Alcohol has been part of celebrations, religious ceremonies, healing rituals, and nutritional practices throughout recorded history. Archeological evidence shows that humans have used purposely fermented beverages for various reasons almost forever. Today, alcohol is the most abused drug in the world. To better understand why this substance remains so popular, we need to know the different ways alcohol is abused, the effects on the brain and body, and the content of the various drinks a person chooses to consume.
There are six stages a person progresses through when they are drinking alcoholic beverages, and it doesn’t take long to go from slight euphoria to alcohol poisoning, coma, or death. The process usually follows this familiar path:
Euphoria: occurs with BAC of 0.03 to 0.12 percent:
- a boost in self-confidence, life of the party
- short attention span
- poor judgment
- flushed appearance
Excitement: occurs with BAC of 0.09 to 0.25 percent
- poor memory, trouble understanding things
- slow reactions
- uncoordinated movements, loss of balance
- blurred vision
- dulled senses
Confusion: occurs with BAC of 0.18 to 0.30 percent
- don’t know where they are
- dizziness and staggering
- aggressiveness, highly emotional, quite affectionate
- trouble seeing clearly
- slurred speech
- indifferent to pain
Stupor: occurs with BAC of 0.25 to 0.40 percent
- difficulty moving around
- unresponsive to stimuli
- nausea and vomiting
- unable to stand or walk
- losses consciousness
Coma: occurs with BAC of 0.35 to 0.50 percent
- depressed reflexes
- low body temperature
- shallow breathing
- slow heart rate
Death: occurs with BAC of more than 0.50 percent
If you are a drinking person, how far do you take it? Stage 3? Stage 5? Or can you keep it at a relatively safe Stage 1? It is difficult for many people to stop with just one or two drinks because alcohol has a way of making them think that the more they drink the more fun they will have, but before they know it, they have passed out somewhere and have forgotten all about having fun.
Beware: You Are What You Drink
So, what happens in the brain and body to cause a person to go from having fun to being close to death after continued heavy drinking? Most of the effects begin in the brain where neurotransmitters send messages to each other. As a person continues drinking, the BAC (blood alcohol content) increases and affects more and more areas of the brain. It follows a pattern, moving from one area to another in the following sequence:
- Cerebral cortex – processes information and controls voluntary muscle movements
- Limbic system – controls emotions and memory
- Cerebellum – controls fine muscle movements and balance
- Hypothalamus and pituitary gland – influences automatic functions such as hormone secretion
- Medulla – controls all automatic bodily functions such as heart beat, breathing, etc.
When alcohol moves through these various areas of the brain, the combined effects give the person the classic behavior and appearance commonly associated with drunkenness. We’ve all seen the swaying, staggering, movements and heard the unintelligible attempts at conversation as a drunk person attempts to act like he is not drunk. Naturally, most of us think it’s funny, but the truth is, this person is on dangerous ground at this point and should not consume any more alcohol.
Many drinkers usually stick with one preferred type of beverage, whether they prefer beer, wine, or liquor. However, others will drink anything as long as it will make them drunk. This holds true for teens especially, because they have to resort to stealing booze from their parents or getting someone of age to buy something for them. At many gatherings, it’s not unusual to see people abuse alcohol by drinking beer and chasing it with gin or vodka or some other hard liquor, with the intention of getting drunk fast. They are usually the ones you see falling off the bar stool or picking a fight or passing out cold before the evening has hardly begun. Alcohol is abused in many other ways, too.
Alcohol Abuse Today – A Strange New Frontier Discovered
It’s amazing what a person will do, especially teens, to get drunk without getting caught. For example:
- Binge drinking (drinking large amounts at one time) Click Here to View an Infographic on Binge Drinking
- Vodka Tampons (girls insert into their vagina, boys insert into their rectum)
- Beer Bong Enemas (a funnel and plastic tube are used to push beer into the rectum)
- Boozy Bears (eating gummy bears candy that has been soaked in booze)
- Eyeball Shots (pouring alcohol directly into the eye for quick high)
- Drinking Liquid Hand Sanitizer (it contains 62 to 65 percent ethyl alcohol)
Any of the above behaviors provide a quick buzz because the alcohol is absorbed directly into the bloodstream without having to go through the stomach first. It would quite easy for a young person to overdose using any of the above methods.
A Hangover Isn’t Their Worst Problem
Everyone today is familiar with the classic “hangover”. That dreaded funk that comes the following morning after heavy drinking the night before. Headache, nausea, dry eyes, blurry vision, dry mouth, fatigue, and irritability are the usual symptoms. Sometimes, the person will swear to never drink again, but the hangover is soon forgotten as soon as the symptoms subside, and they are off again to the next party or bar.
What most drinkers don’t think about is that the hangover might be gone, but there was a good reason why their body felt that way. What happened inside to cause such misery? Is it something to worry about? Can it get worse?
Yes, it is something to worry about because it will get worse if the drinking continues. Some of the things that can go wrong in the body because of alcohol abuse are as follows:
- Stomach ulcers
- High blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Certain cancers
- Liver and kidney damage or failure
- Memory loss
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Sexual problems
The above conditions progressively worsen as the person continues consuming large amounts of alcohol. The hangover they suffered is minor compared to the above and it was a warning sign that there is something wrong. Just because the hangover is gone doesn’t mean the body is not feeling some effects and damage deep within. Eventually, alcohol abuse could lead to full alcoholism and once that point is reached, it is a daily battle to maintain the addiction and try to hide it as much as possible.
Legal and Abundant Doesn’t Mean It’s Safe
Isn’t it ironic that the leading cause of accidental death in the nation is a legal substance? While massive amounts of money and resources are used today to fight drugs and terrorists and disease, alcohol continues to flow freely bringing more chaos and death than any terrorist ever has. When the government waged war on alcohol during prohibition in an attempt to control the sales and production, people found a way to brew their own illegal concoctions and this caused even greater problems. The current approach, imposing age limits for purchasing alcohol and heavy fines for public drunkenness or driving while impaired, also hasn’t stopped people from drinking too much, so the problems continue indefinitely.
Throughout history, mankind has had a fascination with alcoholic beverages. Ancient societies used various plants, fruits, herbs and flowers to brew fermented beverages that could be used for medicinal or recreational purposes. Today, there are thousands of brands available to suit any taste and any budget. The fact that alcohol is legal and easily obtained has made it the drug of choice worldwide, and it is the number one cause of preventable accidents and deaths. Did you know that one in three adults today abuse alcohol or are alcoholics and the costs to society in a year reach over $200 billion dollars?
Why Do People Drink Alcohol?
Although it is difficult to get an exact number, SAMHSA estimates there are over 17.1 million alcoholics in the US today. It might surprise you to know that Americans spend over $197 million a day on alcohol, and that every 30 minutes, someone is killed in an alcohol-related accident. So, what is it about alcohol that makes humans continue drinking regardless of the well-known side effects and dangers?
One of the most obvious reasons people drink is to gain a sense of relaxation and euphoria, but many others use alcohol as a means of escaping problems or for other reasons such as:
- to have a good time and fit in with the crowd
- to overcome shyness at social events
- boredom, depression, loneliness
- low self-esteem
- family history of alcoholism
- genetic predisposition
- dysfunctional family, child abuse or neglect
- financial problems
- chronic illness or pain
In most cases, anyone with the above issues runs a high risk for becoming an alcoholic if they continue to self-medicate with alcohol. Most people who try to solve problems by drinking them away wake to find the problem is still there and it probably has gotten worse because of the drinking. It is definitely a no-win situation that will eventually spiral out of control completely.
How Much is Too Much?
Naturally, everyone reacts to alcohol differently, but on average, the following guidelines are useful in determining how much is too much in a certain period of time based on a “standard” drink of 6 ounces or 14 grams of pure alcohol:
- More than 4 drinks a day
- More than 14 drinks per week
- More than 3 drinks a day
- More than 7 drinks per week
Even healthy adults who drink more than the above are considered “at risk” or “heavy” drinkers. Those who drink less than the above amounts could have problems if they drink too quickly (binge drinking), or are on medications or experiencing health issues.
Short Term Effects of Alcohol
Alcohol accumulates in the blood and the effect on the individual varies depending on their system, but, in general, blood alcohol content (BAC) determines the extent of the effects. It takes the body at least one hour to metabolize alcohol, so for someone drinking one after another, as in binge drinking, their chance for alcohol poisoning is high. To help determine whether someone has had too much, look for lethargy, impaired coordination, sleepiness, vomiting, respiratory depression, stupor, unconsciousness, urinary incontinence, and slow heart rate.
It is important to know when it is okay to just let someone “sleep it off”. If a person has passed out, it is a good sign they might have alcohol poisoning and needs immediate medical attention.
Long Term Effects of Alcohol
We are all familiar with the image of a staggering, mumbling drunk that passes out, sleeps if off, and wakes the next day to begin the same routine all over again. But, what is happening inside his body that we can’t see? Is his body and brain recovering everyday, also? Unfortunately, they are not recovering and some of the damages can be permanent.
The long term effects of alcohol can be life-threatening, but the body usually gives plenty of warning signs that something terrible is going on inside. Some of those warnings can include, but are not limited to:
- Pain due to liver damage or cirrhosis, hepatitis
- Incontinence due to kidney or bladder damage
- Cognitive problems arising from brain damage; poor memory
- Stomach pain due to ulcers
- Heart attack or stroke due to alcohol-induced high blood pressure
- Anemia due to depleted iron and vitamin B
- Decreased sperm production
- Fetal alcohol syndrome due to drinking during pregnancy
- Uncontrollable shakes, tremors
- Sudden weight loss due to stomach problems; loss of appetite; malnutrition
- Fatigue due to sleep disturbances; DT’s; hallucinations
- Chronic depression due to lost self-respect
Considering the above, it isn’t difficult to see how alcohol affects the entire body in negative ways, but it is also having a direct and devastating effect on the individual’s mental and spiritual state. Before the person can overcome alcoholism, their treatment plan must include protocols for addressing each of the physical, mental and spiritual issues in order to achieve lasting recovery.
Recovering from alcoholism today is not the dreadful process people endured in the past. Today, there are comfortable, safe facilities that treat addicts with respect and compassion during treatment. Additionally, the programs are designed to treat each aspect of the alcoholism in order to heal the whole person, not just the physical dependency. Clients emerge from treatment today with a renewed sense of empowerment and the foundations for building a new, alcohol-free life.
When is it Time to Get Help?
Most alcoholics are either unaware or are ignoring the extent of their problem and won’t seek treatment. This type of denial has resulted in thousands of needless deaths in our country. The best time for anyone to get help for alcohol problems is before rock-bottom happens, not after. Prolonged alcoholism will only make detox and recovery more difficult, so if you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol, call now to learn how we can help you can win this battle.
To Win the Battle, You Must First Put Up a Fight
If you have reached the point of being completely owned and controlled by alcohol, you can take back your life with the right help. The first thing you must do is admit that you need help, and take all the steps necessary to get into treatment right away. Alcoholism won’t just go away, you have to put up a good fight. In an inpatient treatment facility you are given the tools and guidance needed for coming out the victor. The staff of addiction specialists know exactly what it takes to get you sober and keep you that way. Innovative new treatment approaches are available today that make the process as safe and comfortable and effective as possible.
Overcoming alcoholism is a life-long battle, but many people have gone through treatment and are living productive, happy, sober lives. It is possible for you to have this same successful outcome, but you have to take that first step by calling our toll-free number now.