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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
There are signs to be mindful of if alcohol use has bloomed into an addiction. They include the following:
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:
The CAGE Questionnaire is another tool you can use to determine whether an alcohol addiction is present:
1. Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your drinking?
2. Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
3. Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your drinking?
4. 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 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.
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.
This is why professional treatment for AUDs is highly recommended.
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.
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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.
Alcohol in moderation: How many drinks is that? (2018, November 06). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/alcohol/art-20044551
Alcohol Use Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders
Alcohol's Effects on the Body. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body
Chisholm, P. (2018, July 19). A Spike In Liver Disease Deaths Among Young Adults Fueled By Alcohol. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/07/18/630275042/a-spike-in-liver-disease-deaths-among-young-adults-fueled-by-alcohol
Jean.firstname.lastname@example.org. (2019, April 23). Drunk Driving. Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving
Searing, L. (2019, April 06). The Big Number: 17.6 million Americans suffer from alcoholism. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/the-big-number-176-million-americans-suffer-from-alcoholism/2019/04/05/0150010c-56ec-11e9-9136-f8e636f1f6df_story.html?utm_term=.62b5679cd42e
Tapper, E. B., & Parikh, N. D. (2018, July 18). Mortality due to cirrhosis and liver cancer in the United States, 1999-2016: Observational study. Retrieved from https://www.bmj.com/content/362/bmj.k2817