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Alcohol is one of the most popular drugs nationwide. According to a survey from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 14.1 million adults ages 18 and older had an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2019.

While having a few drinks occasionally is not cause for concern, moderate drinking and binge drinking behaviors can lead to alcohol misuse, alcohol abuse, or alcohol addiction.

How Drinking Alcohol Affects the Brain and Body

Withdrawal Symptoms When You Stop Drinking | Turning Point of Tampa

Alcohol affects the central nervous system as a depressant, resulting in a decrease in activity and inhibitions. Even a low level of alcohol within the body slows reactions. Alcohol impairs concentration and judgment and can lead to intoxication, and in excessive amounts, poisoning.

Alcohol irritates the gastrointestinal tract, causing an erosion of the stomach lining, resulting in nausea and vomiting. Long-term use of alcohol can lead to liver disease (hepatic cirrhosis). Alcohol can also compromise the cardiovascular system and lead to sexual dysfunction. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause problems for the developing fetus known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Drinkers experience changes in tolerance as alcohol dependence develops, often causing memory lapses related to drinking episodes.

What Causes Alcohol Addiction?

Addiction is the result of a multi-step process that begins with chronic consumption of an addictive substance. Over time, the brain becomes accustomed to the presence of that substance in the body, meaning the individual must take more of the same substance to feel its effects.

In the case of alcohol, this means that chronic drinkers must consume alcohol and drink more heavily to feel intoxicated than they did when they first began drinking. This is a condition known as tolerance, and it is common with all addictive substances, including prescription medications.

If individuals continue consuming alcohol, they can eventually reach the point of alcohol addiction and develop an alcohol use disorder. Currently, they are willing to undergo significant risks to their wellbeing and the wellbeing of others to continue drinking.

Individuals with substance use disorders including alcohol addiction are often willing to damage their careers, personal and professional relationships, and even harm themselves and others to fulfill their need for their drinking habits. This is driven by the brain’s adaptation to the drug, which often includes producing fewer neurotransmitter chemicals and overriding areas of the brain responsible for decision making and impulse control.

Signs and Symptoms of an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Diagnostic And Statistical Manual For Mental Disorders And Drinking Alcohol | Turning Point of Tampa

Signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction may include:

  • Tolerance to the effects of alcohol
  • Need for daily or frequent use of alcohol
  • Lack of control over drinking/intake
  • Solitary drinking
  • Making excuses to drink
  • Episodes of memory loss associated with alcohol use
  • Episodes of violence associated with drinking
  • Behavioral problems
  • Absenteeism
  • Shaking in the morning
  • Neglect of appearance or personal needs
  • Redness and enlarged capillaries in the face (especially the nose)
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Availability and consumption of alcohol use becomes the focus of social activities
  • Changes in peer-group associations
  • Tremors
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Unexplained mood swings
  • Hostility when confronted about drinking behavior

Everyone’s experience of addiction is different, so not everyone suffering from alcohol addiction will display all these symptoms at once. Nonetheless, if they show signs of habitual behavior patterns around alcohol problems, they are likely good candidates for a treatment facility.

Long-Term Affects Alcohol Abuse

National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And The Centers For Disease Control | Turning Point of Tampa

Long-term alcohol use can also contribute to lasting negative health consequences. These can include risk of death due to drunk driving and other higher risk-taking behaviors, as well as an increased likelihood of risk factors such as fatal falls, fires, drownings, and violence. Alcohol itself contributes to bodily harm, including:

  • Increased risk of stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Damage to the liver
  • Increased risk of hepatitis
  • Diseases including cirrhosis, fibrosis, and pancreatitis
  • Increased risk of damage to the heart (cardiomyopathy)
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Increased risk of pneumonia and other contagious diseases

You can read more about alcohol’s long-term effects on the human body in this National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism NIAAA fact sheet.

Risk of Alcohol Withdrawal

As with other drugs, after frequent drinking a person may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when they cut back or attempt to stop drinking. This can lead to a variety of symptoms ranging from moderate to severe and life-threatening.

Because alcohol affects the nervous system, its absence in the body can lead to withdrawal symptoms including:

  • Confusion
  • Moodiness
  • Restlessness
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Body or muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Insomnia or disrupted sleep
  • Hand or muscle tremors
  • High pulse rate

Severe alcohol abuse causes withdrawal symptoms when excessive drinking comes to a halt and can trigger a condition known as delirium tremens (or DTs) which can lead to hallucinations, seizures, stroke, or heart attack.

In the case of heavy drinkers, withdrawal can occur as soon as 5-10 hours after their last drink, with most symptoms subsiding within 5-7 days. Because alcohol withdrawal can lead to life-threatening complications, detoxification should only take place under medical supervision.

Risk of Alcohol Overdose

Blood Alcohol Concentration | Turning Point of Tampa

Because alcohol is a depressant that slows down the brain and body, consuming too much alcohol can cause the body to overdose, leading to the heart, lungs, and other organs to stop working.

Signs of an alcohol overdose include:

  • Difficulty understanding or speaking
  • Dizziness or difficulty standing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lowered heart rate
  • Seizure

Overdoses from Alcohol Use and Substance Abuse

Overdoses are particularly common when individuals mix alcohol with other addictive drugs such as benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin) or opioids (OxyContin, fentanyl) that also slow down the central nervous system. The interaction between these drugs can be highly dangerous and even fatal.

If you see anyone exhibiting the signs of an alcohol overdose, contact emergency medical services immediately by calling 911.

Dual Diagnosis and Alcohol Use Disorder

Many individuals with an alcohol use disorder also struggle with a mental health disorder. A co-occurring dual diagnosis such as depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or eating disorders commonly occur in conjunction with an alcohol use disorder and alcohol addiction.

In some cases, individuals may turn to drinking alcohol as a coping mechanism when dealing with mental health challenges. In other cases, addictive behaviors may lead to an increased likelihood of mental health complications.

Either way, it is critical that individuals with co-occurring disorders (also known as dual diagnosis or comorbidity) seek help from a reputable alcohol treatment program that can assist them with both disorders at the same time. For example, at Turning Point of Tampa, we have a specialized track for individuals struggling with alcohol addiction and eating disorders simultaneously.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Drug Abuse Can Happen From When You Drink Alcohol | Turning Point of Tampa

While alcohol addiction can feel frightening and intimidating, there is hope. A licensed, respected alcohol addiction treatment program can help you better understand, manage, and overcome your addiction. When searching for an alcohol treatment provider, it is important to look for several key factors, including:

  • Familiarity of the program with your alcohol addiction
  • Accreditation and licensing
  • Experience level of clinical and medical staff
  • Treatment philosophy
  • Location in a safe environment to treat alcoholism
  • Residential treatment centers also known as inpatient treatment where a person lives during their stay
  • Outpatient treatment options

We have put together a checklist of best practices for choosing the right treatment center.

Because alcohol addiction can be life-threatening, it is essential to seek out a treatment provider with relevant experience helping people with alcohol use disorder recovery. Many treatment programs will incorporate individual and group therapy, 12-step, and peer recovery groups, and other therapeutic techniques, so make sure to ask about their treatment approach.

At Turning Point of Tampa, we incorporate one-on-one and group therapy alongside alcohol abuse and alcoholism education and art, music, and equine therapy. We have helped individuals recover from addiction and eating disorders since 1987.

Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Separating alcohol addiction from binge drinking is best left to medical professionals. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can be ingrained in family history. Working with a certified addiction professional can help determine the unhealthy alcohol use from an alcohol addiction.

Turning Point of Tampa will assess and determine the right level of treatment based on ASAM (American Society of Addiction Medicine) criteria and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) the reference guide used to accurately diagnose clinical and mental health conditions known as DSM-5 diagnostic codes.

Alcohol misuse will lead to individuals different outcomes. Professional treatment advice from Turning Point of Tampa begins with a phone call. Our trained staff will go through a series of questions to help determine the appropriate level of care needed for the alcohol use disorder and or the substance use disorder.

State Licensed Alcohol Treatment Facility in Tampa, Fl.

Treatment Centers For Alcohol Abuse | Turning Point of Tampa

A licensed treatment facility will only admit clients to the best level of care based upon the acuity of their symptoms. Alcohol addiction can be treated at Turning Point of Tampa in our continuum levels of care.

Residential Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Residential alcohol addiction treatment at Turning Point of Tampa offers 24 supervision and support on our private campus. All lodging and meals are included. We offer 24/7 access to our staff and that includes doctors. Support groups are offered on campus. Every client will meet with a clinician and be involved in group therapy. We work together with our clients and develop a treatment plan unique to their needs.

Day Treatment

Turning Point of Tampa offers say treatment for alcohol addiction and substance abuse up to seven days a week. The number of days is decided with the client and the clinical team based on the need for services. We level of care combines the rigor of our residential alcohol treatment and the flexibility of the outpatient treatment program.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Our Intensive Outpatient treatment coupled with behavioral therapies and support groups is offered in the evenings. This allows clients to receive alcohol addiction treatment while maintaining employment and their primary residence.

Aftercare for Alcohol Use Disorders

Aftercare at Turning Point of Tampa is designed for those who have successfully completed an alcohol addiction program.

Because it is legal and widely available, alcohol may be viewed as less risky or harmful than illegal drugs. However, alcohol addiction contributes to physical, mental, and emotional harm for millions of Americans each year. More than 9 million men and 5 million women struggled with alcohol use disorder in 2018, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism data. And more than 95,000 people die annually from causes linked to alcohol.

If you or a loved one are unable to control your alcohol use, please seek support. Our team is also available to help with a free, confidential phone call to (800) 397-3006.

Next Steps

If you or a loved one are concerned that you may be suffering from alcohol addiction and substance abuse, contact a medical professional or addiction treatment provider today. Because alcohol withdrawal can lead to health consequences, it is essential to enter a supervised treatment center before attempting to stop drinking yourself or a have loved one change how they are drinking alcohol.

American Psychiatric Association And Mental Health Conditions | Turning Point of Tampa

Addiction Education

Addiction is a disease that affects the brain and body in many ways. It is caused by the overuse of drugs, alcohol, or other addictive substances. With proper substance abuse treatment it is possible to overcome drug and alcohol use disorders. A mental health professional can provide behavioral therapies to address the underlying reason behind an alcohol use disorder during the recovery process.

Alcoholics Anonymous And Support Groups That Offer Alcohol Counseling | Turning Point of Tampa

Alcohol

Alcohol is the most common drug used around the world. It can be found in many drinks and beverages such as wine, beer, whisky, vodka, and gin. Drinking alcohol has different effects on people depending on their age, weight, size and whether they have any other health conditions.

Mental Health Services Administration And Alcohol Abuse | Turning Point of Tampa

Opioids

Naturally derived from the opium poppy plant, opioids are a class of drugs that are used for chronic pain related to medical conditions that require the control of pain. There are prescription opioids that are used to help pain control and to reduce pain.

Treating Alcohol Addiction With Alcohol Treatment At A Treatment Center | Turning Point of Tampa

Sedatives/Depressants

Depressants are drugs that reduce the activity of the central nervous system. They can be used medically to help with anxiety, trouble sleeping, and depression. There are many different types of depressants including benzodiazepines (Xanax), barbiturates (Phenobarbital), alcohol, opiates (opium), narcotics (morphine), and muscle relaxers.

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