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.


Recognizing Alcoholism in Your Family Members

Alcoholism in Family Members

Alcoholism can be a terrible disease, but it’s frighteningly common in the United States. More than just a drinking problem, alcoholism is a total addiction or dependence on alcohol. When a person is dependent on a substance, their behavior changes to fit their new priorities, which can often have dire consequences for them and those around them.

Worse yet, addiction often suggests a history of substance problems. Research suggests that genetics play a large part in the risk factors surrounding brain diseases like alcoholism. While it’s important that the nature of statistics ignores the fact that individuals are unique in nature and shouldn’t be grossly generalized, it’s also important to recognize that if alcoholism is present in your family, there is a greater chance that you or someone else will develop the habit as well.

Knowing what alcoholism looks like is the first step to helping a family member seek the help they need to get better. Addictions are not solved overnight, and dependence on a substance often leads to dangerous and significant withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings, requiring treatment clinics and medical attention to safely transition from addiction to long-term sobriety.


What Alcoholism Looks Like

Alcoholism, or alcohol addiction, is a condition where the brain develops a dependency on alcohol. This dependency is characterized first by tolerance, and second by withdrawal symptoms.

Tolerance is when you need more of something to experience the same effect. If you need to drink more to get a buzz, chances are that your brain is working hard to normalize the effects of alcohol, pushing the body into overtime to metabolize the drug faster than it used to. On the other hand, it’s also adapting to a regular flow of alcohol, meaning you begin to experience adverse physical effects if you stop drinking.

Other signs of alcoholism include:

  • Losing control over your drinking.
  • Wanting to quit but being unable to.
  • Requiring alcohol to deal with life.
  • Prioritizing a drink over the things you used to care about.
  • Putting yourself or others in harms way with your drinking.


Why Alcoholism Can Run in the Family

It’s estimated that addiction is about half genes, half environmental. This is a significant split. It’s true that people with addiction in the family are exposed to it, often early on, shaping their relationship with problems, and the use of drugs for problem-solving. But this is an environmental risk rather than a genetic risk, suggesting that this does not affect a person’s chances of getting addicted as much as their genes do.

So why do we turn to addiction more often if others in the family decide to drink away their problems? Because our genes are an evolutionary tool to help each generation survive on the planet. The issue with that is that addiction can be considered something of an evolutionary oversight, although that’s not entirely accurate. We are addicted to things because they mess with our dopamine-based reward system, which is inherently used to make us crave certain foods, look for sex, and generally “enjoy” things. This was a big advantage in the days of early man, but it’s easily exploited nowadays. A preference for alcohol becomes hardwired in the brain, and is passed on through the genes, little by little, over generations.

But risk is risk, not destiny. There is no such thing as predestined addiction, and if you have not developed alcoholism, there is no reason to believe you will. If someone else in your family has, you can still help them get better.


Getting Help for Alcoholism

The help an alcoholic requires depends on the severity and length of their addiction. Long-term, very heavy drinkers will require medical assistance throughout the first few days, as alcohol withdrawal can be very painful and potentially fatal. It also takes time for alcohol to completely flush out of the system, and even more time for withdrawal to complete.

Once detox and withdrawal are over, the cravings can kick in. Rehab is a good place to start because it puts people in an environment without temptation and helps them work through the issues surrounding their addiction, from personal problems to family history, and codependent mental illnesses like depression.

Sober living homes are another option, either as a first choice or as a way to transition from rehab into regular living with a much lower chance of relapse afterward.


Sober Living for Alcoholism

Addiction treatment begins with abstinence. You simply stop drinking. That’s not necessarily difficult. What’s difficult is maintaining that abstinence past the initial few days of sobriety.

Sober living homes are perfect for individuals who have made it through the withdrawal period but still need help staying sober. The urge to drink is strong, especially out of rehab, when transitioning from rehab life into regular life. Life is full of expectations, responsibilities, hardships, and challenges. As individuals, we commit ourselves to family and friends, to interacting socially with one another, to engaging in relationships despite risk of severe emotional pain.

Pain lurks around every corner in the real world – but only the risk of it, the potential of it. Alternatively, we can find happiness in every single day, hidden away where we might not usually look. Keeping your life open to opportunities and embracing them fully is the only way to live a full life, but that means experiencing pain from time to time when things don’t go your way.

With a history of addiction, coping with this pain without relapsing is very difficult. But sober living homes are meant to help you do that, by reintroducing vital aspects of life outside of the treatment facility without dropping the most important rule: no drugs. At a sober living home or community, you’re guaranteed a drug-free living space, but are still expected to play a part in the community, help out, maintain a job or going to school, cultivate a skill or enjoy a hobby, and regularly go to group meetings to socialize and discuss.

Anything new can be difficult to deal with, and with a history of addiction, too many difficult things all at once can create the perfect temptation for drinking. But by living in a sober community, that option disappears, and you’re left with healthier alternative stress management techniques, from therapy to exercise, art, or meditation. With time, these techniques become your primary way to cope with life’s challenges as memories of addiction fall into the background, and your recovery from addiction will be essentially complete.


Health Risks Associated with Alcohol

alcohol health risks

Alcohol is one of mankind’s oldest vices, dating back millennia to a time before writing. Yet despite being an ancient tradition in countless cultures, it is not necessarily a wise one: research shows that even a minute amount of alcohol can have long-term health effects, and that any possible benefits gained through moderate alcohol use are typically overshadowed by the negatives of alcohol in the human body.

Another problem that presents itself is that many people do not drink moderately – while most don’t often engage in dangerous binge drinking, a sizeable portion of the population consumes way too much alcohol way too fast, leading to a large list of health hazards down the line.

Culturally, alcohol – especially in large amounts – is a common part of social festivities in many places around the world. But by better understanding the risks of drinking too much – and drinking at all – we might be able to give people a chance to turn a sober eye at the realities of booze and how it affects the nation, and every individual, physically and mentally.


Alcohol is Not Healthy

The common misconception that a moderate amount of alcohol can be good for you is, ultimately, a dispelled myth. Alcohol is always a risk, and while moderate amounts are less risky than excessive ones, drinking alcohol always means increasing your risk of certain health conditions, including cancer and heart disease.

Lifestyle choices have a massive impact on our health – what you choose to put into your body and how you choose to treat your body play big roles in your health especially as your age advances.

Staying active not only staves off heart related illnesses, but reduces the pain associated with age-related arthritis, reduces back pain, and relieves mobility issues from stiff joints and immobile tendons.

What you eat and what vices you indulge in reduce or increases your chance of STDs, cancers, and various other illnesses. And alcohol, if taken at all, can influence your heart, brain, liver, and lifespan.


How Alcohol Affects the Heart

The heart pumps blood through the body but struggles to do so when some of the blood vessels it’s pumping through become blocked. Unhealthy lifestyle choices, including excessive alcohol consumption, lead to increased plaque in the bloodstream, thus increasing blood pressure and leading to a higher risk of heart failure, as well as cardiac arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy, and sudden death.

There has been a series of articles in the past describing the benefits of red wine for the heart, but further research suggests there’s more to the link than meets the eye. The link between heart health and red wine was established due to the “French paradox”, which suggested that the French, despite high rates of fat and dairy in their diet, had less of a history of heart disease.

However, newer research shows that French and American rates of heart disease are closer than previously thought, possibly due to a time lag – while Americans and British have had higher rates of heart disease and obesity due to increased animal fat consumption, the French are catching up. Another possibility is that many of the benefits associated with the French diet may be due to their general Mediterranean food habits – i.e. a diet rich in organic vegetables, legumes, nuts, and fish. These habits are disappearing in an increasingly urban France, leading to higher rates of obesity and heart disease.


How Alcohol Affects the Liver

People have recognized a link between liver failure and alcohol consumption more than two centuries ago, and modern research has backed it up thoroughly. The liver is highly susceptible to excessive alcohol consumption because it is the main organ with which the body processes alcohol.

Alcohol is not a healthy substance – as the body breaks it down, very dangerous byproducts are created in the liver, increasing the risk of cancer and damaging the liver itself. Because the liver is paramount to keeping us alive when we ingest something we shouldn’t, it has outstanding regenerative properties, to the point that you can donate portions of your liver and have them grow back.

However, too much alcohol will irreparably damage your liver, causing cirrhosis or alcoholic hepatitis.


How Alcohol Affects the Brain

Not only does alcohol affect the heart and liver, but it has a serious effect on the brain – especially in the long term. Alcohol consumption gradually shrinks the hippocampus, messing with reasoning, risk-assessment, and memory. Meanwhile, it’s mimicry of the GABA neurotransmitter affects your balance and social inhibition, while temporarily lowering anxieties in low dosages.

All in all, long-term alcohol usage cuts into your ability for critical thinking, causes frequent blackouts in memory, affects your reward system increasing the risk of addiction, and slows your reaction times, causing you to appear sluggish and slurred.


The Risk of Addiction with Alcohol

Alcohol is an addictive drug, like nicotine, cocaine, and opioids. Due to the sheer volume of alcohol in America and the role it plays culturally, it is also one of the more dangerous addictive drugs, because it is so difficult to avoid. An addiction to alcohol – or alcoholism – severely increases health risk because of an addiction’s nature to consistently consume alcohol. Addiction, however, is not a direct evolution of binge drinking, which remains to be the highest cause of alcohol-related deaths from alcohol poisoning to traffic accidents. Many people binge drink without getting addicted, yet still endanger their lives and those of others.

Some argue that the stress-reducing effects of alcohol in moderate amounts may make it healthier for people with highly stressful lifestyles, but this is a flawed way of looking at the problem.

For one, alcohol can increase symptoms of anxiety and depression in the long-term, contributing to the development of stress-related diseases, alongside hypertension and heart disease. Most people with stressful lifestyles tend to “go big” in all things, including consumption, making alcohol a bad source of stress-relief due to all its other health factors.

Ultimately, the best way to relieve stress is to lead a less stressful life. Someone willingly living a high-stress lifestyle must confront the risk that lifestyle inherently possesses, and there is no good way to increase longevity when you’re overworking yourself – other than to cut back on everything.

As in all things, the choice is yours – and this is a recommendation, not a commandment. Alcohol will not definitely destroy your life, but it should be treated like any other drug: with caution.


How Excessive Alcohol Use Damages Your Body & Mind

Problems With Alcoholism

Heroin and prescription opiates alone have caused roughly over 45,000 deaths in the last year, accounting for the majority of overdose deaths in America. For the past year, headlines regarding the opioid crisis have warned, time and time again, that this is a growing and catastrophic issue for society. Countless articles recount how the prescription drug market and growth in the illegal production and distribution of heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl all played a part in the tragedy.

The opioid crisis is real and has been a medical and societal issue for years, now reaching a critical point. However, it is just as critical to remember that opioids are not the only issue here.

Drug use is prevalent throughout the US not solely because of faulty laws, but because of a widespread cascade of issues going back decades. In terms of lives claimed and damage dealt, dangerous and lethal drug isn’t fentanyl – it’s alcohol.

Rather, it’s the excessive consumption of alcohol. Alcohol use claimed about 88,000 lives per year before 2010, being responsible for about 10 percent of all deaths in adults aged 20-64 – a massive percentage of the population. People use alcohol on social occasions to celebrate special moments, and to toast to one another – but many use it to cope with personal and financial issues, drown out deep sorrows, or unwind after a hard day’s work, drinking more and more until the drinking can’t stop.

Sometimes, alcohol use leads to disease. More often, it is the cause for road and work accidents. And then there are times where years of alcohol use lead to alcoholism, and the inability to cut off from the drink – a deadly and serious addiction.

Alcohol is ingrained in society, as the prohibition proved. But binge drinking and excess consumption does not have to be a major issue. Stopping teens from binge drinking and helping both children and adults understand that legal drugs like prescription medication and alcohol require careful and responsible consideration is important. These measures have already helped cut back on the damage alcohol does, reducing deaths caused by alcohol year after year.

To further understand why it’s important to find ways to cut back immediately, it’s important to see what happens under the hood when alcohol makes its way through the body on the regular.


More Than Just the Liver

Even at “reasonable” or “responsible” levels, alcohol use will take years off your body’s biological clock. There is no way around this fact – while research previously hinted at the possibility of alcohol as part of a healthy and balanced diet, there is very little research currently valid that suggests this is true. At the very most, a small amount of alcohol here and there can protect the heart from a heart attack. But in most cases, alcohol consumption – even moderate consumption – raises the risk of other diseases and can lead to a quicker death.

But excessive alcohol consumption has very clear physical consequences. Aside from viciously attacking the liver – the organ that goes through the trouble of filtering and metabolizing alcohol – alcohol also damages the heart, the brain, and the pancreas, while potentially kickstarting cancer in the mouth, throat, breast, and liver.

Brain damage through alcohol consumption leads to lapses in memory, trouble concentrating, changes in mood and behavior, as well as permanent problems with both coordination and critical thinking/rationalization, leading to tremors and reduced cognitive capabilities.


Alcohol and Mental Impairment

We have discussed how excessive alcohol use can severely damage the organs of the human body and leave us mentally struggling – compromising how we think, reason, and remember things in our lives.

But more than that, alcohol also has a direct effect on our interactions with other people, ranging from mildly positive effects to wildly dangerous and lethal. While it is a myth that alcohol is guaranteed to make you more aggressive or angry, alcohol does lower your inhibitions, thus cutting down on the amount of thought and consideration put into any action. There is a reason alcohol was often referred to as “liquid courage” – in a way, it takes away fear and anxiety. But there are many times when fear and anxiety keep us from doing very dangerous things, including instigating violence when provoked or otherwise threatened, or agreeing to situations that end up in injury, or worse, death.

Alcohol also impairs a person’s ability to move, both on their feet, and in the operation of heavy machinery. This can lead to accidents in the workplace, on the highway, and elsewhere. Sometimes it’s as innocent as a trip down a small flight of stairs, with some bruising and no broken bones – at other times, it can cause a tragic collision or end in amputations and death at construction sites and in shipping yards.


Get Help Today

From liver cirrhosis to heart failure, throat cancer, car wrecks and brain damage, alcohol has a long list of very dangerous side effects associated with long use. No matter how normal it might seem to consume more than the CDC recommends – and no matter how much you may believe your tolerance allows your body to drink much more than is ever recommended – if you binge drink often or generally consume excessive amounts of alcohol, then it is safe to say that you are at risk for a life tragically cut short. Or, worse yet, several lives tragically cut short.

We are all in control, and totally accountable for our actions – until we are not, and everything is suddenly where it should never be. Do not wait until it’s far too late and get help. Treatment exists, and it works. From talk therapy for overcoming emotional pain associated with self-medicating through alcohol, to treatments that specialize in helping you cut alcohol out of your life and make it through withdrawal symptoms alive, there are countless clinics with residential and outpatient programs to help you accommodate addiction treatment and therapy into your life. Sober living homes give you a chance to adjust to living without the drink in a temptation-free environment, where you can work and interact with others who are on a similar path.

There are countless ways to treat alcoholism and put you on a straight path towards better health. And there is no way that excessive alcohol leads to a good end.


How Alcohol Impairs Judgment

Alcohol Impairs Judgment

You only need one statistic to be convinced of the damage alcohol wreaks on society. Every single day, an estimated 29 people die in the United States due to car accidents involving alcohol. Drunk driving kills one person roughly every 50 minutes, and over a million Americans were arrested in 2016 for driving under the influence. Fortunately, drunk driving fatalities have decreased by over 50% since 1982, indicating a downward trend despite the high death toll.

Aside from car accident-related deaths, it’s also important to note that one in six US adults consumes excessive alcohol about once a week, with a total of roughly 7 drinks per session. This is classified as binge drinking, and massively increases a person’s risk of injury, death, and disease.

Outside of these dangers, there is also a percentage of the population that succumbs to alcohol dependency, or alcoholism. This affects about 16 million Americans.

While the opioid crisis continues to rage on and overdose deaths caused by both prescription pills and illegal heroin call for a closer look, there are plenty of other drugs causing chaos in the US. Marijuana, methamphetamine, and cocaine are just a few illegal drugs claiming lives, usually through accidents or overdoses – yet when counting fatalities caused by intoxication, alcohol still sits at the top of the list.

Many factors make alcohol one of the more dangerous substances in America, yet to understand why it is something to be worried about, it is important to know what alcohol does to the mind and body.


Alcohol is a Poison

There were studies not too long ago linking certain types of alcohol to longevity and good health, although these could not conclusively make the link between alcohol and a longer lifespan, instead leading news outlets to promote the news based solely off correlation.

Since then, extensive research has been done to study the effects of alcohol on human bodies even in moderation, and the consensus seems to be simple: any alcohol at all will shave time off your life expectancy and will generally negatively impact your health. There are very minor exceptions to this – for example, while moderate or small alcohol consumption still increases the likelihood of heart failure, it is statistically protective against heart attacks. Something also has to be said for the fact that alcohol is a depressant – this means it helps people relax and unwind, releasing physical and mental tension that, if left unchecked, may lead to something ugly down the line.

Other benefits, previously attributed to red wine, may in fact simply be attributed to the red pigment in grapes and grape juice, rather than the wine.

If looked at objectively, alcohol – more specifically ethanol, also known as grain alcohol – is not something we are meant to ingest. And yet we do, and we often ingest too much of it against our better judgment.

The first clue on why alcohol is dangerous lies in how it affects the human mind – while alcohol is a depressant, it also suppresses several functions in the brain, inducing slurred speech, lack of balance, slower reaction times and greatly decreased cognitive ability. Alcohol lowers inhibition and cuts into a person’s ability to make calculated decisions. With enough alcohol, the mind loses parts of its memory, leading to mental black outs where entire hours are missing due to heavy drinking.


How Alcoholism Deteriorates Thinking

The exact effects of alcohol on the brain depend on a person’s age, sex, size (and bodyfat), genetic background and general alcohol tolerance, which is built up by drinking regularly. Everyone has a different threshold, however at some point we all reach a “tipsy” stage and a “drunk” stage. Everything past the drunk stage can be dangerous, leading up to alcohol poisoning.

Signs of excessive drinking include memory lapse and blackouts, but alcohol damages more than just the part of the brain responsible for remembering things. Aside from memory, alcohol consumption affects critical thinking, problem solving, risk aversion, behavioral inhibition, and more. Over the course of a few drinks, your cognitive abilities decline, and your physical abilities diminish as well.

Sex drive and libido generally go up, while sexual performance drastically drops. Swaying is normal as well, as people generally struggle to stand upright after heavy drinking. Some brain damage from alcohol consumption comes not only from the alcohol itself, but from malnutrition and poor sleep – both of which are often attributed or connected to alcoholism, or drug use in general.


Recovery is a Physical and Mental Journey

Coming off an alcohol addiction can be more dangerous than coming off almost any other drug. Alongside tranquilizers, sedatives and depressants like benzodiazepine, the withdrawal symptoms for alcohol are severe and potentially fatal. It is critical to approach a medical professional if you are going to go sober, so your withdrawal can be overseen by a staff in a clinic to ensure that you live through the first night.

Past that, it takes up to slightly over a year for much of the brain damage caused by alcoholism to fade away. Damage done to the body can never be completely reversed, but it is possible to regain most of your mental faculties bar any significant trauma or damage caused by accidents related to the drinking.

Aside from the brain, alcohol also attacks the liver and heart – with diligent abstinence from drugs and a very healthy, balanced diet, it is possible to give the liver the break it needs to regenerate and make up for the heart damage enough to live to a ripe old age before the ticker gives out.

Not drinking alcohol is a task that takes a lifetime. Sobriety must be maintained every day – but while the first few months can seem grueling and at times impossible, especially with new stressors and unfamiliar territory, it does get much easier with time. Instead of counting the days until that happens, try to focus on something else. Find a new hobby. Work on making some new friends. Explore town and try things out that you never had the chance to try.

If you’re having fun, time goes by much faster.

Alcoholism And Its Relationship To You


The numbers state that about one in every eight American adults struggles with alcoholism. While not as immediately threatening as the opioid crisis, which has skyrocketed in recent years, the media focus on prescription drugs and heroin as a leading menace has allowed the growing threat of alcoholism to fly under the radar, for the most part.

One big issue with recognizing the problems presented by alcohol consumption is that there still exists a reigning misconception that alcohol, specifically in small or moderate amounts, is good for a person’s health and well-being.

The truth is that alcohol is the most dangerous legal drug in the world, both because of its long-term effects on the mind and body, and because it is widespread economically and culturally.

Like any drug, consuming a little bit of alcohol is not guaranteed to cause havoc in your life. But it does put you at risk for alcoholism, a dangerous disease with lasting physical consequences. Understanding alcohol and alcoholism can give a greater insight into why the issue is so pervasive, and how individuals and families can best cope with it.


What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism, or alcohol addiction, is characterized by an inability to slow or stop the personal consumption of alcohol despite clear and unavoidable signs of self-destructive behavior. A person with alcoholism may initially deny their condition and their behavior, out of fear of addiction stigma or other similar reasons.

Alcoholism is rooted in a variety of factors and can manifest for a large variety of reasons. In all cases, alcoholism involves a significant dependence on alcohol, either physically, emotionally, or both. Why or how the dependence began is different from person to person, with common factors including genetic predisposition, socioeconomic background, mental health, and excessive stress or trauma.

Like any other form of addiction, alcoholism can take its toll on individuals and families alike – and like any other form of addiction, it can be treated if viewed as a disease rather than a personal flaw. The specifics of treatment depend on a person’s circumstances and the nature of their addiction, but all addiction treatment centers on helping patients stay sober and recover from relapses.


Is Alcohol Bad?

Too much of anything is bad, but there are certain risks associated with alcohol that are not present on other indulgences like sugar, chocolate, or even caffeine.

An alcoholic beverage is any substance made for human consumption containing ethanol. Distilled from grains and fruits with a high sugar content, like barley, and grapes, and starches like potato and corn, alcohol drinks have been brewed for millennia, and distilled for almost as long. Although we are the only species that purposefully produces alcoholic drinks, we are not the only species to indulge in ethanol, or other drugs for that matter.

In low to moderate doses, alcohol produces what most call a “buzz”, leading to “tipsy” behavior – in reaction to the ethanol, the brain calms you down and lowers anxiety (by being a depressant), as well as lowering inhibition and messing with your motor skills, causing you to eventually slur your speech and lose balance. As consumption continues, you approach drunkenness, which involves a loss of certain mental inhibitions and controls, affecting several regions in the brain differently.

In the cerebral cortex, alcohol slows down the processing of sensory information, making you generally slower and affecting your ability to think. In the pituitary gland, alcohol increase sexual arousal, but decreases sexual performance due to low blood glucose and a loss in fine motor skills. In the cerebellum, alcohol causes you to sway and lose balance, swaggering despite best efforts to maintain physical composure. And in the medulla, alcohol induces a relaxing, sedative effect.

Taken in excessive amounts, alcohol leads to loss of memory and increasing physical and mental effects, such as an inability to calculate risk or stay on your feet. Finally, a near-fatal or fatal amount of alcohol leads to alcohol poisoning, which begins with nausea and vomiting, and leads to respiratory distress and death.

Alongside the various short-term effects of alcohol consumption, regular alcohol consumption also carries a long list of long-term consequences, even if consumed responsibly (i.e. no binge drinking, less than 7-14 drinks per week). Regular alcohol consumption increases the risk of esophageal cancer, heart failure, liver cirrhosis and fatty liver, chronic gastritis, pancreatitis, and diabetes. Alcohol also adds on pounds due to being a source of empty calories, usually leading to weight gain. Regular alcohol consumption also increases the risk of alcoholism or may indicate an existing problem with alcohol addiction.

Heavy drinkers suffer an even greater risk, cutting up to five years off their life expectancy, and raising the risk of dangerous conditions such as cancer and heart failure.

Enjoyed occasionally during festive or celebratory occasions, alcohol is unlikely to do much harm, unless consumed in excess. However, if your family has a history with addiction – alcohol addiction in particular – then abstinence is much safer. Even without an existing history of alcoholism, regular alcohol consumption can be very dangerous, and in the best-case scenario still damages the body.


Social Drinking vs. Addiction

Getting drunk does not equate to having an addiction. Doing regrettable things while drunk also is not a clear indication of an addiction. While many people drink often and copiously, an addiction specifically refers to the inability to stop drinking, especially when the person in question wants to stop.

Regular consumption of moderate amounts of alcohol can eventually pose a threat to your longevity and increase the risk of certain diseases, but otherwise it is culturally acceptable, and can be one way to highlight celebratory moments in life. But regular binge drinking and other behavior that either implies or confirms an addiction is highly problematic, not only posing major health risks and thereby endangering a person’s life, but affecting other people, friends, and families, and even strangers as public drunkenness can lead to terrible accidents and tragedies.

While drinking alcohol regularly is socially acceptable, modern medicine shows that it is not healthy. Health benefits previously associated with alcohol are better attributed to a balanced and healthy diet of fats, sugars, and proteins alongside polyphenol-rich foods and nutrient-rich ingredients, such as herbs and leafy vegetables. Further study into what was previously called the French paradox may be contradicting previous findings, and it is best to treat alcohol as a potentially dangerous indulgence rather than an essential part of healthy, wholesome living.


Treating Alcoholism

Like other addictions, alcoholism can be treated. Alcoholism is treated through a targeted and individually-tailored treatment plan, dependent on a person’s circumstances, needs, and abilities. Psychotherapy and abstinence-based programs are typical parts of a treatment process, recommending that patients stay at a dedicated clinic or sober living home to avoid alcohol during the early periods of their recovery.

Over time, dealing with alcoholism and maintaining long-term sobriety does become easier. It is up to each individual to decide when that time has come, however.


Mixing Alcohol And Drugs Is Deadlier Than You Might Think

Mixing Drugs Alcohol | Transcend Texas

The idea behind mixing alcohol and drugs is usually to “improve” on a user’s experience. Experimenting with drug combinations might lead to new highs, or ways to deal with a drug’s immediate negative “comedown” effects. However, in reality, mixing alcohol with other drugs only serves to create an extremely dangerous and very potent combination, landing you in the ER or worse.

Knowing how alcohol interacts with different drugs may help give you an idea of why you should never mix booze and pills.


How Alcohol And Xanax Mix

Perhaps the deadliest combination on the list, alcohol mixed with sedatives or anti-anxiety drugs (benzodiazepines) like Xanax or Valium creates an extremely powerful sedation effect that not only potentially knocks you out, but also slows down your breathing and negates your coughing reflex, rendering you unable to breathe and unable to cough up vomit or any other blockage.

This is because alcohol and sedatives are extremely similar. Both are depressants, which means they have a calming and sedating effect on the body and the brain, lowering inhibition, slurring speech, and slowing down breathing.

Because they both require the same enzymes to be properly metabolized, the use of both sedatives and alcohol causes each substance to spend much more time in the user’s bloodstream, greatly amplifying the effects of each drug. In other words, a “normal” dose of alcohol mixed with a “normal” dose of Xanax is much more powerful than each drug individually.

Beyond using the same enzymes in the liver and causing the same sedative effects, using multiple drugs at once – also known as polydrug use – greatly amplifies your chances of struggling with multiple addictions.


How Booze And Opiates Kill

While alcohol and sedatives are extremely dangerous, they’re abused as often as opioids and booze are. Prescription painkillers (or opioids) are natural or synthetic derivatives of opium. Heroin, another commonly abused opioid, is also often taken alongside alcohol. When consumed together, these drugs also cause a “slowdown” of the body’s processes, often leading to death through oxygen deprivation.

Unlike Xanax, opioids are metabolized separately from alcohol. However, taking both at the same time can make the dangerous side effects of heroin and prescription painkillers – namely, the risk of passing out and choking to death – much more pronounced.

Beyond that, opioids are also known for being some of the most addictive drugs in the world. Up to 5% of all prescription drug users end up getting hooked on painkillers, with recovery taking months or years.

The biggest danger in this combination is how common it is. Throughout the years, the American healthcare system prioritized the sale of painkillers to aggressively fight the emergence of chronic pain in America, leading to a flooding of unused and resold prescription medication, as well as a dangerous misuse and eventual abuse of painkillers in hundreds of thousands of Americans. This arose from a combination of aggressive marketing tactics from pharmaceutical companies, as well as a growing concern among physicians that pain was undertreated in the US.

Before an official crackdown, the growth of the internet and the online prescription drug business further fueled the fire. Today, America is dealing with the biggest opioid crisis in history, with overdoses from heroin and prescription painkillers higher than ever before.


Alcohol, Cocaine, And The Brain

Alcohol and cocaine is another common combination because of the widely opposing effects of cocaine and booze on the mind. While alcohol suppresses inhibition, causes slurred speech, and slows a person’s coordination and cognition, cocaine works in the opposite direction as a stimulant, introducing a powerful euphoric high alongside a sharp increase in motivation and energy levels.

However, the use of both at the same time are thought to cancel out each other’s negative effects. In reality, using alcohol and cocaine may dampen the effects of each, causing many to use excessive amounts of cocaine or alcohol to achieve the desired high. This poses a greater risk of overdose and death. In fact, the risk of death is up to 20 times higher when taking both cocaine and alcohol, rather than just cocaine.


The Risks Of Alcohol And Cannabis

On its own, the negative effects of cannabis may be milder than most other drugs. Yet when combined with alcohol, its potency expands greatly. Aside from being a depressant, alcohol is also a diuretic and a vasodilator, meaning it affects the rate at which your endocrine system works, and expands your blood vessels, accelerating the effects of drugs in the bloodstream.

With modern methods of cannabis use including smoking high concentrations through e-cigarettes or consuming THC oils, the effects of THC can be greatly amplified by combining with alcohol. Misjudging your cannabis use while drunk can lead to nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, and more.


How Does Someone Become Addicted?

How You Become Addicted | Transcend Texas

Addiction is multifaceted in both its appearance and ill effects. Some people become addicted quickly, while others go through months of drug use and quit at the drop of a hat. Some people exhibit terrifying and destructive behavior, while others can successfully go through great lengths to hide their addiction, suffering underneath the surface.

There is a misconception that only certain “types of people” become addicted. It is true that addiction is more likely in times of distress, or as a result of escalating self-medication – but it is also true that anyone can fall prey to addiction. Society’s poorest addicts are every bit as human and personable as upper and middle-class families struggling with alcoholism, across all ages.

Drugs affect the human brain in the same way every time, but what that effect has on individual people is an entirely different matter. Understanding how addiction works, how individuals deal with it, and how drugs affect the human body can go a long way towards learning the how’s and why’s of addicted behavior, and making progress in your own recovery.


Drugs And The Human Body

Have you ever had a craving for a certain food? A certain activity? Or even a certain person? A lot of our needs and wants are driven by a predisposed code most humans have – we’re pleasure seekers in one form or another, and the things that give us pleasure (sex, chocolate, fatty food) have become human favorites due to thousands of years spent selectively surviving the Earth’s harsh environments.

We’re more complex than just our base instincts – but they’re there nonetheless, and to satisfy them can feel really good. This is all due to a part of the brain known as the pleasure center. When we do certain things or ingest certain substances, our pleasure center releases dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter. Drugs overstimulate the pleasure center by manipulating our neurons and changing the way dopamine is released, either by releasing more of it than usual or by preventing our cells from properly disposing of it, thus keeping it in our synapses for longer.

As this happens, our body and brain begin to form an addiction to whatever is releasing this unnatural amount of euphoria. Too much of a good thing is no good –and in the case of substance abuse, addictive substances cause a physical reaction as a result of consistent and continuous usage.

Once addiction kicks in and the cravings start, your mind begins to interpret them as needs, more than just wants. Addictive behavior – even the destructive and risky kind – stems from a combination of a corrupted pleasure center, and a decline in cognition and reasoning. Essentially, it becomes harder to keep a cool head and be reasonable about your behavior, and continuous use often leads to impulsive behavior, and worsening decision making as you become addicted.

Tolerance is another aspect of addiction that makes quitting all the more difficult. As addiction continues, the body begins to form a resistance to the effectiveness of a drug, reducing its effects. For example, it may take more alcohol to get drunk, or it may take more cocaine to achieve the same high. This is the body’s cells defending itself from a barrage of unnatural brain functions – but the result simply spurs an addict on to use more drugs in order to achieve the same effect. While the body can protect itself against a high, it cannot protect itself against the lethal side effects of an overdose.

When trying to quit after tolerance kicks in, it is not unusual for a person to go into withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can range from discomfort and irritability to violent sickness, and even death if approached too drastically, depending on the drug. These occur because the body has gotten used to the drug intake, and depends on it for certain brain functions. Cutting off your own supply requires readjustment, the kind that is best done under medical supervision.


When Does Someone Become Addicted?

Addiction begins in the brain, but it is difficult to feasibly track someone’s addiction through constant brain scans – so the most reliable source for when someone can become addicted is the person themselves. For someone to be an addict, they have to admit to themselves that they are one, or exhibit enough symptoms so that denying it would be completely illogical.

A total inability to stop oneself from using – that is what makes someone become addicted. If a person can’t stop themselves despite promises or plans to do so, and despite negative consequences that would typically discourage behavior, then they’re addicted. If a person loses their job, destroys a relationship, or even commits a crime to satisfy their addiction, then it is clear that they have a serious problem.


Addiction And Mental Health

Addiction and mental health are intertwined for several reasons, the most glaring one being the fact that addiction is a disease of the brain above all else. While different kinds of addiction can lead to organ failure and cancer, the brain is what is first affected and causes the addiction to begin with. The combination of addiction and the destructive behavior it can help cause often triggers mental health issues that may have been under control in the past, or were lingering underneath a stable surface.

On the other hand, existing mental health conditions can be made worse when you become addicted, while often playing a part in causing addiction (trauma, anxiety and depression are all wrought with stigma, and are conditions that are prone to self-medication gone awry).

The link between addiction and mental health issues must never be forgotten, especially because both are affected by a public perception of healthy vs. unhealthy.

Addiction, just like other conditions, does not reduce a person to the stereotype of their affliction, and it is important to treat every individual as an individual, and not “another junkie” or “another kook”. These generalizations often drive people to hide their problems, deny dangerous symptoms or lie in order to avoid unjust criticism and emotional harm.


Putting Addiction Behind You

It happens over time, and it takes time to heal and recover from. When you become addicted it can cause serious damage over the course of just a few months, but regardless of how long the disease has been ongoing, it can be put behind you with the right treatment and support.

Drug addiction treatment has gotten better than ever, with programs designed to accommodate any individual’s unique therapeutic needs and considerations. Treatment facilities have long recognized that there is no proper one-size-fits-all solution for addiction, and the result is a comprehensive, custom process.

As such, there’s also no telling how long it’ll take you to get over this period in your life – but as long as you think you can, you will.


College ‘Drunkorexia’ Trend More Common Than Thought

College 'Drunkorexia' Trend More Common Than Thought | Transcend Texas

Drunkorexia has become widely known among college campuses over the last several years. It’s a term that describes a specific type of risky behavior – students skip meals or exercise intensely before drinking, or deliberately purge during or afterward. The goal? “To cut down on calories consumed or to increase the buzz, and sometimes a little of both.” However, a new University of Houston study reveals that drunkorexia is not only far more common than everyone thought, but also more dangerous too.

Read the full article here.