How Does Alcohol Age You? (Spoiler: It’s Not Pretty)

What do birthdays, teenagers, and alcohol have in common? They can make you feel really, really old. In the case of alcohol, it does so quite literally. How does alcohol age you exactly? In more ways than one. Its dehydrating effects can add years to your face, skin, and body to make you look older than you actually are. Not only that, but it affects you from the inside out, making you feel older as well from your joints to your memory (and everywhere in between). Learn the ugly truth about how alcohol prematurely ages you with these 5 shocking consequences. 

5 Ways Alcohol Makes You Look & Feel Older Than You Are

Wrinkles

One of the most telling signs of age, alcohol plays a major role in causing premature development of fine lines and wrinkles. Alcohol is extremely dehydrating which can cause your otherwise supple skin to be parched and dry. This dryness makes your skin increasingly susceptible to creasing and also makes existing wrinkles more pronounced. 

Dark Undereye Circles

As if looking tired all the time wasn’t enough (alcohol can cause sleeping issues), alcohol can make sure that you look it too. While the dark circles under your eyes are mostly controlled by genetics, alcohol can make the discoloration much more pronounced and contribute to puffiness as well. The cause is once again, alcohol’s dehydrating effects. The drying effect on your skin causes this already thin piece of the epidermis to become even thinner and make the blood vessels underneath the skin more pronounced.

Blotchiness

Charming on Santa Clause, not so much for someone wanting to maintain their youthful appearance. Alcohol can put your heart into overdrive, causing blood pressure to increase and putting pressure on blood vessels. This pressure can cause your skin to flush resulting in perpetually ruddy cheeks. Sometimes these blood vessels can burst, causing a condition called telangiectasia (the culprit of spider veins in the legs) that resembles decades of sun damage. 

Weight Gain

Keeping a trim figure becomes a lot harder as you get older, and drinking can make it even more challenging to keep the lean figure of your youth. Alcohol is a double whammy on your waistline as it slows down your metabolism and is full of weight-gaining sugars. The extra pounds can also make it more difficult to maneuver when doing your usual activities. While gaining a little weight doesn’t automatically make you look older, it can slow you down to make you feel a lot less spry. 

Earlier Likelihood of Degenerative Illnesses

Alcohol kicks off a chain of events that hasten the premature breakdown of your internal bodily functions. The result of which can cause a host of serious diseases well before your time. Diabetes, health attack, liver failure, kidney failure, stroke, dementia…These are just a few major ones that can seriously undercut your overall health. While there are a number of other factors that can affect the onset of these illnesses (diet, genetics, lifestyle), drinking can cause them to occur decades earlier than they otherwise would.

The Unflattering Effects of Alcohol Consumptions

Are you a heavy drinker that thinks they’ll stay young forever? Think again. A few drinks may seem harmless – or even beneficial – in the moment but they can have long-lasting repercussions that fast track your body’s signs of aging. Heavy drinking and binge drinking put you at the greatest risk of incurring undesirable side effects. To minimize both external and internal alcohol damage, the NIAAA recommends avoiding drinking more than three standard drinks per day and no more than seven total in a given week. If you’re having difficulty cutting back on your drinking, an alcohol rehab center can help before things escalate.

 

Social Drinker vs Problem Drinker: What’s The Difference?

You’re out for a night of fun with friends and your one drink has turned into half a dozen. You don’t normally drink this much, just every once in a while so it’s fine…right? Determining when you should be concerned about your drinking habit can be surprisingly difficult. 

Social Drinker vs Problem Drinker

The line between social drinker vs problem drinker is much narrower than you might think. Plus, most people tend to underestimate how much they drink (both the amount in a single sitting and the frequency in which they indulge) so trying to analyze your own relationship with alcohol can be tricky.

What is a Social Drinker?

A social drinker is considered to be someone who primarily drinks on social occasions and does so in moderation. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has defined this threshold based on gender. For women, this means a maximum of 3 drinks in a single day but no more than 7 drinks total during a week. For men, who have greater alcohol tolerance, this threshold is no more than 4 drinks in a given day, with a maximum of 14 drinks in a single week. This type of drinking pattern is considered to be low-risk with a very low likelihood of leading to alcohol addiction. 

These limits sound fairly reasonable, but those aren’t the only set of numbers that determine whether your drinking is high or low risk. It’s important to consider what a standard drink is. Drinking three pitchers of beer during one night is a vastly different amount of alcohol than drinking three cans worth. So when the NIAAA refers to a “drink”, they are referring to both set numbers of drinks and specific amounts per drink.

The Size of a Standard Drink

The size of a standard drink is determined by the alcohol content and is defined as a drink with 14 grams of pure alcohol. Naturally, the stronger the drink, the smaller the standard size will be. Your standard beer is about 5% alcohol. Wine is a bit stronger with an average of 12% alcohol content. Distilled spirits (gin, rum, tequila, vodka, whiskey, etc.) are some of the strongest with around 40% alcohol content. As such, the standard size of each will be:

  • Beer: 12.5 fluid ounces (the size of the average beer can)
  • Wine: 5 fluid ounces
  • Spirits: 1.5 fluid ounces

 

Let’s revisit our earlier comparison. Using the standard drink size, a pitcher of beer is typically 32 ounces and the equivalent of slightly less than 3 cans of beer. Drinking three pitches would actually equate to about 8 cans of beer, putting the drinker well beyond the limits of what’s defined as social drinking.

How does your drinking compare when measured using standard drink sizes? 

What is a Problem Drinker?

A problem drinker isn’t an official term or diagnosis. It is often used to describe drinking habits that have caused negative social, behavioral, financial or health consequences to a point where individuals feel the need (or are told) to cut back. Problem drinkers can self-correct whereas genuine alcoholics will find themselves both physically and mentally compelled to continue drinking heavily.

Drinking that falls under this category often falls in the realm of alcohol abuse, although it’s not necessarily always the case. Problematic drinking can include:

  • Binge drinking (drinking enough more than 4-5 drinks in a given day) 
  • Extreme binge drinking (more than 8-10 drinks in a given day)
  • Heavy drinking (binge drinking more than 5 or more days in a 30-day period)

Ultimately, what determines if someone is a problem drinker or not isn’t necessarily the health consequences of their drinking habit. Rather, it is their relationship with alcohol that is the most telling factor. The dysfunctionality of this relationship is primarily what separates problem drinking from alcohol use disorder. 

Is Your Drinking Habit Problematic?

Alcohol consumption is so commonplace that our sense of “moderation” can be seriously skewed towards viewing excessive drinking as normal. Have you’ve found that your drinking habits might be a reason for concern? If so, it doesn’t automatically mean that you’re an alcoholic. Alcoholism is a literal addiction to alcohol where your body has developed both physical and psychological dependence. 

One of the clearest signs that you might be an alcoholic is if you’ve tried to stop drinking but felt physically ill after doing so. Those aren’t hangover symptoms. They’re likely a sign of alcohol withdrawal and that you need help managing your drinking habit. Learn more about recognizing alcohol addiction and how to get treatment

Can Alcohol Cause Kidney Failure?

Drinking too much can cause a ton of health issues, one of them being compromised kidney function. Can alcohol cause kidney failure? Yes, which in turn can lead to liver disease or outright liver failure, the results of which can be fatal. Your kidneys play an integral part of your overall health and you cannot live without them. 

What Do Kidneys Do? 

To fully appreciate how important the kidneys are (and why their failure would be devastating to the body) let’s take a closer look at what the kidneys do. The kidneys are two small, bean-shaped organs located just beneath your ribcage. These tiny-but-mighty organs are involved with the urinary tract, hormone excretion, making sure your blood is clean and chemically balanced, and removing harmful substances from your body. 

Your kidneys filter about 150 quarts of blood each day. During this process, toxic compounds are removed while the waters, salts, and minerals that your blood needs to power the rest of your body, are added. This is crucial to maintaining healthy nerves, muscles, and body tissue. Your kidneys also play a direct role in maintaining cardiovascular health as the control center for hormones that regulate blood pressure and the creation of red blood cells.

When the kidney is unable to perform its job, your body fills with fluid and waste products. This buildup can cause a host of other issues from tiredness to swelling of the limbs, to anemia. If this condition persists, the consequences can be fatal.

How Alcohol Damages Kidneys

Binge drinking and chronic alcohol abuse can spell bad news for the kidneys in more ways than one. Directly, alcohol impairs the kidney’s ability to regulate fluid in the body as well as the balance of vitamins and minerals. This imbalance can spark a number of disturbances well beyond the kidney’s normal scope and can result in exhaustion, confusion, difficulty breathing, chest pain, and swollen limbs. 

How does this happen? The presence of alcohol causes kidney cell walls to thicken causing enlargement of the kidney, a condition strongly linked to impaired kidney function. Simultaneously, alcohol directly interferes with the kidney’s release of vasopressin, an antidiuretic hormone the instructs the urinary tract to release as infrequently as possible in order to conserve body fluid (and is why alcohol makes you go to the bathroom more frequently than usual). Going to the bathroom more often causes an imbalance of electrolyte concentration – the cause of the majority of symptoms associated with kidney damage.

Types of Kidney Failure

There are two types of kidney failure: acute and chronic. Acute kidney failure is when the kidney suddenly loses its ability to function. This can be caused by an injury or other temporary impairment such as an infection or binge drinking. While it has the potential to be life-threatening in the relatively short time-frame that if occurs, this condition can be reversible.  

Chronic kidney failure, on the other, is the gradual deterioration of kidney function. Fluid or waste products accrue in the body over time and build up in the body. Unfortunately, the early stages of chronic disease are subtle and make little detection that there is an issue. By the time chronic kidney disease is detected, kidney function has likely already been significantly impaired. There are five stages of kidney failure, which are breaking up by the percentage of remaining kidney function:

  • Stage 1 – Over 90% of kidney function
  • Stage 2 – Between 89-60% of kidney function
  • Stage 3A – Between 59-45% of kidney function
  • Stage 3B – Between 44-30% of kidney function
  • Stage 4 – Between 29-15% of kidney function
  • Stage 5 – Less than 15% of kidney function

As the stage of kidney failure progresses, the glomerular filtration rate (GFR), the amount of blood the kidneys can filter in 1 minute, decreases as well, contributing to an even more rapid deterioration of symptoms.

Is It Kidney Disease or Kidney Failure?

The difference between kidney disease and kidney failure is the degree to which kidney function is impaired. Kidney failure is considered to be when 90% (or more) of kidney function is lost. A complete loss of kidney failure is called end-stage renal disease or ESRD). The only treatment options available are dialysis, when your blood is run through a machine to be cleaned, or a complete kidney transplant.

Signs & Symptoms of Kidney Failure

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Sleep problems
  • Frequent urination
  • Decreased mental sharpness
  • Muscle twitches and cramps
  • Swelling of limbs
  • Persistent itching
  • Chest pain (caused by fluid buildup in the heart)
  • Shortness of breath (caused by fluid buildup in the lungs)
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) that’s difficult to control

 

Sources:
https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/kidneys-how-they-work

What It’s Like Being Married To An Alcoholic

Being married to an alcoholic is hard – and making your marriage work can be even harder. Sometimes referred to as an alcoholic marriage, this unhealthy relationship dynamic takes a tremendous emotional, financial, and physical toll on the spouse as well as the drinker. Not only that, but it often causes irreparable harm to the very relationship itself which is why marriages where someone has an alcohol use disorder (AUD) have higher rates of divorce. Recognizing the signs that your spouse’s drinking habits have gone too far could save both the marriage and their life. 

10 Struggles of Being Married To An Alcoholic 

Alcoholism doesn’t just happen overnight. The process is gradual, so much so that a spouse may not realize that their husband or wife is slowly becoming an alcoholic before their very eyes. Another reason why the development of a drinking problem goes undetected is that the spouse may be an enabler, making excuses for the husband or wife, and is unwilling to recognize the problematic behavior. 

1. They’re struggling at work or having difficulty keeping a job

One of the telltale signs of a drinking disorder is when it impedes crucial daily life such as school or going to work. An alcoholics’ work performance is usually the first to suffer, likely from calling out due to hangovers or being intoxicated during working hours. Once terminated, they may have difficulty finding new places of employment or maintaining a job for more than a few days or weeks at a time which can be a massive blow to household finances. 

2. They shirk family responsibilities

Marriage is a partnership, and things quickly become problematic when you can no longer rely on your partner. Whether it’s managing the household or rearing children, if your spouse is routinely dropping the ball, it’s a clear sign that their priorities have shifted.

3. Personal hygiene has deteriorated

Alcoholism is a disease that affects the body both physically and psychologically. One of the side effects of which include a growing disinterest in anything that isn’t alcohol. The result of which means that your spouse’s personal hygiene routine has suddenly taken an extended hiatus. 

4. They experience rapid mood swings

Alcohol interferes with neurochemicals, the resulting imbalance can result in the formation or aggravation of mental health disorders. Depression and anxiety are common developments in alcoholism and can result in your spouse quickly going between various emotional states.

5. They skip meals

Malnutrition and anemia are commonplace amongst alcoholics, one of the reasons being that they are known to skip meals in lieu of an alcoholic beverage. If your spouse is constantly passing on dinner but has a drink in hand, it could be a sign they’re at the point where alcohol outweighs their basic survival instincts. 

6. Unintentional weight changes

Another consequence of a drinking problem can be fluctuations in weight. If they are frequently skipping meals as mentioned above, you might notice them shedding the pounds seemingly without explanation. Conversely, alcohol use disorders can also cause significant weight gain since alcohol is loaded with carbs and sugars that are difficult for the body to burn. Further, alcohol interferes with the digestive system and can leave them with a slower metabolism that also contributes to weight gain. 

7. They engage in high-risk behavior

A chronic drinking problem can damage the part of the brain responsible for impulse control and rational decision-making. As such, you may notice your husband or wife engaging in increasingly risky behavior that they normally would not. This might look like gambling, illegal activity, or getting into frequent car accidents. However, this can also take the place of mundane behaviors like deciding to skip work or picking fights.

8. They’ve become physically abusive

The World Health Organization has identified drinking as a major factor in domestic violence against a spouse. This can include physical, psychological, or sexual forms of abuse. 

9. They’re abandoned their hobbies 

This is a common behavior of addicts. Over time, their thoughts and financial resources are consumed by the source of their addiction as both the psychological and physiological need for alcohol grow stronger. This behavior is concerning if your spouse is constantly canceling plans (especially ones that are part of their routine).  

10. Your sex life has taken a hit

It’s not unusual for there to be dry spells in a married couple’s sex life. However, if your intimacy has been lagging for an extended period of time, it could be caused by alcohol’s libido-deflating effect in men. Numerous studies have shown that alcohol can lower testosterone levels.

Protect Your Family, Get Help Today

An alcoholic spouse’s habits have negative repercussions that affect household dynamics, finances, and intimacy. These issues then create a domino effect of instability which affects spouses and their children. This is why alcoholism is considered to be a family disease as its effects extend far beyond the alcohol itself. Not sure how to broach the topic with your alcoholic husband or wife? Start with our addiction intervention guide that can help you navigate this sensitive but necessary subject. 

 

Drugs Used to Treat Alcoholism & How They Work

Alcohol addiction is a disease that goes far beyond willpower. Chronic alcohol abuse can rewire your brain not only to crave a substance but physically require it in order to function. This dependence is why kicking a drinking habit is so difficult. Fortunately, there are several types of drugs used to treat alcoholism that target specific alcohol addiction side effects and help contribute to both short and long-term recovery efforts.

Disulfiram (Brand names: Antabuse)

This drug was the first of its kind to be FDA-approved for use as part of alcohol addiction treatment. Rather than treating symptoms of alcoholism, Disulfiram uses negative reinforcement to discourage alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol after taking this medication will induce unpleasant side effects like that of a bad hangover: nausea and vomiting, headaches, and sweating. When alcohol is introduced to the body with disulfiram already in the system, it produces a byproduct called acetaldehyde that is responsible for the previously listed effects.

Unfortunately, this aversion approach to alcohol abstinence can backfire, leaving little motivation for alcoholics to actually take this medication. As such, it’s often helpful to monitor individuals to ensure it’s taken. Disulfiram doesn’t necessarily need to be an ongoing medication and instead, can be reserved for use at times when temptation is at its strongest. This could be during extra-stressful events (example: holidays or losing a job) or at specific times of the day as part of a routine (example: after-work happy hour)

Naltrexone (Brand names: Revia, Depade, Vivitrol)

Initially approved for use in opioid addiction treatment, scientists stumbled upon Naltrexone’s ability to curb alcohol cravings. It does so by blocking opioid receptors which are responsible for causing feelings of pleasure. This prevents the pleasurable feelings that alcohol consumption might otherwise generate. Severing the reward pathway previously associated with drinking can help unravel alcohol’s hold on the brain which has been shown to be an effective means of reducing the likelihood of relapse. It is available in both pill form or as a monthly injectable. 

Acamprosate (Brand names: Campral)

The third of the three FDA-approved alcoholism medications, Acamprosate helps minimize the discomfort of the psychological-based alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which can include anxiety, depression, restlessness, and insomnia. It does this by interacting with GABA and glutamate transmitters – both of which levels get thrown off by the neurochemical changes caused by ongoing substance abuse. Otherwise, the discomfort caused by these imbalances can be a cause for newly recovering alcoholics to relapse.

 

One potential obstacle of this medication is that it requires a lot of pills: two of them three times a day. This can be especially difficult to keep track of if you are taking other medications at the same time.   

Gabapentin

Its principal use is as an antiepileptic drug intended to treat and prevent seizures. The same mechanisms that make it effective for treating epilepsy can also counter some of the neurological consequences of alcohol addiction. It works similarly to acamprosate by affecting GABA and glutamate receptors (although the exact mechanism is unknown). Gabapentin increases the levels of GABA within the brain, which overall helps to normalize GABA activity.

 

Studies have shown that gabapentin can ease anxiety and insomnia (a side effect of alcohol withdrawal) and help reduce cravings. The long-term benefits of which can reduce instances of heavy drinking and encourage alcohol abstinence. Findings are promising as a potential new alcoholism treatment medication. It is not yet approved by the FDA but is currently used in other countries. 

Topiramate

Similar to gabapentin, this medication is primarily used to treat epilepsy and migraines. It has been found to be effective for treating alcohol dependence (although it is not FDA approved specifically for this purpose). Also like gabapentin, topiramate affects GABA and glutamate neurotransmission.

 

The exact mechanism in which topiramate is able to achieve this is unclear, but it is believed to reduce dopamine release –  a key aspect in the formation of addiction. This essentially works to deprogram the alcoholic to associating drinking with pleasure and to rely on this substance as their primary dopamine source. 

Can a Pill Cure Alcoholism?

The benefits of drugs used to treat alcoholism cannot be overstated, however, they can only do so much on their own. These medications can help deter releasing, but do not guarantee alcohol abstinence. It is always recommended that these drugs are used in conjunction with some form of counseling or therapy to promote long-term recovery from alcohol addiction

 

6 Signs You Need to Go To an Alcohol Rehabilitation Center

Alcohol is such a deeply integrated cultural norm that discerning when the occasional over-indulgence has become true alcoholism can be difficult. After all, it’s not unusual for a person to drink too much, and doing so doesn’t automatically make them an alcoholic. What ultimately sets a binge apart from a true disorder is the person’s relationship with alcohol. Wondering where your drinking habits fall on the scale? Here are 6 not-so-subtle warning signs that you have unhealthy drinking habits and might need to go to an alcohol rehabilitation center:

1. You lie about how much you drink

It seems that whenever you’re asked about your drinking habits you constantly find yourself downplaying the amount of alcohol you’ve consumed or making excuses about why you “needed” the drinks you had. Simply put: if you feel the need to fib or become defensive, odds are that deep down you know your drinking habits are well beyond what others would consider normal. Similarly, frequently drinking alone or in secret is another red flag that your drinking habits have surpassed healthy standards.

2. You’ve given up hobbies and other activities that used to bring you pleasure

Planning your next drink is never far from your thoughts and it’s gotten to a point where you’ll cancel plans to make sure that it happens. Or, perhaps your drinking has become so frequent (and the hangovers so intense) that you’re no longer functional enough to indulge in your usual past times. It’s one thing to have your interests change, but it seems like more and more of your usual leisure activities have fallen by the wayside but your determination to drink remains unwavering.

3. Your work performance has noticeably slipped

Even more concerning than abandoning your hobbies—things you like to do— for alcohol, is abandoning the things you have to do. If your drinking habits have noticeably impeded your ability to function in the workplace (or any other place where you wield a significant amount of personal responsibility), you’re demonstrating that you find alcohol to be more important than one of the cornerstones of special expectations. And since work is directly related to the ability to provide for ourselves, it also means you’re valuing alcohol over the risk of shelter and other life necessities.

4. You have multiple DUIs

Getting tangled with the law for an infraction is as damaging to one’s reputation as it is costly. Doing so multiple times shows a blatant disregard for both health and safety as well as basic rational decision making. Impunitive actions like a DUI are meant to discourage such behavior. Their failure as a meaningful deterrent shows just how upended your priorities have become and also highlights the loss of control you have over your actions.

5. You know you drink too much but don’t change

If your usual approach to drinking is to say “I know I shouldn’t be doing this but…” and then do it anyway, it’s pretty clear that you’re struggling with self-control and the ability to self-regulate your drinking. If your body is saying “no” but you feel like some invisible force is making you say “yes” against your better judgment, that’s a fairly obvious sign of an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

6. You experience withdrawal symptoms

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Experiencing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal is indicative of physical dependence—the body’s precursor to full-blown addiction. Your neurochemical balance has been altered to a degree that it can no longer function normally without alcohol. This can be considered one of the most obvious and urgent signs that you might need to go to an alcohol rehabilitation center. These symptoms most commonly manifest themselves as shaking, sweating, headaches, hallucinations, nausea, and seizures, and can occur in as little as a few hours after your last drink.

Find an Alcohol Rehabilitation Center Near You

There are an estimated 17 million adults and adolescents with alcohol use disorder (AUD). Sadly, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that only 1 of every 10 seek or receive any treatment. Part of the reason for such dismal numbers is simply that most individuals aren’t aware that they have a drinking problem. 

 

Alcoholism is a serious and debilitating disease that will progressively get worse the longer it goes untreated. Exhibiting even one of these behaviors can be indicative of a potentially dangerous alcohol addiction. An alcohol rehabilitation center can help mitigate the unpleasant withdrawal effects and help with behavioral therapy for this chronic relapsing brain disorder. 

Drunk Driving During the Holidays & Accident Prevention Tips

‘Tis the season for office parties, gift exchanges, potlucks, and general merriment. As the weather cools down and the mood is increasingly festive, the dangers of driving under the influence are probably the last thing on your mind as you gather with loved ones this holiday season. In recognition of National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, we’re highlighting the increased danger of driving under the influence as well as ways to keep loved ones safe this season. 

5 Ways to Prevent Drunk Driving Accidents During the Holidays

Ask your host about staying the night

If we had a nickel for every alcohol-related mishap we heard about that started with “I was only going to have one drink”…It’s no secret that in a lively, social setting, drinking can quickly get out of control and we can imbibe more than initially planned. Anticipate this possibility and ask the party host whether you could spend the night in case your drinking gets out of hand. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a stressful situation at the end of the night scrambling for a last-minute option. You could get a cab or a ride-share home, but then you’ll have to come back for your vehicle (if you drove). Surge pricing and ride-share availability are other headaches you may have to deal with at the moment. 

Download ride-hailing apps ahead of time

Many cities offer complimentary transportation services during the holidays. Taking advantage of this freebie typically requires an app. Check whether there are any local services available to you and be sure to download the necessary apps in advance. You don’t want to be standing outside in the cold, trying to make a download on slow, spotty WiFi. Be sure to also check whether there are any other requirements such as having ID, a passenger minimum or maximum, and the hours of operation. 

Eat while you drink, but avoid salty foods

Eating food helps to slow the rate of alcohol consumption, giving holiday revelers a chance to sober up before it’s time to depart. Salty foods, on the other hand, could be counterproductive by making you feel thirsty and in turn, causing you to drink even more. Check with your host beforehand whether food will be available. If not, make a stop to get something that doesn’t need to be refrigerated or, offer to bring a dish to the party – your host will think you’re the perfect guest and you can ensure there’s something to snack on that you know you’ll enjoy, win-win!

Stop drinking 1-2 hours before the end of the party

If you’re a partygoer, avoid drinking an hour or two before departing. However, if there isn’t a clear end time for the party, deciding a cut off time may be difficult. More effective, would be for the host to remove any remaining alcoholic beverages once the party begins winding down. While this may not guarantee that all guests depart sober, it can lower their BAC enough to be the difference between an arrest, or even life or death. It takes about one hour for your body to metabolize one standard drink, and removes about 0.02 BAC from the bloodstream per hour. A “standard drink” is considered to be the following:

  • One 12 oz regular beer (4.5-6% alcohol)
  • One 12oz White Claw (5% alcohol)
  • One 7 oz malt liquor (7% alcohol)
  • One 5 oz glass of wine (12% alcohol)
  • One 1.5 oz shot of hard liquor (40% alcohol)
  • One 0.5 oz of Everclear (95% alcohol)

Source: https://alcohol.stanford.edu/alcohol-drug-info/buzz-buzz/what-bac 

Avoid driving after midnight

Even being perfectly sober doesn’t spare you from the danger of roadways during the holidays. Most drunk driving, or other types of impaired driving, accidents typically occur during the late hours of the night, between 1 AM and 3 AM. This time often coincides with the closing of bars and other nightlife establishments, where tipsy patrons file out and unwisely, get behind the wheel. When you are on the road, stay as far to the right of the road as possible.

Prevent A Substance Abuse Tragedy this Season

Don’t let an accident or driving penalty caused by impaired driving interrupt your celebrations. The best way to avoid drunk driving during the holidays is to abstain from drinking altogether. If you or a loved one have a drinking problem that’s beyond their control, contact Level Up Lake Worth to give them the best gift of all: the chance to live a long, healthy life. 

Can Alcoholics Drink Non-Alcoholic Beer?

Non-alcoholic beer would appear to be the perfect solution for a recovering alcoholic: They can maintain their sobriety while once again partaking in social gatherings, or simply indulge in the signature tangy malt flavor of the most popular beverage in the world. The concept of alcohol-free beer, however, is one of great controversy that has everyone asking: Can alcoholics drink non-alcoholic beer? 

What Is Non-Alcoholic Beer & Is It Real Beer? 

Yes, non-alcoholic beer is “real” beer and not just some mocktail being pushed as an alternative for your usual brewsky. Alcohol content, or lack thereof, has no bearing on beer’s classification. It is defined as any beverage made by brewing a cereal grain such as barley, wheat, or corn. Normally during the brewing process, the sugars in the starches ferment, creating ethanol resulting in beer’s standard 4-5% ABV. Non-alcoholic beer either prevents the fermentation process from happening or removes the ethanol after production.

There are two ways that beer manufacturers make beer without the alcohol content. They either remove the ethanol that’s naturally produced during the fermentation process or stop that process from happening altogether. Most non-alcoholic beer manufacturers opt for the former option, brewing beer as normal and then removing the ethanol that’s produced. The exact method of this extraction can vary. Some boil the ethanol away, while others use a physical filter to separate it. 

What’s In a Name? The Source of Controversy

Whether you’re for or against alcoholics drinking non-alcoholic beer, one thing that we can all agree on is that this product category is pretty misleading. Despite its name, non-alcoholic beer does, in fact, contain trace amounts of alcohol. Legally, as long as it contains less than 0.5% ABV, it can be considered a non-alcoholic beer (which is also sometimes referred to as alcohol-free beer, or de-alcoholized beer). 

Opponents of so-called non-alcoholic beer feel that the presence of alcohol, no matter how tiny, can trigger a relapse. While an alcohol level of less than half a percent may not seem a source of concern, drinking several and in rapid succession could put enough alcohol in the system to make a person feel it. 

The Pros of Non-Alcoholic Beer

Not everyone drinks alcohol to get drunk, and many supporters of alcoholics drinking non-alcoholic beer are if they’re doing so for taste. Drinking is deeply ingrained in our social customs and for many, the allure of beer is the nostalgia it holds. As such, non-alcoholic beer presents a rare opportunity for recovering addicts to indulge and reconnect with the malty beverage that accompanied many a pastime while maintaining their sobriety. 

Sure, there may be tiny traces of alcohol and the name is somewhat of a misnomer. But as long as they drink it without the intention of getting drunk, what’s the harm? It’s similar logic to that of decaffeinated beverages. The label may say that your coffee or tea may say “caffeine-free” and it’s accepted that trace amounts may still exist.

Final Thoughts: Can Alcoholics Drink Non-Alcoholic Beer?

Whether an alcoholic can safely drink a non-alcoholic beer with relapsing is a matter of personal preference. Some recovering addicts are wary of any amount of alcohol, no matter how small, and will even abstain from using wine in their cooking. For others who feel in control of their past addiction, it’s a chance to be reunited with a taste that accompanies their happiest moments. For recovering alcoholics to do this safely, we recommend doing so in the presence of a trusted friend that will step in if consumption gets out of hand. Long-term recovery is about being open and honest, if you are struggling with your addiction and are worried about relapsing, our experienced staff can help talk you through it. 

The Dangers of Fentanyl and Alcohol

What is Fentanyl and How Is It Used?

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid with a dangerous reputation. It can be 100 times stronger than morphine, and 50 times stronger than heroin. This increased potency means a greater likelihood of causing life-threatening opioid side effects or a fatal overdose. These already significant risks are amplified even further when fentanyl and alcohol are combined. Even in small doses, the combination can be quite the lethal duo.

Forms of Fentanyl:

  • Lozenge
  • Pill
  • Patch
  • Injectable solution
  • Powder 
  • Blotter paper 
  • Eye droppers 
  • Nasal sprays 

Fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II substance. This means that it has a high potential for abuse and can result in severe physical or psychological dependence. Other drugs in this classification include cocaine, methamphetamine, and oxycodone. This classification might come as a surprise seeing as how fentanyl is far more powerful than heroin, which is classified as a Schedule I, the highest tier. The reason for this is that fentanyl does have prescribed uses whereas heroin does not and is purely illicit. 

The Dangers of Fentanyl

Synthetic opioids are one of the leading causes of drug overdose deaths in the United States. Fentanyl leads those numbers and in 2017 resulted in nearly 30,000 overdose fatalities. Over half of all opioid-related deaths that year involved fentanyl. 

Unlike with other types of opioid abuse that are driven by misuse of a prescription (typically by a non-prescribed individual), the majority of illicit fentanyl usage is supplied by illegal manufacturing of the substance by clandestine laboratories.  

Although fentanyl operates as your typical opioid would, the higher potency means that the neurological reactions are much stronger, the effects on the body are more drastic, and the likelihood of addiction far greater. As little as a 2-milligram dose can be lethal (picture for scale). Fentanyl comes in a variety of forms and its versatility of consumption is a significant factor in why this dangerous substance is so widespread.

How Fentanyl Affects the Body

Fentanyl is fast-acting and works like your typical opioid. It is a mu-opioid receptor antagonist that controls pain and emotions. Once it has activated receptors, dopamine levels increase which blocks sensations of pain and sometimes results in feelings of euphoria. Fentanyl also acts as a depressant on central nervous system functions which can slow down breathing and digestion. One surprising difference between fentanyl and other opioids is that fentanyl does not seem to have the same cardiovascular effects that most other opioids do. The most common fentanyl side effects include:

  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Euphoria
  • Hypoxia
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Slowed or difficulty breathing
  • Sweating

Fentanyl and Alcohol: Making a Bad Situation Worse

Both fentanyl and alcohol are depressants. They both cause cognitive impairment and disruption to central nervous system functions but do so in different ways. The primary danger of using both substances together is where those side effects overlap: respiratory depression.

On its own, fentanyl can slow breathing to a dangerous rate and initiate a potentially-fatal chain of events. Slowed breathing means less oxygen intake, and this oxygen shortage leads to brain hypoxia which often results in a comatose state. From there, things can quickly get worse. The best-case scenario of the individual waking up from a coma could still result in permanent brain damage from the lack of oxygen. The worst? Death. 

In addition to brain hypoxia, the rise of carbon dioxide levels (caused by the lack of oxygen’s presence) can trigger hyperglycemia. Both of these conditions eventually lead to a change in the brain’s temperature and slow metabolic brain activity

Treating Polydrug Use and Abuse

Using alcohol with any sort of medication is generally a bad idea, and opioids even more so. Polysubstance abuse brings out the worst of each other and can often result in entirely new sets of less than desirable side effects. In circumstances of polysubstance abuse, treatment can be particularly difficult trying to extricate one symptom or trigger from another. Our experienced staff are well-versed in such types of addiction treatment and can help manage unpleasant side effects with our medical detox program. Contact us today to learn more and start your journey to recovery. 

Is Alcohol Withdrawal Headache Normal?

Alcohol withdrawal isn’t pretty; it can trigger a host of unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms that can last a few days or as long as a few weeks.  Some are mild and flu-like, with little cause for concern. Other symptoms can be severe, life-threatening, and require hospitalization. Fortunately, alcohol withdrawal headaches aren’t usually part of the latter category. They are a fairly commonplace symptom and on their own are not a cause for alarm.

Why Does Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Headaches? 

The cause of alcohol withdrawal headaches is the same as withdrawal itself. Alcohol withdrawal happens when the body has developed a physical dependence on the substance. The brain has learned to compensate for the dulling effect of alcohol by constantly releasing extra chemicals in order to keep up functions as normal. This overstimulation becomes the new normal – even when alcohol is no longer present. The discomfort that occurs is the adjustment period of chemical production returning to normal. 

How Long Do Alcohol Withdrawal Headaches Last? 

Alcohol withdrawal is not a clear-cut process. It can vary widely from person to person based on the severity of their drinking habits, and get very messy in the interim before the body re-adjusts to functioning without alcohol. Therefore, alcohol withdrawal-induced headaches can be difficult to predict. The average withdrawal process can take a few days or, in rare cases, over a month to pass. 

Types of Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can occur within hours after your last drink. However, the time distinction is not as important as the severity of the symptoms and does not follow a linear time-based schedule. Minor, moderate, or severe symptoms of withdrawal can occur at the very onset of the withdrawal process. 

 

The first stages of withdrawal begin around the 6-hour mark. Symptoms typically peak around the 48-hour mark and subside in intensity. Persisting symptoms that occur or worsen are usually attributed to delirium tremens, the most severe type of withdrawal. 

Minor Symptoms (Common)

The most common withdrawal symptoms are ones that affect the autonomic nervous system. These are functions that regulate the body’s automatic body functions like breathing, heart rate, digestion, reflexes, sneezing, etc., and typically cease after 48 hours.

 

  • Headache
  • Dilated pupils
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Higher body temperature
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

Moderate Symptoms (Less Common)

Moderate symptoms include psychological side effects. These can begin 12-24 hours after withdrawal begins, and lasts significantly longer, for up to 6 days. 

 

  • Hallucinations (visual, auditory, or touch)
  • Seizures

Severe Symptoms (Uncommon)

  • Hyperthermia
  • Hypertensions
  • Fast breathing
  • Extreme sweating
  • Tremors
  • Delirium tremens

Alcohol & Headaches 

Headaches are one of the first symptoms of alcohol withdrawal to occur. They typically do so within the first 24-hours and can range in intensity from mild to severe (migraine-like). Headaches are often one of the first indicators the withdrawal is occurring. Withdrawal isn’t the only condition associated with headaches after heavy drinking, however. Hangovers are also known to leave heads pounding and bleary after a night of heavy drinking. Sometimes, hangover symptoms can be so severe that it is mistaken for withdrawal. 

 

Despite the similarities, headaches caused by withdrawal are completely different from those that occur as the after-effects of a binge drinking session. Withdrawal headaches are triggered by the absence of alcohol in the system, while hangover headaches are caused by too much alcohol being consumed at once. So while the pain may feel the same, the underlying cause of a withdrawal headache is much more serious.

 

If you have begun to experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms, it is recommended to have medical intervention for the detox process. Contact us today to learn more. 

 

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6761817/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6084325/ 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441882/