Alcohol Addiction

Two white women laughing and holding drinking drinks

Mental Illness and Alcoholism

Alcohol addiction is a mental illness. Whether it’s through genes, environmental experiences or simple curiosity, once alcohol enters your bloodstream, it salivates its way to your brain. It then smoothly crosses your blood-brain barrier and camps for as long as it can. It then makes your brain its home. If you are already vulnerable, such as experiencing emotional pain, suffering from a mental illness or the victim of peer pressure, you will quickly learn that alcohol is like a potion. It quickly numbs away your painful experience. Once booze and your brain shake hands, call it a deal made in hell.

Does this mean that you are now prone to developing an addiction? Not necessarily. Is it possible? Absolutely. Many people with anxiety disorders or depression love alcohol. The substance helps lubricate their shyness, fears, anxieties and low mood, but only in the moment! Once your brain soaks up all the ethanol like a sponge, it crashes. You feel hungover or even worse you start to experience withdrawal effects such as tremors, anxiety, restlessness, sweating, insomnia and excessive thoughts of acquiring more alcohol. Severe withdrawal effects include seizures, shaking, confusion and hallucinations, also known as delirium tremens.

Can you Recover from Alcohol Addiction?

Absolutely, but it takes a strong will to do so. If you’re even 10% ambivalent, the chances of a successful recovery slim down. You must want to be free from alcohol. Quitting alcohol means no drinks whatsoever. You can no longer have a glass of wine at dinner or a beer when out with friends. I know this sounds harsh, but the saying is very true, “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.” To quit alcohol addiction, you must be 100% sure that you’ll never drink ever again. Too many recovered addicts take a chance thinking that one drink will not do anything, only to find themselves back in their old habits. My point is this: you can successfully recover from this mental illness but you have to sacrifice alcohol from your life for good.

Why does alcohol love your brain so much? Or simply reversed, why do you like alcohol so much? I’ll let you answer those questions.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Alcohol Stole My Sanity

Voices In My Head

When people think of alcohol, they envision bumping parties, wild times at the bar or even a relaxed night in by the fireplace. Developing an addiction to alcohol is not so commonly thought about; usually people relate addiction with other drugs. But not only is alcohol one of the most addicting substances known to mankind, it can very easily steal your sanity.

Imagine becoming so dependent on alcohol that you lose everything: your home, car, job, friends and even family. Alcohol has the capability of doing that. The reason alcohol is so addicting is because it can be easily consumed and hidden from others, while other drugs require pipes, smoking, injections or snorting.

Once alcohol has you hooked, it moves on to its next objective: destruction of your mind. It does this by attempting to make you depressed, anxious and inducing withdrawal symptoms. This way, it can keep you hooked for longer. When you start to experience psychiatric symptoms, the first thing that you think of is drinking more.

The last thing that you think of is getting help; doing that would mean blowing up your cover of alcoholism. Most alcoholics are in denial and keep their drinking a secret for two reasons: they feel bad for themselves and are ashamed of their habit. But once alcohol has reached the stage of inducing psychiatric symptoms, alcoholics become even more tempted to keep their habit buried.

One of these psychiatric symptoms are auditory hallucinations of voices telling you to kill yourself or others. People don’t often associate alcohol with hallucinations but it does happen; it’s called substance-induced psychotic disorder. You don’t need meth or cocaine to make you psychotic; the liquor store down the street will do the trick.

Some alcoholics will seek psychiatric help and become prescribed to antipsychotics such as Seroquel or Olanzapine. But guess what happens when they drink on top of these medications? Nothing! The medications do not work if they are ingesting the same drug that caused the problems in the first place.

When the medications don’t work and the habit continues, suicidal ideations start to make an appearance. You start to entertain the idea that you are a failure and that you would be better off dead. So alcoholics will drink even more for two reasons: to get more intoxicated and to try to take their lives. This vicious pattern becomes worse if proper help is not sought after and if a supportive family is not around.

Who’s ready to join The DSM Ready Community and help all the alcoholics in the world? Alcoholism is a mental disease.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Alcohol-Induced Psychosis

Alcoholic Rabbit Holes

Alcohol-induced psychotic disorder (AIPD) is not a primary organic psychotic disorder like schizophreniform or schizophrenia; it is due to the substance itself, in this case, alcohol. Psychosis is a disorder that involves hallucinations, delusions or disorganized thinking; it classically is known as having a “break with reality.” AIPD can occur during an acute intoxication, withdrawal or chronic long-term use.

AIPD is more common in individuals struggling with alcohol dependence or addiction. Once a person develops AIPD, the psychosis may last anywhere from 1-6 months. If it is secondary to alcohol withdrawal, it usually clears up within one week.

AIPD Secondary to Acute Intoxication

When a person consumes a very large amount of alcohol in one sitting, they may develop AIPD. Some of the symptoms include: aggression, hallucinations, delusions, amnesia and impaired consciousness. The condition usually ends during hospitalization when the alcohol is cleared from the body, but the person is still at risk for alcohol poisoning, which must be monitored for to prevent death.

AIPD Secondary to Withdrawal

Also known as alcohol withdrawal delirium, this occurs when a person drinks a large quantity for a long period of time and abruptly stops drinking all together. Because the body becomes physically dependent on the substance, it starts to experience side effects when alcohol is no longer present in it.

Some of the symptoms include: agitation, anxiety, chest pain, irregular heart rate, headaches, mood changes, nightmares, hallucinations, delusions, delirium, fever, seizures and involuntary muscle contractions. The symptoms progress in severity from time to last drink, starting as early as 6 hours since the last drink and even continuing 48 hours later; hallucinations and seizures are the last symptoms to appear.

AIPD Secondary to Chronic Use

After long-term heavy alcohol use, a person may develop alcohol hallucinosis, paranoia or Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Alcohol hallucinosis manifests as: auditory or tactile hallucinations, delusions and rapid mood swings. It can appear in a person who has a clear thought process but has been drinking heavily for many years. Alcoholic paranoia manifests as: extreme anxiety and the fear that others are after you.

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is caused by a lack of vitamin B1 in the body secondary to poor nutrition in heavy alcoholics. It manifests as: the inability to form new memories, confabulation, confusion and hallucinations. There is no recovery from Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, as the mammillary bodies of the hippocampus have been severely damaged.

It is important to moderate your alcohol intake and never cross the invisible line leading into addiction territory. Alcohol was responsible for over 85,000 deaths per year from 2006-2010 in the United States; why lose your life over a substance? Always drink responsibly and remember that there is no substance that can ever replace natural happiness obtained from healthy relationships!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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