What is alcohol abuse/addiction?
Alcohol abuse refers to one’s unhealthy and dangerous drinking habits such as frequent binge drinking and excessive daily drinking. Those who abuse alcohol are often aware of the negative consequences of their drinking habits, but continue to use alcohol despite the problems that it causes. Those who abuse alcohol have not yet developed a chemical dependency, but consistent long-term abuse can lead to physical and psychologically addiction. This is called alcoholism. Alcoholism is a long-term and chronic disease that is associated with cravings and a strong need for alcohol to help get through the day. In addition to these feelings, addicts also develop physical withdrawal symptoms after stopping use.
What is a drink and how much is too much?
A standard “drink” in the U.S. is approximately 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. Generally, one drink is equivalent to:
- A 12-ounce can of beer (5% alcohol)
- A 5-ounce glass of wine (12% alcohol)
- A 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof hard liquor (40% alcohol)
Moderate drinking includes:
- women who consume no more than 1 drink per day
- men who consume no more than 2 drinks per day
Excessive drinking includes:
- Binge Drinking (the most common form, a BAC of 0.08% or higher in a single occasion)
- women: 4 or more drinks within 2 hours
- men: 5 or more drinks within 2 hours
- Heavy Drinking
- women: 8 or more drinks per week
- men: 15 or more drinks per week
- Note: The majority of excessive drinkers do not develop alcohol abuse/addiction, however, excessive drinking can lead to these issues.
- One who regularly exceeds the above guidelines is at a high risk for developing alcohol abuse or addiction.
What is BAC?
BAC stands for Blood Alcohol Concentration. In the United States, a person is legally intoxicated of the BAC is or exceeds 0.08. This means that there are 8 parts of alcohol for every 10,000 parts of blood in the bloodstream. BAC differs slightly between men and women and can be influenced by weight, food consumed, number of drinks consumed, and the time interval between drinks consumed. Here is a chart that compares the body weight of males and females with the number of drinks consumed in one sitting:
The Physical and Behavioral Effects of BAC:
- 0.02-0.04: mild euphoria, feelings of relaxation, loss of shyness
- 0.04-0.07: feelings of warmth and relaxation, reduced inhibitions, intensified emotions (good emotions are better, bad emotions are worse)
- 0.07-0.09: motor impairment, memory impairment, reduced judgment, feeling more functional than you actually are
- 0.10-0.15: significant loss of coordination and balance, significant loss of judgment, slurred speech, “sloppy” drunkenness, blurred vision
- 0.16-0.20: severe impairments, nausea, vomiting, blackouts, loss of feelings of pain
- 0.25: mental, physical, sensory functions severely impaired, risk of asphyxiation
- 0.30: stupor, emotional numbness, high risk of falls & accidents, risk of poisoning, possible death
- 0.35+: high risk of coma, respiratory suppression, alcohol poisoning, possible death
How does alcohol addiction occur?
Alcohol dependence can develop rapidly or gradually and can be influenced by life situations and/or genetics. In the brain, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that acts to suppress the excitatory nerve pathway and increase the inhibitory nerve pathway. This therefore causes normal brain functions to slow down and is responsible for the relaxed and sluggish symptoms associated with alcohol use. When a person develops a dependency to alcohol, these nerve pathways become disrupted in that they adapt to the slow and depressed neural system. Some brain cells die and certain receptors become inactivated such that in the absence of alcohol, the brain and spinal cord enter a state of hyper-excitability. Additionally, alcohol also alters the dopamine reward system in the brain which is responsible for the pleasurable and euphoric feelings associated with drinking. When alcohol intake is suddenly ceased, the brain registers a “reward deficiency” which also contributes to a heightened state of excitability. Furthermore, this is responsible for withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, shakiness, or anxiety. Alcohol detox would then be needed.
What are the signs/symptoms of alcohol abuse?
- frequent tardiness or absence at work or school
- drinking early in the day, drinking alone, or drinking in secret
- risky behaviors (engaging in sex, fights, & driving while intoxicated)
- legal problems (engaging in fights, harming others, driving while intoxicated)
- having family members or close friends who are concerned about your drinking
- continuing bad drinking habits despite realizing their negative consequences
- increased tolerance (drinking more to get the same effect)
- drinking to the point of blacking out
- frequent mood swings or increased expressions of anger
- cycles of insomnia and oversleeping
What are the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol addiction?
Signs of alcohol addiction include a more severe level of abuse [see signs & symptoms listed above] as well as the following physical symptoms when consumption is suddenly stopped:
- stomach aches or cramps
- nausea & vomiting
- shakiness & trembling hands
- anxiety & insomnia
- flushed skin on the face
- liver problems (cirrhosis)
What are some risk factors for alcohol addiction?
- family history of alcoholism (genetics)
- family violence
- male gender
- age – developing unhealthy drinking habits early in life (before age 21)
- individuals sexually and/or physically abused as children
- psychiatric disorders, especially depression and anxiety; bipolar disorder and schizophrenia can also increase the risk
What are some common treatments for alcohol dependence?
- Alcohol withdrawal may be treated with a pharmacologic agent that exhibits cross-tolerance with alcohol. Agents that are commonly recommended include diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), clorazepate (Tranxeme) and phenobarbital.
- The usual initial dosage of diazepam or lorazepam is titrated according to elevations of blood pressure, pulse rate, degree of agitation and presence of delirium.
- In general, longer-acting preparations such as diazepam or chlordiazepoxide provide a smoother and safer withdrawal than other preparations. Shorter-acting preparations such as lorazepam are indicated when elimination time for benzodiazepines is prolonged, such as in patients with significant liver disease.
- Medications such as disulfiram (Antabuse), Naltrexone (Vivitrol, ReVia), Acamprosate (Campral), and topiramate (Topamax) are sometimes used to help a person stay sober and resist drinking urges.
- Group therapy, counseling, and alcohol education is strongly recommended for recovering addicts in order to help cope with the mental, social, and behavioral changes associated with treatment.
- Alcohol detox.
If you or someone you know is suspected to be suffering from alcohol abuse or dependency, GenPsych can help. Call 1-855-436-7792 or click to schedule an appointment.
About GenPsych’s NJ Ambulatory Detox Program
The GenPsych Ambulatory Detox Program offers a unique opportunity for individuals suffering from chemical dependency. Not only are our clients safely and comfortably detoxed with the assistance of medication under the care of our medical team, but they are also offered therapeutic programming to learn more about their addiction, as well as relapse prevention skills to help manage and sustain their recovery. Our educated, experienced, and compassionate staff provides support and understanding as individuals enter this initial stage of treatment. Our staff also has the knowledge and ability to engage and motivate clients during this difficult and delicate stage in the journey of their recovery. Our program allows clients to immediately put into practice the skills they learn as clients are able to return to their home environment nightly, which is where they will need to be able to implement their newly learned skills.
What to expect when scheduling an assessment
- When you call 1-855-436-7792 and you will reach one of our staff in central admissions. They will collect your information and schedule an appointment and transportation to and from our facility that same day. Callers after 5pm will be asked to press option 2 for Detox appointments, which will redirect them to our 24/7 admissions line to speak to a live after hours representative.
- A nurse from our program will contact you to gather any relevant medical information (medical history, substance used, last use etc…) She will answer any questions you may have and discuss the types of medications that will be used to assist you with your withdrawal symptoms.
- Transportation will pick you up at the time of your scheduled appointment from anywhere in New Jersey and transport you to our facility.
- Upon arriving at our facility, you will be assessed and immediately provided with medication to assist you with your withdrawal symptoms.
Hours of operation:
Our program is open every day. Program hours from Monday through Friday are 8am to 5pm, and weekend hours are 8am to 2pm. Clients are initially screened for appropriateness by our nursing staff. Upon admission to the program an individualized but safe and conservative detox protocol is used to ensure the medical safety and comfort of each client. It is our goal that each client has a comfortable and therapeutic experience, and is ready to move on to the next phase of their recovery.
Call 1-855-436-7792 or click to schedule an appointment
Click here for more Clinical Information and some Frequently Asked Questions about our Ambulatory Detox Program
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