Now more than ever, alcohol is killing people in the prime of their lives, especially in the U.S. The amount of 25 to 34-year-olds who have died from alcohol-related liver disease increased by 65 percent from 1999 to 2016, according to this study.
That means more young adults are developing alcohol-related health conditions like alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver and are succumbing from these conditions.
Take the case of a patient in his mid-thirties whose alcohol-derived liver disease was so acute it turned him yellow. Why? Yellow waste (bilirubin) accumulated in his body because the liver could not process alcohol properly, turning him yellow on the outside.
“His whole body was yellow,” Dr. Elliot Tapper told NPR. “He could hardly move. It was difficult for him to breathe, and he wasn’t eating anything.”
As one of the most dangerous substances of abuse, the damage caused by alcohol does not discriminate, wreaking havoc across demographic, class, and ethnic lines.
In 2019, it was estimated that 17.6 million, or 1 in 12 American adults, have an alcohol use disorder, making them susceptible to the profound, life-threatening conditions.
This is precisely why rehabilitation via professional treatment is so essential: it can ultimately be lifesaving.
The Positive Effects Of Alcohol
Of course, alcohol use, in and of itself, is not dangerous at all. In fact, there are positive effects that come with moderate consumption. The Mayo Clinic outlines specific health benefits from alcohol which include:
- Possible reduction of diabetes risk
- Reduction of risk in developing and dying from heart disease
- Potential reduction of the risk of ischemic stroke
Moderate consumption is not risk-free either. Light drinkers, who typically do not exceed one drink a day, have a small, but increased risk for some cancers. Plus, light drinkers are prone to the effects of drinking and driving.
Consequences Of Drinking And Driving
There is incontrovertible evidence that alcohol impairs one’s ability to operate heavy machinery. This bears out in the number of lives it claims every year due to drunk driving. For example, there were 10,874 deaths from drunk-driving crashes in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In that same year, drunk driving was responsible for 29 percent of motor vehicle deaths.
What Heavy Alcohol Consumption Looks Like
Moderate consumption of alcohol is one drink a day for women and two per day for men, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
That recommendation is based on the measure of a standard drink, which is 14.0 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol, states the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This amount of pure alcohol is included in:
- 12 ounces of beer (5 percent alcohol content)
- 8 ounces of malt liquor (7 percent alcohol content)
- 5 ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol content)
- 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40 percent alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (i.e., whiskey, vodka, rum or gin).
Heavy alcohol consumption looks like 15 or more drinks a week for men and eight or more a week for women. Binge drinking is another form of heavy consumption. It’s a pattern of drinking that elevates one’s blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent or more. Men engage in binge drinking when they have five or more drinks on a single occasion. For women, it is four or more. A binge drinking episode is established when drinks are consumed within a two-hour period.
When someone engages in heavy drinking, it does not necessarily mean they have an alcohol use disorder (AUD), a diagnosis that was previously referred to as alcoholism or alcohol dependence.
However, there is an evidence-based method available that serves as a good indicator of whether an AUD is present.
When Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) Is Present
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) publishes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the principal authority on psychiatric diagnoses. The DSM-5 outlines 11 criteria that determine whether a person has a problem with alcohol.
If someone meets two of the 11 criteria over a 12-month period, an AUD is present. The severity of that AUD can be mild, moderate, or severe. That determination is based on the number of criteria a person meets.
If you fear that you or a loved one may have an AUD and need rehab, here are some questions to ask. In the past year, have you or your loved one:
- Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
- More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the after-effects?
- Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
- Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, to drink?
- More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
- Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
- Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
- Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?
If you or a loved one shows any of those symptoms, drinking may already be a problem. The more symptoms you or that person displays, the more urgent the issue.
There are other tools at your disposal to determine whether an addiction is present.
More Tools To Determine If An Alcohol Addiction Is Present
There are signs to be mindful of if alcohol use has bloomed into an addiction. They include the following:
- Drinking gets in the way of your job, school, or other activities and obligations because you are sick or hungover.
- You drink even though you might engage in an activity like driving, boating, or something else that becomes dangerous when alcohol use is involved.
- You have blackouts and/or memory losses.
- You get into accidents or sustain injuries after you drink.
- You drink even though it will make health complications or mental health issues worse.
When abuse devolves into addiction, your body will crave more alcohol to experience the same effects as before. You may also begin to exhibit the following signs and behaviors:
- You lose control over how much you drink.
- You experience withdrawal symptoms when you go without drinking such as feeling sweaty, shaky, anxious, or sick.
- You give up hobbies or favorite pastimes to drink.
- You spend the majority of your time drinking or recovering from drinking.
- You drink even though it harms your family, friendships, career, or education.
- You begin your day drinking, drink alone, or stay drunk for long periods.
- You try to hide your drinking and make excuses.
- You consistently turn to alcohol to relieve stress or solve problems.
- You cannot quit drinking despite repeated attempts.
- Alcohol is at the center of your life. You always make sure you have enough on hand and only engage in social activities that include drinking.
The CAGE Questionnaire is another tool you can use to determine whether an alcohol addiction is present:
- Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your drinking?
- Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
- Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your drinking?
- Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (Eye-opener)?
If you or a loved one answered “yes” to two or more questions, it usually indicates dependency. At this point, professional treatment becomes a necessity. Why? Because quitting on your own can leave you prone to the life-threatening effects of alcohol withdrawal.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can manifest as physical and psychological effects. They usually appear within eight hours of that last drink and peak by 24 hours to 72 hours.
Symptoms Can Also Last For Weeks And Include:
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Jumpiness or shakiness
- Mood swings
- Unclear thinking
- Tremor of the hands or other body parts
- Dilated pupils
- Rapid heart rate
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pallor (pale and unhealthy pale appearance)
- Sweaty, clammy skin
The most severe form of alcohol withdrawal is called delirium tremens or DTs. DTs can cause someone to experience grand mal seizures, which can result in a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions. These seizures are life-threatening.
DTs Include These Symptoms:
- Severe confusion
This is why professional treatment for AUDs is highly recommended.
How Professional Treatment Can Help You
With professional treatment, the alcohol is removed from your body, and those harrowing withdrawal symptoms are alleviated by doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel. This process greatly diminishes the threat posed by those symptoms.
Once detox is completed, the psychological restoration starts through outpatient treatment, where you can receive the therapy and counseling to address the underlying causes of your drinking.
It’s During This Phase That You Will Have Access To Evidence-Based Treatment Modalities Like:
- Motivational Interviewing
- Group and Individual Therapy
- Holistic therapies (yoga and meditation)
Get Help Today
Now that you are aware of the dangers of alcohol addiction let us help you find a program that frees you from its devastating effects.