The consequences of alcohol intoxication

Posted on September 25th, 2015 in alcohol rehab, mental health

The consequences of alcohol intoxication

Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that affects parts of the brain responsible for learning, memory, balance and coordination and decision-making.

Alcohol intoxication leads to impaired judgment, slurred speech and memory and concentration difficulties. At high blood alcohol concentrations (BAC), more serious consequences result from drinking alcohol, such as respiratory depression, memory loss (i.e., “blackout”), motor impairments, coma and even death. 

Binge drinking

Binge drinking or alcohol abuse is defined as having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher, which may occur when women consume four or more drinks or when men have five or more drinks.

Mental Health America (MHA) reported that over 38 million or one in six, U.S. adults binge drink. People who binge drink are more likely to experience blackouts or difficulty remembering events for a period of time and face a multitude of social, financial, legal and emotional problems than people who do not engage in binge drinking.

Alcohol abuse

Alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of habitual alcohol use where a person experiences any one of the following within a 12-month period: failure to fulfill major role responsibilities (work, school, home), drinking in dangerous situations and the continued use of alcohol despite negative consequences. Alcohol abuse may lead to the repeated neglect of family, work, school and other responsibilities, dangerous situations, legal problems (e.g., driving under the influence), drinking despite relationship problems and drinking to de-stress (National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence).

Over time, excessive and continuous use of alcohol can lead to alcohol dependence, a chronic disease characterized by the physiological reliance on alcohol and out-of-control drinking that is both dangerous, physically and mentally, and excessive, despite serious and negative consequences. Whether or not a person develops alcohol dependence depends on many genetic, biological and environmental factors, which is why not all people who abuse alcohol will go on to abuse the substance.

Tolerance and withdrawal

Tolerance and withdrawal are two defining features of alcohol dependence. Tolerance involves the need to drink more alcohol to achieve the same effects over time. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin only two hours after cessation and may last for several weeks. Dr. Howard C. Becker of Medical University of South Carolina reported that some of the withdrawal symptoms associated with excessive alcohol use include:

  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Anhedonia (or inability to experience pleasure)
  • Heightened autonomic nervous system responses such as tachycardia and elevated blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Fever
  • Visual, auditory and tactile (touch) hallucinations
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

Medications for alcohol withdrawal and dependence

Medically-assisted withdrawal involves the use of medications such as benzodiazepines to help alleviate alcohol withdrawal symptoms and help reduce cravings for the substance. While relatively new, pharmacological interventions are currently available for alcohol withdrawal, detoxification and abstinence. There are three medications effective in preventing relapse: disulfiram, naltrexone and acamprosate.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and is in need of treatment, please do not hesitate to call the Arizona Alcohol Addiction Helpline. Treatment specialists are available to assist you in finding the right treatment option.

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