due to impaired driving, as well as a statistical increase of domestic violence and general aggressive or violent behavior.

Note that it’s important to realize how context matters in these statistics and facts. While alcohol is linked to more violence, for example, it’s also important to distinguish correlation from causation. More alcohol in society means more violence. But on an individual level, this does not mean alcohol is the root of the aggressive behavior. As a depressant, alcohol lowers cognitive inhibitions, basically eliminating the anxieties that stand in the way between you and reckless behavior.

This means if you’re more likely to be aggressive in the first place – such as being very mad – alcohol removes the part of your thought process that usually has you thinking of the consequences of your actions, making it easier for you to rationalize beating someone, or being controlling, or acting out on your negative impulses. This is much more likely if you’re stressed, depressed, or highly agitated, and are drinking as a way to “deal with it”.

Alcoholism is just as serious of an issue as a heroin addiction, an addiction to cocaine, or a dependence on prescription meds. This matters for two reasons:

  1. There is a serious double-standard regarding the use of drugs, the dangers of addiction, and the casual availability and ubiquitous nature of alcohol. In terms of damage to the economy, loss of life, medical costs and general havoc, alcohol is bar none the most dangerous drug on the planet. However, we fail to recognize it as a deadly toxin. Up to 2.5 percent of teens under the age of 17 suffer from alcohol use disorder, as does 6.2 percent of the adult population (18+). Meanwhile, at least over half of Americans have had alcohol in the last month. This doesn’t mean the general use of alcohol should be vilified, but there is a cognitive dissonance between the realities of what a drug is, and the way Americans see drug use and the people who engage in drugs.

 

  1. While alcohol use is more casual and more common than the use of most other drugs (especially illicit drugs), there is still a large portion of people who see alcoholism as personal failing, and a character flaw, rather than as a sickness. Some people conflate addiction with the inability to make good choices due to a person’s own failure, rather than recognizing it as the inability to stop using due to the drug’s own influences. Others accept alcoholic behavior as normal and see both binge drinking and heavy drinking as acceptable. While it is true that not all heavy drinkers are addicts, heavy drinking often leads to alcoholism, or if not that, then any number of potentially fatal diseases.

 

Why Do We Drink So Much?

There are several reasons behind why alcohol is the biggest and most dangerous drug, the first being the fact that it is far more socially acceptable to drink than it is to do a line of coke or abuse painkillers. People are more likely to turn to alcohol than any other drug for emotional numbing, simply because it’s more readily available. Alcohol is also more toxic and arguably worse for the human body than many other substances, not because drugs like heroin and cocaine are significantly less deadly (as it is just as easy, if not easier to overdose), but because even moderate, controlled alcohol use is likely to affect your health in a statistically relevant way.

Alcohol is not as addictive as most opioids or stimulants, but it is still addictive. This is another reason why many Americans drink – some of them simply cannot stop. And because drinking often is not necessarily stigmatized, it can take years or a terrible event before drinking habits are recognized as a dangerous disease rather than an actual choice.

Thankfully, alcoholism is treatable. Physical dependence often means that you cannot readily choose to stop – but by getting help and treatment, especially at a residential facility or a sober living community, you can give your mind and body the time and resources they need to properly heal.

 

Combining Alcohol and Drugs Yields Deadly Results

Combining Alcohol and Drugs

We know that certain things don’t mix. But some things can react quite violently if put together. Bleach mixed with a strong acid produces deadly chlorine gas, for example, and taking certain medication with other medication can lead to fatal side effects.

NSAIDs can prolong bleeding in the body by inhibiting the formation of a chemical that aggregates platelets and helps in the clotting of blood cells and stopping of bleeds. Taking an NSAID with a blood thinner can be a very dangerous combination. And in the realm of addictive drugs, the use of several different drugs can yield deadly results.

 

How Alcohol Affects the Body

Alcohol is one of the most used drugs in the country, consumed at least once by an estimated 86 percent of American adults. Alcohol is older than humanity, some researchers posit, as evidence shows we may have been consuming alcohol in one form or another before the modern human showed up. In fact, we’re not the only species to enjoy booze deliberately, and addiction is not a problem unique to humans.

That being said, even after millennia of alcohol consumption, we haven’t necessarily learned to take our liquor very well. Alcohol is still destructive to the human body, and potentially very dangerous, leading to symptoms such as memory loss and lack of coordination before crossing over into dangerous territory, often causing death through automobile accidents and overdose.

Yet certain drugs can amplify the effects of alcohol or are amplified by alcohol.

 

Alcohol & Cocaine

Alcohol and cocaine, when mixed, form cocaethylene, a chemical that builds up in the liver for a very long time due to having a significantly increased plasma half-life, putting both the heart and liver under immense amounts of stress. This causes an overdose as a faster rate than taking the drugs separately, and also leaves lasting damage in both the heart and the liver. It carries an up-to 25-fold increase in risk for immediate death over cocaine.

 

Alcohol & Heroin

Heroin and other opiate drugs work very differently to alcohol yet possess many of the same qualities. Both drugs cause people to feel sluggish and drowsy, and both have the potential to stop a person’s heart and respiratory organs from functioning properly. Taken concurrently, the risk of that happening increases significantly. This goes for both heroin and other opiates, including prescription opiates. When taken together, heroin and alcohol significantly impair motor function and lead to a person potentially suffocating. Even surviving an overdose like that can leave lasting damage, as the central nervous system begins to die without oxygen, causing paralysis and other problems.

 

Alcohol & Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine, or crystal meth, has been a growing phenomenon in the US, overshadowed by the meteoric rise of opioid addiction and opioid overdose. On its own, methamphetamine ranks as one of the most dangerous and common stimulants in the world, because it is rather cheaply manufactured, requiring only a few precursor chemicals, and because it is far more potent than most other stimulants, including amphetamine (Adderall).

However, the risks that meth pose to the body are significantly amplified by alcohol usage. Meth with alcohol can lead to damage in the circulatory and nervous systems, hallucinations, psychosis (experiencing things that aren’t real), seizures, and a host of related issues due to cognitive impairment and emotional instability.

 

Alcohol & Marijuana

The main effect of combining alcohol with marijuana is that it significantly increases the length of a high, and the potency of a high. Because the liver prioritizes metabolizing alcohol before THC, the THC in your bloodstream ends up waiting in a queue of sorts, leading to a much longer high than usual. It also leads to significantly increased blood concentrations of THC.

Furthermore, THC is known for its antiemetic effects. These are often quite useful for terminally-ill patients and cancer patients going through chemotherapy, as antiemetic drugs prevent vomiting. However, when taken with alcohol, inhibiting the ability to vomit actually massively increases the risk of the drug. This makes it more difficult for the body to purge alcohol out of itself prior to an overdose.

 

Alcohol & Benzodiazepines

It’s crucial to recognize the dangers of combining depressant drugs. Drugs with similar effects often compound each other, leading to an additive effect. This means that combining two drugs like alcohol and benzodiazepine, which both affect the brain in similar ways, can be highly dangerous.

However, the results are rarely fatal. Instead, benzodiazepine plus alcohol points towards an entirely different sort of fatal mistake: most forms of benzodiazepine abuse and dependence also involve the concurrent use of alcohol.

Even if the drugs are rarely fatal, benzodiazepines when mixed with alcohol still become potentially fatal, while the drugs by themselves cannot usually cause an overdose without ingesting an extremely large amount of them. The effects of taking benzodiazepine and alcohol together include:

  • Fatigue
  • Impaired Cognition
  • Impaired Memory
  • Memory Loss
  • Depression
  • Slurred Speech
  • Stumbling/Lack of Coordination

Benzodiazepine is used to treat severe anxiety symptoms, and while it can be addictive, it is generally considered low risk compared to other forms of anti-anxiety medication. Older, more potent sedatives such as barbiturates and tranquilizers are far more powerful, and far more dangerous. Mixing alcohol with stronger sedatives can cause slower heart rate and respiration, causing the body to slow down to the point where it no longer supports vital functions.

Drugs are dangerous, period. However, most Americans try an illegal drug at least once in their lifetime. That being said, only a fraction of them get addicted. The numbers seem to suggest that few people end up getting hooked on drugs – but the reality is that the factors that determine drug use and dependence are often uncontrollable. Genetic predisposition towards a certain drug accounts for a significant amount of the risk, meaning, while your friends might experiment with drugs without developing a habit out of it, you might find yourself struck more potently by a drug’s addictive potential. Stress, especially at a younger age, compounds the issue and makes it worse.

Research also suggests that a significant amount of people hooked on a substance are often using more than one drug, together. The interactions between certain substances can at times be fatal, and without the right knowledge, taking the wrong two drugs can lead to death. It’s important to recognize how certain drugs interact especially with alcohol, as it is arguably the most ubiquitous drug in the world.

 

Confronting Someone with A Drinking Problem

Confronting Someone About Drinking

Roughly one in eight Americans is alcoholic, and another eighth of the country struggles with high-risk drinking. These facts present an America that has a serious drinking problem – and as a result, most people in America know one or more people who struggle to properly manage and moderate their alcohol consumption and keep it to a responsible level.

Confronting someone about their drinking is very difficult. Some people are highly defensive, seeing drinking as a refuge from responsibility and a way to unwind – a treat they deserve after hours of stress and frustration. Others are acutely aware that their drinking is problematic, and it is a cause for great shame to them – making it a particularly sensitive topic.

Sometimes, a person might try to deflect from their drinking, through jokes or otherwise. It’s natural to be apprehensive about the topic of addiction – for many in the public, addiction is seen as a disease brought on by a lack of inhibition. In other words, someone who is addicted is often gluttonous or morally bankrupt, and the two concepts – addiction and moral failure – are difficult to divorce in the minds of many. As such, few people would ever want to admit to an alcohol problem, or an addiction.

Getting someone to realize they have a problem is only possible if they’re convinced of the severity of their situation, and the possible consequences it can bring. Addiction is a disease, but it’s a treatable one. Many alcohol addiction treatment centers dot the country, working hard to help patients get clean, stay clean, and learn how to live clean lives. If you’re worried someone you know, or love is struggling with a drinking problem, then approaching them about it will be a challenge. But if you’re prepared, you may be able to get through to them.

 

Defining a Drinking Problem

A drinking problem is also known as alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder. Because alcohol is an addictive substance, people who consume alcohol are at risk for developing an emotional and/or physical dependence on the drug. There are ways to recognize a drinking problem. These are predominantly:

  • Drinking more than intended.
  • Unable to stop drinking, or even cut back.
  • Drinking regularly, especially to relax or unwind.
  • Being permanently drunk, with very little time spent sober.
  • Struggling to maintain a job or follow through with responsibilities and commitments.
  • Missing social occasions and withdrawing from others.
  • Irritability and/or depressive symptoms while sober.

The characteristics for a drinking problem are the inability to stop despite wanting to and struggling to cut back despite clear and severe consequences, from people getting hurt emotionally, to relationships coming apart, and careers ending.

Contrary to popular belief, an addict does not have to hit rock bottom to begin treatment. In fact, it’s much better to treat an alcohol use disorder as quickly and as soon as possible. The trick is convincing your loved one or friend that they have a problem – but you needn’t wait until they’ve hit rock bottom to do that, either.

 

What to Say and What Not to Say

When speaking to someone who may have an alcohol use disorder, it helps to know what kind of language best comes across as helpful, and what kind of language is likely to shut down any kind of amicable or honest conversation. Consider:

  • Pointing out behavior that worries you, not out of judgment but out of loving concern.
  • Express how you feel, and don’t assume how they feel. Stick to “I” rather than “we”.
  • Do not preach to them or claim a moral high ground of any kind.
  • Do not try to tell them how their drinking is statistically destructive, or negative in any abstract way – focus instead on real examples of behavior that worries you, rather than behavior they haven’t exhibited.
  • Do not threaten or beg them to stop.
  • Do not expect them to get better on their own.

 

Suggest Help

The most critical part you must play in all of this is to convince your loved one or friend that they need help. Ultimately, it’s their choice – but remind them that their actions are not taking place in a bubble. What they do affects those around them, and if their drinking has escalated to a level where it is becoming emotionally, financially, and physically harmful to others, it’s important to make them aware of that fact and help them find someone to treat the condition.

Start by consulting your doctor or find a nearby specialist in addiction medicine. Look for treatment facilities and sober living homes in the area.

 

Watch Your Own Health

If your loved one is struggling with addiction, then you are intimately affected by their condition. It can be very difficult to support someone through recovery, and it can be ever harder to see them relapse, lose hope, and become frustrated. Yet with your support, your loved one will be able to cut their addiction loose and live a better life – if they continue to stay committed to their sobriety, despite initial setbacks and bumps.

As time goes on, however, this can take its toll on people. Partners, children, parents, and friends alike will find moments of frustration, fear, and helplessness in the face of relentless addiction. Maintaining the flame of hope can be exhausting, and sometimes, you will truly believe it’s gone out.

That is why it’s important you have someone to lean on, as well. Recovery is one of life’s many challenges, but challenge has a million different names. If you cannot manage to maintain a healthy mindset, it’s important to take a step back and consider your own health. Consider your priorities and your responsibilities and consider how you may be able to reduce the burden you’re experiencing. It’s important to be honest about these things – ignoring your own mental health to support someone else is irresponsible and dangerous and could cause you to plummet into your own downward spiral.

Take measures to reduce excess stress, delegate tasks and responsibilities, seek out help and support, and take time regularly to care for yourself and your own needs and interests. If you can’t function as a healthy human being, then you can’t support your loved one through their challenges either. If possible, lean on each other and give each other strength. Many addicts need help – but the ability to help others despite the addiction can be a powerful source for self-affirmation and hope. Giving feels better than getting, after all.