Alcohol Withdrawal/ Alcohol Abuse in Northern New Jersey
Alcohol is one of the most frequently abused substances, but alcohol abuse does not have to affect your life. Patients in Totowa, Little Falls Township, Woodland Park and the surrounding areas of New Jersey may seek help from Psycho-Educational Associates.
What is Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. It may occur when someone who has abused alcohol for some time suddenly stops drinking or significantly reduces his or her consumption.
Withdrawal symptoms may begin as soon as two hours after the last drink and may persist for several weeks. They range in severity from mild anxiety and shakiness, to seizures and delirium tremens (DTs). DTs are characterized by confusion, fever, and an escalated heart rate. The mortality rate for people with DTs is estimated at 1-5 percent.
Even mild symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can worsen quickly and should be considered dangerous. Anyone experiencing symptoms should seek immediate medical attention, as prompt treatment reduces the risk of DTs or full-blown seizures.
What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?
Consuming large amounts of alcohol over long periods of time jumbles neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that send vital messages between brain cells. One such chemical is glutamate. As an excitatory neurotransmitter, it plays an important role in normal brain functions such as learning and memory. Chronic alcohol abuse, however, suppresses its activity. In order to re-establish balance, the glutamate system reacts with much greater intensity in heavy drinkers than it would in moderate drinkers or people who do not drink at all.
When alcohol intake sharply decreases or suddenly stops, neurotransmitters that were previously suppressed by alcohol rebound. This results in a phenomenon known as brain hyperexcitability. The effects of alcohol withdrawal—irritability, anxiousness, tremors, DTs, and seizures—are direct opposites of the effects of heavy alcohol consumption.
Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
The severity of withdrawal symptoms depends largely on the amount of alcohol consumed and the duration of abuse. Minor symptoms usually begin 6-12 hours after the last drink, and measurable blood alcohol content may still be present when symptoms start.
Alcohol withdrawal is typically marked by:
- Shaking hands
- Excessive sweating
- Mild anxiety
- Nausea or vomiting
What is Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol abuse is defined by unhealthy drinking patterns that result in one or more of the following behaviors within a 12-month period:
- Failing to fulfill work, school or household obligations
- Drinking when it’s physically dangerous to do so, such as when driving a car or operating machinery
- Being arrested for driving under the influence, committing physical violence while drinking or having other alcohol-related legal problems
- Continuing to drink even when it causes relationships to suffer
Alcoholism or alcohol dependence, is the most serious form of abuse. This chronic disease is characterized by drinking at levels detrimental to physical and mental health. Alcohol-dependent people continue to drink despite health, family or legal troubles.
What Sets Alcohol Dependence Apart From Alcohol Abuse?
The main characteristics of alcohol dependence are:
- A constant compulsion to drink, accompanied by strong physical cravings
- Alcohol-related loss of control that leads to trouble on the job, at school, or in personal relationships
- A high likelihood of legal problems
How is a Drinking Problem Identified?
The following four questions are useful for determining whether or not you or a loved one has a drinking problem:
- Do you ever feel guilty about how much you drink and think about cutting back?
- Do you become annoyed or defensive when people express concern or criticize you for your drinking habits?
- Do you ever need a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or relieve a hangover?
If you answered yes to one question, it is possible that you have a problem with alcohol. If you answered yes to two or more questions, it is very likely that a problem exists. In either case, you should immediately see a doctor or other healthcare professional. If he or she determines that you have a drinking problem, the best course of action will be initiated.
You may need help even if you answered no to all three questions. If you are in doubt or have encountered problems as a result of your drinking, seek the help of an alcohol recovery specialist. Think about the impact drinking has on your health, job, relationships and dealings with the law. The effects of alcohol abuse may be devastating—or even fatal—to you and those you love.
If you or a loved one suffers from alcohol dependence, get help now. Here at Psycho-Educational Associates, we have experienced, caring professionals standing by ready to provide you with alcohol abuse treatment and a variety of other services. Contact us today to schedule your appointment!