Alcohol is a liquid that is colorless, flammable, and comes in various forms. The form that is most commonly known is ethyl alcohol (ethanol). This is the type of alcohol used in beverages such as wine, beer, and liquor. It is produced through the fermentation of grains and fruits, which happens when yeast acts upon certain ingredients in food and creates alcohol. Beer and wine are drinks that are fermented and can contain anywhere from 2% to 20% alcohol. And other drinks that are distilled, such as liquor, can contain anywhere from 40% to 50% of alcohol.
Because the consumption of alcohol has a pleasurable effect, it can create a psychological dependency. Over time, someone with a dependency to alcohol might develop a tolerance to it, meaning that the body has adapted to the alcohol, requiring more of it to achieve a certain effect. Over time, a chemical dependency might turn into an addiction. There are distinct qualities to addiction that make it different than a chemical dependency. One primary difference is that addictions are patterns of compulsive behavior that can get out of hand. A compulsion is an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against your own conscious wishes. Meanwhile, someone can have a chemical dependency to alcohol but not develop a compulsion towards drinking.
For instance, someone who requires methadone to ease physical pain might have a chemical dependency on methadone, but he or she does not have a compulsion or an addiction towards methadone. When a compulsion grows and expands it can turn into an addiction, one that’s harmful to you and those around you. An alcohol or drug addiction, or example, could be defined by a loss of control where you find yourself spending large amounts of time engaging in alcohol-related activity to the point where you are neglecting social, academic, or familial responsibilities. You’re not only drinking but you’re thinking about drinking. You’re planning your day so that you can drink. You’re planning your financial life so that you can be sure to have enough money to buy alcohol throughout the month.
If you notice that you have an alcohol addiction and you want to stop, you should know that attempting to withdraw from alcohol on your own could be potentially life threatening. There are significant symptoms that can begin as early as two hours after the last drink, depending on how severe and how long an alcohol addiction lasted. Without the right medical support, a self-induced alcohol detox can lead to what’s known as alcohol withdrawal syndrome.
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a condition that can develop in those who have been drinking heavily for many weeks, months, or years, and then stop or reduce their alcohol consumption. Symptoms can range from mild anxiety to severe physical complications, including seizures and tremors. The following are a list of symptoms:
- Shaky hands
- Mild anxiety
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Hallucinations (visual, auditory, or tactile)
- Seizures (can occur either as a single clearing seizure or as a brief episode of multiple seizures.)
- Severe confusion
- Irregular heartbeats
- Impaired attention
- Death (not common but can occur in 1-5% of people)
Of course, the way to avoid significant complications with detoxing from alcohol is to obtain the support of a medical professional. It’s particularly important to seek medical attention even if symptoms are mild because they can rapidly worsen. Alcohol withdrawal treatment and alcohol detox programs that are supervised and facilitated by medical professionals can reduce any health risks. In fact, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can create a medical emergency if professionals do not facilitate detox.
If you’re experiencing an alcohol addiction and you’re ready to get sober, be sure to get the professional help you need.
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