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Do You Have a Drinking Problem?

Drinking alcohol is part of everyday life for many people, and some people suffer no ill effects as a result. They go out for drinks with friends from time to time, they enjoy wine with a nice meal, or perhaps they fix themselves a cocktail when they get home from work. They don’t drive after drinking; drinking doesn’t interfere with their work or other responsibilities, and drinking doesn’t cause problems in their personal relationships.

For other people, their drinking habit isn’t working out so well. They find that they are spending more time drinking. They occasionally call in sick when they have had a “few too many” the night before, and this is happening more frequently--alcohol is interfering with their responsibilities. Arguments with their spouse or significant other may be happening more often and might be about their drinking. They may have a few drinks thinking that they will be more relaxed and instead find themselves being less patient with their children.

Many people can probably relate to some of the examples described in the second paragraph. If you do, you may want to examine your drinking habits and your relationship with alcohol. Ultimately, it’s up to each of us to determine whether or not we have a drinking problem, but there are some general guidelines to consider when making that determination.

Your Drinking May Be Problematic If…

If any of the following are true for you, it may be an indication that your drinking is getting out of control.

  • You find that you are drinking more than you planned to with some regularity
  • You are drinking more frequently than you did in the past
  • You have trouble sticking to self-imposed limits--you decide that you are going to have three drinks and end up drinking more
  • When you are going out to eat you will only choose restaurants that serve alcohol
  • You feel guilty or ashamed about your drinking
  • You make an effort to hide your drinking, like pouring your drink into a coffee mug
  • The only way you can relax is with a drink
  • You are spending more time drinking 
  • You frequently have five or more drinks at one time, which is considered “binge” drinking
  • You are becoming more irritated with friends and family after drinking
  • Family members and friends have told you that they are worried about your drinking
  • You have been injured while drinking
  • You have been arrested for your behavior while drinking, including driving under the influence
  • It’s becoming more difficult for you to handle your responsibilities at work or at home
  • You experience “blackouts” or “brownouts” while drinking--a full or partial memory loss where you still walk and talk and appear to be functioning
  • You need a drink in the morning most days
  • You need a drink to feel “normal” physically and mentally
  • You can’t stop drinking, even though you have tried

If You Decide to Quit Drinking

If you decide that your drinking is a problem, you are not alone and help is readily available. If you want to stop drinking, depending on how much you have been drinking and for how long, you may want to detox under medical supervision. Check with your doctor or other health care provider because withdrawal from alcohol can be life-threatening.

You may want to enter a formal treatment program if you decide to stop drinking alcohol. Treatment facilities vary in what programs they offer--some offer treatment on an out-patient basis and some are residential programs. Some centers offer medically supervised detox while others are designed for patients to enter after they have completed detox. Centers vary in the treatment modalities they offer as well.

No matter what, after you stop drinking you will need a support system. Deciding to stop drinking is a major change and it will be easier for you to stick with it if you have the support of people who have been where you are now or who are going through what you are currently experiencing. Two well-known support programs are Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery). 

AA was founded in the 1930s. The organization describes itself as an “international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost anywhere. There are no age or education requirements, Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, meetings are available online or in-person if local guidelines allow. For more information, visit https://www.aa.org.

SMART Recovery is a “global community of mutual support groups. At meetings, participants help one another resolve problems with any addiction (to drugs or alcohol or to activities such as gambling or over-eating). Participants find and develop the power within themselves to change and lead fulfilling and balanced lives.” For more information about SMART Recovery, visit https://www.smartrecovery.org.

If you are concerned about your use of alcohol, help is available. Enlightened Solutions is a substance abuse treatment center located on the New Jersey shore. We are also licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, like depression or bipolar disorder, that often accompany or lead to substance abuse. We offer a range of treatment options tailored to the specific needs and goals of each individual patient.  These treatment options include traditional psychotherapy, both individually and in a group setting. We also offer a number of holistic treatment modalities, including family constellation therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral treatment (DBT), art and music therapy, yoga and meditation classes, acupuncture and chiropractic care, equine therapy, and sound therapy. In addition, our life skills offerings include education about nutrition and wellness to aid in healing the body and mind. If you are ready to change your relationship with alcohol, call us at (833) 801-5483.

 


Brain Damage After Drinking Alcohol

Brain Damage After Drinking Alcohol

Consuming alcohol can slow down the normal function of areas all over the body. Because the brain controls everything going on in your body, alcohol can make it hard to walk, blur your vision, slow down your reaction time, and impair your memory. It is very important that you get into treatment for alcoholism quickly before you experience permanent damage to your brain and nervous system.

How Alcohol Leads to Brain Damage

If someone is a heavy drinker or have been binge drinking five or more days in the past month, you have a better chance of experiencing permanent brain damage. Alcohol when consumed travels from the stomach to the intestines through the bloodstream to different organs. When there is too much alcohol consumed, the liver will take longer to process the alcohol, leading the alcohol to travel to the heart and the central nervous system. Alcohol then moves to the blood-brain barrier which directly affects the brain’s neurons. Because alcohol is toxic, drinking alcohol can damage or kill neurons.

The reason that alcohol is considered a depressant is that it slows down brain signals between neurons. Automatic brain processes controlled by the cerebellum and the cerebral cortex are impaired or slow like your breathing, processing new information, and balance. When your GABA transmitters are slowed down, your speech is slurred as well as your reaction times and movements. Damage to the area of the brain that is responsible for memory, the hippocampus, leads to short-term memory and brain cell death. Constant blackouts can lead to the brain not being able to produce new memories.

Alcohol-Related Brain Impairment

Heavy drinkers and beer drinkers can experience impairments like reckless behavior, depression, poor memory, lack of judgment, poor coordination, etc. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, long-term heavy drinking can shrink the size of your brain and cause the inner cavity to get bigger which is what causes these impairments to occur.

Wet Brain

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, also called “wet brain,” is brain damage that comes from constant, heavy exposure to alcohol. Because alcoholics have a poor diet, they become malnourished which leads to Vitamin B1 deficiency since alcohol blocks the ability to absorb or use the vitamin. The first stage of wet brain is caused by the biochemical legions of the nervous system. These lesions lead to poor muscle coordination, confused mental state, and problems with eye control movement. The second stage is permanent damage on the part of the brain that is responsible for memory. This can mean having severe brain loss, trouble making new memories, and visual and auditory hallucinations.

Hepatic Encephalopathy

Hepatic Encephalopathy is brain damage caused by liver failure. Because alcohol causes the liver to fail to screen the toxins out of the bloodstream for the health of the body, the liver is overworked and damaged when trying to rid the blood of alcohol. Since the body does not have help from the liver, the alcohol makes its way to the brain causing slurred speech, sudden mood changes, disorientation, and coma in severe cases.

When Alcohol-Related Brain Damage Occurs

According to the Alcohol Rehab Guide, brain damage as a result of alcohol can occur after 10-20 years of heavy drinking. Because women have a smaller body size than men, they can develop brain damage in a shorter timespan. The age group that is most commonly diagnosed is in people between 45-60 since it takes longer for symptoms to appear. Normally when patients receive a diagnosis of brain damage, the damages done by alcohol are permanent.

Hope for Alcohol-Related Brain Treatment

It is important to know that everyone’s brain is different as well as the extent that others have drunk. In early intervention and treatment, some brain impairment can be halted or reversed. For those with wet brain syndrome, you can take thiamine and vitamin supplements to improve your brain function. Early diagnosis can halt alcohol-related brain damage and lifestyle changes can reverse the deterioration. The first step is to quit alcohol as soon as you or the people around you realize that you have a problem.

In 2004, the University of North Carolina did a study to show new brain cell development as a result of abstinence from alcoholism. They examined the brain cell growth in adult rats that were given alcohol over four days that produce alcohol dependence. The team saw that alcohol dependency slowed down brain cell development. Within four to five weeks of alcohol abstinence, an increase in new cell growth developed in the hippocampus which included a new burst of brain cell growth on the seventh day of abstinence. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism believes that getting a patient to exercise in early recovery as well as encouraging them to take themselves out of social isolation is better than only focusing on the psychological issues related to alcoholism. New cell growth has the potential to occur as a result of increased physical activity, learning experiences and medications like antidepressants.

People do not seem to understand how important coordination, memory, the use of your five senses, and having a healthy brain is until you suffer permanent brain damage wishing you could have gone to early recovery when you had the chance. By abstaining from alcohol and admitting yourself to detox as well as inpatient or outpatient rehab, you can continue to have a healthy brain and live a healthy life.

Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center that uses evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress-reducing techniques centered around a 12 step network, you will achieve lasting recovery. For more information, please call us at 833-801-LIVE as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.