Alcohol is legal and, because of that, is very easy to get. It can often be seen as a rite of passage to have a big night out drinking when you reach legal drinking age.
Drinking alcohol is also sometimes looked at as a way to rebel when in your teens. Along with that, a lot of American culture (especially alcohol advertisements) showcases drinking as a way to relax or enjoy a fun activity more completely.
Alcohol use disorder is a fairly common struggle, however.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says over 400,000 kids between the ages of 12 and 17 reported having an alcohol use disorder.
If we go up in age range, starting only at 18 and above, the numbers get much, much higher. That same study showed that 14.4 million adults from the age of 18 and up were struggling with alcohol use.
Those numbers showcase how common it is to struggle with alcohol use, but there’s one more number that will showcase not only how common, but start to indicate how it can affect more lives than just the person who is struggling.
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A study conducted by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality showed that, at the time their data was collected, an average of 7.5 million children (that’s anyone under 18), had a parent struggling with alcohol use in at least the last year.
Even more specific data for the state of Mississippi shows that in 2018, there were at least 139,000 people between the ages of 12 and 20 who used alcohol.
How Can I Tell if I’m Addicted to Alcohol?
Since so many people are dealing with alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), it’s good to take a look at your drinking and see if you are addicted. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism lists quite a few signs and symptoms to watch out for.
Let’s look at some of them.
First, have you ever ended up drinking more than you were originally planning?
One sign of addiction is that you feel as if you lose control of yourself once you start drinking. Drinking more than you were originally setting out to drink isn’t a sign of addiction by itself. If it seems to happen over and over, and especially if it happens no matter how much you drink, you might have an alcohol addiction in that case.
Another sign is having thoughts of needing to “cut down” or stop your drinking altogether but not being able to. Denial tends to prolong a substance use disorder though, and convincing yourself drinking isn’t a problem is one way alcoholics keep moving forward without getting help.
Sometimes the denial is due to the fear of admitting a problem exists either because it means massive change is needed (which is scary), or because it will seem as if the person struggling has failed somehow.
If you take a look at your day, or an entire week or month, and notice you were drinking and/or drunk more often than not, this is also a big sign you might have an alcohol use disorder. Are you constantly buying alcohol because you’re constantly running out of it?
A lot of the symptoms of alcohol use disorder are related, like experiencing a craving for alcohol. If you feel like you just can’t go forward without getting a drink you may at some point also experience nausea, sweating, and if your addiction is severe enough, even hallucinations.
Finally, one of the more troubling signs is continuing to drink despite the negative effects it is having on your life. If you continue to drink despite experiencing trouble at home related to your alcohol use this is most likely a sign you are in need of help. If your drinking leads to missing work, maybe even getting pulled over for driving while intoxicated, but you continue to drink, you are showing signs of addiction.
If any of these sound or feel familiar it may be time to get help for your alcohol use.
Detoxing from Alcohol Can Be Dangerous
One of the most dramatic effects alcohol has on the body is as a depressant. It slows your brain down, essentially, and can even increase feelings of depression and hopelessness which might be particularly powerful in someone suffering from clinical depression (diagnosed or otherwise), but can affect anyone due to how alcohol affects the brain.
So what happens when you’re drinking heavily over a long period of time? Your brain gets used to the depressive effects of the alcohol so it starts to compensate by upping the chemicals that stimulate you, chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine. In a sense, regularly putting so much of a depressant into your body makes your brain say “I need to speed us up,” and it tries to do that by stimulating itself, which is really stimulating you.
There will be some clear side effects if you stop drinking once your brain has started working to compensate for the depressant effects of alcohol. This is where it can be dangerous. If you’re slowing your body down repeatedly using alcohol and your body is trying to speed things up with its own chemicals, when the alcohol suddenly goes away things are out of balance.
Your brain and body now have no alcohol and a large amount of stimulating chemicals. It’s like you are riding a bike along a flat road and you are barely pedaling. Now you’re at the top of a hill. The bike doesn’t have brakes though and that means it’s going to go fast.
Alcohol detox side effects are almost all a result of the brain being overstimulated. This leads to side effects like shaking and hallucinations, and can even produce seizures. The most serious side effect is called delirium tremens, sometimes abbreviated as DT.
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Even though those in alcohol withdrawal can experience the shaking, hallucinations, and seizures without having full-blown delirium tremens, those symptoms can also be present (and sometimes worse) during DT as well.
There can be a long list of other symptoms outside of delirium tremens as well, however, including:
- Irritability or anger
- Extended sleep, or even trouble sleeping
- Surprising amounts of fear or feeling excited
- Spikes of energy
- Severe confusion
- A high fever
- Stomach pain, sometimes associated with extreme hunger or lack of appetite
All of these symptoms are uncomfortable and can be distressing, but the seizures and irregular heartbeats are particularly dangerous. Due to these two factors, someone detoxing from a severe alcohol use disorder who experiences delirium tremens is at risk of stroke or heart attack.
There are ways to lessen these symptoms and stay safe during detox, however.
Harnessing Your Strength for Treatment at Vertava Health of Mississippi
Struggling with alcohol can make you feel depressed, out of control, and hopeless. It can be a hard situation to figure out. One way to find your way through is to ask for help. Remember, asking for help does not mean you are weak or giving up. It means the opposite, in fact.
When you ask for help you’re marching toward recovery, you are powering yourself to change using your unique strength.
Vertava Health of Mississippi uses your strength in every form of treatment we offer, all evidence-based recovery options. There are three types of recovery programs, each one using modes of therapy to help focus the strength you always carry. Let’s look at the programs first.
Inpatient Alcohol Addiction Treatment
You’ll sometimes see this referred to as “residential” treatment as well. In nearly all cases of alcohol detox this will be the first step. It’s when detoxification takes place, along with certain methods to help with withdrawal symptoms, like using medication to help ease withdrawal symptoms which we detail further down.
For inpatient treatment, you are coming to Vertava Health of Mississippi and staying here for the length of your detox and initial treatment. We do individual assessments for every client to determine the level of care needed, so not everyone will need to remain for inpatient treatment the same length of time. The average stay is usually around one month.
During inpatient treatment, there will be consistent monitoring around the clock by licensed and compassionate medical nurses. We want you comfortable, safe, and making sure you know you are getting the highest quality of care is one way to ensure both of those.
Intensive Outpatient (IOP) and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
These two programs are somewhat similar because they take place at Vertava Health of Mississippi on a part-time schedule.
If you are scheduled for IOP treatment you’ll be visiting the campus for 12 hours per week, split up across four sessions, either in the day or the evening. You’ll come for therapy groups for adults and leave for home or work. The specific modes of therapy used in these settings are detailed a little further down this page.
It’s very similar for PHP, which maybe sounds a little more long-term than it is because of the word “hospitalization.” It’s set up to help clients by scheduling 20 hours of group therapy throughout the week, specifically in the evening.
Therapy can sometimes be a broad term though. What specific types of therapy and other treatments do we use?
Using Medication To Help Ease Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
As you saw up there, the side effects from detoxing from alcohol can be pretty intense, and in some cases life-threatening. A medical professional is available 24-hours a day during your detox and will monitor your vital signs and keep track of how the detox is affecting you.
The medical team makes a determination if any medications are needed to help someone experiencing physical detox symptoms. We always explain the medication to you and make sure you know why it’s being administered.
Detoxing from alcohol affects both your body and mind, though, and that means medically supervised treatment should address that. We take it into account at Vertava Health of Mississippi. It means, depending on someone’s experience with addiction, we may prescribe a medication to address the mental changes they are experiencing, or will experience. You can read more about that here.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Alcohol Abuse Recovery
This is a form of therapy that is usually done in an individual session, where you are talking directly with a therapist, but it’s also incorporated into the outpatient program which means aspects of it are used in group sessions.
It is focused on giving someone in recovery the tools for re-thinking how they deal with negative thoughts and emotions, and how to handle situations that could bring up potential relapse. Another large focus of DBT is mindfulness, the practice of being present in your life, focusing on the here and now and what you can affect positively.
You Can Change Your Drinking Habit Today
Once you know how strong you are we believe you can take hold of your life and begin to ease your struggle with addiction. All of our evidence-based treatments are powered by your own commitment and resilience. Please recognize how truly strong you are and give us a call at (888) 759-7639.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Best Way to Stop Drinking?
There isn’t one way to stop drinking because everyone’s situation is different. It’s certainly possible for some people to stop “cold turkey,” but for others that can be very dangerous. If someone has been struggling with alcohol use for a long time they could be looking at some serious health risks from stopping, even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. The best way is to be safe, and that means consulting someone about your drinking and detox.
What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Drinking?
If you have been drinking long enough your body has gotten used to having a depressant (alcohol) in it, and so your brain is trying to fix that by speeding itself, and you, up. When you stop drinking there is nothing slowing your brain and body down, but your brain is still speeding you up, which means you can have symptoms like sweating, seizures, and even life-threatening side effects like irregular heartbeat.
What Are the First Signs of Liver Damage from Alcohol?
If by “first signs” you mean “early warnings,” there are essentially none of those. When it comes to liver damage/disease from alcohol you only start noticing when significant damage has been done. You might have vomiting and nausea, diarrhea, feel less hungry, feel sick regularly, and have pain in your abdomen.
- samhsa.gov — More than 7 Million Children Live with a Parent with Alcohol Problems
- stopalcoholabuse.gov — MiSSiSSippi StAte RepoRt
- niaaa.nih.gov — Alcohol Use Disorder
- Phychology Today — The Role of Denial in Addiction