Alcohol Use in the U.S.
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism have long-since been – and still to this day remain – one of the biggest public health crises in America. Over the years innumerable statistics have been gathered and numerous studies have been held, all confirming that the rates of alcohol use have been on the steady incline countrywide, and that alcohol overuse has been one of the leading causes of accidental death for decades. The Mayo Clinic published a study on the scope of alcohol abuse throughout the country. The study explains that alcohol use disorder – more commonly referred to as AUD – is a detrimental pattern of alcohol use that is characterized by an inability to control alcohol intake, preoccupation with alcohol, continued alcohol use despite an accumulation of negative personal consequences, the development of a tolerance over time and withdrawal symptoms with ceased use.
The truth is, the majority of men and women who suffer from an AUD do not end up receiving the professional help they need. This is due (in large part) to the fact that drinking to excess is so normalized in American culture and society. For many of us, experimenting with alcohol was almost a right of passage during our youth. We were peer pressured into trying alcohol, into drinking excessively on our 21st birthdays (and every birthday thereafter) and toasting with champagne during every celebratory event. Any individuals who attended a four-year university will likely attest to the prevalence of heavy intoxication, from fraternity parties to bar-hopping. Drinking has been harshly normalized, and it can be difficult to differentiate between occasionally “going too hard” and an actual alcohol abuse or dependency issue.
Alcohol Abuse and Dependence
According to the same article published by the Mayo Clinic, AUDs can be mild, moderate or severe. However, there is a specific set of symptoms that typically remains the same across the board.
These symptoms of alcohol abuse and dependence include:
- Being unable to control the amount of alcohol that is consumed in one sitting
- Attempting to cut back on the amount of alcohol being consumed, but being unable to cut back or quit for any length of time
- Experiencing intense psychological or physical cravings for alcohol
- Spending an ample amount of time obtaining alcohol, getting drunk and recovering from getting drunk (nursing hangovers or other symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal)
- Ignoring personal obligations or failing to show up at recurring engagements, such as work or school
- A general lack of motivation to fulfill personal obligations
- Giving up social activities or hobbies that were previously enjoyed in lieu of drinking
- Continuing to consume alcohol despite interpersonal problems, problems at work or at school, financial issues, health-related issues or legal issues
- An increase in risk-taking behaviors, such as getting behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated or engaging in promiscuous sex with a stranger from a bar
- Developing a tolerance over time, meaning more alcohol will be required in order for the same effects to be produced
- Withdrawal symptoms upon ceased use
One of the most devastating consequences of alcohol abuse is the potential to overdose. Alcohol poisoning is a very real problem, one that claims hundreds of lives on an annual basis. At Pine Tree Recovery Center, we treat men and women of all ages who have been suffering at the hands of alcohol dependence so that they never have to undergo the physical and psychological devastating effects of alcohol overdose. If you or someone close to you has been battling an alcohol use disorder and needs help to quit, simply give us a call today to discuss viable treatment options.
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The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that alcohol poisoning – or alcohol overdose – occurs when there is too much alcohol in the bloodstream to be processed adequately by the areas of the brain that control functions like temperature control, heart rate and breathing. Typically, when an individual drinks too much in a short period of time (this is called “binge drinking”), he or she will experience a loss of motor function, significant impairment, a loss of motor control and compromised decision-making skills (a lack of inhibition). Alcohol overdose is slightly different from standard intoxication in the sense that it can be immediately life threatening.
Those who are experiencing alcohol overdose will experience symptoms such as:
- Obvious confusion (a person who is overdosing on alcohol might not know who they are, where they are or who they are surrounded by)
- Profuse vomiting
- A difficult time remaining conscious/moving in and out of consciousness
- An extremely low body temperature
- Cold and clammy skin
- Respiratory depression/significantly slowed breathing
- A sharp decrease in blood pressure
Certain things can increase the risk of an alcohol overdose, like combining alcohol with other chemical substances – namely opioid narcotics or benzodiazepines. These two chemical substances increase respiratory depression as it stands; combining the two is extremely dangerous and should never be done. Another factor that might work to increase the risk of alcohol overdose is body weight or tolerance level. People with a low body weight tend to overdose on alcohol more easily, as do those who rarely drink. Someone who has been abusing alcohol for an extended period of time and has developed a tolerance will have a lower chance of overdosing. Additionally, young adults and teenagers are at increased risk of alcohol overdose. Research shows that young adults and teenagers are far more likely to engage in binge drinking, therefore they consistently put themselves at a greater risk.
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What To Do In Case Of Overdose
An article published by the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs explains that the most important step one can take in the case of an alcohol overdose is seek emergency medical care immediately. Alcohol is a depressant drug, meaning that consuming it in large quantities will hinder the parts of the brain that trigger automatic responses, like gag reflexes. If a person is experiencing alcohol overdose and he or she vomits, a lack of gag reflex could result in fatal choking – this is why it is never a good idea to let friends who have experienced the symptoms of alcohol overdose simply “sleep it off.”
If you see someone exhibiting any of the alcohol poisoning symptoms listed above, take the following steps:
- Call 911 immediately – Alcohol overdose is a medical emergency. It is important to act quickly and never assume that someone who is highly intoxicated will feel better in the morning – while they may just seem very drunk, their vital organs could be shutting down.
- Never leave someone alone who you suspect is experiencing alcohol overdose – It is important that this person is closely monitored until the medical professionals arrive on the scene.
- If a person is vomiting, turn them onto their side.
- Be prepared to provide information to the first responders when they arrive – They will likely ask how much the person had to drink, where they were drinking, etc. Even if you do not know the answers to these questions, stick around until they arrive.
- Don’t be afraid to call for help – It can definitely be tricky to determine whether someone had too much to drink or whether he or she is experiencing overdose. Remember that it is always best to err on the side of caution in this life or death situation.
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Alcohol Addiction Treatment
At Pine Tree Recovery Center, we understand how traumatic undergoing alcohol overdose can be. Our comprehensive program of clinical care was developed to help men and women of all ages who have been suffering at the hands of alcohol abuse or dependence. To learn more about our alcohol addiction recovery program, give us a call today at (888) 693-1751 or contact us online (Click here) and speak with a Treatment Advisor who is standing by 24/7 for your support.
Reviewed for accuracy by:
LCSW, LADC, CCS
Randi is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor and Supervisor who has over 20 years of experience in the field of mental health and addictions. She has worked in both clinical and administrative leadership roles and also has extensive career experience in gender specific trauma treatment, crisis intervention, structural family work and substance use disorder treatment and supervision.