Alcohol is Considered a Drug: Here’s Why
What Makes Alcohol So Addictive?
Alcohol is such an addictive drug because it creates both a physical and psychological addiction.
- Physical addiction to alcohol occurs because it makes chemical changes to the brain. Alcohol can act as a stimulant in smaller quantities and is otherwise a depressant. Alcohol addiction is unsurprisingly found more often in those who experience the stimulant effect. It also increases the number of endorphins and dopamine released in the brain, creating a euphoric effect.
- Psychological addiction happens because it becomes a learned behavior that is often used as a coping mechanism (having a drink after a hard day, drinking to forget, etc.), and may become a habit that is difficult to break over time. You may associate drinking with having a good time, even long after it is no longer an active choice you are making when you pick up that case of beer after work.
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Why Alcohol is Considered a Drug
Alcohol is considered a drug, classified as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. It slows down the way your brain functions, your neural activity, and the way other parts of your bodywork by increasing the GABA neurotransmitter in the brain.
It is possible to overdose on alcohol. This is sometimes called “alcohol poisoning” and includes symptoms like slow or irregular breathing, vomiting, inability to feel pain, and blue/cold/clammy skin. Alcohol poisoning can lead to death.
Long-term drinking can also cause dangerous health risks like:
- Memory loss and difficulty learning
- Fatty liver, liver disease, and liver fibrosis
- Alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis
- High blood pressure
- Vitamin deficiencies
Multiple types of cancer are also linked to drinking alcohol. Even with these health issues, many people continue to use and abuse alcohol consistently, perpetuating the cycle of addiction.
Signs of Alcohol Addiction
If you are wondering if your drinking may be becoming problematic and are wondering if you have an addiction, you may want to look truthfully at yourself and your life for these signs of alcohol addiction:
- Being unable to stop drinking and having withdrawal symptoms when you do
- Your life revolves around planning to drink alcohol, drinking, and recovering from hangovers
- Drinking alone often, or drink in the mornings
- Feeling guilty about your drinking
- Continuing to drink even when you know it’s causing relationship, family, money, or health problems for you and your loved ones
- Being unable to control how much you drink once you start
- Having uncontrollable mood swings and irritability
- Prioritizing drinking over your other interests and responsibilities
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol is not a drug that you should ever attempt to quit “cold turkey”. Withdrawal symptoms that occur when you stop drinking can range from mild to severe. This range depends on factors such as:
- How long you have been drinking (how many years)
- How much you have been drinking in one sitting
- how frequently you were drinking (every day, 3-4 times a week, etc)
- your physical health at the time of detox
- your mental health and level of motivation during detox
- physical, genetic and biological factors
- whether you were mixing alcohol with other drugs
The milder alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- Anxiety and mood swings
- Uncontrollable sweating
- Confusion or brain fog
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased heart rate
These symptoms can cause a large amount of discomfort and distress, and come with a very strong urge to drink, which, without strong support, can cause a person to relapse.
The more severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can present themselves suddenly, with a fast onset that can quickly get out of control if not closely monitored by medical professionals. These include seizures and delirium tremens, also known as “the DTs”, a serious set of symptoms that can be very dangerous to your health and can even cause death due to brain issues if untreated. Symptoms of delirium tremens include:
- Auditory, visual and tactile hallucinations, including feeling like something is crawling under your skin, and seeing or hearing things that are not there
- High fever
- Confusion and agitation
- Brain damage
Being inside a 24-hour medical detox center is the safest way to detox from alcohol for this reason. A medical detox program can keep you safe and comfortable as the alcohol leaves your system.
Going to Rehab for Alcohol Addiction
Detoxing is only the first step in alcohol addiction treatment. Alcohol rehab is important as it is where you learn relapse prevention skills, coping mechanisms, and new healthy habits that will last you a lifetime. You will use therapy and counseling to access the deeper parts of yourself and heal the underlying pain and trauma that has contributed to your addiction while working toward a healthier, happier future.
Alcohol Rehab Programs at Resurgence
At Resurgence, we have a variety of fully integrated alcohol rehab programs that can be tailored to best suit your needs. From detox to rehab to outpatient programs, we can help you stop drinking in a safe and effective way, ensuring you do not suffer throughout the process.
During the intake procedure, our medical team screens for physical and mental health problems as well, to determine whether a dual diagnosis treatment is necessary. We also review drug, medical, and psychiatric history, so we can create a realistic and functional long-term recovery plan for you.
Our detox program at Resurgence is a Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) program, meaning that we not only provide you with medical care and supervision as your body purges the toxins from your system, but we can also prescribe FDA-approved medications to help with alcohol cravings, pain and discomfort, anxiety, and seizures. These medications are given at measured doses and will not create a new addiction.
You will live inside our home-like residence, with 24/7 clinical staff on-site. Licensed nurses are available during the day to ensure everything is going to plan. Our head nurse is a certified addictions RN. MAT programs also include counseling and therapy, with a focus on dual diagnosis treatment for those who have a coexisting mental illness that needs to be addressed.
After detox, we recommend inpatient rehab for most people. This is a 30- to 90-day program in which you move into our facility full-time, away from all distractions, external stress, and pressure, so that you can focus completely on yourself and your recovery. In this time you will learn new ways of thinking, gain a fresh perspective on things, dig deep to heal the underlying causes of your addiction, and gain recovery tools you will need to remain sober long-term.
The days in residential care are highly regimented and scheduled with treatments and therapy like:
- Dual diagnosis treatments
- Behavioral Therapy
- Trauma-informed therapy
- Family/couples therapy
- Nutritional counseling
- Fitness programs
You will find ways to thrive and grow, regaining your strength and health as you learn the skills you need to live a productive and alcohol-free life.
Our facility is comfortable and safe, and you will stay in a home-like room with a full-sized bed. Smoking is allowed in designated areas, and we are a pet-friendly facility. Food at Resurgence is healthy and made fresh by our onsite chefs who are happy to make adjustments if you have a specific allergy or dietary need. We have TVs in the rooms, exercise areas, games, and movie nights.
The community-first environment we foster in our facility is designed to help you create new, sober connections with your peers, learning new ways to be yourself without drinking. Our life-skills programs and vocational skills programs can help you reach future goals, and our offsite outings will allow you to stretch your legs and see some of the local nature spots and attractions, giving you a break from the routine on-campus.
After inpatient rehab is over you are not on your own. Our outpatient programs include:
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) – a transitional program in which you begin to shift focus onto your own personal responsibility, without becoming overwhelmed all at once. You will live away from the facility but commute in for full days of groups and other appointments.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) – is a flexible program that works around your schedule so you can return to childcare, work, or school, while still getting the treatment you need. This program is best suited to people who have a supportive place to live, and for those who have a low risk of relapsing.
Once you have completed your time in rehab, we offer outpatient aftercare that will keep you connected to a sober community of alumni with access to trusted sober living homes in your area, as well as the doctors and psychiatrists you were seeing in rehab to maintain your continuity of care. We can also connect you to local sober activities and clubs, alumni groups, 12-step groups, and process groups. For more information about how we can help you stop drinking for good, our MAT detox program, and the different types of rehabilitation programs we offer, contact Resurgence today. We are here to help you.