Alcohol, like all drugs, is no doubt addictive despite being a socially acceptable option. There are far more people that have tried alcohol than there are that have been attempting drugs. You can gift it as a housewarming present, use it to celebrate that big promotion, and even use it for cooking. Why is all that possible? Well, it's legal, normal, and in many social settings, it is expected from you. Alcohol is a feel-good substance; hence you will probably take it when you need a little...
Alcohol, like all drugs, is no doubt addictive despite being a socially acceptable option. There are far more people that have tried alcohol than there are that have been attempting drugs. You can gift it as a housewarming present, use it to celebrate that big promotion, and even use it for cooking. Why is all that possible? Well, it's legal, normal, and in many social settings, it is expected from you. Alcohol is a feel-good substance; hence you will probably take it when you need a little boost while you're mingling socially or when you feel a little down in the dumps. Unfortunately, the problem with abuse will start to occur when you try to substitute the fear and anxiety of being lonely or use it as a coping mechanism for other disorders.
Your Brain On Alcohol
Before we move any further, let's explore first the journey that alcohol takes in your body before reaching your brain. It takes 5 minutes for alcohol to get your brain, first being absorbed into the bloodstream and spreading to the tissues. While drinking, the brain's communication and neurotransmitter pathways are disturbed, and the brain comes off its hormonal equilibrium. This may lead to a person being cognitively or physically impaired for a while.
Alcohol, if you haven't heard, is a depressant and is classified as such. By impeding the transmission of excitatory hormones, alcohol will depress you. However, at the same time, it also raises your dopamine levels and activates the risk and reward center of your brain. So, in short, you'll think you feel happy, elated, and top of the world. In actuality, you'll be slurring your speech, knocking over chairs, and spilling your drink, all while feeling an extreme sense of zero inhibition. Long-term effects include becoming dependent on the feeling of euphoria that drinking gives you. Eventually, a person may choose to drink as soon as something triggers them or when meeting up with people. As it is called, alcohol abuse disorder is a severe issue that has grown in the past year. Studies showed an increase in alcohol consumption in the past one and a half years, not surprisingly owing to the pandemic.
Alcoholism is Never Alone
A person may develop alcohol abuse tendencies while suffering from any myriad of already existing mental health issues. Sometimes, professionals will term this as a "dual diagnosis" on account of alcoholism present with some other disorder such as depression, anxiety, etc. In this case, it can be challenging for mental health professionals to pinpoint the exact nature of the disease.
People with some type of mental health issue will also resort to "self-medicating" through alcohol consumption. If you're wondering how people can drink to ultimately feel bad when they're already feeling terrible, consider this: During normal alcohol use, people tend to have a drink or two after a long, stressful day either at home or somewhere else. This is because we're trying to let loose and feel relaxed.
Hence, there are two ways that alcoholism can exist side by side with other mental health issues. Firstly, people may develop a crutch with alcohol in response to some preexisting condition, as we discussed above. Secondly, alcohol abuse can initiate substance abuse issues or signs of depression and suicidal thoughts.
Self-Medicating with Alcohol
It is very often that people suffering from anxiety or depression will use alcohol as a coping mechanism to help them socialize or calm themselves down, just like the effect of benzodiazepines on the hormones. However, this quickly becomes a slippery slope once the person starts drinking in excess. Alcohol provides initial feelings of euphoria followed up by downers. It becomes necessary for a person to keep drinking to keep euphoria levels up. This increases the alcohol blood content, drastically affecting the brain.
It is the same underlying concept as anxiety. Eventually, to calm down anxiety attacks or panic disorders, a person will only function on copious amounts of alcohol in their system. This is a dreadful substitute for working it out in therapy, but research suggests millions of people in the UK alone drink to rid feelings of depression.
You may have heard of the term "high functioning alcoholism," where a person may take to drinking in moments of high-stress situations as they believe it helps them to perform better. There have been cases of doctors drinking before surgery to calm their nerves, even with fictional characters such as Rick, from "Rick and Morty" or even Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. High-functioning alcoholics maintain jobs and relationships, all the while being legible for an alcohol abuse disorder. Even though these people may maintain an image, they are usually ones that are suffering in silence.
Consequences of Excess Drinking
Once a habit of drinking in excess is established, it can lead to several social, economic, or personal status problems. Alcohol abuse can also lead to deterioration of a person's mental health, as they are very likely to develop anxiety and depression and even get suicidal thoughts often.
Drinking in excess may also damage the barriers between emotions and feelings, including inhibitions. When you're drunk, your ability to make a decision based on logical reasoning diminishes. This may lead to violent outbursts of emotions, aggressive behavior, and also shoddy decision-making. This can lead to antisocial behavior.
Another extremely common disorder that can develop with alcohol dependence is bipolar disorder, often called manic depression. Correctly diagnosing this disease with alcoholism can very often be tricky. Bipolar patients will also usually have issues abusing other drugs.
The Cure to a Dual Diagnosis
In times of a dual diagnosis of alcoholism with other substance abuse issues or mental health issues, the best thing you can do is seek help from a medical and mental health professional. Usually ending up in a 12-step program or to a rehab group. Rehabilitation is a long process comprising multiple steps, including detoxification and therapy. If the abuse has been going on for far too long, ideally, the person should be checked into a rehab facility to get the proper care.
A person will experience withdrawal symptoms through detoxification, but proper recovery requires removing all traces of alcohol from the system. Therapy will help to detect the underlying trauma that leads to anxiety, depression, or to a person drinking in the first place. If you start to see signs of alcohol abuse amongst the people you know or yourself, get help as soon as possible. Ensure that the rehab you choose will give you a safe space to properly heal.
How Journalling Can Help
As in our previous articles, we offer you a new take on healing through journaling. Not as a substitute, but complementary to proper medical help. That being said, keeping a journal has proved to be beneficial for controlling anxiety and depression in check. Writing down your thoughts and feelings regularly helps you come face to face with the things that bother you and the fears you have. For many people suffering from mental health issues, journaling becomes a tool for expression and emotional freedom. You are in charge of what you write down, so it is imperative to be honest with yourself about how you are feeling. Only then, it is the most affective. Often, you will be asked to write a letter to people you have wronged to apologize in recovery. Journaling for healing can take place in the shape of:
In the end, it is essential to point out that recovery is a never-ending battle. It is an everyday struggle; some days, you might feel like you can conquer it; other times, maybe not. The key is to be easy with your pace a do not give up hope. If you are looking out for their friend or a member of your family, do not hesitate to reach out for help as early as possible.