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The Four Stages Of Alcoholism

The Four Stages Of Alcoholism: Binging, Coping, Dependency, & Poor Health

The four stages of alcoholism represent a natural progression from casual drinking to full-blown addiction.

Stage One: Infrequent Binge Drinking

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. For men, this level is usually reached by drinking five or more drinks within two hours; for women, it’s usually four. Although the lines can get blurred between occasional social binge drinking and a cycle of problematic alcohol consumption, this is often the first step to full blown AUD. First-time or “occasional” binge drinkers may not be aware or mindful of the long-term risks for addiction. Although people at this level may not be constantly preoccupied with thoughts of drinking, their level of consumption can create changes in the brain’s chemistry that facilitate dependency.

Stage Two: Drinking To Cope with Stress and Adversity

Whether it’s acute trauma or everyday stress, many Americans use alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with the adverse circumstances in their lives. It may start off with a drink or two at the end of the workday to “relax” or “unwind”. Over time, these coping methods leads to constant preoccupation to the point where every minor point of adversity is remedied through drinking. Drinkers at this stage of alcohol abuse will routinely dismiss concerns of others over their drinking and rationalize their increased alcohol consumption as a natural response to life’s adversity. During this stage, relationships may start to become strained and everyday obligations may start to be neglected. Data from the NIAAA as well as multiple other studies indicates that drinking actually exacerbates stress rather than healing it.

Stage Three: Withdrawal and Psychological Consequences

By the third stage of alcoholism, full-blown dependency has set it in, paving the way for a variety of mental health issues, including but not limited to depression and anxiety.

Common behaviors exhibited during this stage include:

  • Withdrawn or isolated behavior
  • Erratic changes in mood and temperament
  • Hostility and aggression
  • Deep guilt and self-pity
  • High-risk behaviors
  • Constant preoccupation with alcohol

These behaviors and actions can lead to full-blown chaos in the person’s life, including legal problems, incarceration, family estrangement, job loss, and more. At this point, loved ones and friends should start the process of intervening in the loved one’s drinking and try to guide them toward treatment.

Stage Four: Physical Changes and Medical Issues

Alcohol comes for the brain first, but the body soon follows. In the final stages of alcohol addiction, the body becomes increasingly vulnerable to profound and potentially deadly physical changes, including but not limited to cirrhosis of the liver, jaundice, heart disease, weight gain, hypertension, diabetes, and much more. This is the most critical stage, and the one in which most alcoholics find themselves before they seek help or hit rock-bottom. It’s also the stage in which they develop serious long-term psychological issues that can impact the rest of their lives. Alcoholics will drink daily to avoid the regular discomfort of withdrawal, often while still insisting they don’t have a drinking problem.

Alcoholism Statistics In The Untied States

Excessive drinking kills approximately 88,000 Americans per year according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry reports that one in eight Americans meets the criteria for alcohol use disorder (AUD). Prolonged and untreated alcohol abuse destroys virtually every aspect of a person’s life, including their physical and emotional health, their relationships with their family and loved ones, their careers, and their overall quality of life. There are, however, multiple stages of behavior and psychology leading up to the worst stages of this disease, during which sufferers can either get help on their own, or their loved ones can step in and intervene in their alcohol abuse.

Intervening in a Loved One’s Alcoholism

There are several red flags that loved ones of alcoholics should be mindful of during the course of this process. Understanding the four stages of alcoholism and how they progress can help loved ones of alcoholics better empower themselves to help get the one suffering into alcohol treatment and recovery. If you or someone you care about is going through the four stages of alcoholism, don’t ignore the signs. Get help now.

Talk to one of our treatment specialists to learn about how to find alcohol addiction treatment

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How to Deal With A Death From Addiction

How To Deal With A Death From Addiction

Addiction is a toxic and destructive force that destroys the sufferer’s life and rips through their family and circle of friends. While it can be a slow and excruciating decline, the most painful part of dealing with addiction is when your loved one has finally crossed the point of no return and suffered a fatal overdose. Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that over 72,000 Americans died from drug overdose in 2017. Most of these fallen have whole communities who care about them and are left destroyed in the aftermath of their tragic deaths. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach on how to deal with a death from addiction, there are some common ways to gradually heal yourself and the people around you as you struggle to pick up the pieces and move on.

Avoid Blaming Yourself For Death Caused By Overdose

Loved ones of addicts have a tendency to claim culpability in their addiction and subsequent overdose. In cases where the addict’s initial substance abuse is driven by the actions of toxic or dysfunctional family relationships, those responsible will often fail or refuse to see how their actions led to their loved one’s overdose. The reality is that addiction can happen to anyone, as illustrated by the over 24 million people who currently struggle with substance use disorder. Whether you’re a parent, child, sibling, spouse, relative or friend of an addict, you need to know that they can get drugs or alcohol from practically anywhere these days and, unless you supplied them with drugs or alcohol yourself, you are not responsible for their actions.

Seek Professional Help For Grief

Data indicates that over 70 percent of Americans experience trauma throughout the course of their lives and 20 percent of that population develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result. Traumatic bereavement is one of the leading causes of PTSD you are not alone in your suffering following your family member or friend’s untimely passing. Working through your grief with a trauma-trained mental health professional can help you safely and effectively process the event and develop coping mechanisms to avoid guilt-related erratic behavior like self-harm or substance use of your own. This professional can be anyone from a board-certified psychiatrist or the counselor at your school or university. There are also numerous phone and Internet resources to help you through your grief, including SAMHSA’s comprehensive directory of literature.

Lean On Your Friends And Family For Support

Remember that you’re not the only one who is going through this tragedy. There are others who are feeling the stinging and lasting pan of this loss and can provide support in these enormously difficult times. They may also need your help in getting through this death and helping them can actually bring you relief. Leaning on your network of support is one of the most effective means of getting through the everyday struggle following this profound loss. Whether it’s your family or family and mutual friends of the deceased, you have people who are hurting right alongside you, and you can heal together.

Find Your Own Way Of Coping

Each and every person’s method of coping with bereavement is different. It’s important that you find the things in life that make life worth living following this tragedy. This could mean honoring your fallen loved one by taking a more active role in your recovery community; losing yourself in a new interest; changing your scenery or anything else. Finding your own happiness helps to reduce the everyday impact until you can at least learn to live with it without blaming yourself or reliving over and over again in your mind. Be present and be active in life.

-Don’t retreat into isolation.

Get Addiction Treatment If You Need It

It’s not uncommon for friends of addicts to struggle with substance use disorder themselves. Some of these people even have the profound misfortune of being there when their friend overdoses. If both you and your friend are active drug or alcohol abusers, and they overdosed, consider it a wake-up call and get yourself into treatment immediately. Every day is another chance to start fighting back from drug or alcohol addiction, get the help you need today.

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Getting Over The Fear Of Alcohol And Drug Detox

Getting Over The Fear Of Alcohol And Drug Detox

Detoxification, or “detox,” is a fundamental part of the drug and alcohol addiction treatment process. It is the means by which recovering addicts expel the toxins that have built up in their systems through a prolonged and untreated course of substance use. Along with behavioral rehab, it is one of the two primary pillars of modern addiction treatment and Is vital to long-term recovery.

The unfortunate reality is, however, that many people suffering addiction are reluctant to enter detox because of the often-arduous physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms that inevitably accompany the process. It’s important to realize, however, that getting over the fear of alcohol and drug detox is a critical first step to reclaiming one’s life from chemical dependency.

What Happens During Alcohol And Drug Detox?

Detox is, by all accounts, a medical procedure and should be treated as such. Professional alcohol and drug detox programs usually last around five to seven days and are staffed by experienced and qualified medical professionals who can monitor and mitigate symptoms and can also intervene in the event of a medical emergency.

Patients with an extended history of untreated substance use often experience long-term medical issues for which they’ll also need expert treatment during the detox process, including but not limited to:

  • Chronic pain
  • Respiratory issues
  • Organ disease
  • Hypertension
  • Skin issues

Whether they’re the cause or effect of drug or alcohol addiction, these conditions require ongoing treatment from a medical professional even after the addiction treatment process.

Fear Of Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal

One of the largest obstacles to the successful completion of detox is the withdrawal period that accompanies the process. While each person’s withdrawal period will vary based on factors like scope and duration of substance, type of drugs being abused, and co-occurring medical conditions, the process is usually divided into three stages: early, acute, and protracted.

Symptoms detoxing often include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Headache and migraine
  • Stomach illness
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Depression

Symptoms can start as early as a few hours after use and last for weeks before gradually dissipating. In some cases, medication may be available to diminish cravings and lessen the severity of symptoms.

Fear Of Making The Decision To Enter Detox

It’s perfectly understandable for those entering recovery to be reserved toward detox. While it’s a necessary component of the treatment process, it can admittedly be a physically and emotionally taxing procedure. One of the primary reasons that relapse rates are so high is because recovering users often find the withdrawal process too much to handle. It’s important to realize that, while detox may be initially difficult, it will get better and is highly preferable to a revolving cycle of withdrawal and relapse.

Talk to your physician or mental health professional about your concerns and see if they can offer some insight regarding quality programs in your area.  Use our database of detox centers throughout the country to locate an alcohol or drug detox center near you. If you’re worried about paying for detox, Medicaid and private insurance will cover all or part of the process.

Detoxing On Your Own – Not Recommended

Patients who endeavor to detox on their own run a heightened risk of relapse and subsequent withdrawal. It’s imperative that detox be managed by medical personnel trained in the treatment of withdrawal symptoms. Don’t be afraid to take this first critical step toward recovery and a better future.

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