Is Alcohol a Drug North Jersey Recovery Center - A woman is struggling with her dependence on alcohol because is alcohol a drug? She is debating seeking treatment for her alcohol addiction

Is Alcohol a Drug?

Understanding Alcoholism and Where to Turn for Help

 
Many of us look forward to a few beers after work or a glass of wine while cooking dinner.

If we were to log how much alcohol we consume every week, we might notice a pattern that repeats itself.

Is it possible we are addicted to alcohol?

Is alcohol a drug?

It turns out that alcohol is a drug because it falls within the class of depressants.

You CAN become addicted to alcohol, which is referred to as “alcoholism.”


What is Alcohol?

 
Alcohol is a drink that is produced through fermentation.

The ingredients often include grains, fruits, sugar, yeast, and water.

We commonly know alcohol as beer, wine, and liquor, but is alcohol a drug?

Origins of Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages go thousands of years back.

A sense of pleasure and relaxation became the basis for drinking alcohol.

  • Evidence of alcohol appeared from the discovery of beer jugs dating back to around 10,000 B.C.
  • Egyptian hieroglyphics from around 4,000 B.C. indicate drinking wine is mentioned throughout the Bible as well.

As the 19th century rolled in, limitations on drinking alcohol were enforced, especially through prohibition.

Since then, alcohol has been regulated by laws restricting certain age groups from buying and drinking.

However, these laws often fail to curb the use of alcohol.

Young people still find ways to drink, and alcohol has become common in most social gatherings and events.

Ingredients in Alcohol

The combination of sugars and yeast, and other ingredients, causes a chemical process that produces ethanol.

It is this ethanol that, when consumed, changes the way our brain and body function.

Different types of alcoholic beverages contain varying amounts of ethanol.

Certain drinks will cause more intense symptoms than others.

The higher the alcohol content, the stronger the symptoms.

Addiction is not affected by the content of alcohol.

It can happen whether you consume beer or the hard stuff.

The main question is: Is alcohol a drug?

Alcohol Content in Different Types of Drinks

High Content:

  • Moonshine 100%
  • Liqueurs up to 60%
  • Vodka up to 50%
  • Whiskey up to 50%
  • Tequila up to 40%
  • Rum up to 40%


Low Content:

  • Wine and Wine Coolers up to 20%
  • Ciders and Ales up to 8%
  • Beer up to 6%

Alcohol is a Drug

Is alcohol a drug? If so, what kind of drug is alcohol?

Alcohol is a type of depressant, similar to many prescription drugs.

Alcohol may not be “prescribed,” but it affects the brain in many of the same ways that other drugs do.

Prescription Depressants:

  • Tranquilizers
  • Antipsychotics
  • Sedatives
  • Sleeping pills

 
Is alcohol a drug that is considered as bad as prescription depressants?

Yes, alcohol is just as addictive as Xanax, Lunesta, Klonopin, or any other depressant.

Effects of Alcohol

The side effects of alcohol are what drives us to seek it out and drink it.

How many of us go to a social gathering and enjoy a beer or glass of wine?

Do those drinks help you to relax and be more sociable?

The marriage of food and alcohol is often enjoyed, especially with BBQs, dinner parties, and cocktail hours.

Why? Because the “side effects” of alcohol can loosen us up to have more fun.

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Short-term Side Effects of Alcohol

The most immediate side effect of alcohol is that it makes us feel drunk.

These are some of the symptoms of drunkenness:
 

  • Sense of calm, relaxation
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Lack of coordination
  • Impaired thinking
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Feeling tired
  • Lower heartbeat, blood pressure, breathing
  • Overall feeling of sadness
  • Urination difficulty
  • Blackouts

Long-term Side Effects of Alcohol

Is alcohol a drug that can cause serious and lasting side effects?

Yes, alcohol is the root of alcoholism, which is an addiction. 

Long term use of alcohol changes our brains and bodies in ways we may not be aware of.

Mental and Physical Side Effects

  • Addiction (alcoholism)
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Liver damage/disease
  • Malnutrition
  • Blackouts
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Ulcers
  • Gastritis
  • Cancer
  • Permanent nerve damage
  • Worsening of mental disorders
  • Suicidal thoughts/tendencies
  • Suicide
  • Death
  • Moodiness
  • Abusive behavior
  • Fetal deformities
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • Stillbirth
  • Miscarriage
  • Development of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome
    • An alarming 80% of alcoholics are deficient in thiamine. This deficiency can lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, which is a brain disorder causing encephalopathy or psychosis.

Social Side Effects

  • Divorce
  • Relationship strain
  • Self-isolation
  • Indirect harm through accidents
  • Loss of job
  • Loss of friends
  • Loss of home
  • Financial strain
  • Drunk driving that can lead to arrest or imprisonment
  • Loss of driving privileges
  • Arrest and imprisonment
  • Requiring a lifetime of someone caring for you

Mental Illness and Alcoholism

 
Is alcohol a drug that worsens existing mental disorders?

In short, yes, it can.

Alcohol abuse is associated with numerous mental disorders and can exacerbate their severity.
 

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Mental Disorders Associated with Alcoholism

Alcohol Abuse Leads to Addiction

Why is alcohol a drug of choice for so many of us?

Alcohol does not require a prescription and is obtainable by merely going to the store.

Is alcohol a drug that only affects adults? No, it has the same addictive ability for teens, middle-aged adults, as well as the elderly.

When is alcohol abuse a drug problem?

The varying demographics of alcohol abuse and addiction are startling in contrast to what many of us think.

Under-Age Alcohol Abuse Within the U.S. during 2018:

  • Approximately 7.1 million under the age of 20 consumed alcohol, of which 19.5% were females, and 18.2% were males.
  • Approximately 4.3 million under the age of 20 participated in binge drinking.
  • Approximately 861,000 (2.3% of the age-group population) under the age of 20 heavily abused alcohol.

 
Older Adults and Alcohol Abuse Within the U.S. during 2018:

  • 3% of adults admit to drinking alcohol.
  • 45% of adults admit to binge drinking.
  • 6% of adults admit to heavily abusing alcohol.

 
A study done in 2012 indicated that 10% of children in the U.S. had an alcoholic parent.
 
When is alcohol use an addiction?

  • You crave it and cannot go for long periods without it.
  • You drink all throughout the day or night.
  • You cannot enjoy social events without drinking.
  • You spend your last dollar on alcohol.
  • You become violent and abusive towards your loved ones.
  • You prefer to drink alone.

 
If you see yourself in any of the above scenarios, facts, or statistics, you need help.

Many of us with an addiction to alcohol do not view ourselves as alcoholics.

Taking the first step in admitting you are an alcoholic is the hardest part of this recovery journey.

Reaching Out for Help

When you continue to allow alcohol to control you and your life, you stand to lose so much.

Your sense of pride, independence, and your loved ones are far more precious than a drink.

Even worse, can you live with yourself if you drink and drive and end up killing someone?

Did you know that someone dies because of a drunk driver every 50 minutes in the U.S.?

How Do You Get Help?

Admitting you have a drinking problem is the first and hardest step.

Now it is time to get help from professionals who will be by your side the entire time.

The next step to take is to make that call.
 
North Jersey Recovery Center is a leading treatment facility for alcoholism.

We have a professional standing by 24/7 to take your phone call.

The moment you speak with someone, you will be embraced with compassion.

Inpatient

Detox is a necessary step to rid your body of alcohol.

You will be admitted as an inpatient where you have the choice of social or medical detox.

A team of medical professionals will be by your side during the entire process until you have stabilized.

After you are stable, you will then advance to the “inpatient hospitalization” program, where you ease back into life while still residing at the facility.

Outpatient

When you have graduated to the outpatient program, you will visit the facility as scheduled to continue treatment.

For those who need to plan their treatment around work, children, or school, we offer “intensive outpatient therapy.”

Payment and Insurance

Our staff is more than happy to verify your insurance on your behalf to make things easier for you. You also have the option to use our online verification form to do it yourself.


Regaining Control to Live a Full Life

Treatment is a gift to yourself and to those you love.

Do not let alcohol slowly strip you of the most valuable things and pleasures of life.

You have value and worth, and who knows, you may be the one who inspires someone else with the same problem to find help.

Be their inspiration!

stages of alcohol detox

What are the Stages of Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol detoxification is the process that your body goes through when ridding itself of toxins built up through long-term consumption of alcohol. Detox is generally the first step of any treatment program for alcohol addiction. 

Depending on the individual and the severity of the addiction, the exact alcohol detox process will vary. Alcohol detox can be generally divided into three stages. Each stage differs in the intensity of withdrawal symptoms.

It is understandable to become slightly overwhelmed by learning about alcohol detox and the process of getting clean. We’d like to encourage you to view this journey as a healing process. Although it is challenging, the long-term gain is much more rewarding. 

What is Alcohol Addiction?

Before we define the stages of alcohol detox, we must first understand what alcohol addiction is. Alcohol addiction, also referred to as alcoholism, is the most severe form of alcohol abuse. Those that struggle with alcohol addiction often feel as though they cannot function daily without alcohol. 

Consequently, this leads to interpersonal and physical issues that worsen over time. Career goals, personal matters, relationships, and overall health are all part of the equation that becomes affected.

Alcohol addiction must be recognized, and help must be sought after. Leaving addiction alone will only worsen its symptoms. Alcohol abuse can be recognized by some common symptoms, such as: 

  • Experiencing temporary blackouts or short-term memory loss
  • Exhibiting signs of irritability and extreme mood swings
  • Making excuses for drinking such as to relax, deal with stress, or feel normal
  • Choosing to drink over important responsibilities or priorities 
  • Becoming isolated and distant from loved ones
  • Drinking alone or in isolation
  • Feeling hungover when not drinking
  • Change of appearance (i.e. unkempt, untidy appearance)
  • Change of company (new group of friends you hang out with)

Fortunately, there are many components of treatment to overcome alcoholism. Treatment programs at a rehab such as North Jersey Recovery Center aim to guide you through the entire recovery process. From therapy to medical care, your needs will be met each step of the way.

What is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Experiencing alcohol withdrawal is a tell-tale sign that your body and brain have become dependent on alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal alters the body’s response when a person suddenly stops drinking after prolonged and heavy alcohol use. As a result of long-term use, both the body and the brain become dependent on drinking frequency and patterns. 

Quitting “cold-turkey” results in your body not being able to readjust to functioning without alcohol quickly. This adjustment period causes the discomforting side effects of alcohol withdrawal, like shakes, insomnia, nausea, and anxiety. It is important to emphasize that this is temporary. Through alcohol detox and treatment, withdrawal symptoms alleviate, and you’ll find significantly improved health living a sober life.

Alcohol detox at a rehab facility under medical supervision is crucial. This is mainly due to the life-threatening health complications that can arise during alcohol detox. A rehab center will ensure your safety during detox with the right medication if necessary, as well as 24/7 support.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal 

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) is the term that refers to symptoms that occur when a heavy drinker suddenly stops or significantly reduces their alcohol intake. These symptoms range from physical to emotional. They can include anything from mild anxiety and fatigue to nausea. 

During alcohol detox, symptoms of AWS are monitored and treated throughout the entire process. Symptoms of AWS include, but are not limited to:

  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure

These symptoms may worsen, which is why we strongly urge individuals to undergo alcohol detox at an accredited rehab facility. The most severe form of withdrawal syndrome is known as delirium tremens (DT). DT can include signs and symptoms of:

  • Extreme confusion
  • Extreme agitation
  • A fever
  • Seizures
  • Tactile hallucinations, such as having a sense of itching, burning, or numbness that isn’t taking place
  • Auditory hallucinations, or hearing sounds that don’t exist
  • Visual hallucinations, or seeing images that don’t exist

Severe AWS symptoms are a medical emergency. A high fever, hallucinations, and heart disturbances are all reasons to seek immediate help and call 911. Addressing alcohol addiction will help you to avoid the worsening of symptoms over time.

Treating Alcohol Withdrawal: The Timeline of Alcohol Detox

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal take place in three main stages during alcohol detox. These three stages go from mild symptoms to severe. However, as the detox process comes to an end, you’ll find yourself feeling much better and like your normal self again. It may be a process, but it’s a process that’s well worth it. 

To reiterate, AWS produces a broad range of symptoms that typically follow a timeline. These symptoms start between 6 and 24 hours after the last drink and can range in severity. 

Stage 1: Mild Symptoms

Mild symptoms will arise within about 6 to 8 hours of the alcohol detox process. These symptoms include fairly minuscule physical disturbances, as well as changes in behavior and mood. These symptoms can be similar to those of a hangover, so it is essential not to look past them. For an individual that has consumed a lot of alcohol for a substantial amount of time, it is crucial to address these symptoms. 

The first symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Convulsions
  • Whole-body tremor
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Profuse sweating
  • Shakiness
  • Hypertension
  • Heart failure

Stage 2: Moderate Symptoms

As the withdrawal symptoms from stage one of the alcohol detox begin to alleviate, the symptoms of the second stage will start to take place. The second stage of withdrawal is more serious. It typically begins within 12 to 24 hours of the last drink. However, it can take as long as three days for these symptoms to settle in. 

The symptoms of the second stage include:

  • Higher blood pressure
  • Respiration
  • Fever
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Sweating
  • Irritability

Stage 3: Severe Symptoms

Patients tend to experience severe symptoms between 48 to 72 hours into detoxification. The most severe effects include delirium tremens and seizures. One of the most dangerous aspects of these effects is that they can occur without a warning sign.

Approximately 3-5% of patients will experience DTs. This is why medical supervision during alcohol detox is crucial, not just recommended. Our priority is to keep you safe and comfortable as you continue along the recovery journey.

The third state includes symptoms of:

  • Hallucinations
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Agitation

It’s important to keep in mind that this timeline differs depending on each unique person. The best way to keep track of the alcohol detox process is to have it monitored by a team of trained professionals. Alcohol detox is the first step of a sober and fulfilling life.

Drugs Used in Alcohol Detox

Medication will be administered during alcohol detox when necessary. If that’s the case, our medical staff will ensure that everything is done carefully and safely. Part of the alcohol detox process includes keeping the patient’s system in balance and avoiding major physiological upsets. Some examples of medications used are:

  • Librium
  • Ativan
  • Tranxene

Benzos are commonly used to alleviate alcohol withdrawal symptoms and prevent alcohol withdrawal seizures. Seizures are one of the most common causes of fatality in alcohol withdrawal, so additional anticonvulsant drugs, such as Keppra, are often used as well.

Treatment After Alcohol Detox

Once alcohol detox is completed, the next part of the recovery journey begins. Depending on your situation and the severity of the addiction, the program will vary. However, no matter the treatment, all of our patients receive the same core, quality treatment. 

Inpatient rehabilitation, otherwise known as residential treatment, is one of the most common ways to treat alcohol addiction. In an inpatient rehab program, the patient resides at the treatment facility for the full duration of the program. Most programs last anywhere from 20 to 90 days but can be longer if needed.

One of the main benefits of inpatient rehab is 24/7 access medical professionals during alcohol detox, as well as after. Each day will have a structured routine and include a variety of different methods towards treating alcohol addiction.

These methods include cognitive behavioral therapy, support groups, one-on-one therapy sessions, and much more. Residential treatment removes all distractions and environmental triggers by placing you in a supportive and healthy community. 

Seek Help Today!

Alcohol addiction does not need to control your life any longer. Alcohol detox is the first step in reclaiming your life and finding fulfillment again. We believe in personalized treatment for each patient’s unique circumstances. 

At North Jersey Recovery Center, we have many alcohol treatment resources to help you along the journey. Our team of expert physicians, psychologists, and other medical professionals are eager to help you change your life. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us here for more information about alcohol detox and corresponding treatment programs.