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Alcohol Addiction and Mental Health

Heavily drinking on a regular basis interferes with the brain’s chemicals that support mental health. As a result, even though we might feel relaxed after drinking, alcohol has long-term effects on mental health and can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety, and make stress harder to deal with.

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Did you know that scientific research has shown that there is an association between heavy drinking and mental disorders? These are anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and psychosis? It may even raise the risk of committing suicide!

People suffering from these illnesses are often excessive drinkers. As a result, you find that they diagnose these people with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), often known as alcohol addiction or dependence. In fact, according to the DSM-5, it’s considered a mental health problem that requires the help of a qualified expert

The cause of addiction to alcohol and drugs is a mix of social, physical, and situational factors. It ultimately leads to structural and functional alterations in the brain.

For example, AUD affects a person’s ability to perform. It could be a performance at school, or at work. It also messes with relationships, and stressful circumstances in the same way that other mental disorders do.

While this is public knowledge, it is just a portion of the reality. The connection between AUD and mental illness is more complicated than most people realize. If you’re wondering about the relationship between alcoholism and mental health, learn more below.

What Is Alcohol Addiction?

It’s not always simple to determine when you’ve crossed the line from having fun to having way too much to drink. For example, whether you’re out with your spouse toasting to a new event or watching a sports match with pals. But how can you recognize when your social drinking or having a good time is risking your health & wellbeing?

There are some primary indications that you may be suffering from an alcohol problem. However, there are different degrees of the illness to be aware of.

There are some primary indications that you may be suffering from an alcohol problem. However, there are different degrees of the illness to be aware of.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD), often known as alcoholism, manifests itself in many ways. There are three types of alcoholism, each of which has its own set of health and behavioral consequences:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Alcohol dependence
  • Binge drinking

Let’s learn a bit about each type below. We will also show you how to recognize the signs when it’s not fun anymore but when it becomes more serious.

Identifying the Signs of Alcohol Abuse

People see drinking in moderation as a harmless activity. For example, celebrating a special event or enjoying a vacation with friends. In reality, there is no level of alcohol use that is entirely risk-free.

When you find yourself overindulging or drinking more frequently than you should, you begin to experience minor consequences. As a result, you may be abusing alcohol.

Even if they don’t have withdrawal symptoms, people who misuse alcohol can feel unmanageable. For example, they could neglect regular duties or routines. Indications such as the below could be that alcohol is interfering with daily life:

  • Forgetting plans with friends
  • Being angry with family and friends
  • Not taking care of yourself

As a result, you create a vicious cycle of increasing stress and instability.

Many individuals, for example, resort to alcohol to deal with emotions of stress, tiredness, or disarray. Unfortunately, instead of finding healthy methods to deal with these emotions, drinking becomes a main coping strategy. So, alcohol abuse may develop into alcohol dependence.

Alcohol Dependence

You define alcohol abuse as drinking more often than advised. On the other hand, you define alcohol dependency as a physical reliance on alcohol. And when intake stops, it causes withdrawal symptoms and severe repercussions for one’s self.

People who are addicted to alcohol will have made many failed efforts to limit or reduce their use. As a result, they will also experience a shift in their attitude, mood, or conduct. Excessive deception, denials, trying to cover up, defensiveness, or concealing drinking are examples of these changes.

For example, physical dependency on alcohol is so strong that physical withdrawal symptoms appear if a day passes without having a drink. This may involve shaking and trembling, even if the individual has never had them before.

In more severe cases, some of the following withdrawal symptoms can be manifest, such as:

  • Frequent seizures
  • Suffering from insomnia
  • Having anxiety
  • Being very restless
  • Heart palpitations

It is strongly advised that someone who is recovering from alcoholism undergoes medically supervised detoxification. This is to guarantee their safety throughout the detox process.

What Is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking may impact anybody, regardless of age or background. However, it is more prevalent among young people who are out with friends and are egged on to do so or want to push their alcohol limits.

Binge drinking, which is defined as consuming vast quantities of alcoholic beverages in the shortest time, has regrettably become somewhat accepted in today’s culture. This is particularly so amongst students and young adults.

We see a lot of it, and it’s more challenging to treat since going out and drinking a lot in such a short amount of time is considered ‘normal’ among the younger population. Going out to drink is still okay, but it becomes a problem when it leads to hazardous conduct and memory losses or blackouts.

The quantity of alcohol that is deemed safe varies from person to person; binge drinking is defined as more than four drinks at one time for women and more than five drinks at one time for males. However, regardless of the quantity, if it causes memory loss, lack of control, or hazardous conduct, it may indicate binge drinking.

How Does Alcohol Addiction Affect You as a Whole?

A precise balance of chemicals and functions is required for the brain to work. Because alcohol is depressive, it may upset that balance. As a result, alcohol alters our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. In some cases, our long-term mental health can also be affected.

This is due partly to neurotransmitters, which aid in signal transmission from one nerve or neuron in the brain to another.

For example, the calm sensation we may get after drinking is due to the chemical alterations that alcohol has produced in our brains. Alcohol starts to decrease the portion of the brain involved with inhibition, making some individuals feel more comfortable and less nervous after having a few drinks.

As we consume more alcoholic drinks, the negative effect on our mental function rises. And, regardless of how we’re feeling, increased alcohol intake has the potential to exacerbate unpleasant feelings.

These feelings may have a detrimental effect on our mental health as a result of the consequences. In addition, the use of alcoholic beverages has been related to aggressiveness, with some individuals reporting that they become furious, aggressive, nervous, or sad after drinking.

Blood Alcohol Content and How It Affects Your Brain?

We all know that alcohol affects the whole body. That being said, it does have a significantly adverse effect on the brain.
Alcohol has a significant impact on the intricately interconnected systems of the brain. It interferes with the transmission of chemical impulses between brain cells. These cells are known as neurons, resulting in the typical symptoms of drunkenness. These include:

  • Manifesting impulsive behavior
  • Having slurred speech
  • Having poor memory
  • Slowed reflexes

If heavy drinking continues over a long time, the brain adapts to the blocked signals by responding more dramatically to certain brain chemicals. These are called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters have to work harder as your body gets more used to the alcohol in your body and attain that euphoric feeling.

The brain continues to over-activate neurotransmitters after alcohol when you stop drinking.

When you stop, this overactivity of neuron transmitters carries on and results in unpleasant and possibly deadly withdrawal symptoms that may lead to the destruction of brain cells. This effect is increased by binge drinking and sudden withdrawal from alcohol. The damage to the brain cells from alcohol can take many forms.

Let’s look at the many stages of alcohol intake and their results on the body:

Subliminal Intoxication

Subliminal intoxication is the first stage of intoxication. This is when your blood alcohol content (BAC) is between 0.01 – 0.05. You may not appear to have been drinking. But …

Although you may not be aware of it, your body’s and brain’s response time, behavior, and perception may have been somewhat influenced by this stage of drinking. Most men and women reach this stage after one or two drinks, depending on their weight and tolerance to alcohol intake.

Euphoric Feeling

When you first start drinking, your brain produces a lot of dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for making you feel good. This chemical is associated with feelings of pleasure. During euphoria, you may experience sensations of relaxation and self-assurance. Your thinking and memory, on the other hand, can be somewhat affected. This stage happens when your blood alcohol content is between 0.03 and 0.12 and is often referred to as being “tipsy.”

A Feeling of Excitement

You are now considered legally drunk if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is between 0.09 and 0.25. At this level of intoxication, these parts of the brain are affected:

  • The occipital lobe. The occipital lobe is responsible for perception.
  • The temporal lobe. The temporal lobe is responsible for the emotional side of the brain
  • The frontal lobe. The frontal lobe in your brain is responsible for reason and intellect

Drinking excessively may result in adverse effects unique to each lobe’s function, as shown above. The parietal lobe, which is responsible for the processing of sensory information, is also impacted.

If you have dementia, you may experience a loss of fine motor abilities and a decreased response time. This stage is often characterized by mood swings, poor judgment, and sometimes nausea and vomiting.

Confused Feelings

When your body has a BAC of 0.18 to 0.3g, it will often bring feelings of disorientation and confusion. This is because your cerebellum, which aids in coordination, has been affected. As a consequence, you may need assistance walking or standing.

At this point, blackouts, or brief loss of awareness or short-term memory, are also possible. This is due to the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for creating new memories, not functioning properly. You may also have a stronger threshold for pain, which may put you at greater risk of harm.

Reaching a Stage of Stupor

If your body reaches a BAC of 0.25 or above, you may show symptoms of alcohol poisoning. All mental, bodily, and sensory processes are significantly hindered during this time. There is a significant danger of passing out, asphyxia, and as a result, injury.

Reaching a Comatose Stage

When your blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches 0.35, you are in danger of falling into a coma. This happens as a result of impaired breathing and circulation as well as impaired motor reflexes and responses. In this stage, a person’s life is in imminent danger.

The Final Stage Death

Unfortunately, the final stage is when your body reaches a BAC of over 0.45. That is the point at which your alcohol consumption may result in death owing to alcohol poisoning or failure of the brain to regulate the body’s essential processes.

Co-Occurring Alcohol Addiction and Mental Health Issues

A person who suffers from both an alcohol addiction problem and a mental health condition such as depression, mood disorders, or anxiety has been diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder. This is also known as a dual diagnosis.

Addiction, alcoholism, and other substance misuse are never simple to deal with, even on their own. It’s much more challenging when you’re simultaneously dealing with mental health issues and alcohol addiction.

Each of the symptoms of co-occurring illnesses may interfere with your ability to work or study, have a stable family life, cope with life’s challenges, and connect to others. Complicating matters, the co-occurring disorders influence each other. Untreated mental health issues typically worsen alcohol addiction issues and vice versa. And as alcohol addiction rises, so do mental health issues.

According to reports from the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that a lot more individuals than you think have a co-occurring alcohol addiction and mental health concerns. Let’s look at a few facts:

  • Substance misuse affects about half of those with serious mental illnesses
  • 37% of alcoholics and 53% of drug addicts have severe mental conditions
  • Mentally ill individuals misuse alcohol or drugs in 29% of cases

While ignoring alcohol addiction and mental health concerns won’t help them get better, it’s essential to realize that you don’t have to think this way. Defeating your demons, mending broken relationships, and regaining your health are all possible.

Co-occurring disorders may be overcome with the proper support, self-help, and therapy.

How Do You Separate Alcohol Addiction or Mental Issues?

The relationship between alcohol addiction and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety is complex. One does not always have to be the direct cause of the other. The abuse of alcohol may aggravate the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Let’s also take the following into consideration:

Alcohol Is Often Used to Self-Medicate

People often misuse alcohol to alleviate the symptoms of an untreated mental illness. They do this to deal with unpleasant emotions or to alter their mood momentarily.

Unfortunately, self-medicating with alcohol has adverse side effects. Often it increases the problems it was intended to alleviate in the first place.

Alcoholism Can Raise the Chance of Mental Problems

Because mental health issues are created by a complex combination of genetics, society, and other variables, it’s impossible to tell if alcohol addiction ever causes them directly.

However, if you are predisposed to developing a mental health problem, consuming alcohol can drive you over the brink.

Alcohol Addiction Can Worsen Mental Health Issues

Alcohol abuse may significantly worsen the symptoms of mental illness. It could even possibly cause new symptoms to appear. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol may also interfere with the effectiveness of medicines such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety, and mood stabilizer medications. This interference could make them less effective at treating symptoms and delaying recovery.

Identifying a Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis of disorders is often challenging since the adverse effects of one may always mount up or induce another. Those who suffer from recurrent depression, for example, may suffer from severe side effects as a result of alcohol usage.

A few medicines, such as hallucinogens, have been shown to increase some symptoms of schizophrenia in humans. As a result, the notion of these complicated and linked illnesses may now include a direct diagnosis.

Finding out which illness began things may assist with an accurate dual diagnosis. This may be challenging in certain instances since it requires a person to abstain from alcohol for a period of time. Once the alcohol treatment is finished, physicians will be able to examine the residual adverse effects and correct them, if necessary.

In certain instances, the negative consequences of alcohol usage resemble the symptoms of dysfunctional behavior.

However, the presentation of mental instability, whether it be depression, anxiety, unforeseen thoughts, or speech, will disappear once alcohol use is discontinued. Symptoms of alcohol addiction will continue if a person has a growing and independent psychological issue. When alcohol misuse stops and the symptoms persist, the mental illness is likely seen as a “serious” problem.

Experts can evaluate how well your brain functions and how to cope with a problem by determining the underlying reason for the condition.

How Can You Treat a Person Who Has Mental Issues and Alcohol Addiction?

Dual diagnosis needs specialized care. Unfortunately, many conventional rehab institutions are not equipped to care for a patient with a dual illness. A treatment facility that specializes in dual diagnosis therapy, on the other hand, will have the resources necessary to properly care for you or a loved one.

There is no one-size-fits-all therapy for dual diagnosis since the illnesses and drugs involved vary so widely across patients. However, there is a general procedure that most patients would benefit from learning more about. Continue reading to find out more about what you may encounter.

First Step Is Detoxification

You will have to detox from alcohol. In other words, abstain from consuming any more alcoholic drinks. This procedure may take 7 to 10 days and, in many instances, requires 24-hour supervision by skilled medical personnel.

That is the period that enables you to safely and efficiently flush the alcohol from your system. Doing this will allow you to walk the long, difficult road of recovery ahead of you.

Assessing Your Mental State

Too many treatment centers concentrate on the alcohol use problem rather than the underlying mental health illness. As a result, institutions specialized in dual diagnosis conduct an initial evaluation that considers both elements.

A qualified mental health practitioner will assist the patient in evaluating and comprehending their mental health. They may then provide a tailored treatment plan that tackles both drug abuse and mental disorders.

Safe Treatment With Medications

While medicines are seldom used beyond the detoxification phase of drug treatment, they are often used in dual diagnosis settings. This is because many of the mental disorders included in dual diagnoses need the use of medication to stabilize the condition and begin rehabilitation with clarity and balance.

Last But Not Least Therapy and Counseling

Therapy teaches coping methods and gives people the tools they need to cope with the forms of mental illness. They are less likely to resort to drugs to relieve their symptoms if they better know their disease and better methods to cope with it.

However, counseling is also an essential component of the recovery process from drug abuse. It provides a patient with awareness of their self-destructive conduct and aids in modifying their thinking patterns.

Don't Hesitate to Get Help

Dual diagnosis necessitates much more than conventional therapy can provide. Because alcohol addiction often aggravates the symptoms of the mental health problem, rehabilitation requires a significant amount of time, patience, and compassion. However, with the proper treatment program, you or a loved one may resume a regular life.

Making an accurate diagnosis of both an addiction and a mental health disorder is critical to a patient’s recovery. When this happens, their chances of recovery improve. In addition, as the screening and treatment of co-existing illnesses improve, so will the stigma attached that makes people so hesitant to seek necessary care.

Are you ready to take back control of your life? Then, contact us, we will safely detox you from drugs or alcohol, and we will give you traditional and holistic therapy that is personalized, comprehensive, and effective!

References & Resources

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  7. Melinda. (2021, October 8). Dual diagnosis: Substance abuse and mental health. HelpGuide.org. Retrieved October 29, 2021, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/addictions/substance-abuse-and-mental-health.htm
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