ALCOHOL DEPENDENCY

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MORE THAN JUST A HANGOVER


Have you ever woken up after a long night of drinking and felt like someone was hammering a nail into your head at full speed, all while the room spun like a tilt-a-whirl? We’ve all been there at some point. This unpleasant experience is otherwise known as the physiological and psychological effects of a hangover.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • And more…

But all these pale in comparison to actual alcohol withdrawal for those that experience dependency. As it pertains to alcohol withdrawal there are two levels: minor and major.

MINOR WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS

Minor symptoms are unpleasant but as the name suggests, are mild to moderate in severity and can be mediated with rest, hydration, relaxation, and over the counter medication.

These symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Feeling Anxious
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness 

MAJOR WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS

Major withdrawal symptoms are both more severe and more serious than minor withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are not only unpleasant, they can also be life threatening.

Major Symptoms Include but are not limited to:

  • Confusion
  • Shaking/Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Decreased Appetite
  • Sensitivity To Light And Sound
  • Rapid Eye Movements
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Fever
  • Breathing Problems
  • Heart Attack

 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Alcohol dependency is a form of alcoholism brought about by abusing alcohol. This dependency is characterized by physiological and/or psychological dependency upon alcohol.

Dependency is not always easy to detect. Many individuals who abuse alcohol live lives that are unhealthy, both emotionally and physically, but are “functional”. However, alcohol dependency and abuse (often well-hidden from family and friends) can have dire consequences on work performance, interpersonal relationships as well as physical and mental health.

 

CLASSIFICATION AND DIAGNOSIS – nothing changed here

Criteria established in the DSM-IV establish guidelines for aiding medical professionals in determining if an individual may have alcohol dependence.

If you or a loved one has three or more of the following then they may be dependent on alcohol:

  • Clinically defined withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use
  • A current or increasing tolerance
  • Find themselves drinking more or for longer periods of time than intended
  • A continued desire to cut back or quit drinking but an inability to successfully do so
  • A significant amount of time is spent on allocating alcohol or dealing with the consequences of their use
  • Reduction or cessation of social, recreational or occupational pursuits due to alcohol use
  • Continued drinking despite knowledge of physical or psychological harm induced by or from drinking

HOW TO DECIPHER WHEN ALCOHOL DEPENDENCY BEGINS – nothing changed here

Tolerance

Whether it be Adderall for ADHD, Percocet for pain, or alcohol for relaxation, it is easy to become immune to the intake of these drugs. Consuming more alcohol to reach the same effects is a sign of alcohol dependency.

Avoiding Minor Symptoms with Alcohol

Drinking an alcoholic beverage to cure shakiness, restlessness, or agitation is a dangerous path to alcohol dependency.

Avoiding Responsibilities

When the need for alcohol overcomes the need to take care of everyday chores and responsibilities, take a step back from drinking as this is a huge sign of alcohol dependency.

Health Comes Second

Alcoholic cravings outweigh the importance of health risks. If you find that a fever is an irrelevant factor in whether or not you choose to drink, seek help.

 

OVERCOMING ALCOHOLISM

Alcohol dependency is extremely common, largely because alcohol is one of the few drugs that is legal in most locales. As a result, it often takes many years for an individual (or even family members) to conclude that alcohol use has become excessive.  It is easy to dismiss the problem – after all, the alcoholic is not hanging out in a bad part of town trying to buy an illicit substance.

This “denial” of the problem – largely reinforced by the stigma that society has placed upon addictions of any sort – can be frustrating and dangerous.  However, the way to address denial is not through anger, but through education and understanding.  The goal is for the alcoholic to come to the realization that

choosing to seek help is a respectable act that will improve his/her work and family life as well as prevent such future health issues as cancer, liver failure and psychiatric conditions.

Once an individual has accepted that treatment is necessary, Dr. Seitz at HomeDetoxNY can provide the needed support and medication management to overcome the addiction.  As physicians, we are very fortunate that several medications are available to mitigate the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and to treat co-occurring conditions, allowing the individual to overcome this disease and live a fulfilling life.

Dr. Seitz prescribes medication to alleviate most symptoms of withdrawal including high blood pressure, nausea, stomach cramps, and agitation. In addition, he may recommend certain foods and vitamins to boost health and eliminate cravings for alcohol.  Don’t be afraid to reach out for help as alcohol dependency can be successfully treated comfortably and safely.

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