Many people can drink alcohol socially and never develop a problem, but there are others who develop an addiction all too easily. For these individuals, casual social drinking quickly becomes a habit. Understanding how alcohol can become an addiction and what it does to the body is essential for anyone who consumes alcohol.
Addiction to Alcohol
While it is possible to abuse alcohol without becoming addicted, the most severe form of addiction to alcohol is alcoholism. This is a condition that ranges from mild to severe and revolves around one’s inability to control drinking habits. As the brain becomes accustomed to the presence of alcohol, it adopts the intoxicated state as a normal condition. This leads the individual to feel incapable of functioning without taking a drink.
Sometimes, the individual comes to terms with the addiction and tries to quit. Unfortunately, the brain has come to depend on the alcohol by this point and suddenly depriving it of the substance can cause a shock to the brain. This shock is represented by intense cravings and severe withdrawal symptoms. In most cases, the individual gives in to the cravings and starts drinking more than ever before. Depending on the severity of the addiction, this may be a good thing, because it spares the individual from suffering extreme and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
What is Alcohol Withdrawal?
When someone suffers from alcohol addiction, they maintain a constant high by taking a drink anytime they feel their level of intoxication beginning to subside. They do this to maintain a physical and emotional balance, which the alcohol now provides. When there’s alcohol present in the brain, it encourages the production of dopamine, which is a “feel good” neurotransmitter. Typically, dopamine is produced as the result of exercise or eating delicious foods, but alcohol forces the brain to overproduce this neurotransmitter. As a result, the individual suffers from withdrawal symptoms once the alcohol leaves the system.
The brain and central nervous system overreact, as the body is suddenly deprived of alcohol. Since the dopamine levels have drastically dropped, the symptoms produced by withdrawal are more keenly felt by the individual. In addition to intense cravings for more alcohol, several physical responses are triggered. Depending on the length of time the individual was addicted and the health of the individual, those symptoms may be intense and can compromise the person’s health. For this reason, alcoholics are cautioned against trying to quit by themselves.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
The most common withdrawal symptoms are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Changes in appetite
- Unexplained sweating
Delirium tremens, or DTs, are experienced in cases where the individual has a very severe addiction to alcohol. When delirium tremens set in, the individual experiences another set of symptoms in addition to typical withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, the DTs cause other withdrawal symptoms to intensify.
- Inhibited or altered cognitive functioning
- Deep sleep
- Intense fear or anxiety
While some of these symptoms may not be life-threatening in themselves, they can affect the way the body functions. For instance, excitability or anxiety can elevate blood pressure and heart rate. If the addict already has a bad heart, the increased heart rate may pose a threat. This is just one example of why a medicated and supervised is often recommended.
A professionally administered alcohol detox is often the best option for people struggling with alcohol addiction. This is a service in which medication is used to mimic the effects of alcohol. Doses are administered by a trained caregiver and are gradually reduced as time goes on. This allows the individual to experience controlled and milder withdrawal symptoms over time.
Additionally, cravings are also controlled to help the individual adjust to sobriety. Caregivers monitor the individual for medical conditions that may arise during the treatment, as well as to evaluate the individual’s progress.
The experience you have with a medicated detox will be unique because it depends on the severity and length of your addiction. Your age, body type and weight, gender, and other factors all play into determining how long the detox will take. In some cases, it may only take a few days, but it may take seven days or more for severe addictions. Even after the detox has been completed, you should still expect to experience mild withdrawal symptoms and cravings. While these symptoms may remain with you for some time, alcohol rehab can teach you how to cope with them.
This overview provides a basic understanding of alcohol addiction, which is something that can help you identify a problem. Whether you suffer from alcoholism yourself, or you suspect a loved one of struggling with addiction, understanding how alcohol affects us can be beneficial. It can help you accept that professional help is needed, starting with a medicated detox. Once Novo Detox helps you get clean and sober, you’ll be ready to start on the road to recovery. Contact us today to take the first step.