Alcohol is one of the most difficult substances to give up. This is partly because alcohol use is so socially acceptable – even expected in some cases – and partly because of the nature of withdrawal. Quitting any substance can be an unpleasant experience. In the case of alcohol, it can actually be dangerous if the right supports are not in place.
In this article, we will talk about the stages of alcohol withdrawal, what symptoms you may experience, and crucially, how you or a support person can tell when it’s time to call for medical help.
What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?
If you have been drinking large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis, you will have become used to it. You may still feel the effects of intoxication, but your body and mind will have reached the point of needing that alcohol in order to function. You may feel anxious or unable to concentrate without a drink, the smallest amount of stress can result in cravings, your hands may tremble until you’ve satisfied that thirst.
Why Does Alcohol Withdrawal Happen?
Most Canadians who drink do so in mild or moderate amounts – they do not experience withdrawal simply because they do not drink enough for their bodies to start relying on alcohol. The problem of withdrawal arises when you consume significant amounts of alcohol on a regular basis over a sustained period of time.
The more you drink, the more you need to drink: you may find yourself consuming larger amounts to achieve the same effects. Since alcohol is a depressant that slows down the central nervous system, your brain starts to compensate by producing what for most people would be an overabundance of natural stimulants, such as serotonin and norepinephrine.
If you abruptly reduce or eliminate your intake of alcohol, your body ends up with a massive surge of stimulants that have no place to go. This creates a potentially dangerous imbalance in your physiological functions, such as breathing and cardiac functioning.
The Stages Of Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal should be seen as a process that happens over a period of time rather than an event that is over and done with quickly. Many people believe that withdrawal is the process of the alcohol working its way out of your system, but it is more complex than that. Because of the physiological and neurological changes that happen, alcohol withdrawal includes a period of the brain chemistry trying to get itself back to the way it was prior to the period of alcohol abuse.
Stage 1: Tremors
5-10 hours after your last drink, you will start to experience the initial stages of alcohol withdrawal, which include:
Shaking or tremors
Nausea and vomiting
A raised pulse and/or elevated blood pressure
Insomnia, nightmares or vivid dreams
Anxiety and/or irritability
These symptoms typically peak after about 24 hours before starting to ease off on the second or third day. Some symptoms, such as insomnia and mood disturbances, can persist for several weeks or months.
Stage 2: Alcohol Withdrawal Seizures
Seizures can start between 6 and 48 hours after the last drink, although the risk is at its highest after around 24 hours. The frequency, duration, and severity of seizures depends on how heavily and frequently you used alcohol.
Stage 3: Alcohol Hallucinosis
12-24 hours after your last drink, you may see the onset of visual or tactile hallucinations. In other words, you see or feel things that are not there. Common hallucinations include the illusion of small moving objects and the sensation of crawling insects under the skin. These symptoms can last for up to two days.
The Dangers Of Delirium Tremens
Delirium tremens is the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal. People at highest risk are those who have used alcohol extremely heavily over a long period of time, and people with a prior history of substance abuse. Delirium tremens causes dangerous changes in key physiological functions, like breathing, circulation, and temperature regulation. It can also temporarily reduce blood flow to the brain, leading to long-term cognitive difficulties. If left untreated, it can lead to catastrophic health effects and death.
The symptoms of delirium tremens include the following:
Dehydration: for a quick test, press down on a fingernail until it blanches. If it does not return to its normal colour immediately after being released, the individual is probably experiencing dehydration.
Confusion or disorientation
Stupor, extreme drowsiness or loss of consciousness
Nervous or angry behaviour
A racing pulse and short, rapid breaths
Sweating to the point of soaking
If you are with someone who is experiencing these symptoms, it is critical that you get medical care for them as quickly as possible.
Planning For Safe Alcohol Withdrawal
While it may seem that people with alcohol addictions are caught between two bad options – to quit or not to quit – there are things you can do to ensure your safety during the withdrawal process. Here are some steps you can take:
Book yourself into a detox facility. This way, you will have doctors and nurses taking care of you throughout your withdrawal, and treating withdrawal symptoms as they arise.
If you are unwilling or unable to go to detox, at least make sure you’re not alone. Go to a friend or family member’s house, or have someone stay with you. It is important to ensure that there is someone with you who can call for medical help should the need arise.
Keep a list of emergency phone numbers with you. This could include your local hospital, your doctor, and some emergency contacts.
Make sure there is an easy way to get to the hospital. Whoever is with you should know the route, and the car should have gas in it.
If you’re taking prescription medications, write down the names and dosages so that medical professionals can give you appropriate care.
Getting Help For Alcohol Use Disorders
Withdrawal is just the first step in your recovery from an alcohol addiction. At 1000 Islands Rehab Centre, we will get you through your detox safely, and then we will put together a customized addiction treatment program that will get you on the path to recovery. Call us today for more information, or to book your spot.
Alcohol addiction is a tragic condition that affects around 4% of the Canadian population. In 2016, almost 7,000 Canadians died as a result of liver disease, cancer, and traffic accidents attributable to alcohol. In addition to the health effects and loss of life, alcohol use disorders can have a significant economic and social cost, resulting in job loss , food insecurity, spousal separation, and the removal of custodial children.
One of the tragedies of alcohol addiction is that it is so difficult to overcome. Many people make unsuccessful attempts to quit drinking before they are finally able to enter into long-term recovery. This is because it does not take long for early withdrawal symptoms to appear. These symptoms are so uncomfortable – and sometimes dangerous – that the individual resorts to having a drink just to make them go away.
As difficult as it may seem when you are in the thick of it, you can quit drinking. The initial challenge is knowing how to get through withdrawal. In this article, we will talk about why withdrawal happens and how soon you can expect to start experiencing symptoms.
Why Do Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Happen?
If you regularly overuse alcohol over a sustained period of time, your brain is constantly exposed to its depressant effects. To compensate, it increases production of natural stimulants, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. If you suddenly deprive your brain of alcohol, it becomes flooded with stimulants. The excess results in mental confusion and erratic changes in the way your breathing and circulation are controlled. Harvard Health Publishing likens this to a speeding vehicle abruptly losing its brakes.
What Are The Signs Of Alcohol Withdrawal?
Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome, or AWS, is a condition affecting people who have developed a physical dependence on alcohol, and then abruptly reduced their alcohol consumption.
What Is Alcohol Dependence?
While most people who consume alcohol are casual recreational drinkers – in other words, they drink moderate amounts of alcohol simply because they enjoy it – there are some who drink in order to achieve the effects that alcohol produces. For example, you might drink because it generates a feeling of confidence, or because it reduces social anxiety.
The problem is that over time, it takes progressively larger amounts of alcohol to achieve these effects, and the more you drink, the more stimulants your brain produces to compensate. This results in a situation where your body needs alcohol in order to function.
A Sudden Reduction In Drinking
The Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Edition 5 (DSM-V) stipulates that a condition for diagnosis of AWS is a sudden reduction or cessation of alcohol consumption after having been a heavy drinker for a sustained period of time. This is a fairly subjective criterion: DSM-V does not quantify either the amounts of alcohol consumed or the duration of the heavy drinking.
Additional Diagnostic Criteria
DSM-V lists eight primary alcohol withdrawal symptoms. In order to be diagnosed with AWS, you need to be displaying at least two of these in the absence of other medical causes.
Anxiety: new onset of anxiety symptoms, or exacerbation of symptoms in people with pre-existing anxiety diagnoses
Psychomotor agitation: restlessness, inability to sit still, self-stimulating activities like nail-biting and pacing, tapping the hands or feet, irritability or anger, bouts of tearfulness
Autonomic hyperactivity: arousal of the autonomic nervous system resulting in sweating, rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, lightheadedness, and stomach cramps
Insomnia: difficulty falling or staying asleep, or difficulty going back to sleep after waking up
Nausea or vomiting
Hallucinations: may be visual, auditory or tactile
Tonic-clonic seizures: also known as a grand mal seizure, this results in severe muscle contractions and loss of consciousness
How Soon Do Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Start?
Alcohol withdrawal is a process rather than an event. There is a wide variety of withdrawal symptoms, and they appear, peak, and wane at different points of the process.
Initial Withdrawal Symptoms
If you have been drinking significant amounts of alcohol on a regular basis over a period of time, you can typically expect your first withdrawal symptoms to start about eight hours after your last drink. These symptoms include anxiety, insomnia, nausea and stomach cramps.
The initial withdrawal symptoms start as mild discomfort and get progressively more uncomfortable, peaking after around 24 hours. It is during this time that a lot of people with alcohol addictions relapse, preferring alcohol over the withdrawal symptoms.
Stage Two Withdrawal
At around the time your initial withdrawal symptoms are peaking, you may start to experience the next phase of symptoms. These include high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, elevated body temperature, and confusion.
Stage Three – The Danger Zone
2-4 days after your last drink, you may start to experience seizures, hallucinations, fever and agitation. In severe cases, you may experience delirium tremens, a severe withdrawal complication that can be fatal. Symptoms include seizures, disorientation, delirium, panic attacks, hallucinations, extreme shakiness, and loss of consciousness.
Getting Through Alcohol Withdrawal Safely
The withdrawal process generally lasts for 5-7 days, although some of the psychological symptoms may endure beyond that.
Many people feel that they can break their dependence on alcohol simply by quitting drinking. It is not impossible: a lot of people have begun their long-term recovery in this way. It can be dangerous, though, especially if you have been a heavy drinker for a long time.
If you want to quit drinking, follow these tips to ensure your safety and reduce your risk of relapse:
Book yourself into a detox centre. This will ensure that you have medical attention throughout the most dangerous parts of withdrawal.
If you are unwilling or unable to go through medical detox, ensure that you are not alone. Get a friend or family member to stay with you.
Keep your phone charged in case you have to call for medical help, and ensure that emergency services have a way of getting to you.
If you are using any prescribed medications, write them down along with the dosages. Keep this list nearby or on your person so medical professionals can find it.
Make a plan for what happens after detox. Your chances of maintaining sobriety are vastly improved if you enter an addiction treatment program.
Getting Help For Alcohol Addiction
At Thousand Islands Rehab Centre, we offer customized addiction treatment programs for people who want a life without alcohol dependence. We recognize and value the uniqueness of all people. No two addiction journeys look the same, so it makes sense that everyone’s recovery will look different. Call us today to learn about our alcohol addiction treatment programs. We will take care of you through detox and rehab, and our aftercare program will ease your transition back into the real world.
Around 80% of Canadians who are of legal drinking age consume alcohol. This number may seem high, but the majority of this alcohol consumption is within the bounds of what would be considered responsible.
Alcohol is a big part of life in Canada and around the world. It is a staple at most social gatherings for adults. It is used to celebrate milestones and accomplishments, or as a means to relax after a long day. If you are over the age of 19 and not notably inebriated, you can easily get your hands on some alcohol without spending enormous sums of money.
When Does Drinking Become “Too Much”?
Because of the availability and social acceptability of alcohol, it can be difficult to know when you have crossed the line from regular drinking to problem drinking.
Here are 20 signs that you or a loved one may have an alcohol drinking problem.
#1 You regularly exceed Canada’s low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines
According to Canada’s low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines, those assigned male at birth should consume no more than three drinks at a time and a total of 15 drinks per week, and those assigned female at birth should consume no more than two drinks at a time and a total of 10 drinks per week. These guidelines are based on averages: your safe alcohol limits may be different based on your age, weight, state of health, whether you are taking any medications, and any prior history of substance abuse.
#2 You experience cravings for alcohol
Most people who consume alcohol do not experience cravings. If you are consuming alcohol frequently, you may start to experience an overwhelming desire to drink. This can set in hours, days, or even weeks after the last consumption of alcohol. For many people, the only way to get rid of this craving is by drinking alcohol.
#3 You are hiding your alcohol consumption from friends and family members
If you are doing anything to hide your alcohol consumption from the people who are close to you, you may have an alcohol drinking problem. For some people, this means physically hiding alcohol in strange places. For others, it means lying about how much alcohol is being consumed.
#4 You shift money around to finance your alcohol consumption
A single bottle of wine or six-pack of beer is fairly inexpensive. But if you are overusing alcohol on a regular basis, the cost starts to add up. You may find yourself moving money from one bank account to another, withdrawing larger amounts of cash, or using funds intended to pay bills to buy alcohol.
#5 Your alcohol consumption is getting in the way of your personal relationships
Most people don’t mind if their spouse or parent comes home from work and cracks open a beer. But if your drinking starts to cut into family time or make you behave aggressively toward your loved ones, your relationships may start to suffer. As alcohol occupies an ever-increasing part of your life, it may drive a wedge between you and the people you love.
#6 Your alcohol consumption is getting in the way of work or school
Alcohol can affect your professional life in several ways. Perhaps you have fallen into a habit of calling in sick to work – or asking someone to do so on your behalf – because of a hangover. Or maybe you have started showing up late. For some people, alcohol consumption extends into work or school hours, leading to declines in performance. If alcohol is regularly preventing you from performing at your best at work or school, it may be time to look at your consumption.
#7 You cancel social plans because they get in the way of your drinking
For most people, alcohol is a way of being social. We go to a gathering or a celebration, and it’s the most natural thing in the world to have a drink. Once alcohol dependence takes hold, though, the opposite starts to happen. You may start avoiding these gatherings because you don’t want people to see how much alcohol you are consuming. You would rather be alone so you can drink as much as you like without having to worry about social decorum.
#8 You buy alcohol from multiple retailers to avoid recognition
People who consume alcohol moderately or lightly can visit their local alcohol retailer without a second thought. If you are drinking large amounts of alcohol each day – and therefore having to replenish it – you may start to worry that the staff at your regular liquor outlet will notice your excessive purchases. A lot of people with alcohol addictions rotate between retailers to avoid suspicion.
#9 You cannot quit alcohol in spite of attempts to do so
Nobody picks up an alcoholic beverage with the intention of becoming addicted to alcohol. On the contrary, people in the early stages of alcohol addiction often have an awareness that they are drinking too much, and they decide to either quit or embark on a period of abstinence. The cravings may prove to be too overwhelming to handle, though, resulting in a relapse.
#10 You consume alcohol at times that are not considered socially acceptable
Most societies have evolved in such a way that “normal” consumption of alcohol is reserved for specific times. For instance, it is acceptable to have a drink in the evening, when the day’s work is done, but not in the morning. It is fine to drink at a gathering of adults, but not at a child’s birthday party. If you are starting to break those unwritten rules – for example, if you are drinking upon waking up or while driving to work – your alcohol consumption may be problematic.
#11 You experience withdrawal symptoms when you are not drinking
If you overuse alcohol regularly over a prolonged period of time, you may start to experience withdrawal symptoms when you’re not drinking. The severity of symptoms depends on several factors, including the frequency and amounts of alcohol consumption. Symptoms range from mild anxiety and irritability to high blood pressure and seizures.
#12 You are drinking progressively more alcohol
Sometimes people drink alcohol not for the simple enjoyment of it, but to achieve the effects it produces: confidence, relaxation, an escape from stress. The more frequently you drink, the more you have to consume in one sitting in order to achieve those effects. If your alcohol consumption is creeping up, you may have started to develop that tolerance.
#13 You are unable to control the number of drinks you have
One of the hallmarks of alcohol addiction is that it renders you incapable of controlling your consumption. You may go to a social gathering intending to have just one or two drinks, but after one or two drinks you may think, “Just one more”. Before you know it, you’ve had several drinks and you are unable to stop.
#14 You engage in potentially risky behaviour when you have been drinking
Alcohol lowers your inhibitions and numbs your sense of danger. These two effects can result in you doing things under the influence of alcohol that you would never consider while sober. The obvious example is impaired driving, but you may also perform dangerous stunts, engage in criminal activity, or engage in high-risk sexual behaviour.
#15 You are losing interest in previously enjoyed activities
As alcohol starts to take over your life, you may gradually stop participating in things you previously enjoyed. To begin with, you may back out of the occasional engagement or take longer to read a book or complete a drawing. But before long, your hobbies and interests may be all but abandoned, either because you would rather spend the time drinking, or because ongoing use of alcohol is affecting your motivation and mental health.
#16 You feel anxious or aggravated when you do not have easy access to alcohol
The more you drink, the more you need to drink. If your body and mind have become accustomed to receiving alcohol, they may revolt when you try to abstain. If you are craving a drink and you don’t have alcohol available to you, you may become agitated and anxious.
#17 Friends or family members have asked you to stop drinking
Alcohol abuse does not only affect the person who is drinking – it also affects family members and close friends. Your loved ones may be feeling the effects of a disintegrating relationship, or they may be concerned for your wellbeing when they approach you and ask you to stop drinking.
#18 You have started neglecting your personal health and hygiene
Alcohol abuse often goes hand-in-hand with declining self-care. If you are no longer maintaining basic hygiene, you have stopped exercising, or you have abandoned healthy eating, you should seek help as soon as possible. Addiction is hard on the body, and the sooner you can return to a state of physical health, the sooner you can focus on addiction recovery.
#19 You are experiencing legal problems as a result of alcohol consumption
People do strange things when they have been drinking, and some of these can lead to legal trouble. Being pulled over for impaired driving or having to go to court because of alcohol-induced criminal activity are signs that your alcohol consumption is a problem.
#20 You are questioning whether you have an alcohol drinking problem
Human beings are intuitive. We usually have a good sense of when something is not right within ourselves. If you are spending a lot of time wondering if you have an alcohol drinking problem, something in your behaviour has led you to ask this question. That alone could be a sign that you need to seek help.
Alcohol Addiction Help Is Within Your Reach
No matter where you are in your alcohol addiction journey, Thousand Islands Rehab Centre is ready to welcome you. We offer customized alcohol addiction treatment programs that respect your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, cultural, and social needs. We will guide you through your recovery journey, from detox and rehab, right through to aftercare. Call us today to learn more or to reserve your spot.
Regular overuse of alcohol over a sustained period of time can result in significant health problems, including heart complications, neurological deficits, and various cancers. But of all the organs in the body that can be impacted by excessive consumption of alcohol, the liver probably bears the biggest brunt.
The liver is one of the body’s natural filters. It is a means by which we get rid of waste products and toxins. With its regenerative capabilities, the liver is remarkably durable. But even the toughest components will eventually wear down and ultimately break if they are not used properly.
Fortunately, the human body is intuitive, and the liver gives plenty of warning when it starts to function less optimally than it should. In this article, we will talk about how the liver works, what those early warning signs are, and most importantly, what you can do about it.
What Does The Liver Do?
The liver has many essential functions, one of which is to process all blood that leaves the stomach and intestines. It breaks down both useful and harmful substances within the blood. Useful substances like nutrients and medications are returned to the bloodstream and distributed to other parts of the body. Harmful substances are excreted into bile, which goes into the intestine and leaves the body as feces, or blood, which goes into the kidneys and leaves the body as urine.
The liver has been found to be responsible for at least 500 vital functions, including the following:
It regulates amino acids, which form the building blocks of proteins
It stores excess glucose in the form of glycogen, which it converts back to glucose as needed
It produces some proteins that are needed for blood plasma
It removes harmful bacteria from the bloodstream and produces immune factors
It regulates blood clotting
It convert poisonous ammonia to urea, which is passed out of the body in urine
It produces cholesterol and proteins to help move fat through the body
It stores iron and processes hemoglobin for its use
How Does Alcohol Affect The Liver?
When you consume alcohol, it is absorbed into the bloodstream via the wall of the stomach. From there, it is distributed to all parts of the body, including the liver. The liver processes alcohol in much the same way as it processes everything else, but it can only metabolize about one standard drink per hour. Anything over and above that circulates throughout the body, potentially affecting the other organs.
A single episode of binge drinking can interrupt normal functioning of the liver, and this in turn can result in your body chemistry being unbalanced. This is why people tend to feel a little rough for a day or two after a heavy drinking session. If you are not misusing alcohol on a regular basis, the liver is able to resume normal functioning.
Problems can arise if your liver is being called upon to metabolize alcohol on a continuous basis. It can lead to liver damage, resulting in the following:
Fatty liver disease: excess deposits of fat
Alcoholic hepatitis: inflammation of the liver
Cirrhosis: Scarring of the liver that is not reversible
What Are The Early Warning Signs Of Liver Malfunction?
The early signs of liver disease can be easy to miss, because they can be mistakenly attributed to other causes. In general, you should consult your doctor if you experience any unexplained symptoms that persist.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, your body may be giving you some early signs that all is not well with your liver.
You appear jaundiced (yellow-tinged skin and eyes)
Your urine is dark yellow
Your stool is unusually pale
You experience abdominal pain and swelling
You experience nausea and vomiting
Your skin is unbearably itchy
Your legs and ankles are swollen
You bruise more easily than usual
You are extremely tired in spite of getting sufficient sleep
You have noticed a decrease in your appetite
What Happens If The Signs Are Ignored?
Like many medical conditions, early intervention can be key to reversing early liver damage. The longer you leave it, the more extensive the damage will be, and the longer it will take you to heal. If left unchecked for long enough, you may find yourself dealing with serious long-term conditions that, in some cases, are not reversible.
Regular overuse of alcohol over a prolonged period of time can result in inflammation of the liver. Common symptoms include jaundice, fever, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, chronic fatigue, and abdominal pain. Advanced alcoholic hepatitis can result in fluid buildup in the abdomen, failure of the liver and kidneys, and confusion resulting from a buildup of toxins that would usually be broken down and eliminated by the liver.
Damage done to any part of the body can leave scar tissue, and the liver is no exception. The more you have liver damage resulting from alcohol or any other cause, the more scar tissue will form, and the harder it will be for the liver to do its job. Cirrhosis is not reversible, but you can prevent further damage by eliminating your use of alcohol and making some other lifestyle changes that are described below.
With cirrhosis, you may experience the symptoms of hepatitis, plus the following:
You bruise easily
Your legs, feet and ankles become swollen
You lose a significant amount of weight without attempting to do so
Spider-like blood vessels appear on your skin
You experience period irregularities not related to pregnancy or menopause
The palms of your hands become abnormally red
You experience a loss of libido, breast enlargement, or testicular atrophy
What Steps Can Be Taken To Prevent Further Damage?
This may seem like a doom-and-gloom scenario, but you do have the power to stop liver disease in its tracks. Fatty liver disease can be reversed if you make some changes to your lifestyle.
Stop Using Alcohol
The sooner you stop consuming alcohol, the sooner your liver will be released from the job of trying to metabolize it. You may be able to start reversing the harm of fatty liver disease in as little as two weeks. It is important to bear the following in mind when you are planning to quit drinking:
Withdrawal without medical supervision can be extremely dangerous. It is recommended that you check into a detox facility, where medical staff can keep you safe and manage withdrawal symptoms as they arise.
Your cessation of alcohol use should be permanent. Even if you manage to completely reverse your liver disease, those conditions will return as soon as you start drinking again.
Improve Your Eating Habits
Alcohol is not the only thing that can cause liver damage. Foods and beverages that have added sugars and trans fats can also do harm. Conversely, your liver will benefit from a diet of whole grains, unprocessed fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins.
Other Lifestyle Changes
Some other things that can help your liver include the following:
Drinking plenty of water helps with liver functioning
Studies are showing that smoking cigarettes can aggravate the symptoms of fatty liver disease
Any prescribed medication you take is processed by the liver: inform any doctor who is prescribing medication of a fatty liver disease diagnosis
Getting Help For Substance Abuse Disorder
You only have one body, and you deserve for it to be in good working order so you can live a long, fruitful life. If alcohol consumption is destroying your health, you have the power to change that, and we can help. Thousand Islands Rehab Centre is a full-service addiction treatment facility that will take care of you from detox right though to aftercare. We will design a treatment program that is tailored to your needs and circumstances. With our compassionate staff and our welcoming facility, you will soon be on the road to recovery.
It is estimated that roughly 80% of Canada’s population consumes alcohol at least once during any given one-year period. While this number may seem high, the vast majority of alcohol use in Canada is within reasonable limits. About 15% of those who drink alcohol consume more than the quantities laid out in Canada’s low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines.
Alcohol misuse is still a concern though. It costs the economy over $14 billion a year in healthcare, lost productivity, legal costs, and more. It destroys relationships and creates or exacerbates mental illnesses. Worst of all, it costs lives that can never be brought back.
In this article, we will talk about what constitutes alcohol misuse, and what the risks are.
What Counts As Alcohol Misuse?
Misuse of alcohol can take several forms, and although the general impacts are well documented, there is variability from person to person. How alcohol affects you in the short- and long-term depends on factors like your age, weight, state of physical and mental health, what medications you are taking, whether you are going through stressful life events, and more. If you do consume alcohol regularly, you should monitor your consumption and reduce it if needed, to account for any of these factors.
Exceeding Alcohol Use Guidelines
Canada’s low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines recommend that adults assigned female at birth should not exceed two drinks in one day, with a maximum of 10 drinks weekly. Adults assigned male at birth should not exceed three drinks in one day, with a maximum of 15 drinks per week. Anyone up to the age of 24 should limit themselves to two drinks in one day, no more than twice a week.
Exceeding these guidelines could result in harm to yourself or others. It is important to note that these numbers are averages only, and could vary according to several factors. If you are on any medications or you have been diagnosed with a physical or mental illness, talk to your doctor about safe alcohol consumption guidelines.
In Ontario, the minimum legal drinking age is 19. It is illegal for merchants to sell or serve alcohol to people below that age. Nor can adults purchase alcohol and pass it to someone who has not attained legal drinking age.
There is a solid body of evidence showing that alcohol can have detrimental effects on developing brains. Drinking at young ages can lead to serious long-term effects, and it increases the risk of addiction to alcohol or other substances later in life.
Drinking And Driving
The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level for drivers is 0.08 in Ontario (80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood). This equates to around four standard units of alcohol. However, many people experience signs of impairment before reaching that level. The best course of action is to avoid driving after consuming any alcohol. If you have been drinking, hand your keys to someone who hasn’t, or find an alternative way of getting home.
Drinking Alcohol While Pregnant Or Breast/Chestfeeding
Some people believe that having the occasional glass of wine during pregnancy is harmless, but this has not been established. Until a safe amount of alcohol consumption is established for pregnant people, it is best to avoid alcohol entirely if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Similarly, alcohol has been shown to pass into breast milk. If you do have a drink, wait for two hours before breast/chestfeeding your baby.
Using Alcohol In Conjunction With Medication Or Other Substances
Alcohol alone can have some serious side effects, and these can be exacerbated when alcohol is used with other substances. It is essential that you talk to your doctor about alcohol consumption guidelines if you are using any medication, particularly benzodiazepines, barbiturates or opioids.
Using various street drugs with alcohol can be extremely dangerous, since many drugs are combined, or “cut” with substances unknown to the user.
Using Alcohol As An Escape
Most people use alcohol as a way to relax after a long day at work, to celebrate a special occasion, or to socialize with friends. If you are drinking as a way of escaping from past or present traumas in your life, this could be a sign that you do not have a healthy relationship with alcohol.
What Alcohol Misuse Risks Should I Be Aware Of?
Misuse of alcohol, either on a single occasion or as a repeated pattern, can have far-reaching effects on all areas of your life. Many people only think of the long-term consequences of alcohol addiction, but remember that it only takes one incident of impaired driving to send your life spinning out of control.
Here are ten of the biggest impacts of alcohol misuse.
Risk #1 – There Are Immediate And Long-Term Health Risks
Alcohol intoxication happens when you drink more than what your body is capable of metabolizing. The effects include impaired motor skills, poor judgment, mood swings, high blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, and loss of consciousness. In most people who are generally healthy, these effects will wear off within a few hours, although you may be left with a nasty headache and a feeling of dehydration the next day.
Drinking large quantities of alcohol on a regular basis over a long period of time can result in serious health effects, including liver disease, various cancers, cardiac problems, digestive complaints, reproductive health problems, and cognitive decline.
Risk #2 – You Are At High Risk Of Accidental Injury Or Death
When you are under the influence of alcohol, your sense of judgement starts to fail, and your inhibitions are lowered. This can result in you doing potentially dangerous things while being impervious to the risks. Examples include driving while impaired, trying to perform dangerous stunts, and engaging in high-risk sexual behaviour. These actions can have life-long effects, and they can even result in your death – or the death of somebody else.
Risk #3 – Alcohol Misuse Can Lead To Aggression And Violence
One of the more frightening side effects of alcohol is mood swings. One moment you may be feeling happy and relaxed, the next moment you may feel the need to lash out at someone for no reason that they can discern. Many incidents of domestic violence are triggered by overuse of alcohol. Your victims could end up seriously hurt or worse.
Risk #4 – You Could Alienate Your Family And Friends
Whether you are dependent on alcohol or not, the way you behave when you’ve been drinking can have a potentially traumatizing effect on the people around you. If you tend to become violent, your family might fear you. If you have an addiction that is making you deceptive, you may lose the trust of those closest to you. If there are children in the home and you are deemed a safety risk to them, they could be removed from your custody. Sometimes damaged relationships can be mended during rehab with a lot of patience and hard work, but there are times when those broken relationships are lost forever.
Risk #5 – You Could Lose Your Job
If you have developed an alcohol addiction, you may have reached the point where your body needs alcohol in order to function. When this happens, your life becomes centred around making sure you can obtain and consume alcohol. This often leads to increased incidents of lateness and absenteeism, erratic work performance, and workplace behaviour that results in coworkers feeling uncomfortable or afraid. If you approach your employer for help, they may give you a leave of absence so you can attend rehab. Many times, though, you could simply find yourself without a job.
Risk #6 – Your Mental Health Will Suffer
In many cases, mental illness is a trigger for alcohol use and alcohol addiction, but the opposite can also happen. Many people who become dependent on alcohol experience an increase in anxiety and depression. These effects can be compounded by the social isolation that many people with alcohol addictions experience.
Risk #7 – You Could Find Yourself In Legal Trouble
Overuse of alcohol can lead to you doing things that are reckless and illegal. The most obvious example is impaired driving: depending on whether you cause a collision, you could face charges over and above the impaired driving charges. You can also face legal trouble if you assault somebody, if you trespass on private property, or if you engage in other criminal activity, like breaking and entering.
Risk #8 – Attempts To Quit Can Be Dangerous
If you go down the path of alcohol addiction, you could end up in what feels like a no-win situation because it is so difficult to quit. One of the reasons for this is that the body can have intense reactions to alcohol withdrawal, and this could be dangerous if you are not under the supervision of a doctor. A severe form of alcohol withdrawal, called delirium tremens, is characterized by seizures, and can be fatal. If you are intending to quit using alcohol, we strongly recommend that you check into a detox facility that will keep you safe during the withdrawal process.
Risk #9 – You Could Become Addicted To Alcohol
Not everyone uses alcohol for enjoyment. Some people seek out alcohol as an escape. It can create feelings of relaxation and confidence. It can make people feel less anxious. The problem is that the more you use alcohol, the more you have to use. The amounts you consume have to increase in order to give you the same effects. Over time, your body becomes dependent on alcohol, and your life becomes consumed with drinking and planning to drink.
Risk #10 – Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
If you drink alcohol throughout your pregnancy, you face risks like preterm delivery and complications during childbirth. Your baby could be born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. This has potentially lifelong effects for the child, such as inability to gain weight, cognitive delays, behavioural challenges, learning difficulties and social challenges.
Getting Help For Alcohol Abuse And Addiction
If you are concerned about alcohol misuse, either in yourself or in a loved one, call 1000 Islands Rehab Centre for help. With our compassionate staff and our beautiful location, we can provide customized alcohol addiction treatment in an environment that is conducive to healing. We look forward to being part of your journey to recovery.
For most people, alcohol is not a substance of abuse. It is something we use to relax after a long day, to socialize with friends, or to celebrate special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. In many circles, those who choose not to use alcohol are ridiculed for their abstinence, while those who use it excessively are celebrated as “the life of the party”.
Being the life of the party does not come without a cost, though. Excessive use of alcohol can have far-reaching effects not only on a person’s health, but also on their relationships and financial security.
The Difference Between Alcohol Abuse And Alcohol Addiction
Before we go into how excessive alcohol consumption can affect a person, it is important to make the distinction between alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction. Many people use the two terms interchangeably, although it is inaccurate to do so.
Alcohol addiction is a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol that cannot be controlled. The addicted person feels that they have to continue drinking in order to survive. In some cases, this is accurate: unsupervised withdrawal from alcohol can be extremely dangerous, and even fatal.
Alcohol abuse is any problematic use of alcohol. This encompasses several behaviours, including:
Use of alcohol that results in violent or aggressive behaviour
Exceeding the alcohol consumption guidelines laid out by health authorities
Drinking to the point of becoming physically ill
Use of alcohol that results in impaired driving or other criminal activity
Regular episodes of being under the influence of alcohol
While it is fair to say that people with alcohol addictions have, at some point, engaged in alcohol abuse, the reverse is not always true. Many people who abuse alcohol are able to control their consumption. They may limit their drinking to certain days or occasions, and they do not experience cravings or withdrawal symptoms while sober.
They can still suffer some of the effects of excessive alcohol consumption, though, such as adverse health events and relationship breakdowns.
Adults who were assigned female at birth should not exceed a maximum of two drinks on any one day, for a total maximum of 10 drinks per week
Adults who were assigned male at birth should not exceed a maximum of three drinks on any one day, for a total maximum of 15 drinks per week
People up to the age of 24 should limit consumption to one or two drinks at a time, no more than twice a week
No alcohol should be consumed if you are driving a vehicle or operating machinery
If you are using prescription medication, speak with your doctor or pharmacist about alcohol use
Avoid consuming more than two drinks in a three-hour period
Your own personal risk factors may reduce your limits – for example, your body weight, age, and existence of medical conditions
What does biological sex have to do with consumption guidelines?
Those who are biologically female differ in several respects to those who are biologically male. Females generally have a lower body weight, but their body fat percentage tends to be higher. Since alcohol is stored in fat cells, this could put biological females at higher risk of long-term health effects. In addition, males produce higher amounts of alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme, which aids in breaking down alcohol.
Short-Term Effects Of Alcohol
In most adults, the body is capable of metabolizing around one unit of alcohol per hour. Consuming anything over and above that can lead to intoxication. While intoxicated, you may experience the following effects:
Impaired motor skills, which can result in accidental injury or death
Impaired judgment and lowered inhibitions
Inability to concentrate
Mood swings and the potential for aggression or violence
Elevated blood pressure
Nausea and vomiting
Loss of consciousness
Except in cases of alcohol poisoning, these effects usually pass when the body has metabolized all of the alcohol. However, during the period of intoxication, your risk of injury or death is significantly higher than it is while you are sober.
Long-Term Effects Of Alcohol
If you regularly consume large amounts of alcohol over a sustained period of time, you could be at risk of serious long-term effects, including the following:
Liver disease, including fatty liver, hepatitis, and liver fibrosis
Various cancers, including breast, esophageal, colorectal, and throat
Heart complications, such as cardiomyopathy, stroke, and irregular heart beat
Cognitive effects, including learning difficulty, memory loss, and limited attention span
Digestive complaints, including ulcers and pancreatitis
Reproductive health problems, such as erectile dysfunction, irregular menstruation, and reduced fertility
The Dangers Of Alcohol Withdrawal
If you are concerned about the long-term effects of your alcohol consumption, it is not too late to stop. Some of the effects listed above will start to reverse when alcohol use is discontinued. However, alcohol withdrawal can have serious effects when attempted without medical supervision. The safest way to withdraw is to check in to a detox facility, where you will be under the care of medical professionals who can manage and treat withdrawal symptoms as they arise. At the very least, you should ensure that during your withdrawal, you are with somebody who can get medical care to you should the need arise.
The Use Of Alcohol During Pregnancy
There is a misconception that it is safe for pregnant women to have the occasional glass of wine. However, no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy has been established. The medical community therefore recommends complete abstinence during pregnancy, and in those who are intending to become pregnant. However, if you were consuming alcohol prior to finding out that you were pregnant, there is no need to worry. If you discontinue all alcohol use, you can still have a safe and healthy pregnancy.
If you consume alcohol throughout your pregnancy, your baby could be born with fetal alcohol syndrome. This can result in a low birth weight, slow growth, heart defects, intellectual disability, poor motor skills, and more.
Alcohol And Lactation
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, alcohol can be passed from a parent into the breast milk they produce. One standard drink per day may be safe as long as the parent does not nurse within two hours of consuming that drink.
Getting Help For Alcohol Addiction
If you are concerned about your alcohol consumption or that of a loved one, it is never too late to seek help. At 1000 Islands Rehab Centre, we will create a alcohol addiction treatment program that is tailored to your unique needs and circumstances. We will take care of you at all stages of your recovery, from detox right through to a comprehensive aftercare program for your post-rehab days. To find out more, or to book your stay, give us a call.
Alcohol is an intrinsic part of life in most societies. When we get home after a stressful day at work, we unwind with a beer. We go out to restaurants and order wine to drink with our dinner. We celebrate birthdays and weddings with alcohol, and we ring in the new year while we are holding a glass of sparkling wine.
For many teenagers and young adults, getting drunk for the first time is regarded as a rite of passage. Alcohol is a staple ingredient for most parties that we attend as adults. The person who drinks the most is seen as “the life of the party”, while those who choose to abstain are pressed to “have a real drink”. When the party is winding down, guests are invited to “have one more for the road” before getting into their cars and driving.
All too often, people cross the line from having a drink to engaging in harmful use of alcohol. It is a fine line, and we often do not know when it has been crossed because it is socially acceptable – in some cases, socially expected – to get drunk.
The problem is that harmful use of alcohol, either as a one-off or on a regular basis, can have far-reaching effects on multiple areas of your life.
How Alcohol Can Affect Your Body
Most adults can metabolize about one unit of alcohol per hour. If you drink more than that, you can become intoxicated. This can result in nausea and vomiting, elevated blood pressure, headaches, and impaired motor skills. Some of these effects can linger into the next day – what we know as a “hangover”.
Unless you consumed enough alcohol to experience alcohol poisoning, these effects generally pass as the body metabolizes the alcohol. However, if you consume large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis, you may experience some longer term effects. These include the following:
Liver disease. Excessive alcohol consumption over a period of time can lead to fatty liver disease, hepatitis, and liver fibrosis.
Heart disease. Cardiac complications can arise, such as irregular heartbeat, stroke, cardiac arrest, and cardiomyopathy.
Cancer. There is a higher risk of certain cancers, like breast, throat, colorectal, and esophageal.
Cognitive decline. Long-term heavy use of alcohol can lead to neurological damage, which can result in learning difficulty, impaired memory and difficulty focusing or maintaining attention.
Digestive problems. Repeated exposure to large amounts of alcohol can cause ulcers, pancreatitis, and other problems relating to digestion and metabolism.
Reproductive problems. People with alcohol use disorders are at higher risk of erectile dysfunction, irregular menstruation, and reduced fertility.
Additionally, the use of alcohol during pregnancy can be harmful to the pregnant person and to the baby they are carrying. Risks include preterm labour, low birthweight, neonatal failure to thrive, and heart complications. The baby may experience the life-long effects that come with fetal alcohol syndrome, such as ADHD, intellectual disability, poor social skills, impaired motor skills, and behavioural difficulties.
How Alcohol Can Affect Your Livelihood
For most people, a glass of wine or a beer is simply a way to relax or be social with friends. They save their alcohol consumption for appropriate times, and if alcohol is not available to them, they do not get anxious or upset about not being able to drink. They are able to moderate their use of alcohol.
On the other hand, most people with alcohol use disorders drink in order to achieve a certain effect – to reduce social anxiety, to escape from stress, to cope with trauma, or any number of other reasons. If this behaviour is repeated enough times, it can quickly become a situation of, “the more you drink, the more you need to drink”. As your body and mind become used to the effects of alcohol, you find yourself needing to consume more in order to achieve those effects.
While this is happening, your body is developing a dependence on alcohol, meaning that you need to drink in order to function. And when this starts happening, alcohol consumption can take over areas of your life where it could do a lot of damage.
This can affect your livelihood and your financial wellbeing in several ways:
As your alcohol dependence grows, you will spend increasing amounts of money on alcohol. A bottle of wine or a few beers here and there may not impact your family finances much. However, if you reach the point of needing to have a drink as soon as you wake up, you may be buying your alcohol with money intended for groceries or bills.
You may start restructuring your life around your alcohol consumption. This may involve planning alternative routes to work so you can purchase alcohol on your way to the office, requesting different shifts to allow for your typical “down” times, and taking more frequent breaks.
Being dependent on alcohol can result in you being late for work, and you may find yourself calling in sick frequently as a result of drinking or recovering from drinking.
Your work performance itself can suffer, especially if your job involves physical strength or coordination, or mental acuity. In some cases, this can put coworkers or customers in danger.
Poor or dangerous work performance, lateness, absenteeism, and inconsistent hours can lead your employers to think of you as unreliable. You may be at risk of losing your job, and if your alcohol consumption caused injury or damage to property, you could also be on the wrong end of a lawsuit.
How Alcohol Can Affect Your Relationships
Like most addictions, alcohol use disorders can damage relationships with loved ones. The period of addiction – and in some cases, the circumstances leading up to the addiction – can create mistrust and fear.
Here are some of the ways in which harmful alcohol use can damage relationships.
As you spend more money on alcohol, you may be trying to hide elements of your family finances from your partner. This behaviour may intensify as bill payments become past due.
You may start asking loved ones to cover for you when you do not go to work, often by asking them to call your supervisor to tell them you are sick. This can lead to your family members resenting you for asking them to make excuses, and you resenting them when they refuse.
People with alcohol addictions frequently withdraw from contact with people, even those who are closest to them. You may be spending time alone drinking instead of spending time with your partner and children, and you may start declining invitations to spend time with friends.
Alcohol consumption can result in aggressive behaviour and violence. Many incidents of domestic assault are fuelled by alcohol. Not only does this generate fear and trauma among your loved ones, it can put their safety at risk, and it could result in children being removed from your custody.
The Human Cost Of Impaired Driving
Whether you use alcohol excessively just once or as a regular pattern, impairment can lower your inhibitions and reduce your powers of judgment. This leads to potentially risky behaviour, including driving while under the influence of alcohol.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), 1,273 people lost their lives in 2014 as a result of drug or alcohol impaired driving. Alcohol was a factor in more than half of these fatalities, as well as thousands of injuries that range from minor to permanently life-altering. It is not only the impaired driver who is at risk, but also anyone who happens to be walking or driving anywhere nearby.
Impaired driving creates tragedies that do not need to happen. While legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limits have been laid out in impaired driving legislation, it is important to remember that you could be impaired even before reaching those legal limits. Your age, weight, state of health, medications that you use, and other factors could result in your “safe” BAC level differing from the legal guidelines.
Getting Help For Alcohol Addiction
At Thousand Islands Rehab Centre, we do not treat addictions – we treat people. To us, you are not “just an addict”. You are a human being struggling with a devastating illness, and we are here to help you. We will put together a customized addiction treatment program that takes into account your unique situation, and we will help you build the strength and the tools to cope in the outside world without needing alcohol. To get started, call us today.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of our daily lives. Our lives pre-pandemic were governed by things like our daily commute and our interactions with people. In COVID-19 times, we are having to plan our lives around lockdowns and restrictions. We are working from home, attending school remotely, and shopping online. Even our healthcare has largely gone virtual, with appointments with doctors and therapists taking place over the phone or via Zoom.
Our daily routines have been turned upside down. Instead of rushing out the door, we are setting our kids up for online classes before settling down in our own hastily assembled home office spaces. Gatherings with friends take place via a computer screen. We cannot go to the gym, so we make do with workouts in our living rooms and walks around the block.
Our consumption of foods and beverages has also changed. A phrase that people have been increasingly using is “pandemic pounds” – the weight gain associated with eating less healthily as a result of being stuck at home. Many of us resort to takeout or microwave meals because we’re tired of constantly cooking for family members who, unlike the “before” times, are home 24/7.
Has this change in consumption extended to alcohol? Are Canadians drinking more wine, beer and spirits as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
To answer this question, let’s first take a quick look at what “typical” alcohol consumption looks like in Canada.
Typical Alcohol Consumption In Canada
Alcohol is by far the most used and abused substance in Canada. During pre-COVID times, around 77% of Canadians consumed alcohol at least once in a one-year period. At 83%, the highest rate of alcohol use was among young adults aged 20-24. 78% of people aged 25 and older reported alcohol use, and in a troubling trend, 59% of youth aged 15-19 were using alcohol.
Although there has been some variance from one year to the next, these numbers have been relatively stable over the last decade.
Has The Pandemic Changed Alcohol Consumption In Canada?
According to a Statistics Canada survey done in January 2021, 54% of Canadians who consumed alcohol prior to the pandemic have not changed their drinking habits. The remaining number is split roughly evenly between those who have increased their alcohol consumption and those who are drinking less.
When we break down the change in alcohol drinking habits by age, an interesting picture emerges. While increases in alcohol consumption have occurred fairly uniformly across age groups, teens and young adults (ages 15-29) have decreased their consumption at much higher rates than older people.
Another thing that seems apparent is that the pandemic has produced more heavy drinkers. Prior to 2020, 11% of Canadians had at least five drinks on the days they consumed alcohol. By January 2021, this number increased to 18%.
Why The Changes In Alcohol Consumption?
Human beings are creatures of habit. Even the more adventurous people among us like to have some semblance of order: sleeping at certain times of the day, following some kind of work schedule, buying groceries from a favourite location.
When any singular element of someone’s daily routine changes, other things have to change to accommodate it. If you get a new job, you have to change your morning commute. If you take up exercise, you may have to get up earlier to get to the gym. If you get a dog, you have to buy dog food and set aside time for daily walks.
For most people, alcohol consumption is just part of that daily routine, and it is one of the things that can vary depending on the changes that are going on in one’s life. It is not surprising that for almost half of the Canadian population, the massive routine changes that have come with the pandemic have led to different drinking habits.
Why Are Some People Drinking More During The Pandemic?
Any change – even a positive one – is stressful, and the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in complete changes to many people’s lives. According to an April 2020 report by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, 94% of Canadians reported that they were staying home more as a result of the pandemic. Major routine changes experienced by many include:
Working from home
Supervising school-aged children who are learning remotely
Reductions in exercise due to fitness centres and pools being closed
Shopping for groceries online
Eliminating social gatherings
Reducing or eliminating travel
Spending more time on household chores as a result of everyone being home at all times
The top three reported reasons for increased alcohol consumption are:
Lack of a regular schedule resulting from the above-mentioned disruptions
Boredom resulting from lack of social interaction
Stress resulting from all of the changes plus anxiety about the pandemic itself
Other reasons cited include loneliness and online social gatherings.
Why Are Some People Drinking Less During The Pandemic?
Drinking alcohol is closely linked with social gatherings, especially among younger adults who are more likely to drink alcohol only when they with other people. This could go a long way to explaining why younger adults have cut back on alcohol consumption far more than older people. The lack of opportunities to socialize is by far the number one reason for decreased alcohol consumption.
Other reasons include wanting to be healthy to reduce COVID risks, caring for dependents, and trying to regain health after having had COVID-19.
Alcohol Sales As An Essential Service
Throughout the pandemic, the sale of alcohol has been regarded as an essential service in most parts of Canada, including Ontario. Many people have questioned why this is the case. On the face of it, there do appear to be arguments in favour of limiting alcohol sales.
Some countries have taken this approach. In South Africa, for instance, alcohol sales have been banned outright during the most severe phases of lockdown. Two factors have driven this decision: the concern about alcohol-fueled domestic violence incidents while lockdowns make escape difficult for the victims, and the goal of keeping alcohol-related trauma cases out of hospitals that need space for COVID patients.
There is a dangerous risk to this approach, though: by cutting off access to alcohol, we run the risk of everyone with an alcohol addiction going into withdrawal at the same time. Alcohol withdrawal without medical supervision can be extremely harmful – in some cases, fatal. For someone who is addicted, alcohol sales are indeed essential.
It is reasonable to believe that most jurisdictions worldwide responded to the pandemic as best they could with the information and resources available to them. A lesson learned could be that access to alcohol should be balanced with mental health services for people with addictions, and social services for those who are victims or at risk of becoming victims of alcohol-induced crimes. These services should be available to anyone who needs them, regardless of whether there is a global health crisis. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has done a great job of highlighting areas where these services are lacking.
Why Is The Data Important?
There are those who would argue that these statistics are “just numbers”, and that alcohol addiction is a serious issue regardless of what is going on in the world. And yes, it is true that help needs to be accessible to anyone who needs it, but by having an understanding of the impacts of a major event like a pandemic, policy makers and service providers can create targeted programs and awareness campaigns.
The world was not prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic: by taking the learnings from this experience, programs and response plans can be put in place for any future crises that may arise on a local, national or global scale.
Getting Help For Alcohol Abuse & Addiction
If you think you have a problem with alcohol abuse or addiction – whether it is related to the pandemic or not – it is never too soon or too late to get help. At 1000 Islands Addiction Centre, we will provide medical supervision to enable you to detox safely, and then we will put together a customized alcohol addiction and recovery program that is right for you. Contact us without delay so that you can reclaim your life.
Few substances have cultural, religious, and social significance in the same way alcohol does. Since the beginning of time, alcohol has been a cornerstone of celebrations and ceremonies. It has been regarded as an indicator of wealth in some societies, and one of poverty in others. Some religions ban alcohol consumption; in others, it is an integral part of worship.
Given that alcohol has been an integral part of life for so many generations, it is perhaps not surprising that it is the most commonly abused substance in most parts of the world. According to the World Health Organization, alcohol is responsible for around three million deaths worldwide every year.
Here in Canada, it is estimated that over 20% of people who consume alcohol do so in excess of low-risk drinking guidelines. Substance abuse in Canada costs around $46 billion per year: alcohol and tobacco account for 63% of this amount.
But the true cost of alcohol abuse and addiction goes far beyond a dollar amount. People caught in the grip of an alcohol addiction are at risk of losing their relationships, their health, and even their lives.
What Is The Difference Between Alcohol Abuse And Alcohol Addiction?
Although the terms “alcohol abuse” and “alcohol addiction” are sometimes used interchangeably, they are two distinct conditions.
According to the American Psychological Association, alcohol abuse is a pattern of alcohol consumption that has “significant and recurrent adverse consequences”. These consequences can manifest in many ways: acting violently or dangerously while under the influence; failing to meet work or family obligations; being pulled over for impaired driving.
Alcohol addiction, on the other hand, is a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. Some signs that you may have an alcohol addiction include the following:
You feel as if you need alcohol in order to function
You consume ever-increasing amounts of alcohol to achieve the same effects
When you do not have access to alcohol, you suffer from intense withdrawal symptoms and cravings
You consume alcohol at inappropriate times – for example, first thing in the morning, while driving, or while at work
You are unable to stop drinking once you start, in spite of wanting to
While many people do suffer from both alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction, this is not always the case. Many people who abuse alcohol are not addicted: they may drink excessively but limit this behaviour to certain days, or specific social gatherings. They do not rely on alcohol to get them through their day. However, if you do abuse alcohol, you are at higher risk of developing an alcohol addiction at some point during your life. An alcohol rehab program can help you, whether you abuse alcohol, are addicted to it, or both.
What Factors Contribute To Alcohol Abuse And Addiction?
It should not come as a surprise that alcohol is the most widely abused substance in the world. Many societies are set up in a way that makes excessive alcohol use not only easy or acceptable, but desirable.
A Friendly Neighbourhood Liquor Outlet For Everyone
In Ontario alone, there are almost 900 LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) stores and convenience outlets. Additionally, wine and beer can now be purchased at more than 300 grocery stores across the province. While most liquor retailers do their best to follow safe alcohol sale guidelines, such as checking IDs to verify age, and refusing to sell to individuals who appear to be intoxicated, no system is perfect. One method by which people with alcohol use disorders hide their addictions is by purchasing from several liquor retailers in rotation. The sheer availability of retailers makes this very easy.
A Society That Celebrates Drinking
But while availability of alcohol might make life logistically easier for people with alcohol addictions, societal attitudes are more of a problem. People are often pressured to drink alcohol at social gatherings. If they decline, they are referred to as “party poopers”, or persuaded to have “just one”. Meanwhile, those who drink to excess are seen as “the life of the party”. This perpetuates the notion that one must drink alcohol in order to have a good time, and this could result on people drinking in spite of not really wanting to. After all, no one wants to go to a party and be regarded as “boring”.
An Escape From Stress
For many people, alcohol is an escape. Sometimes people need ways to cope with the stress of major life events, like job loss or spousal separation. Sometimes, alcohol provides a way to avoid the lasting effects of trauma that has been witnessed or experienced. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) estimates that people with mental illnesses like depression, anxiety and PTSD are twice as likely as the general population to develop substance use disorders. With mental health stigmas still alive and well, many people are hesitant to seek the help they need, and they may fall into alcohol consumption as a coping mechanism.
What Are The Effects Of Alcohol Abuse And Addiction?
Like many substance use disorders, alcohol addiction can have far-reaching effects.
Physical And Mental Health
The World Health Organization states that harmful alcohol use – whether as a one-time occurrence or as an alcohol consumption pattern – can cause over 200 physical and mental health conditions. These include various cancers, liver disease, stroke, digestive complaints, depression, anxiety, and psychosis. In addition, people who are alcohol impaired are more likely to engage in behaviours that could result in injury or death, such as impaired driving.
One of the most dangerous elements of alcohol addiction is the effects of withdrawal. For people who have been consuming large amounts of alcohol for an extended period of time, unsupervised withdrawal can lead to high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and seizures. Delirium tremens, often referred to simply as “the DTs” is a serious seizure condition that can be fatal.
Alcohol abuse and addiction can result in the erosion of relationships with family members and close friends. This happens for several reasons, one of them being the fact that alcohol abuse can make a person behave aggressively. Many incidents of domestic violence begin with excessive alcohol consumption, and it doesn’t take long for family members to fear the person who is drinking.
But even in the absence of domestic violence, relationships can suffer. The person with the alcohol addiction may start to withdraw, favouring alcohol use over other activities. Combined with the deception of trying to hide the addiction, this can alienate family members. Many marriages have broken up due to alcohol addiction; many children have been removed from parents for whom alcohol use had taken precedence over family.
There are two elements to this one. First, alcohol doesn’t come free, and for people with an addiction, it is a necessary expense. Progressively larger amounts of alcohol need to be consumed in order to achieve the same effects, and it can easily get to the point where the addicted person has to choose between buying liquor or putting food on their table.
Secondly, excessive alcohol consumption often goes hand-in-hand with erratic behaviour. The addicted person might start showing up late or not at all. They may drink while at work, and this can affect work performance and interactions with coworkers and customers. Eventually, the individual may lose their job.
How To Get Help
If you feel that you are experiencing an alcohol abuse or addiction problem, or if you are concerned about someone you love, help is available. It is strongly recommended that you enter a medically supervised detox program, since withdrawal from alcohol can be extremely dangerous if attempted alone. At Thousand Islands Rehab Centre, we will get you through your withdrawal safely, and then we will design a comprehensive alcohol addiction rehab program that is tailored for your needs and circumstances. To get started, call us at 855-929-4045.
If you are struggling with alcohol addiction and you realize you need help with your addiction, you need to take steps to recover and achieve sobriety. Your recovery journey from alcohol addiction begins with detox.
From there, you’ll start your addiction treatment, which usually requires you to enrol in a rehab program. Following treatment, you’ll continue with after-care therapies and support groups to help you stay on the right path.
The above is only a quick summary of what alcohol addiction rehab entails. In this article, you will learn everything about what to expect from alcohol rehab. At its end, you will have answers to every question you have about alcohol addiction treatment.
Am I Addicted to Alcohol?
Many people struggling with alcohol addiction hardly know they are addicted to the substance. When you become addicted to alcohol, it eventually leads to a chronic disease known as alcohol use disorder. At this point, you are dependent on the substance and won’t function properly without it.
There is no single known cause for alcohol addiction. Behavioural, psychological, and genetic factors can contribute to it. When you become addicted to alcohol, it alters your brain and neurochemistry. Hence, you may become unable to control your actions.
There are many ways to tell if you are addicted to alcohol. You may exhibit one or all of these symptoms:
Drink alcohol frequently and in increased amounts.
Become highly tolerant of alcohol or lack of hangover symptoms.
Drink alcohol at inappropriate times or places.
Always visit locations where alcohol is available.
Damaged relationships with friends and loved ones.
Become dependent on alcohol to function properly.
Hide alcohol from your loved ones or superiors.
Increased lethargy, depression, or emotional stress.
Problems at work.
Continued alcohol use may lead to a slew of medical problems like:
Increased risks of cancer
Suppressed immune function
If you are addicted to alcohol, you may also put others at risk. Drunk people may showcase violent behaviours, drive under the influence, become suicidal or homicidal, among others. To avoid these and many other complications, you should treat your alcohol addiction.
Treatment Procedure for Alcohol Addiction: What Happens at Rehab
Many people struggling with alcohol addiction are hesitant to seek addiction treatment. They hear myths about the procedure and withdrawal symptoms they may experience and grow cold feet. However, this should not be the case.
You should seek information about alcohol addiction treatment instead of dwelling on hearsay. This article will show you there is no need to fear what happens during alcohol rehab.
Alcohol treatment begins from the moment you realize you need help with your addiction. No matter the number of people trying to talk you out of your addictive behaviours, only you have the final say and can decide you need help. Only when you come to this realization yourself will you be motivated to take the necessary steps to your recovery.
The next step is to enrol in an alcohol addiction treatment center. At the center, medical professionals will examine you to get some vital information. After the assessment, you will proceed to detox. After detox, you will take part in multiple therapies and treatments. After your treatment, you will also engage in post-recovery therapies and counselling to keep you on the sobriety path.
People ask “How long does alcohol rehab take?” Rehab usually takes between 28 to 30 days. Sometimes, it can take 60 or 90 days. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends a 90-day treatment program for addiction patients.
Check-In and Assessment
Once you check in to an alcohol rehab center, the rehab’s staff will interview you to find out more about you. The assessment is necessary because they need to know the nature of your substance abuse. They also need to know if you have co-occurring conditions.
The answers you provide will help the rehab center customize a treatment plan for you. The answers you provide will also influence what to expect from alcohol addiction rehab.
This is because every person will have a unique treatment plan customized for them. Even though the ultimate goal is to recover from addiction and attain sobriety, your alcohol rehab plan will differ from another patient’s.
After your assessment, you will undergo detoxification. Detox is aimed at getting rid of all the traces of alcohol in your body after long-term use and abuse. This stage of alcohol addiction recovery is critical and may be difficult for some persons. However, it’s necessary because your body can’t cleanse itself of the traces of alcohol without it. Without detox, you are not mentally and physically ready for alcohol addiction rehab.
Detox prepares you for what to expect from alcohol rehab. Everyone’s experience with detox is different. Your experience depends on the type of alcohol you consumed, the quantity consumed and the duration of use. Based on these factors, detox can last from a day to two weeks. More severe cases can last for a few months.
During detox, you may experience some withdrawal symptoms as your body adjusts to the absence of alcohol. These symptoms can range in intensity from mild to life-threatening. Most times, the severity and duration of your alcohol use play a role in the kind of withdrawal symptoms you will experience.
The mild symptoms of alcohol detox are:
More serious withdrawal symptoms include:
Delirium tremens (rarely occurs)
Delirium tremens is not common, but it is the most serious symptom of alcohol withdrawal and detox. You may experience it within two to five days after your last consumption of alcohol. Delirium tremens can cause death. However, it is rare for people to develop it after quitting alcohol.
Because of the severe nature of some alcohol withdrawal symptoms, medical professionals must be on hand. Hence, what to expect from alcohol rehab at this stage is you being surrounded by health professionals. They are monitoring your reactions and taking note of any sudden symptoms. This way, you get all the help you need immediately.
If you develop symptoms in alcohol rehab, you may be given medications to treat them. These medications include benzodiazepines, naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram.
Benzodiazepines are for treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms during the detox phase. Naltrexone helps reduce your alcohol cravings. Acamprosate helps your brain to function normally again after quitting alcohol. On the other hand, disulfiram acts by producing severe reactions if you consume alcohol.
After the detox stage of your alcohol addiction treatment, the next phase is the rehab stage. There are two alcohol rehab programs. These are inpatient rehab and outpatient rehab.
In inpatient rehab, you will live inside a hospital or rehab center. In the center, you will have round-the-clock medical care and attention. You will partake in several activities aimed at steadily pushing you towards recovery.
In outpatient rehab, you don’t stay in a rehab center or facility. Instead, you’ll receive treatment for your addiction while continuing with your daily activities. Outpatient rehab usually entails regular appointments with a healthcare professional or therapist. You’ll also partake in counselling sessions, individual and group therapies.
These alcohol rehab programs also differ from each other in cost. You will pay more for inpatient rehab than for outpatient rehab. Inpatient rehabs require multiple trained and experienced medical staff. Inpatient rehabs also offer more services than outpatient rehabs. These factors contribute to its cost.
However, if you are suffering from severe alcohol dependency or are a long-term alcohol user, you should enrol in inpatient rehab. You may experience more severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms and will need more medical care and attention. Outpatient rehabs are recommended for people with mild withdrawal symptoms.
Rehab therapy and treatments
Therapies are a major part of what to expect from alcohol rehab. After detox, your rehab treatment begins, whether in an inpatient or outpatient rehab center. You will undergo various kinds of therapies during your treatment and recovery process. These therapies help your cravings for alcohol, prevent relapse, and maintain a sober lifestyle.
The therapies you will undergo include:
In individual therapy, a medical professional will work with you privately. There will be one-on-one sessions to reflect on your addiction and how it has affected your lifestyle. During these therapeutic sessions, you will gradually find healing and reconnect with your true self.
During these sessions, your therapist will also identify the factors triggering your addiction. This is an important aspect of what to expect from alcohol rehab. After identifying these triggers, your therapist will teach you how to deal with or get rid of them healthily.
The therapist will also fashion out the right kind of therapy suitable for you. There are different forms of therapies, but behavioural therapies are effective in dealing with alcohol addiction.
During alcohol addiction rehab, different therapy forms you may undergo include:
Cognitive behavioural therapy
Trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy
Motivational enhancement therapy.
Dialectical behaviour therapy
It helps in unearthing the thoughts or feelings that cause you to indulge in alcohol abuse and addiction. It eventually reduces your chances of relapsing during and after treatment.
Trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy
This therapy accounts for trauma and its impact on behaviours. It helps you connect your trauma with your behaviour. Therefore, you can break the link between trauma and your alcohol consumption behaviour.
Motivational enhancement therapy
In this form of therapy, you’ll learn how to change some behaviours or negative thoughts linked to your addiction. Motivational enhancement therapy is usually used for treating patients with co-occurring conditions.
Dialectical behaviour therapy
This is another therapy recommended for people with dual diagnoses. With it, you’ll learn ways to deal with your alcoholism and co-occurring disorder through motivational enhancement and behavioural skills.
It helps you build a social network and other support structures that can help you deal with loneliness, negative thoughts, and other things that increase addictive behaviours. This therapy aims to strengthen your resolve to remain sober.
What to expect from alcohol rehab when it comes to psychodynamic therapy is the exploration of your emotions. This therapy form helps you uncover subconscious thoughts connected to your addiction.
If you can identify these thoughts, you can determine the underlying cause of your addiction. Psychodynamic therapy also helps you avoid situations that can cause relapse.
This therapy uses non-traditional treatment methods to help alcohol addiction patients overcome repressed emotions and feelings.
It is a therapy form that focuses on an addiction patient’s overall wellbeing. Besides your overall well-being, it also treats physical withdrawal symptoms. Some examples of this therapy are yoga, meditation, art therapy, and acupuncture.
Marriage or Family Therapy
If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, it’s likely your family is also affected. An important aspect of what to expect from alcohol rehab is family counselling.
During family counselling, your family members, who may be aggrieved with your behaviours, can air their grievances. Besides airing grievances, they also get to know how they may have contributed to your addiction with their actions or inactions.
This kind of therapy can become an emotional rollercoaster but tends to serve a good purpose in the end. It is also key to your healing, recovery, and sustained growth after alcohol addiction rehab. Your family members or spouse will learn how best to support you going forward. You will also have strength, knowing you have your loved ones solidly behind you.
Planning for Post-Recovery Treatment
One important part of what to expect from alcohol rehab is that it prepares you for life after treatment. It does this by educating you about things you should note as you return to a normal life after treatment.
This part of rehab is important because transiting from rehab to your everyday life can be topsy turvy. However, if you already know what to expect ahead of time, it becomes easier to navigate.
During post-recovery sessions, you’ll learn the community resources and groups where you can find support. Besides support, these groups serve as motivation and offer some sort of coping mechanism to help you avoid relapse after addiction recovery.
You should join support groups after your alcohol addiction treatment. These groups are important because they help you stay on the recovery path. In these groups, you will meet individuals who have experiences similar to yours. These shared experiences and other people’s success stories after addiction recovery help you stay sober,
Alcohol addiction recovery support groups include:
12-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous
Besides these support groups, you should also partake in follow-up therapy and counselling. Go for medical evaluations, take up new healthy hobbies that boost your wellbeing and keep you away from the bottle.
Tips to Ensure a Successful Rehab Program
Knowing what to expect from alcohol rehab is good. What is even better is having a successful rehab. The rehab center plays a role in helping you achieve recovery, but you have a bigger part to play.
Here are some things you can do to make your alcohol rehab effective:
Stay focused on little goals
Don’t overwhelm yourself with huge goals during your recovery process. Instead, start with the small goals you can achieve and gradually move up to bigger goals. These small goals help you stay focused on the bigger goals and encourage you on your journey.
Have a supportive network
While in an alcohol addiction rehab center, you will develop new relationships. These relationships can be with other patients, your therapist, counsellors, and other medical staff. These new friends will become your support network during and after rehab. You can get insights, resources, and tools from them, which keep you on the recovery path.
Your family and close friends are also part of your support network. They are always there for you when you need someone to speak to about troubling situations. While building a supportive network, keep away from relationships that will lead you back into alcohol addiction.
Hold on to something that motivates you
During rehab, what to expect at an alcohol treatment center is not complete without discussing feelings of tiredness and wanting to give up. It is good to have a motivating factor to hold on to at such times.
It can be a picture of your family, a lifelong memory, or your vow to yourself. Whatever it is, it should encourage you to stay on your path to sobriety and achieve your goals.
Don’t think it will be an easy ride
A bumpy ride is a part of what to expect from alcohol rehab. Hence, you will encounter setbacks during your journey. When this happens, don’t become moody and look to give up. Instead, pick yourself up and remember what your end goal is.
Take part in all alcohol addiction rehab activities
During rehab, you should partake in the rehab center’s activities. These activities will help you attain sobriety and a healthy lifestyle. You’ll also continue with the things you learn in rehab after your treatment. If you don’t take part in these activities, you risk relapsing soon after treatment, which is not good enough.
Continue with treatment after rehab
After your alcohol addiction rehab, don’t think your battle with addiction is over. You should continue your treatment by joining support groups, going for counselling sessions and therapies.
These activities will keep you sober and prevent relapse or alcohol triggers. You should also make new friends that help you stay sober and do away with those who lead you into alcoholism.
How Do I Choose a Good Rehab Program?
A good rehab program is key to a successful recovery. If you enrol in a rehab center that does not do a thorough job with its treatment techniques, you may find yourself going back to your old ways sooner than later. Though you have a bigger role to play in your journey to sobriety, the right kind of addiction treatment center will make things easier.
Here are some things to consider before choosing a rehab center:
Does it have a license?
Does it have trained and professional staff?
Does it offer counselling and medical services?
Does it offer aftercare services?
What will it do to prevent a relapse?
Is it affordable?
Does it accept my insurance coverage?
Does it have good reviews and success stories?
If the rehab center you are considering answers these questions satisfactorily, then you should go for it. However, if you feel it is not good enough, you should seek better options. If you have little confidence in a facility, you may not take your treatment seriously. This defeats the purpose of alcohol rehab treatment.
Alcohol recovery is not as complicated as mainstream media makes it seem. As long as you choose the best rehab centre, they have the experience and expertise to make it easier for you. More importantly, the results — sobriety — are well worth it.
Here at 1000 Islands Rehab Centre, our specialists will develop a treatment plan for you based on your exact needs. Contact us today to learn more about our alcohol rehab programs.