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What is Excessive Alcohol Use?

What is Excessive Alcohol use Resurgence Behavioral Health

Signs of Excessive Drinking

Drinking too much can increase the risk of damage to your health and cause major problems in your life.

Common signs and symptoms that you may be drinking excessively include:

  • Wanting a drink so badly you cannot think of anything else
  • Keeping alcohol on your person or stashes around the house/workplace
  • Not being able to quit or cut back on your drinking even when you want to
  • Finding that your drinking (and hangovers) interferes with your life and is damaging relationships with family, work, and friends, as well as giving up on activities you used to enjoy in order to drink more
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol, needing to drink more to achieve the same level of intoxication
  • Finding that when the effects of alcohol wear off you feel alcohol withdrawal symptoms

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Standard vs. Excessive Alcohol Use

The centers for disease control define one standard drink in the United States as one that contains 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. This is the equivalent of about:

  • One glass of wine with 12% alcohol content
  • Eight ounces of malt liquor with 7% alcohol content
  • One beer with 5% alcohol content
  • 1.5 ounces of spirits of 40% liquor like gin, rum, vodka, and whiskey

Standard, or moderate drinking, is when you choose not to drink, alternate your alcohol intake with water or another non-alcoholic beverage, and only have two drinks per day for men, or one drink per day for women. Those who moderately drink have a lower chance of developing health issues later on in life. You should never drink alcohol if you are:

  • Pregnant or think you may be pregnant
  • Underage
  • Taking prescription medications that interact with alcohol
  • Driving, operating any heavy machinery or participating in any activity that requires alertness, skill, and coordination
  • Suffering from certain medical conditions, chronic diseases, or are recovering from alcoholism

Excessive alcohol use poses a serious health risk. It is defined as binge drinking by alcohol abusers, heavy alcohol consumption, or any drinking at all if you are the age of 21 or pregnant.

  • Binge drinking is when a large amount of alcohol is consumed in one sitting. This is the rough equivalent to five or more drinks for men and four or more for women on a single occasion.
  • Heavy drinking is when eight or more drinks per week (or more than one drink per day) are consumed by a woman, or fifteen or more drinks (more than two per day) for men.

Excessive alcohol consumption is not on its own an indicator of being addicted to alcohol, but it can certainly increase your risk of developing a physical dependence on alcohol over time, creating an addiction.

Heavy Alcohol Use on the Body

Heavy drinking has many negative effects on the body. According to the Center for Disease Control, in the United States, excessive drinking shortened the lives of approximately 95,000 Americans between 2011 and 2015, causing them to die an average of 29 years earlier than their natural lifespan would have been. Alcohol was also the cause of death for one-tenth of adults aged 20 to 64 years.

Alcohol can create both long- or short-term health and wellness problems and include issues and health conditions like:

Short Term Effects of Excessive Drinking

The short-term effects of excessive drinking to the point of causing a high blood alcohol level (binge drinking), may include:

·   Alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that occurs when too much alcohol is consumed

·   Miscarriage and stillbirth, as well as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders if a pregnant person drinks

·   Risk of violence. Alongside barfights, the CDC states that drinking may even increase the risk of homicide, suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.

·   With lowered inhibitions come increased risk-taking, including sexual behaviors that may lead to unintended pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections.

·   Legal troubles may arise if you are intoxicated in public, or driving while under the influence

Long Term Effects of Excessive Drinking

The long-term health effects and chronic diseases that are caused by excessive alcohol consumption include:

  • A weakened immune system, which will increase your chances of contracting an illness
  • Social issues, such as drinking can cause problems with your family, job, and social circle
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Digestive issues
  • Cancer of the mouth, throat cancer, esophageal cancer, breast cancer, voice box cancer, liver cancer, colon cancer, and rectal cancer
  • Memory issues and learning problems, including dementia and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
  • Mental health issues like depression or anxiety
  • Liver diseases including a fatty liver that may lead to liver cirrhosis
  • Alcohol use disorders, alcohol dependence, and addiction to alcohol

Getting Help for Alcohol Addiction at Resurgence

The best way to prevent all of these long-term effects and their health and social issues is to completely stop drinking too much alcohol. This is a solution that may sound as simple as “putting down the drink”, but in reality, for many people, especially those who have been drinking for a very long time or who have been bingeing alcohol, it may be more complicated.

If you suspect you have a substance use issue regarding drinking, you should not try and quit drinking cold turkey. It is important to seek medically reviewed, professional help, otherwise, you may experience withdrawal symptoms that may include:

  • Anxiety and mood swings
  • Tremors
  • Uncontrollable sweating
  • Confusion or brain fog
  • Irritability
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headache
  • Increased heart rate

These symptoms can become so uncomfortable and distressing that they may cause you to want to immediately relapse to avoid these effects which is one of the reasons detoxing in a professional, safe and sober environment is beneficial. The true worry is the other symptoms that come along when detoxing from an alcohol use disorder. Seizures can occur, and delirium tremens (“the DTs”) can be very dangerous to your health and can result in death if untreated. Symptoms of the DTs include:

  • Hallucinations that are visual, auditory, or tactile
  • High fever
  • Confusion and agitation
  • Seizures
  • Brain damage
  • Death

Detoxing in a medically supervised environment is recommended for this reason. Even if you are unsure whether you count as a “heavy drinker”, it is safer to check with your doctor or an addiction specialist before you try to quit on your own.

A medically assisted treatment (MAT) program for the treatment of alcohol use disorder, like the detox programs offered at Resurgence Behavioral Health, is a specialized treatment program tailored to your specific needs. You will move into the center for the full time it takes for your body to detox and stabilize, and for your brain’s chemistry to rebalance itself (usually around one week to ten days for alcohol).

A MAT detox program takes place in a 100% sober environment, with full-time, 24-hour support from medical staff, nurses, therapists, and counselors. You will be treated by doctors who can provide prescription medications to help you with your withdrawal symptoms, including alcohol cravings, anxiety, restlessness, and pain. These medicines are FDA-approved and are given at the lowest possible dose, and only when you need them, so you will not gain a new dependence.

During MAT, clinical caregivers will ensure no medical emergencies happen, and you will also be treated for co-occurring conditions like trauma or mental illness. Counseling will help you deal with the stress and anxiety that comes with alcohol detox, and we can also begin a dual diagnosis treatment for mental illness that may include psychiatric medication and therapy.

Going into an inpatient substance abuse rehab program directly after detox is strongly recommended for most people who have an addiction to alcohol. This is where most of the work occurs and will result in your having the best chance of remaining in recovery for the long term. You will dig deep to the root of your addiction, learn healthy coping mechanisms, and change out unhealthy habits for new healthy ones. At Resurgence, you will move into a comfortable room, eat delicious and healthy food, and live in a welcoming, sober community for 30 to 90 days. We offer a variety of therapy options, including behavioral therapies, group therapy, experiential therapy, and much more, as well as life skills programs, educational programs, and physical/nutritional health programs, treating you as a whole person, not just your addiction.

Once you have completed your inpatient rehabilitation for alcohol use disorder AUD, you will likely be recommended to join one of our outpatient rehab programs, so you can transition gradually back into your everyday life. The outpatient programs at Resurgence include:

The Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) – a transitional program between inpatient detox/rehab, and the IOP, in which you begin to take back your everyday tasks and responsibilities slowly as to not be overwhelmed all at once. You will live outside the rehab center but commute in for full days of treatment 5 to 7 days a week.

The Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) – is a flexible outpatient program that works around your work/school/family schedule so you can live a normal life, while still getting the treatment you need. You will live at home or in a sober living home and come for treatment in the evenings and on weekends.

Aftercare – you may remain connected to the same therapists, doctors, and sober communities for as long as you wish through our aftercare program. We can offer you referrals for sober living homes, and you can join alumni meetups and sober community meetings at your convenience.

Outpatient programs are also available for those who are determined to have a mild addiction, and who cannot leave their responsibilities at home or work, or other obligations, to check into a full 30- to a 90-day residential rehab program.

Help for alcohol addiction is only a phone call away. Call us at Resurgence today to find out more about how we can help you safely and comfortably detox from alcohol, and rehabilitate effectively, for long-term sobriety. You are not alone, and we can help you. 

Addiction Treatment that
Just Works

Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.

Alexa Iocco

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