In the US, over 85% of American adults say they’ve drunk alcohol at some point in their life. Drinking profoundly alters an individual’s mood, behavior, and neuropsychological functioning. For many people, alcohol consumption means relaxation. However, the effect of alcohol can actually trigger anxiety & increase stress.
To understand exactly how alcohol impacts your life, you should find out a little about it. Yes, it is known that alcohol affects brain function, but you may wonder exactly how it works. Some people think of alcohol as a stimulant that can increase your heart rate, give you energy, and decrease your inhibitions. However, this is not the whole story. At the same time, alcohol slows your body down. So, do you know the right answer to this question: is alcohol a stimulant or a depressant? Read on to find out more about alcohol and its effects on your brain and body.
Is Alcohol a Stimulant?
Stimulants are substances that increase central nervous system activity. This can include increased heart rate, rapid breathing accompanied by increased energy, and positive feelings. For a substance to be classified as a stimulant, these effects must be the dominant ones produced by the substance. For example, the brain may release it when we eat or even see the food we crave. This can result in feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Dopamine can also increase heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Some examples of stimulants include caffeine, cocaine, amphetamines, nicotine, and betel nut. As you can see, some stimulants are legal, while others are illicit substances. While some level of dopamine in the brain is important for our well-being, high levels may generate aggression, anxiety, poor impulse control, and risk-taking behavior.
Alcohol, particularly in the early stages of consumption, is a stimulant on the central nervous system. It triggers an increase in dopamine levels. This speeds up the heart and respiration rate and can increase energy and confidence, lower inhibitions, and improve mood.
Is Alcohol A Depressant?
Based on the name, many people think that depressants make you feel depressed. However, that’s not necessarily true. “Depressant” refers to the effect that these substances have on your central nervous system, not how it’d impact your mood. Depressants slow down central nervous system processes. For example, the heart rate and breathing are slowed, and reflexes and response times are dulled. To be classified as a depressant, these effects must be the dominant ones produced by the substance. Examples of depressants include barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cannabis, ketamine, and heroin. Most of the substances on this list are either controlled ones or flat-out illegal to use. So when you ingest a depressant, you might feel relaxed and even sleepy and/or sedated. Depressants will slow down your heart rate and lower your blood pressure.
After the initial stimulant effects, alcohol slows down your central nervous system, decreasing your blood pressure, heart rate, and mental clarity. In turn, people who have ingested large amounts of alcohol have slower reaction times and may seem sleepy, disoriented, or sedated. In addition, higher doses of alcohol can suppress dopamine production, making you feel sad or listless. Depressant effects of alcohol occur when your BAC reaches about 0.08 mg/l. Once your BAC reaches 0.2 mg/l or greater, its depressant effects on your respiratory system can become so powerful that they cause coma or death.
It’s important to understand that when alcohol is referred to as a depressant, that doesn’t mean it gives people depression. Depression is a mental health issue. Although it can arise from alcohol addiction and many people develop an alcohol use disorder attempting to self-medicate when depressed, the substance itself doesn’t create the mental health condition. Rather, when alcohol is referred to as a depressant, it is meant in a medical sense as it slows down several processes in the body. For example, alcohol abuse slows breathing, blood flow and can dull the senses. Thus, alcohol is a depressant. But again, drinking alcohol does not give you depression; mental health conditions cannot be transmitted or created this way.
The Bottom Line: Is Alcohol a Stimulant or a Depressant?
You might’ve noticed that we haven’t put alcohol in either category above. Alcohol is a depressant with some stimulant effects. In small doses, it can increase your heart rate, aggression, and impulsiveness. However, in larger doses, alcohol typically causes sluggishness, disorientation, and slower reaction times, as it decreases your mental sharpness, blood pressure, and heart rate.
It is a common myth that alcohol is a stimulant. After all, it ramps up your confidence, makes you giddy, and certainly gives you a burst of energy! It does raise your heart rate, along with some other physical changes. However, these effects are just temporary. Plus, they’re a result of your brain releasing more dopamine after your initial drink. Dopamine is also known as the feel-good hormone, as it can make you feel happy and lessen pain processing.
Alcohol, is in fact, truly a depressant. Think about how you feel when you drink alcohol, especially in excess; you start slurring your words and have slower reaction times. As you can see, while alcohol does have some stimulant effects, it’s scientifically classified as a depressant. You’ll typically feel the stimulant effects at a BAC of under 0.05mg/l. But once you go over 0.08mg/l, the depressant effects will take over. Do note that you should never mix stimulants (or other medications such as SSRIs) with alcohol. Doing so can have serious and even fatal results.
What Effects Does Alcohol Abuse Produce?
Alcohol alters both your brain and your nervous system. It just depends on how much alcohol you have as far as your body’s degree gets altered. The more alcohol you have, the more significant the effects of the alcohol are. If you drink too much alcohol, your body will become completely sedated. Here are some of the effects of alcohol, starting with the mildest and progressing to more serious effects:
- Lowered ability to make good choices
- Struggles focusing
- Decreased depth-perception
- Heart rate increases, then slowly decrease as alcohol intake increases
- Slurring speech
- Coordination problems
- Digestive tract issues (vomiting and diarrhea occur frequently)
- Mood changes
- Lower than normal body temperature
- Increase in blood pressure
- Struggles staying conscious
- Memory loss
- Increased risk of cancer
- Decreased ability to retain information
- Liver problems
- Heart problems
This list is full of a lot of health issues that can result from alcohol. However, it is only a small portion of all of the issues that alcohol can lead to. The occasional drink is typically not a problem that will result in long-term negative effects of alcohol. What is a problem is chronic drinking or binge drinking on a regular or semi-regular basis. Your body can only handle so much alcohol. The more you drink and the less time off you give your body, the more your body will struggle and the worse the effects will likely become.
The Effects Can Be Wildly Varying for Everyone
Do note that the depressant effects (as well as the stimulant effects) can be different for everyone. For example, you might feel giddy and alert after one beer while your friend is sulky and incoherent on the same amount of alcohol. The main things that affect how someone’s body handles alcohol include their:
- Unique body chemistry
- Alcohol tolerance
Some can drink casually, while for others, one drink can be all it takes to spiral into addiction. Are you concerned that you or a loved one might be developing alcohol dependence or addiction? Then watch out for these signs:
- Drinking in isolation
- Excessive excuses for drinking
- Mood swings
- Hangover symptoms when not drinking
If you’ve noticed these signs in either yourself or a loved one, it may be a good idea to go to rehabilitation so you can get sober.
Get Help for Alcohol Addiction Today
Alcohol is a powerful drug. It can raise you for a short time, and it can keep you down for a lot longer. It will leave you struggling with how you feel about yourself or your situation if you let it. Regardless of whether you still think that alcohol is a stimulant or a depressant, one thing’s for sure: dependence or addiction to this substance can have detrimental effects on your life. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, then a trip to rehab can be beneficial. There, caring professionals can help you get on the road to recovery and sobriety. Are you ready to get help for alcohol addiction? Then get in touch with us now. We’re here to help you 24/7.
Some drugs should never be mixed. Alcohol and ADHD medications such as Adderall are just one example. In the past, doctors mistakenly believed that mixing some ADHD medications with alcohol was fine. However, more recent studies show that you should never mix the two. Let’s take a closer look at the dangers of mixing alcohol and Adderall or similar prescriptions.
Why Alcohol and Adderall Don’t Mix
The main reason you can’t mix ADHD medications with alcohol is that their compositions are different by nature. Alcohol is a depressant, while ADHD medications such as Adderall are stimulants. Oftentimes, people believe that the combination of a stimulant and a depressant cancels each other out. In reality, the drugs battle for control over your body. As a result, mixing Ritalin and alcohol, or a similar combination can cause a number of issues.
In some cases, people mix these drugs because they don’t know that ADHD medications are stimulants. After all, they assume that stimulants are the last thing doctors would want to prescribe to individuals with hyperactivity. On the contrary, the stimulants actually help them stay focused.
When mixing these drugs, such as Vyvanse and alcohol, you end up with a dangerous combination that can make you drink more than you should. This puts your health at risk and can even lead to an emergency room visit.
Side Effects of Mixing ADHD Medications With Alcohol
With a better idea of why mixing alcohol and Adderall is detrimental, let’s discuss some of the side effects that can arise. In fact, some people mix the drugs because they aren’t aware of the real danger that they put themselves in. It’s never safe to mix ADHD medications, or any prescription stimulants, with alcohol. Some of the side effects that can arise include:
- Sleep problems
- Irregular heartbeat
- Depression and anxiety
Also, such a combination of drugs can harm your judgment, causing you to make choices that you normally wouldn’t. Since the stimulant enhances focus, it can be harder to tell when you become drunk. This can lead to more drinking, which may lead to alcohol poisoning, which can be life-threatening.
Types of ADHD Medications
There are many ADHD medications in the prescription market. Sometimes, people take them without knowing what they are. That’s why it’s important to know some of the different types and what sets them apart.
The most commonly talked about ADHD medications are probably Ritalin and Adderall. Both are brand-name drugs but are different versions of generic drugs. Ritalin is an immediate release version of methylphenidate, and Adderall is an immediate release version of dextroamphetamine.
Another popular ADHD medication that people often abuse is Vyvanse. Like other ADHD medications, you shouldn’t mix Vyvanse and alcohol. Similar to Adderall, Vyvanse is a brand-name version of dextroamphetamine, but it comes in the form of a chewable tablet.
Some other ADHD medications include Concerta and Daytrana, which are different versions of methylphenidate. Concerta is an extended-release formula that keeps the medication in your body longer. Rather than a pill, Daytrana is a skin patch.
The last popular medication for treating ADHD is Focalin. It’s slightly different from the rest because it’s a brand name of dexmethylphenidate. Despite that, it’s still an immediate-release tablet. In general, it stays in your system for around four hours. Another version of the brand, Focalin XR, can stay in your system for eight hours.
Is There a Potential for Abuse With Adderall and Alcohol?
Yes, there’s a potential for abuse with both alcohol and ADHD medications. Despite being easy for people to get, alcohol is an extremely addictive and dangerous substance. Like other stimulants, ADHD medications are also very addictive. Mixing these different drugs together creates a dual dependency that’s a health risk.
When combining these two drugs together for an extended period of time, people put their mental health at risk as well. These drugs have the ability to destroy memory, concentration and problem-solving skills.
Keep in mind that the potential for abuse is higher in some individuals than others. Those who have a history of drug abuse in their families are more likely to abuse drugs themselves. Individuals with underlying mental health issues are more likely to abuse drugs too.
Treatment Options For Managing Adderall and Alcohol Abuse
It should go without saying that overcoming any addiction isn’t easy, and alcohol and ADHD medication abuse is no different. That’s why it’s vital to seek professional treatment. That said, what kind of treatment should you look for when you choose a rehab center.
Before getting into specific programs, remember to find rehab and detox centers that create custom treatment plans. There’s no one way to deal with addiction because no two people are the same. You need to seek rehab centers that put your individual needs first.
Detox Comes First
The first thing to remember is that detox needs to be the first step. You can’t focus on recovery if you can’t get past withdrawal. Both ADHD medications and alcohol can cause withdrawal symptoms. In fact, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be deadly, increasing the importance of seeking professional care.
In general, people start to notice the first withdrawal symptoms within 24 hours. Within 48 hours the symptoms peak in severity. It’s essential to be enrolled in a detox center by the time this happens. Sometimes, the symptoms can last for weeks, but the intensity eases after the peak period.
While detox is just the first step on the path to getting clean, it’s an important step. People who fail to undergo proper detox treatment have a higher risk of relapsing compared to those who do.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Another important program to look for in a rehab center is dual-diagnosis treatment. In most cases, people don’t choose to develop an addiction. There’s usually some kind of underlying problem that leads them down that path. Failure to deal with the problem can lead to relapse even after seeking professional help.
For example, people who struggle with anxiety and depression often drink or abuse drugs to get relief. Of course, the relief that they get is only temporary. As a result, they continue to abuse drugs. Eventually, this behavior turns into a dependency.
Going to traditional rehab will set them down the road to recovery. However, if they don’t address the underlying problem, they’re likely to fall victim to relapse. The reason is that drugs are the only way that they know how to deal with the anxiety, depression or other mental health issue that they have.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a great way to address not only drug abuse but also some mental health disorders. The idea behind it is to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Experts believe that replacing negative thoughts can mitigate negative or bad habits, such as drug abuse.
Don’t Underestimate Family Therapy
Family therapy is another important part of every recovery program. In fact, a large majority of addiction problems start within the home. Anything from poor relationships to a history of abuse at home can lead to these problems.
Family therapy helps people get to the root cause. By addressing the problems straight on, they can start the healing process. Like with dual-diagnosis therapy, the main goal here is to deal with the underlying issue.
Additionally, family therapy provides people who struggle with addiction some much-needed support. It’s always nice to know that they have the support of their loved ones behind them, and family therapy facilitates that comfort.
Men and women aren’t the same in many ways, so they often require different approaches to rehab treatment. Thankfully, many centers offer gender-specific rehab. Such a program is designed in a way that it addresses the immediate concerns of men or women.
Another benefit of gender-specific treatment is that men and women are often separated for the duration. This aspect is important because studies show that both genders typically have an easier time concentrating and sharing information when members of the opposite sex aren’t around. It gives them a better opportunity to focus on their recovery.
Don’t Wait to Get Help; Reach Out to CNV Detox Today
If you or a loved one abuses Ritalin and alcohol, or a similar combination, it’s crucial to get help right away. This dangerous combination of drugs can become addictive and lead down a dangerous path.
At CNV Detox, we can help you not only detox from these drugs but also begin the journey to recovery. Beyond detox, some of the programs that we offer include:
- Inpatient treatment
- Dual-diagnosis treatment
- Individual and group therapies
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Family therapy
- Holistic addiction treatment
CNV Detox offers gender-specific treatment as well. We have a women’s detox program that can help women get the most out of their treatment. This program can address some gender-specific concerns and reasons why women abuse drugs.
Our goal is to provide the tools that you need to overcome addiction. Don’t wait any longer to get help. Contact us today to start the recovery process.
Alcohol use disorder (AUD), or alcoholism, is a disease that doesn’t discriminate and can affect any gender, ethnicity, body type, or personal belief system. So what are the commonalities in alcoholism? The 4 most common factors that cause alcoholism to develop are:
The common risk factors of alcoholism are:
- Drinking at an early age
- Family history of alcoholism
- High-stress levels
- Peer pressure
- Frequent Consumption over a Long Time
What Causes Alcoholism?
Research has disclosed a close link between alcoholism and certain biological factors and physiology. Even though some people can limit the amount of alcohol they consume, others have a strong drive to keep going. For some individuals, alcohol gives feelings of pleasure or reward which encourages the brain to repeat the behavior. This kind of repetitive behavior can make you more susceptible to developing AUD.
The reason for this is that there are certain chemicals in the brain that can make you more inclined to alcohol abuse. For example, scientists have pointed out that alcohol dependence may be associated with up to 51 genes in various chromosome areas. If these genes are passed down through generations, family members are more likely to develop drinking problems.
Recently, studies have investigated a possible connection between the environment and the risk for AUD. Researchers have examined whether or not an individual’s nearness to bars and liquor stores can affect their chances of developing alcoholism. It has been found that people who live close to alcohol establishments tend to look at drinking more positively and are more likely to take part in the activity.
Also, alcohol manufacturers are plying the public with advertisements showing drinking as an acceptable, fun, and relaxing leisure activity. In the decades between 1971 and 2011, alcohol advertising in the U.S. increased by more than 400%.
Income is another environmental factor that can also play a part in the amount of alcohol a person consumes. Contrary to popular belief, people who come from prosperous neighborhoods are more likely to drink than those living below the poverty line. Recent Gallup polls show that about 78% of people with an annual household income of $75,000 or more consume alcohol. This is considerably higher than the 45% of people who have an annual household income of less than $30,000.
Other things that contribute to a person’s view of drinking are social factors. Your culture, religion, family, and work influence a lot of your behaviors. This includes drinking. Family plays the biggest part in a person’s likelihood of developing AUD. Children who grow up around alcohol abuse are more at risk of getting into dangerous drinking patterns.
Beginning college or starting a new job can make you more receptive to alcohol abuse. You’re likely trying to make new friends and develop new relationships with peers during these times. The wish to fit in and be well-liked may cause you to take part in activities that you normally wouldn’t. Before long, you’re headed to happy hour with coworkers, drinking more often, and craving alcohol after a long workday. These are all warning signs of alcohol use disorder.
Several psychological factors can increase the chances of heavy drinking. Everyone handles situations in their way. But, the way you cope with feelings can affect certain behavioral traits. People with high stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions are more susceptible to developing alcoholism. And in these types of situations, alcohol is frequently used to suppress feelings and relieve the symptoms of psychological disorders.
After a while, drinking can become a habit and lead to an AUD. The more you use alcohol to relieve feelings of pain and hardship, the more your body becomes tolerant to the effects and requires more to achieve the same relief.
Co-occurring alcohol abuse and mental health disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, can cause a multitude of serious side effects. This is known as a dual diagnosis and to overcome these issues, each one needs to be treated separately and at the same time by medical specialists.
Alcoholism Risk Factors
There are a lot of things involved in the possibility of developing alcoholism. Alcoholism risk factors do not mean you will develop AUD. But they should be viewed as a prevention measure.
Drinking at an Early Age
Trying out alcohol at a young age can lead to problems later on, particularly in your 20s and 30s. This is especially true when adolescents participate in frequent binge drinking. This early drinking can increase the likelihood of alcohol abuse. Alcoholism can affect anyone at any age.
Family History Of Alcoholism
Growing up around family members and close relatives who have an alcohol abuse issue increases the risk of alcohol abuse in future generations. When you are surrounded early on by people who drink heavily, you can look at drinking differently and become a victim of bad habits.
Trying to reduce stress by drinking can quickly turn into a problem. Careers that are likely to face high levels of stress because of long hours and strenuous tasks include nurses, doctors, first responders, construction workers, and the military. Nurses and people in other helping professions have higher rates of alcohol addiction than other professions. Professionals in any industry must find other ways to de-stress to prevent alcohol abuse.
When close friends or a partner drink frequently, you may be more willing to join in. Giving in to peer pressure can be the start of drinking problems later on, as well as health complications that come from excessive alcohol consumption. Instead of feeling the need to drink, it’s better to offer to be the designated driver.
Frequent Consumption Overtime
You greatly increase your chances of developing an alcohol-related problem when drinking too much becomes a pattern for you. The more you drink, the more your body builds a tolerance. As mentioned, previously, tolerance means you need more alcohol to feel the same effects you used to feel with less.
9 Ways to Help Manage Alcoholism
- Stop hiding the problem: If you’ve been keeping it a secret, you need to stop. Tell anyone in a position to provide support. When everyone close to the situation knows about it, it can be dealt with head-on.
- Get support: Plan to talk to the addicted person with whoever in the family or friends they respect the most. And who can remain the calmest?
- Don’t attempt to talk to the person when they’ve been drinking or are highly stressed: Find a time when they are as sober and untroubled as possible. This is usually early in the day.
- Form a calm, non-accusing team to confront the person with the damage they are doing to themself, their job, community, and career: Be specific but be patient and uncritical. But don’t back down and don’t sympathize.
- If this is the first time you have confronted the individual, you may give them another chance to quit on their own. If they are a long-term drinker it is very unlikely that this is the first confrontation and almost certain that the person’s body and brain are so addicted that they can’t stop on their own.
- If the person has already been given a chance and failed, they probably have plenty of excuses. Now is the time to talk about rehab.
- If they refuse to talk about a rehab facility, the family and friends will need to reach an agreement on the next steps. Refusing to bail the person out of legal, financial, professional, and personal problems can help them decide. If they’re being housed for free, this may also need to be taken away to get them into rehab.
- If all this fails, then there may be someone else that the alcoholic views as an authority, or holds in high regard. See if that person can help convince them to get help.
- And finally, you may get to the stage where you need to contact a professional interventionist. Bring the interventionist in and give them all the assistance they need to get your friend or loved one to agree to get help. Fortunately, correctly managed interventions are effective at getting addicts into rehab.
Treatment For Alcohol Use Disorder
Only about 15-25% of people with alcoholism get help from doctors or treatment programs. Many people don’t use treatment services until they are forced to by a family member, court, or an employer. Nevertheless, studies show that 66-75% of problem drinkers do make positive changes. Overcoming AUD flows along a continuum. Each step flows into the next with the goal of long-term sobriety. Steps along the road of recovery include:
Detoxification or “detox” for short, is the first key step for most people with an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). This method is done before a person can begin their treatment program and be on the road to recovery. The goal of the detox process is to give a person’s body time to rid itself of the toxins from the alcohol and have it become balanced again. Typically within 6-24 hours after the last drink, withdrawal symptoms will begin. This can happen even while there is still alcohol in their blood. For the following reasons, most people require a medically supervised detox in a treatment center:
- Tremors (mostly in the hands)
- Delirium tremens (DTs), a life-threatening problem that can make a person restless, confused, and cause fever, seizures, and hallucinations
- Sleep problems
- Unstable blood pressure and heart rate
Patients in a medically supervised detox receive 24-hour monitoring with clinicians available to administer medications should it become necessary. The ultimate goal of detox is to stabilize the individual and get them into the formal treatment program.
Inpatient or Residential Rehab Program
Residential programs offer the highest level of patient care. In this type of program, the client lives at the treatment facility for a duration that depends on their specific needs. This gives the individual a secure and structured environment removed from any reminders or triggers for alcohol use.
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
Clients in a PHP spend their days at the treatment facility but are able to return home at night. The days are structured and the activities are similar to the residential program. This program is good for someone who has a stable and supportive family network.
Outpatient Program (OP)
An outpatient program could be considered the third level of care. This level is a good step-down program after completing a residential or PHP. The outpatient program makes it possible for the patient to return to school or work while attending therapy sessions at the treatment facility several times a week.
After completing formal treatment programs, some people don’t feel confident enough to transition into a non-drinking life. And in fact, people have a better chance at long-term sobriety if they continue in some type of treatment. This is where aftercare comes in. Whether it’s participation in a 12-step group like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or residing in a sober-living home, recovering alcoholics will find valuable support in an aftercare program.
Recovering From Alcoholism in Southern California
So, are you an alcoholic? Do you know or love someone who is? Are you tired of going through the cycle of addiction day after day? You are already taking a step in the right direction. CNV Detox is a treatment center in Southern California that can offer you the care and professional treatment you are looking for. We are experienced in identifying the common causes of all substance use disorders and treating them, including alcoholism.
CNV can provide a wide range of behavioral and holistic therapies to help you find your real, whole self again. We believe everyone deserves the opportunity to a full and fulfilling life and we will help you design a program specifically to suit your needs. It’s all possible. Contact us now and let’s get started together.
If you or someone you’re with starts showing signs of alcohol poisoning, or they just don’t seem to be OK, you need to monitor them in case they need medical attention. Call 911 immediately if they show any signs of alcohol poisoning. Many illicit drugs and medications react negatively to alcohol. When treating alcohol poisoning, make sure to note how much the person drank, what they drank, and when.
The best thing to do is give the paramedics or doctors the rest of the drugs that were taken if the person also abused other substances. This way they could be tested to see if the drugs have impurities or have been tainted. The same is needed if the person is on legal medication.
We at CNV Detox are committed to helping you or a loved one find the strength to be able to say no to alcohol and start their road to recovery. We will help you no longer wait for those flashing lights.
What is Alcohol Poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning happens when someone has too much alcohol. This takes over the bloodstream and thus starts impacting parts of the brain that control important functions, including temperature, heart rate, and breathing.
Alcohol poisoning usually occurs when someone has had too many drinks. However, in some cases, it can also happen by consuming ethanol through household products by accident.
One standard drink contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol, or:
- 12 fluid ounces of beer
- 8-9 fluid ounces of malt liquor
- 5 fluid ounces of table wine
- 1.5 fluid ounce shot of distilled spirits
How quickly someone drinks plays a role in developing alcohol poisoning and going through the levels of intoxication.
How Binge Drinking Can Lead to Alcohol Poisoning
As a major cause of alcohol poisoning and related death in the U.S., binge drinking can be extremely dangerous. Binge drinking is five or more drinks in two hours for men, and four drinks in two hours for women. People between ages 35 and 64 suffer the most from alcohol poisoning in the U.S. This is surprising considering the fact that binge drinking is usually associated with college students. In addition, 90% of binge drinkers who have had alcohol poisoning weren’t alcohol-dependent.
The Signs of Alcohol Poisoning
There are several signs of alcohol poisoning. Just because someone doesn’t show all the signs does not mean they are not suffering from alcohol poisoning.
- Won’t wake up even if you shake them, pinch them, or try to wake them up in any way
- Skin can be cold, clammy, bluish, or blotchy
- Slow breathing (eight breaths or fewer per minute)
- Lapses in breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
- Confusion, stupor, or coma
- Rigid spasms, seizures, convulsions
- Vomiting while unconscious or asleep and they do not wake up
How Many People Die of Alcohol Poisoning a Year?
Roughly six people a day in the United States die from alcohol poisoning. 76% of people who die from alcohol poisoning are men. 10.7% of children ages 17 and younger live with a parent who has an alcohol use disorder. It also plays a part in thousands of deaths of people ages 21 and younger. This includes 596 suicides. Some people who have other mental health disorders try to use alcohol to self-medicate. It can work for a while but the person will need more and more alcohol to medicate. This can make going down the path of addiction very likely. After a time it gets to be too much for many people. This is why seeking help for all mental health conditions is important.
How Does Alcohol Poisoning Happen?
There are seven steps that lead to alcohol poisoning. Once you learn these steps, you can be better equipped at treating alcohol poisoning.
The Levels of Intoxication
Sober: Low Level Intoxication
At this stage, the person feels like themselves. This is generally at one or fewer alcoholic drinks. Please bear in mind that due to the tolerance people with alcohol addiction disorder might have to drink more to get the same effect.
This is the point where alcohol becomes more of a “social lubricant” that makes people feel more at ease and talkative. Part of this might be because at this stage you have lowered inhibitions. At this point, the BAC (blood alcohol content) might be or starts to get close to .08, which is right at the legal limit to operate a car in the United States. If you’re in the United States and your BAC is .08 or above, you can be arrested for drunk driving if you try to drive.
Emotional instability might start. You might start making poor choices and you might not remember what you did. You can lose your balance easily and your vision might become blurry. You might not be able to feel pain and can lose a lot of coordination.
You might have seizures, lose control of bodily functions, and have blue-tinged skin. You will also not be able to breathe normally. Your gag reflex will not work. If you start choking on your own vomit, you could become seriously injured. You should get medical attention. The person might have more alcohol in their stomach that has not passed into their bloodstream yet. The body does not stop absorbing alcohol from the stomach or lower intestine if someone blacks out or goes into a coma.
When someone goes into a coma because of alcohol poisoning or any other reason, it’s very important to get immediate medical attention.
A BAC of 0.4 or above is usually fatal. Even if you’ve built up a high tolerance for alcohol, you can still get alcohol poisoning.
When Can People Develop Alcohol Poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning isn’t limited to parties. Many people who have an alcohol abuse problem hide their drinking, will drink alone, will drink to self-medicate, and they might mix medication such as legal or illegal sleeping pills believing that alcohol is needed for them to be able to fall asleep. Someone with a substance abuse disorder cannot stop abusing substances if they want to without help. This means even if they are taking a medication that interacts with alcohol they will not be able to stop drinking in order to take the medication safely.
Treating Alcohol Poisoning
Alcohol poisoning must be treated immediately. The first thing you need to do when you see someone with alcohol poisoning is to call 911. In the meantime, you should do the following:
- Attempt to keep the person awake
- Keep the person in a sitting position
- Give the person water if they can take it
You should not:
- Lie them on their back
- Give them coffee (caffeine will make dehydration worse) or more alcohol
- Make them walk
There is also a position called the Bacchus Maneuver that can help in the short term.
The Bacchus Maneuver
In the Bacchus Maneuver:
- If the intoxicated person is on their back, you should put their arm closest to you on the ground above their head. Be prepared to roll them onto their stomach.
- Roll the person toward you. Their arm should be above their head, not under it.
- Tilt their head to maintain a proper airway. Tuck the hand nearest to you under the head to maintain the tilt and keep their face off the floor.
The Bacchus Maneuver is more effective than “backpacking,” which involves putting a backpack on the person so they won’t roll over onto their back and choke on their own vomit. This doesn’t guarantee that their airway is clear, and it can create a false sense of security. The people around the person who is passed out might stop monitoring them.
Although the Bacchus Maneuver can help to a degree, it’s not a substitute for proper medical attention. You must also call 911.
Doctor-Patient Confidentiality Applies to Alcohol Abuse and Underage Drinking
Your doctor cannot tell the police or other authorities that you or the other person drank while underage or did drugs. Doctor-patient confidentiality applies unless they have a reason to believe that you will harm yourself or someone else. However, if your medical professionals don’t know that you drink, they might not be able to treat your condition effectively. This applies even if the problem isn’t alcohol-related. Many medications react negatively with alcohol such as many diabetes and high blood pressure medications.
Disclose All Medications to Your Doctor
Most depressants such as heroin or Xanax do more harm when mixed with alcohol than alcohol alone. Certain medications make the effects of the alcohol stronger. This means that a person might get alcohol poisoning even if they do not drink as much as they usually do. You cannot get in trouble telling your doctor if you consume alcohol, even if you cannot stop. Doctor-patient confidentiality protects you.
It’s unlikely that your friends and family do not already know that you have a substance abuse problem though. If you think that your loved one hasn’t told their doctor about their inability to stop drinking, you can pull the medical professional aside and inform them. Don’t let your loved one’s denial potentially cost them their life.
We Are Here to Help
When you are ready to start your road to recovery, you’re ready to stop having to worry about when those flashing lights will come. It’s important to get your friend or anyone else you might be around proper medical attention if you see any of the signs of alcohol poisoning. It’s better that they wake up mad than not at all.
CNV Detox can help treat alcohol addiction. Please contact us and let us help you and your loved one.
Our brains work in truly magnificent ways. The brain literally controls every aspect of our lives. Without proper brain function, we would not be able to perform even the most basic task. Due to the fact that the brain is so complex, even the slightest of changes can completely alter the chemical makeup. Everything we do can affect how our brains react and perform. This is especially true when it comes to the consumption of drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol can change the way that neurotransmitters work in the brain, which changes the user’s emotions and, ultimately, the way they think and behave.
In this blog, we will take a look at what exactly neurotransmitters are as well as answer the question of “how do drugs affect neurotransmitters?”
How Does the Brain Work?
Before we can get into how drugs work on the brain, it’s important to have an understanding of how the brain works as a whole.
The brain is like a very complex and powerful computer, controlling every aspect of the body. Instead of electrical circuits on the silicon chips that control our electronic devices though, the brain consists of billions of cells, called neurons, which are organized into circuits and networks.
Each of these neurons acts as a type of switch, controlling how information is processed and sent out. If a certain neuron receives a strong enough signal from other neurons it’s connected to, it will fire off and send its own signal to those other neurons.
Different brain circuits are responsible for coordinating and performing specific functions. Networks of neurons send signals back and forth to each other and among different parts of the brain, the spinal cord, and nerves in the rest of the body.
What Is A Neurotransmitter?
When a neuron wants to send a message, it releases something called a neurotransmitter into the gap between it and the next cell. The neurotransmitter crosses the synapse and attaches to receptors on the receiving neuron, like a key into a lock. This causes changes in the receiving cell. Neurotransmitters are what signals the brain to do certain things such as producing feelings like anger, joy, anxiety, and cravings.
How Do Drugs and Alcohol Affect the Brain and the Neurotransmitters?
As we mentioned earlier, due to the overall complexity of the brain, even the slightest change can greatly alter the way it functions. When a person takes drugs or drinks a lot of alcohol, it can interfere with the way that neurons send, receive, and process signals that are sent by the neurotransmitters.
Some drugs can actually activate neurons because of the chemical structure and makeup of the drug. They will attach to the neurons and actually help activate them. While those types of drugs might mimic the natural chemicals of the brain, they don’t activate neurons in the same way as the brain would do so naturally, which can lead to abnormal brain activity.
Other types of drugs can cause neurons to release large amounts of natural neurotransmitters. They can even prevent the normal recycling of brain chemicals by interfering with the transporters. This can cause a disruption when it comes to the communication between neurons.
Are There Specific Parts of the Brain That Are Affected By Substance Abuse?
While the entire chemical makeup of the brain can change as a result of prolonged substance abuse, there are three main areas of the brain that can be particularly affected by substance abuse more than others.
The prefrontal cortex is the part of your brain that controls the ability to think, problem-solve, make decisions, plan, and have self-control. When someone has a substance abuse disorder, it can reduce their ability to control their impulses, making it “easier” to continue abusing substances. The prefrontal cortex is also the last part of the brain to mature, making teens and young adults more susceptible than others.
The basal ganglia is the part of the brain that produces pleasure and creates motivation. It also is involved in the formation of habits and routines. These areas form a key node of what is sometimes called the brain’s “reward circuit.” When drugs are put into the body, it can cause this circuit to over-activate. This is what produces the euphoria that comes with being high. Over time though, the circuit adapts to the substances that are constantly being put into it, thus developing a higher tolerance which causes dependence and addiction.
This part of the brain plays an active role in producing feelings of anxiety, irritability, unease, and other types of stress. This is the part of the brain that is affected once the drugs start to wear off and withdrawal symptoms begin to set in. Over time, this part of the brain will become more and more sensitive, resulting in the person needing to take more and more of the substances of abuse in order to get temporary relief from the discomfort.
In addition to these parts of the brain, some drugs can also disrupt other parts of the brain, such as the brain stem. This disruption is what can lead to serious medical complications and even overdoses.
What Types of Drugs Affect Neurotransmitters More Than Others?
Certain substances affect certain parts of the brain, and their neurotransmitters are different from others. This is based largely on the effects that the drug produces and what part of the brain it pertains to. Here are some of the more common substances of abuse and the neurotransmitter they largely affect:
Serotonin Inhibitory Neurotransmitter
This neurotransmitter works as a mood stabilizer and impacts mood, sexual desire, sleep, and appetite. The drugs that affect this neurotransmitter are:
Glutamate Excitatory Transmitter
Glutamate, also known as the major excitatory neurotransmitter, increases neuron activity and is involved in learning, memory, and cognitive functions. The drugs that most commonly affect this neurotransmitter are:
Gamma-aminobutyric Acid Inhibitory Neurotransmitter
Also known as GABA, this neurotransmitter lowers stress levels and decreases feelings of anxiety by slowing down the blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. The substances that affect this neurotransmitter are:
Norepinephrinean Excitatory Neurotransmitter
This neurotransmitter acts in a similar manner to adrenaline. It activates the sensations and feelings in the body most associated with adrenaline such as raised blood pressure, accelerated heart rate, and an increase in body temperature. It can also affect anxiety levels, sleep, appetite, and sensory processing abilities. This neurotransmitter is most commonly affected by:
- ADHD medications such as Adderall and Ritalin
Endogenous Cannabinoids Non-standard Neurotransmitter
This neurotransmitter interacts with the CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which impact memory, movement, and cognitive functions. Marijuana and synthetic cannabis such as spice are the two things that affect this neurotransmitter the most.
Are Neurotransmitter Problems Related to Addiction Treatable?
The good news is that while lengthy and hard, most ailments associated with substance abuse can be treated over time with the proper treatment methods.
The first step in the treatment process is to detox off of any and all harmful substances. Detoxing should be done under constant medical care and supervision at either a hospital or medical facility, a dedicated detox center, or a treatment center that also offers detox services such as CNV Detox. Attempting to detox on your own can be incredibly dangerous and even potentially life-threatening.
Once detox has been completed then treatment can begin. Your treatment professional will recommend you enter into either an inpatient or outpatient rehab program based on which option is best for you and your condition.
Behavioral therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have been proven to be the most effective when it comes to restoring brain function and connectivity. CBT improves self-reliance and enhances self-esteem while teaching effective coping mechanisms and measures for preventing relapse when confronted with potential triggers. It can also help teach you healthy ways to enhance pleasure and occupy the mind without the need for illicit substances such as drugs or alcohol.
How Do Drugs Affect Neurotransmitters?
Neurotransmitters are a very sensitive part of the brain. Even the slightest change in the chemical makeup of the brain can play a significant role in how the brain operates. Prolonged use of drugs and alcohol can change the entire chemical makeup of the brain, including how the neurotransmitters function.
Contact CNV Detox for Help Today
If you or someone you know is suffering from a substance abuse disorder, it’s important to get the help you need before it’s too late. At CNV Detox, we know how important it is to live a healthy and sober life. That’s why in addition to offering detox programs, we also offer treatment programs for a variety of addictions and disorders. Contact us today to learn more about the services we provide and how we can get you on the road to recovery.