Alcohol Awareness Month

Alcohol Awareness Month

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, designated by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence as a way of increasing outreach and to educate about the cause and effect of this addictive substance. It is not uncommon or dangerous to wind down at the end of the day with a drink. After all, alcohol consumption is a common coping mechanism for people just about everywhere. But, like everything else, alcohol must be consumed in moderation or it can cause long term mental, physical, work and family problems.

What is Alcohol Use Disorder

Today, people refer to alcoholism as Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Alcohol is a drug, and it can be dangerous. Like most every other drug in the United States, legal or not, it can cause people to develop a dependence on it. Addiction is hard to overcome, and alcoholism is one of the most common addictions since it is the easiest to obtain. There are an average of 80,000 alcohol-related deaths each year in the United States.

What Causes Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a condition that is difficult to diagnose because there is no official definition of "alcoholism." Therefore, it is not easy to assess. A doctor may ask questions like "Have you missed work or lost a job because of drinking?" or "Have you experienced blackouts because of your drinking?" to gauge how much and how often someone drinks.

The causes of alcohol use disorder are currently unknown. However, there are some conditions in which a person may be more likely to become an alcoholic. Stress, depression, family history and marital problems are some typical examples.

Depending on how much an individual drinks, the brain can become reliant upon alcohol to function "normally." With that, the body develops a physical need for drinking as well. Once the addiction takes hold, physical changes occur. For example, the joy that comes from drinking fades away over time. Instead, the body craves the substance for fear of the effects that come from withdrawal. Immediately abstaining from alcohol, after having a drinking problem for a long period of time, may actually have deadly consequences.

 Signs of Alcoholism

Someone who may have AUD will exhibit certain behaviors and have symptoms which reflect their abuse. Friends and family members should trust their instincts if they have a concern, as alcoholics will eventually make it evident there is a problem.
  • Anger issues. Alcoholics tend to struggle with their emotions, especially anger. Alcohol increases the release of dopamine, the chemical responsible for feelings of euphoria, from the brain. This reaction causes lowered inhibitions, which clouds judgment.
  • Isolation. If the problem persists long enough, abusers of alcohol will find it easier to drink alone. They will isolate themselves from people they know and love. The reason for this may be because they feel more comfortable drinking alone, because they don't feel judged.
  • Memory loss. Sufferers of AUD will eventually find themselves blacking out from the night before. Blacking out is when an individual cannot remember specific time frames about the previous night. It is one of many memory problems that an alcoholic will develop. Short-term memory loss also becomes more permanent for their everyday life, even when sober.
  • Excuses. When confronted, someone who has a drinking problem will most likely react in two ways. First, they may become overly defensive. Second, they will make up any excuse in an attempt to put other's minds at ease and to make them feel justified in their behavior.
  • Other signs. Aside from behavior, there are physical signs that someone may have a drinking problem. Besides the intoxicated demeanor and the smell of alcohol on the breath, someone with AUD will also experience excessive sweating, even when inactive. Blood capillaries in their face may dilate, causing a reddened appearance.

Health Effects of Alcoholism

If left untreated, alcoholics will most certainly have organ failure and, sadly, no organ is safe. The liver takes the majority of the damage. It is the livers' responsibility to metabolize the alcohol that runs through it. Too much alcohol will cause the liver to become overworked and essentially poisoned, then fail to perform. That is when toxins the liver normally filters begin to spread throughout the body.  Drinking alcohol has been identified as a cause of pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. Alcoholism can also lead to heart problems, such as heart disease and heart attack.

Treatment of Alcoholism

There is no "cure" for alcoholism. Quitting cold turkey can shock the system and cause more problems, including death. However, there are treatments available which have proven to be helpful. One such treatment is alcohol rehabilitation, often referred to as "rehab". Rehabilitation facilities are excellent for recovery. These centers provide  medical treatment which gradually eases the body from alcohol at a controlled pace. Rehab also offers counselors and resources that teach an addict how to cope with issues and go back into society with a sober mind. Alcoholism is a scary thing for the sufferer, as well as their friends and families. The disease affects all surrounding parties. Please use this month to understand the signs of alcoholism, because it may very well save someone's life.

When Alcoholism Becomes an Emergency

Every day and every drink is one step closer to a crisis, whether physical or mental, which leads to an emergency room visit. Studies show that there has been a rise in emergency room visits over the last few years. Some of the reasons are:
  • Alcohol poisoning, which can lead to death
  • Drug interactions, since alcohol and many drugs do not mix well and can be deadly
  • Accidents in the home due to trips, falls, cuts, or other incidents
  • Car accidents related to drunk driving
  • Fights, shootings, or other injuries which stem from arguments because of drinking
  • Chronic and often fatal diseases like pancreatitis or cirrhosis.
  • Withdrawal caused by ceasing alcohol consumption too suddenly.

The Emergency Center is Now Offering Telemedicine

We understand that access to quality care is limited during these trying times, which is why we are now offering telemedicine visits for urgent and minor care needs, with no appointment needed. Whether you have an insect bite, skin rash, sprain or strain, flu like symptoms, or suspect COVID-19 please call 833-TEC-FAST 833-832-3278 and one of our ER physicians can speak to or video chat with you remotely and advise you of the most appropriate clinical care. Telemedicine visits are available 7 days a week from 8:00AM until 12:00AM, and our facility is open with no wait 24/7/365 in the event our physician recommends further evaluation or immediate treatment. For more information about telemedicine, please visit this page: https://www.theemergencycenter.com/telemedicine-services/