The most commonly used drug in the world, besides nicotine, is alcohol. As we all know, kids from middle school all the way to the elderly drink alcohol. In the United States, and all over the old world, alcohol use has become a standardized from people drinking wine at parties to teenagers chugging alcohol and blacking out. Televised sports event advertise their alcoholic beverages to the extreme, and advertisements for beer are almost everywhere. Alcohol use in college is a substantial problem as many teenagers develop alcohol addiction due to the large amount of drinking involved in fraternity parties and other social events. In an environment where alcohol is normalized to the extreme and is used for socialization, alcohol addiction and abuse are bound to occur.
It is known that one in ten people will develop and alcohol problem during their lifetime. And about 18 million adult Americans have alcohol use disorder. Alcoholism is a disease that affects many people and has its roots in many areas including genetic, psychological, and behavioral factors. It causes brain chemistry to change specifically causing the brain to produce less of the neurotransmitter GABA. This decrease in GABA cause adrenaline to be in excess.
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has labeled more than 4 drinks a day for men or 3 three drinks a day for women as the maximum. Social drinking would be defined as a maximum of 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women. An example of a standard drink would be a 12 oz. beer. There are many symptoms that occur in people who are dealing with alcohol addiction. These symptoms include drinking in quantity as well as frequently but also an increased alcohol tolerance. There are also social symptoms that can be seen such as isolation from loved ones and an increase in emotional issues such as depression. The biggest issue that arises is that becoming an alcoholic is easily possible due to how easily a person can obtain alcohol such as going to any grocery store to buy drinks. People who may be feeling depressed might buy some drinks to drown their sorrow and then it leads to a cascade of events where a person cannot be without their drinks. Research now has found that alcoholism could be caused by not only social factors but also innate biological elements.
A famous researcher by the name of Morton Jellinek did extensive research on alcoholism and was a major backer of the view that alcoholism is a biological issue. He found four stages of alcoholism starting with pre-alcoholic, where a person is drinking primarily for stress reduction and is starting to develop a tolerance but is drinking to avoid anxiety and forget worries. The next stage is early alcoholic which includes a first-time blackout as well as discomfort from drinking, but the person cannot stop themselves. People during this phase will try to hide drinks and may start thinking about alcohol around the clock. Stage three is middle alcoholic where family and friends can recognize a person’s alcohol addiction. It also includes drinking at inappropriate times as well as change in body chemistry. The last stage is late alcoholic. In this stage, the effects of alcohol abuse are blatant, and drinking becomes the most important aspect of the person’s life. Alcoholism at this stage causes problems physically and mentally. Liver cirrhosis as well as paranoia become common. It is at this stage that a person, if not stopped, can have real problems moving forward and even discontinuing the consumption of alcohol can lead to bad alcohol withdrawal effects.
Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome is when a heavy drinker abruptly stops drinking. Most people tormented from this may suffer from hallucinations and seizures as well as nausea as well as a long list of other symptoms. The most sever is delirium tremens which includes extreme confusion and agitation as well as tactile hallucinations. The CDC defines 15 drinks per week for men and 8 drinks per week for women as people who may be at risk for the syndrome. It can be diagnosed using a physical exam checking for dehydration, and a distorted heart rate. A toxicology screen can be used, and doctors also use the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment of Alcohol questioning to diagnose AWS.
There are many treatments available for alcohol abuse which is a good sign as alcohol abuse has become a large issue in the United States. One of the best things a person can do to start is talk to their doctor. There are a lot of other ways to treat such as going to residential treatment centers or even outpatient programs available for people who want to be at home. A large step is going to detox which allows the body to get the alcohol out of the patient’s system. The most severe symptoms of withdrawal occur in the first three or four day and to ease the suffering, medications from the benzodiazepine family. Treating the physical aspects of alcohol withdrawal can be done using medications but there are also emotional aspects of alcohol withdrawal that a patient has to deal with. The best way to deal with emotional issues such as depression and anxiety would be to speak with a therapist or have counseling. Group therapy has also been helpful for many patients as it allows them to see that they are not alone, and many other people have had similar issues. Also seeing other people’s health improve can help motivate a person to try his hardest to improve his health and use every tool available to get better. Alcohol abuse has become an epidemic in the United States, but, there are ways to help people suffering with this addiction.