Why Your Drinking Problem Doesn’t Affect Only You

Why Your Drinking Problem Doesnt Affect Only You

At first, alcohol is fun, and there’s no doubt about that. For as long as we can remember, we’ve had ties to alcohol, and we’ve come up with countless ways to brew and prepare it. But it’s still a poison to the human body and, in the end of the day, not at all good for us. However, responsible drinking is every adult’s right, and aside from potentially cutting a few years off a person’s total lifespan, the odd amount of booze from occasion to occasion is not necessarily a death sentence.

But it is harmful. And in larger amounts, it is particularly dangerous. Alcohol use remains to be a problem across all ages, among men and women alike, both in the form of binge drinking and in the form of the more serious alcohol use disorder. But if it’s every person’s right to drink as much as they legally want to, one might ask: what’s wrong with drinking a little more than most?

The answer is that even without addiction, alcohol is a damaging substance that can lead to pain and anguish not only for yourself, but for those around you – particularly if you have a ‘drinking problem’.


What is a Drinking Problem?

A drinking problem is not a medical diagnosis. Alcohol is heavily involved in medical diagnoses, and there is a long list of alcohol-related diseases and causes of death. But a ‘drinking problem’ is a more loosely defined set of behaviors related to dangerous levels of alcohol use, including:

  • Lying about your alcohol use to others.
  • Regularly drinking more than you intended to.
  • Struggling to sleep or relax without a ‘nightcap’.
  • Being forgetful and struggling with blackouts.

Any serious negative consequences caused by drinking too much alcohol constitute for a drinking problem, particularly if you ignore these consequences and keep drinking anyway.

While you are legally allowed to drink as you see fit (with some constraints, such as public intoxication), it’s important to note that there’s a moral cost to drinking much more than you should. It isn’t ‘gluttony’, but rather, the cost of knowing that your behavior is affecting others negatively.

Due to the physical and mental effects of high alcohol use, a drinking problem can lead to:

  • Relationship issues.
    Mood changes and outbursts.
  • Forgetting important things.
  • Putting others in danger due to inappropriate behavior or intoxication.
  • Putting yourself in danger.
  • Accruing vast medical bills and debt due to alcohol-related disease.


What If You Can’t Stop? 

A drinking problem becomes an addiction when you try to stop but can’t. Drinking problems vary in definition and severity, from drinking more than is usually recommended by a medical professional, to suffering from frequent blackouts or other side effects as a result of your drinking. Yet while these habits and their negative consequences are one part of the equation, what differentiates a drinking problem from alcohol use disorder is the inability to stop using the drug.

That is very simply tested – by going sober for a length of time. Drinking problems are problems not just for those who have them, but for those they love and care about – maintaining a drinking habit is expensive, and it has a seriously damaging impact on your physical, mental, and even your social health. But addiction is a very different and very severe beast. When you find out that you can’t cut the booze from life, it becomes terrifyingly easy to be overwhelmed by it.

But contrary to what some might believe, you don’t need to spiral out of control and have a moment of stark realization to get sober and stay sober. The rock bottom is not a prerequisite for addiction treatment – showing up to get treated is.

It’s not always on you, or about you – the motivation to get sober is often lacking in people who struggle with drug use and addiction because that is how the brain works, heavy drug use (including alcohol) deals serious damage to several different parts of the brain, including the parts that are dedicated to things like motivation, reward, and pleasure. As evidenced by the many deaths caused by addiction and drug use every year, it’s not easy to treat an addiction.


How is Addiction Treated?

It takes a lot of help from those around us, be they professionals, our new sober friends, or our old friends and loving family. Or, ideally, all of the above. On days when you really need a drink, you need a support network to remind you why that isn’t something you should do. And that way, you can make those days more and more scarce through treatment. It’s not easy to treat an addiction – but it can be treated. 

Time is an important factor – particularly, how much of it you spend sober. As research has shown us, the brain is quite malleable in a sense that its experiences help shape it both physically and psychologically. Our mind is very much influenced by things around us, to the degree that high levels of stress or trauma actually cause physical changes in the brain that help reinforce these experiences, like scarred tissue on a different organ.

The brain reacts to heavy drug use by warping in a certain way, no longer responding to old forms of pleasure and relying on the stimulus provided by intense highs. The lack of these highs can cause withdrawal, as the body struggles to normalize and return to a sober state despite the changes made by heavy drug use – in some cases, withdrawal can be the result of experiencing all the damage drug use has wrought without the distracting euphoria of continued use.

But the brain can heal, to a degree, and to do so the body must completely metabolize any remaining drugs and go through the withdrawal process, then refuse the alcohol until it slowly becomes easier, both psychologically and physically, to be sober. That process takes longer for some than for others, and there are many different ways to help it along – from sober living homes, to specialized therapy, alternative treatments, medication, and more.


How To Tell If Your Drinking Is Becoming a Problem

How To Tell If Your Drinking Is Becoming a Problem - Transcend Recovery

A majority of Americans have consumed alcohol, and a plurality do so on a regular basis. It’s a cliché at this point: alcohol, when consumed responsibly, is not necessarily harmful.

But there’s often a very fine line between socially acceptable drinking, and a serious health risk. Alcohol is, for all intents and purposes, a poison. There’s no denying that – our system recognizes alcohol as a toxin, and often reacts appropriately.

Yet the dosage is critical, as too much of anything can cause a system shutdown. The difference being that even in non-lethal dosages, alcohol causes serious wear-and-tear.

You don’t have to be an addict to struggle with alcohol-related health issues. Even among heavy drinkers, alcoholism is not a given – it’s a risk, but only an estimated 50 percent of people who drink heavily more than twice a week eventually struggle with alcohol use disorder.

Nevertheless, heavy drinking can constitute a problem, especially for the heart, throat, liver, and brain. While most Americans enjoy a hearty drinking session a few times a year, a minority consumes several times more alcohol than the average person, putting themselves at risk of an early grave.

And if you’re not concerned about mortality, then consider that heavy drinking greatly increases the risk of addiction.


What Counts as Heavy Drinking? 

Government agencies and authorities on health generally consider heavy drinking or binge drinking to constitute any drinking session that involves more than four/five drinks a day for a healthy adult man, and more than three/four drinks a day for a healthy adult woman.

A drink constitutes 14 grams of alcohol, typically found in a 12-ounce bottle of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 1.5 ounce shot of liquor. One is not healthier than the other. When consumed within two hours, the amounts of alcohol described above tend to elevate the average person’s blood alcohol concentration to a 0.08.

As per the CDC, an estimated quarter of all people aged 18-34 engage in binge drinking. Among underage teens, about 17 percent of people are estimated to have engaged in binge drinking.

As the numbers indicate, binge drinking is not uncommon, and not indicative of an alcohol use disorder on its own. However, it is very unhealthy. Some of the health risks associated with regular binge drinking include diseases of the liver and heart, strokes, cancer in the breast, mouth, throat, liver, and colon, as well as cognitive deficits such as long-term memory problems, slowed learning, and more.

Alcohol is often linked to an increase in violence, as well as unintentional deaths caused by injuries, accidents, burns, and poisoning. Binge drinking is also linked to a higher risk of sexual violence, partner violence, and STDs.

Alcohol use becomes a problem when it’s uncontrolled and begins to have a serious negative impact on your life. It’s normal to feel hungover after a big drinking session, but it can become a problem when you’re hungover several times a month.

If your performance at work or your ability to remember things suffer at the hand of your alcohol use, then cutting back is important.

Alcohol use can also cause unexpected weight gain, as alcohol is converted into calories and unspent energy (fat). Due to its effects on the brain, regular heavy use can also lead to mood changes, worsen existing symptoms of anxiety and depression, and affect a person’s relationship to their partner, lowering their ability to perform sexually and be present physically.

While these problems can all occur without a diagnosis of alcoholism, heavy drinking turns into a disorder when the drinker finds themselves unable to stop drinking.


Heavy Drinking and Alcoholism

As mentioned previously, an estimated 50 percent of people who binge drink more than twice a week struggle with alcohol use disorder. Even among people who only binge once a month, an estimated 20 percent are addicted to alcohol.

While addiction to alcohol is not caused solely by heavy use, it is one of many factors. Avoiding heavy drinking and limiting drinking (or abstaining entirely) can be a protective factor against developing alcoholism.

Other factors to consider when speaking about alcoholism include family history, workplace and at-home stress, mental health (depression and anxiety are sometimes linked to substance use), and early use. Teens who start binge drinking at an earlier age are much more likely to get hooked on alcohol, as are individuals who have a history of alcohol addiction in the family.

If you’re aware of other factors in your life that might put you at serious risk for developing a dependence on alcohol, it might be a good idea to cut the drink out of your life. If you find yourself depending on alcohol to get through the day or to unwind after a frustrating day, it becomes crucial to seek alternative and healthier ways to cope.


High-Functioning Alcoholism

Addiction can be debilitating, but it doesn’t have to be. Alcohol use disorder can also be diagnosed among high-functioning alcoholics, who continue to go to work and fulfill their daily duties, but struggle to do so without the ‘crutch’ of a daily series of drinks.

High-functioning alcoholism is something of a misnomer as well, because while high-functioning addicts continue to function, they still do so at a diminished rate. Alcohol’s effects on the brain and body are non-negotiable, and while some bodies are far more resistant to alcohol than others, no one is immune to its long-term effects.

Even with a well-paying job, a busy social life, and a good relationship with your partner, high-functioning alcoholism has many red flags.

Some drink to relax, drinking every day. Some have a track record of struggling with certain responsibilities as of late. And some forget what they were doing, or have entire evenings and afternoons go by without remembering what happened.

High-functioning alcoholism is often characterized by an individual who feels that they’re doing a great job of living a normal life in spite of their heavy use, but are actually in denial of the various ways in which their habit has already cost them trust, health, or time.

Without these red flags, a high-functioning alcohol user is simply someone who binge drinks, without the addiction. But that can still be a problem.


Why Too Much Is Still a Problem 

Even without blackouts and memory gaps, long-term alcohol use can greatly increase someone’s risk of death through liver disease, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Alcohol kills more than any other drug bar tobacco, claiming several more lives per year than the opioid crisis ever did.

Drinking responsibly is one thing, but not being addicted doesn’t make you immune to alcohol’s dangerous long-term effects.

How Drinking Can Lead to Addiction

How Drinking Can Lead to Addiction

Alcohol is one of the most destructive drugs on the planet. Being the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States, alcohol is among the most dangerous substances known to man – not because of its potency, but because of its ubiquitous nature. Despite America’s often hard attitude towards drugs, drinking gets special treatment due to cultural relevance and the failures of the prohibition. But the effects remain staggering.

However, while making alcohol illegal is not an effective way to prevent booze-related deaths and illnesses, it’s still important to have a conversation surrounding the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Alcoholism and alcohol use disorder is not exclusive to those that drink heavily on a regular basis – while heavy drinking can be precursor to addiction, many misunderstood how much alcohol counts as “heavy drinking”, and how many Americans become addicted without consuming record amounts of alcohol.

While alcohol has been with us for thousands of years, it continues to be something that doesn’t agree with the human body. Alcohol is one of the more damaging drugs in the world due to how rapidly it affects and deteriorates our organs, heavily contributing to the development of heart disease and cancer. Among underage drinkers, alcohol continues to claim over 4,300 lives per year, through poisoning, drowning, falls, and other alcohol-related problems. But why is booze so popular, and why is it addictive?


Why Do So Many Drink Alcohol?

Alcohol’s addiction factor is only partially influenced by its own addictiveness – major factors to consider when looking at why alcohol is so popular are availability and user base. More people consume alcohol in the United States than any other drug except coffee, and among teens, partaking in drinking is one of many rites of passage from childhood into adulthood.

Caught up in the moment, many teens opt to drink heavily or binge drink rather than taking alcohol more seriously. Among high school students alone, more than a third of students have had alcohol in the past, while as many as 14 percent binge drank. In 2013, over 119,000 emergency room visits by kids aged 12-21 were related to alcohol.

However, while the fact that it can be bought everywhere and everyone’s doing it is one factor, there are others. Age is a major factor. Teens are going through cataclysmic changes in their lives, often switching schools and encountering new people and new stimuli by the time they first start binge drinking.

Furthermore, teens are more susceptible to taking risks, and are less likely to think things through on average. Their expectancies of alcohol also change dramatically from pre-adolescence to adolescence, moving from viewing drinking negatively to appreciating or placing importance on the arousing effects of alcohol. Kids and teens who share mental health problems or begin drinking at an earlier age are much more likely to develop an addiction as a result of their drinking and may be using alcohol to soothe emotional pain.

Among adults, the issues surrounding alcohol’s ubiquitous nature and low-risk investment also make it the perfect tool for self-medication in times of serious stress and difficulty. Some turn to a drink to “unwind”, until the habit of unwinding becomes unavoidable, and escalates into more frequent drinks.

As for alcohol itself, when consumed, the drug travels through the bloodstream into the brain and latches itself onto our neurons, where it stimulates the release and effectiveness of GABA and other neurotransmitters, causing the effects we recognize as drunkenness. Over time, the body and brain get used to a certain amount of drunkenness and begin to signal panic when you stay sober for too long. This is physical dependence, wherein a person begins experiencing withdrawal symptoms after attempting to quit. Because alcohol is a depressant, its withdrawal symptoms can be quite dangerous and rarely fatal, invoking heart issues, respiratory arrest, and potential seizures.

But long before that happens, regular drinking begins to prime the brain for more drinking, in a phase that doesn’t quite count as addiction but mimics it in the sense that you begin to want to drink more than before.


Is There Such a Thing as Responsible Drinking?

When considering how damaging and powerful alcohol can be, it’s also important to recognize that simply trying to curb drinking through legal interventions is more likely to lead to more illegal activities rather than effectively stopping drug use. Yes, there is such a thing as responsible drinking – but there is no good drinking, and no instance of alcohol consumption is ever truly beneficial, neither in the short-term nor in the long-term.

But there is a way to minimize both the amount of alcohol you consume, as well as its effects. Official government guidelines outline a maximum of about four drinks in a day for a grown male, and three drinks in a day for a grown female, with a “drink” counting as roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol, or the equivalent of one glass of wine or one bottle beer. However, for a week, that maximum shifts to 14 drinks for men, and seven for women. Research shows that women are more susceptible to the addictive effects of alcohol, hence the disparity in the guidelines.

Anything above these guidelines can count as binge drinking and is shown to be detrimental to a person’s health, as well as posing a potential addiction risk. The question then remains: can you go through an alcohol addiction, “cure” yourself, and then start drinking “normally” again? The answer is that, despite rare exceptions, it’s typically not possible for an individual to be addicted to alcohol, go sober, and then slowly reintroduce alcohol without a full-blown bender. Responsible drinking likely isn’t possible for a person who has struggled with addiction.

Nevertheless, if you aren’t an addict but are a heavy drinker, it’s important to understand that you aren’t guaranteed to become addicted – but you are virtually guaranteed to experience at least one of several long-term physical or mental consequences as a result of repeated heavy drinking, from male impotence and greater risk of dementia to heart disease, various different cancers, and strokes.

What’s the Difference Between Casual Drinking and Alcoholism?

Difference Between Casual Drinking and Alcoholism

One of the greatest and most complicated misconceptions about drug use and drug addiction is the belief that excessive drug use implies addiction. While it is true that drug use is a sign of addiction, and likely to lead to it, not all first-time drug users end up struggling with physical dependence. This is most evident when exploring America’s drinking culture, wherein nearly a third of the nation engages in excessive alcohol consumption, but only 12% of Americans are addicted to alcohol.

Now, there is no positive argument to be made for alcohol use. Decades of research has culminated in the conclusion that, no, there is no legitimate health benefit to a pint of beer or a glass of wine. When exaggerated past a certain point, the negative health effects begin to pile up.

But even among the country’s heaviest drinkers, rate of consumption is not a clear symptom of addiction. Understanding the difference between drinking and drug addiction is important, especially because it helps demonstrate how drug addiction is in fact a disease, and one that affects individuals differently.


Casual Drinking, Problem Drinking, and Alcoholism

Casual drinking, problem drinking, and alcoholism are very different forms of alcohol consumption, each with their own characteristics. While alcohol is an addictive drug, only a fraction of its users get addicted. This is because alcohol does not seem to cause addiction at the same rate as a few other, more dangerous drugs, including powerful prescription stimulants, opioid medication, and methamphetamine.

Despite this, alcoholism is just as dangerous as any other addiction, and can lead to death. Irresponsible alcohol misuse – even without addiction – can also lead to disastrous consequences, ranging from permanent health issues to fatal complications. Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, is characterized as a brain disease caused by the interactions between alcohol and the cells in our brain.

At a certain point, the brain begins to change in response to heavy alcohol use, causing cravings and intense withdrawal symptoms in the absence of a fix. Alongside serious changes in cognition and risk management, many individuals leading completely normal lives can find themselves struggling immensely with the consequences of irrational decisions made in the pursuit of another drink, or while drunk. Alcoholism can occur in anybody, regardless of gender, age, or circumstance, and is a debilitating and disabling disease.

Casual drinking, on the other hand, exists on the other side of the spectrum. Where alcoholics cannot control the rate at which they drink, and often drink on a daily basis, casual drinkers only drink alcohol occasionally, feel no internal pressure or craving for a drink, and do not rely on alcohol as a way to deal with stress or reduce pressure. Instead, they may often be ‘social drinkers’, only consuming alcohol around others or when the occasion calls for it.

Heavy drinkers or problem drinkers lie in the grey zone between casual drinking and all-out addiction. Heavy drinkers consume more alcohol than is recommended, and problem drinkers consume alcohol not only out of habit, but either to deal with stress, or to a degree that they begin to regret their drinking. The key difference between a problem drinker and someone diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder, however, is the ability to reduce or even stop drinking altogether. A problem drinker might regret some of the things they did while drunk, but they also have the option to simply reduce or even stop drinking for a while. They do not possess the compulsive need to drink daily, and do not struggle with the myriad of physical and psychological symptoms that many with alcoholism struggle with.

Casual drinkers drink occasionally. Problem drinkers regret their drinking decisions at times. And those who drink because they are addicted to alcohol do not only regret their drinking, but are unable to stop or curb the habit, and instead often find themselves staring at the bottom of a glass of booze more frequently as time goes on, and an addiction grows stronger.


Why Does Alcoholism Occur?

So, if millions of Americans imbibe in alcohol but only a fraction become alcoholics, how is it that alcoholism occurs in the first place? To understand why some people get addicted to alcohol and others do not, it is important to understand the factors that go into a developing addiction, and why they matter.

The first and most important factor determining a drug’s popularity and use is its availability. The easier it is to get your hands on a drug, the more likely it is to be used. This is primarily why alcohol and nicotine are some of the most abused drugs in the world. However, it is only one of many factors. Internal and external factors determine the rate at which a person becomes addicted, with the most important factors being:

  • Genetics and physiology.
  • Mental health and mood.
  • Circumstances and stress.


Is Alcoholism Guaranteed?

You could have the best odds for developing an addiction, drink every now and again, and still not develop alcoholism. Alcoholism is not guaranteed, and while that may have something to do with certain factors we do not completely understand yet – for example, we only have little information on the “addiction gene” – the causes for alcoholism are more useful as a way to inform people of the risk of developing alcohol use disorder, rather than providing a clear cause for any given case of addiction.


Alcoholism Treatment

While alcoholism affects 15 million Americans, only a fraction seek treatment. Yet regardless of why treatment doesn’t reach into the lives of most addicts, it is effective for those who do take the plunge and seek help.

Alcoholism treatment centers around providing better drug-free environments for recovering addicts to wean themselves off their addiction and find ways to successfully adapt to a sober life and thrive within it. There are countless paths to finding happiness while sober, which is why addiction treatment is complex, multimodal, and flexible. Alcohol addiction is a terrible disease, but it can be treated and overcome, given time, patience, and compassion.

What to Expect When You Stop Drinking

What To Expect When You Stop Drinking

Alcohol is a particularly destructive drug, both physically and socially. However, a lot of the damage dealt through booze can be reversed, given time and proper care. You’ll find that if you tackle alcohol use disorder head-on and make progress in recovery, life will change fairly drastically.

Before we get into what to expect when you stop drinking, it’s important to take a quick look at how drinking changes life to begin with. Some people don’t remember what it was like to live without booze – a lot of addicts start young, and in many cases, drinking at a younger age contributes to the chance of getting addicted later down the road. But whenever the brain and body first come into contact with an addictive substance, small changes begin to occur. These compound, over time.

Reversing an addiction isn’t easy, but it’s best to start sooner rather than later. The sooner you get into recovery, the easier it is to maintain long-term sobriety and reverse the physical effects of alcohol abuse.


Things Can Get Rough

The first thing you can expect after quitting alcohol is the challenging experience of withdrawal. Alcohol and other depressants are the most dangerous drugs to quit abruptly, because the withdrawal symptoms can sometimes kill you if you go into withdrawal without medical help. Unlike other drugs, including opioids, depressants are prone to inducing a variety of complications during the withdrawal period.

Seizures, strokes, heart arrythmias and heart attacks are the biggest culprits and causes in alcohol withdrawal fatalities. While these are not exceptionally common – most withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant, but not fatal – there is the chance that your body might react violently to quitting booze abruptly.

That does not mean you shouldn’t do it – it just means you should seek help, first. You have two options – quit ‘gently’ or go to a medical professional. Most cities in the US have addiction specialists and detox clinics, who will help you get through the worst of your symptoms and refer you to a rehab facility to continue the recovery process after you’re through the withdrawal phase. If you can afford to check straight into rehab, most rehab facilities are also equipped to help people safely go through the withdrawal period without fatalities. As long as you take that first step – looking for help – going into withdrawal is quite safe, and a much better alternative to staying addicted.


You’ll Want to Drink

After the most physically unpleasant part is over, the cravings become issue number one. Cravings begin during the withdrawal phase, but they often remain much longer than any other symptom. Your brain will want to drink because the alcohol has hijacked your survival mechanisms and is your primary source of pleasure. Your mind will want to drink because withdrawal sucks, sobriety is hard, and drinking becomes an attractive option to dull the pain. And your body will want to drink, because it too is likely still sore.

Thankfully, a lot of that resolves itself with time. Recovery facilities like rehabs and sober living homes are designed to help you work through everything that makes you want to drink, giving you plenty of reasons not to. It takes a while for the cravings to pass, but they do get weaker over time – not to mention the fact that you get better at handling them over time, as well. That’s when the positives begin rolling in.


You Will Make New Friends

As recovery goes on, you learn to forego and forget what used to be a main pastime – drinking and drinking heavily. Alcohol is not only a way to spend the time or cope with pain, but for many addicts, it’s also a way to meet more people. With alcohol, your inhibitions go away and you’re a lot more social. Places where alcohol is in abundance are also places where people typically go to meet. And it’s easier to get the conversational ball rolling when both parties are drunk. But if most of your current friendships are based on hanging out with booze, you might have trouble maintaining those connections while remaining true to your sobriety.

Real friends will work with you to avoid booze in your presence, or at least tone down the drinking and ensure you don’t drink at all. But some might laugh at the idea of sobriety and might encourage you to get back into drinking. Some might just not be all that interesting anymore while sober. Over time, you might realize you look for other qualities in your friends – including joint experiences, and an understanding of what it’s like to go through an addiction and work towards sobriety again. Friendships in recovery are very important as a way to motivate yourself and others to continue working towards a common goal.


You’ll Have More Time (and Money)

It’s often overlooked how time consuming and expensive an addiction is. There is a reason why addiction will often render someone bankrupt – drugs and booze are pricey. As the money dwindles, you learn how to score cheaper booze and stretch each penny, but it still takes time and money to be addicted. You now have more time and much more money to spend on anything other than alcohol (and other drugs), and that’s a very long list.

Staving off boredom is an important part of recovery, as you try to figure out what to do with the time you have when you aren’t at work, or otherwise preoccupied with life’s daily tasks. You might also be surprised to find that your mind just works better without the booze. Alcohol is not exactly a cognitive booster and going sober can do a lot to improve your time management, productivity, and general mood.


You’ll Feel Better

Alcohol doesn’t just get people addicted – it’s a primary factor in the death of thousands of Americans annually. Alcohol is a major contributor to heart disease, cancer, and stroke, more than all the red meat and butter in the world.

While you shouldn’t trade one vice for another, cutting alcohol out of your life completely will do a lot to improve your health in the long-run, especially if you start incorporating healthier habits into your lifestyle instead. You can still enjoy the occasional steak and cook with butter, as long as you’re making sure to eat all your veggies and go for regular walks.


You’ll Develop New Interests

Or old ones. With more time and more money comes the opportunity to explore ways to spend both, either with your family and/or friends, or on yourself, investing in a new hobby or pursuing a new career. Without alcohol in your life, a lot of opportunities will present themselves to make use of all your sober time.

Recovery might have a rocky start, but it’s always going to be the better option. And with the right help, you can make an almost seamless transition into sober living.


Side Effects from Overuse & Abuse of Alcohol

What Alcohol Does to You

Alcohol, or more accurately ethanol, is secreted when sugars and starches ferment in the presence of yeast producing carbon dioxide and ethanol. Alcohol has existed for most of human civilization. Alcohol can be made from honey, grain, milk, fruits and spices have all been used to develop meads, ales, beers, wines, liquors and other spirits. We’re not even the only species indulging in drink – some other animals are affected by ethanol, and some even seek it out.

But despite its cultural and historic significance, alcohol is, for all intents and purposes, a poor choice of drink. The body doesn’t react favorably to alcohol, treating it as a dangerous substance, and causing heavy nausea and vomiting when you consume too much. It affects the brain and heavy use damages your organs – yet alcohol’s greatest danger is the fact that consistent use can lead to alcoholism, or alcohol addiction.

Some people get addicted to alcohol faster than others, a matter that is mostly decided by genetics and certain other circumstances. Yet in any case, heavy alcohol use can lead to a series of different side effects, many of which are debilitating and/or painful.


Struggling with Addiction

First and foremost, alcohol use can lead to addiction. This isn’t the case for most people, as a vast majority of Americans have tried or recently had a drink, yet do not struggle with alcohol use disorder. However, what might start as an innocent hobby or a way to reduce stress can quickly turn into a real problem.

Drinking as a way to deal with stress or habitually drinking to maintain a constant buzz are two surefire signs that a person’s drinking is fast approaching addiction or has already arrived at that stage. While emotional and psychological states can affect the rate at which someone gets addicted, addiction is still mostly a biological phenomenon.

Drugs like alcohol cause the brain to develop a craving for the substance, eventually causing distressing symptoms if a person decides to go “dry”. Someone with addiction will also struggle with severe cravings, to the point that they feel overwhelmingly compelled to seek out a fix despite clear negative consequences, including injury, arrest, and jail time. This coupled with the many other side effects of alcohol (including problems with risk-assessment and decreased inhibition) makes addiction the most dangerous part of rampant alcohol consumption.


Damage to the Liver

The most commonly known side-effect of long-term alcohol abuse is liver damage. Think of the liver as the blood’s waste treatment system – as blood passes through the body, the liver sees to it that anything that shouldn’t be there is metabolized and quickly rendered inept and excreted through the endocrine system.

However, every time the liver has to do this, it takes its toll on the organ. On top of that, alcohol is turned into acetaldehyde, a carcinogenic and toxic compound. While the liver is highly regenerative, alcohol overuse can render the organ useless over decades, requiring invasive treatment, including liver transplants.


A Chance of Cancer

Alcohol itself is carcinogenic and is metabolized into a carcinogen every time you consume it. Alongside smoking, alcohol is still considered a leading cause for cancer. Common cancers caused by alcohol include stomach/bowel cancer, throat cancer, larynx cancer, mouth cancer, breast cancer and liver cancer.


Alcohol and the Brain

Consuming large amounts of alcohol over years affects cognition, and not just when drunk. Research indicates that heavy drinkers have a shrinking brain with less grey matter. Alcohol use also speeds up memory loss and other cognitive effects of aging, and damages certain pathways in the brain. It also affects people behaviorally – addiction is a brain disease after all, and also heavily correlates with feelings of depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders.


Mixing with Other Drugs

When you consume ethanol, the substance makes its way to the brain by entering the bloodstream through your intestines after drinking. Due to the size and nature of the substance, it passes through the brain blood barrier and begins affecting your brain’s cells. There, it latches onto receptors in the brain and communicates with them, to increase the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA, and decrease the effects of the neurotransmitter glutamate, as well as increase the amount of dopamine in the brain’s reward pathway, a function that links most addictive substances together.

The effects of all this is a combination of decreased inhibition and temporarily decreased anxiety, slurred speech, difficulty balancing and coordinating, swimming vision, slugging movement and difficulty thinking. All in all, these effects worsen until alcohol begins to reach a point in your bloodstream where it becomes poison, causing you to vomit in an attempt to evacuate the ethanol, and go into shock as your blood no longer functions the way it is supposed to.

Every time you drink, your liver starts metabolizing the alcohol that filters through it, rendering it inept. Over time, too much alcohol can cause a massive development of fatty tissue throughout the liver, eventually leading to scarring and debilitating liver cirrhosis. Too much alcohol within a short period of time, on the other hand, will render you dead within a much faster time span, without medical attention.

This danger is compounded when you mix alcohol with other substances. Alcohol is a depressant, and while dangerous on its own, becomes much more potent and accentuates the damage other drugs can do when you start to mix and match.

When taken with other depressants such as tranquilizers, barbiturates, depressants, sedatives and anti-anxiety medication, alcohol can be much deadlier, causing you to pass out and stop breathing, or slowing your heart down to the point that it stops. When taken alongside an opioid, the effects can be quite similar, as opioids also cause a slowdown of the heart and respiratory functions, alongside a disorienting euphoria. Alongside stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines, alcohol can heavily stress the heart, cause an irregular heartbeat, and lead to heart damage. Alcohol overuse in and of itself is dangerous enough – don’t take several different drugs together.


The Problem with Casual Drinking After Recovery

Casual Drinking After Recovery

If age makes us grow fond of the things we’ve had around for a long time, and certain traditions transfer from generation to generation, then it would make sense that we revere some of our oldest cultural aspects. Alcohol is an ingrained part of human culture, in almost every culture. It comes to no one’s surprise, then, that most cultures romanticize alcohol or associate it with a good time, from being integral to celebrations to being associated with indulgence.

Beer, wine, and liquor are equal parts revered and abhorred, found in every facet of society, from the ballroom of a corporate event to the firepit at a summer camp. Because it’s so universal, many addicts cite ubiquity as one of the reasons why staying sober is so hard. If some can responsibly enjoy alcohol, then wouldn’t it be possible to re-engage in social, casual, and modest drinking after recovery is over?

The short answer is no. The long answer is still no, but with a thorough explanation. The reason why some people can drink casually, and others will always succumb to their alcoholism is not fully understood, but it has to do with the nature of addiction, and the dangers of dependence.


Can You Drink After Recovery?

The reason this question requires an entire article to answer is that there are complications and exceptions, in a sense. It’s generally understood that a person with a physical dependence on alcohol can recover from said dependence through a careful recovery plan built on maintaining sobriety – but if they have even a single drink, they could quickly find themselves unable to stop drinking.

On the other hand, alcoholism – and addiction in general – exists on a spectrum, wherein a person is first at risk of developing an addiction when trying a drug out, and gradually slips into deeper and deeper levels of physical and psychological dependence. Some people stop drinking before they become addicted, but after they realize that they’re starting to use alcohol as a way to cope with their problems. By addressing this psychological dependence and overcoming it, some people have returned to drinking responsibly, indulging in a drink or two on occasion, but abstaining from binge drinking and maintaining a healthy distance from the idea of drinking to relax, or feel better.

On the other hand, someone with a physical dependence goes through an entirely different experience. Being genuinely addicted to alcohol changes the way the brain works, associating the drug with pleasure and reward. The mind without alcohol struggles to function, and withdrawal kicks in. Cravings, then, are memories of prior drinking, fueling the will to drink once again.

If that wish is satisfied, then it’s easy to slip right back into a mindset of needing alcohol to survive and function. You might try to convince yourself that you only need “one drink”, but unless someone is there to enforce that rule, your mind quickly finds ways to subvert it and convince you to go for another, and another, and another.

That’s the short version, for the most part. Recovering addicts cannot control how they relapse, and alcoholism – like any addiction – is inherently out-of-control. The only way to win, in a sense, is not to play at all.


Alcoholism is Out-of-Control

The first mistake everyone makes when their drug use starts to become a problem is think that they can control it. But the very point of addiction is that it erodes a person’s judgment, which is why it is treated as a disease rather than a character flaw. Everyone is biologically susceptible to substance dependence, with some individuals being more susceptible than others due to uncontrollable genetic differences. Addiction has nothing to do with a person’s morals, and any addictive substance – including alcohol, cigarettes, prescription medication, and medical marijuana – can cause havoc in a person’s life and lead to dependence.

No one explicitly chooses to be addicted, precisely because no one can choose at all under the circumstances of an addiction. Choice becomes irrelevant.

That can change significantly with time, but the risk is always greater after the first time. To put it in an analogy that can be more broadly understood, the pain of getting hit and breaking skin is quite severe, but the pain of getting hit on an open wound or a deep bruise is even worse. The mind can slowly recover from addiction, but it remembers how it feels, it remembers the changes brought about by continuous alcohol use, and it’s much, much easier to slip back into those changes once they’ve been established – like a memory foam mattress.

It’s important, then, to take a step back and ask yourself why you would want to drink again anyway. To people with no special connection to alcohol, alcohol is nothing more than another aspect of the party – it’s as much a part of celebrating something as dancing, music, and food. But you don’t need it. You can enjoy yourself and take part in celebrations, reunions, parties and events without even a single sip of booze. Learning to have fun while sober is more important than figuring out a way to continue drinking after recovery.


Finding Alternatives

Some people fear that alcohol is intrinsic to their social abilities. They feel inept without the aspect of drunkenness, and feel that without a drink or two, things like being able to dance or talk to strangers become impossible. However, that’s not true. Alcohol does not grant you powers, it simply takes away certain inhibitions. But you can learn to build up your confidence and feel secure around others without getting drunk. It just takes a little practice, and some time.


Avoiding Drinks

Another fear is the fear of not being able to say no to an offered drink. The first solution, the one most commonly given, is to always have a drink in your hand already. Ordering something non-alcoholic at a party where there’s sure to be a lot of alcohol is a good way to avoid having to say no and struggling with it.

Another good step is to be busy. Get busy. Drinks tend to be offered to those who hang around not doing much, so get hooked into a conversation or try out the food or have some fun and get yourself a refill before someone can offer you one. Just don’t take a chance and drink – it won’t end well.


Alcoholism in Southern California

Alcoholism in California

Alcoholism is nothing new. It’s sometimes easy to forget that there are many other forms of addiction out there and that they each pose a threat, especially with the country’s current opioid crisis. However, drugs like alcohol are among the most insidious because they’re so ubiquitous – alcohol is legal (over a certain age), it’s available almost everywhere, and in certain situations it’s even encouraged.

A lot of people drink – in fact, in California alone, over half of the population over the age of 12 consumed alcohol in the last month. One in twelve Californians has an alcohol dependence issue, and in a state with nearly 40 million residents, that makes for a significant number of teens and adults struggling with alcohol use in the Golden State. Casual drinking is not a problem in and of itself, but it is a good indicator of a potential problem. While binge drinkers are always fewer in number than those who drink modestly, the more people drink modestly, the more the potential for binge drinking rises.

No single factor is to blame for that. Yet while alcohol is a drug with addictive properties and overdose risks, it is abundantly and positively represented in popular media. Additionally, the fact that it’s a staple relaxant at every party, in every restaurant, and in almost every household across the state, greatly increases the risk of alcohol abuse for millions of Americans.

Another factor is the growth of the popular craft beer industry, which has led to greater casualization of alcohol use throughout the state. Alcohol misuse by underaged teens alone accounted for nearly $7 billion in problems and costs in the year 2013, from youth violence and traffic crashes ($3.5 and $1.02 respectively) to property crime, injury, poisonings, and fetal alcohol syndrome in mothers under the age of 21. As a whole, binge drinking is at a prevalence of about 16.7% in California, and it carries not just a huge financial burden, but leads to countless amounts of pain and suffering through injuries, property losses, and deaths.


Why Alcohol is a Dangerous Drug

Overuse of alcohol is largely known to exacerbate or even partially cause a number of life-threatening and life-altering diseases, including:

  • Various forms of cancer
  • Infectious disease
  • Diabetes
  • Neuropsychiatric disease
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Liver and pancreas disease

That is a scary list, and it’s as scary as it is because while drugs like cocaine and amphetamines are far more addictive, alcohol is a long-term killer.  Alcohol has a much more pervasive presence in society, and a long list of slow and degenerative effects throughout the body.

More than being responsible for many losses and diseases, the greatest risk surrounding alcohol is its availability. Despite underage drinking being illegal, it is quite widespread and socially acceptable. Research has shown that teens process alcohol very differently from adults, however, and there are important reasons they are not allowed to drink. The risk factor for addiction is much higher with teenage brains than it is with fully-developed ones.


California and Underage Drinking

Getting involved with alcohol at an early age carries more than 6 times the risk of developing an alcohol addiction versus those who first started drinking after they turned 21. On average, the first time underage youths try alcoholic beverages in the US is at age 13 for girls and age 11 for boys.

Behavior that is often linked to underage drinking includes violence, traffic accidents, attempted suicide and risky sexual activity (including unprotected sex and sex with multiple partners). A greater risk of developing physical diseases can also be connected to a head start on drinking and binge drinking.


How Social Drinking Brings Risks to the Table

Alcohol is not just a drug with addictive side effects. It’s a substance that carries much larger risks, including counterindications with several common subscription medications. Alcohol use also increases the risk of several health conditions, as well as being a necessary cause for more than 30 conditions.

Diseases like alcohol use disorder, alcohol withdrawal, alcoholic myopathy, alcoholic gastritis, alcohol hepatitis and more, indicate that as far as drugs go, alcohol is among the more poisonous addictive substances humans are known to consume, even if it isn’t one of the most addictive ones.

While social drinking is not a clear indication of developing alcoholism, most alcoholics start with casual use. No one is born an alcoholic, but some are more susceptible to alcohol-related diseases than others, including dependence. If alcoholism is common in your family, avoid binge drinking.


The Rise of Craft Beer

Over the past six years alone, the number of craft brewers in the state of California has tripled, from roughly 300 to over 900. The craft beer industry accounts for tens of thousands of full-time jobs. It has grown tremendously as a new artisan industry throughout the region, despite California’s reputation as wine country.

While this shouldn’t be tied to the rise of alcoholism, it does increase the urgent need for families to help their loved ones in recovery stay clean. It is also just a good idea to educate younger generations about alcohol at an earlier age. For example, discussions regarding sex held while children are still young have shown to decrease the chances of early sexual intercourse and to help teens better deal with issues surrounding teen pregnancy. Similarly, speaking to kids and adolescents about alcohol use and educating them on drugs in a way that foregoes fearmongering and promotes facts will drastically decrease the chances that they imbibe early on.

Conversation around alcohol needs to begin at an early age, with the understanding that despite its social prevalence, there must be strict rules surrounding the use of alcohol, and for good reasons. Excessive alcohol use can lead to nausea, memory blackouts, alcohol poisoning, traffic accidents, violence, unprotected sexual intercourse (expanding the spread of infectious diseases), and even death.

On a social level, a drink can be a nice thing – especially during celebrations, where a festive toast (for example) can raise the mood of a room. But it’s important to draw clear boundaries and help kids understand the risks of alcohol use and abuse, especially during their formative teen years. Creating a mysterious taboo for children only makes it more alluring. Being honest and frank about the topic, and explaining the potential dangers, is much more helpful.


Staying Sober With Alcohol Around You

Avoiding alcohol At A Party

Maintaining sobriety is hard enough as it is, even with support and treatment. Despite all the advice, tips, and practice put into redefining your thoughts and shaping your perspective through therapy, you may still struggle with cravings. This is normal for the first few months of recovery – it can several weeks for some drugs to completely leave the bloodstream (others only take a few hours), and after that, it can take up to a year to reverse the damage drugs deal to the brain as much as possible.

For many, that first year is grueling, and the first three months can seem impossible. But when you are struggling with all that on top of the temptation of having alcohol all around you, the challenge goes up a notch. That does not mean there is no hope for recovery, or that relapses are bound to happen. You can stay sober, if you take the right approach to your situation.


Stay Sober by Making Sobriety Fun

The first thing you need to address is whether you enjoy being sober. In the beginning, this is entirely a matter of perspective. Some see addiction as a chain around their ankle, and that boost into sobriety is the new lease on life they needed. Others see their addiction to cope with living and consider the need to stay sober for others a curse rather than a boon.

It is important to have fun while sober and approach the situation with a positive mindset. If sobriety is nothing more than an endless grind to you, then you will never stay sober. You can tolerate a little bit of misery, but if your life becomes a mental prison to you, then eventually you will think of nothing but escape.

Some people need exercise to find their groove in sobriety. Others need art, or a similar passion. Whatever it is that drives you to live your life to the fullest, it’s out there and you need to find it and embrace it. Try things out, make new friends, and create new memories. This is the first step towards convincing yourself that sobriety is not all that bad – and may in fact be your chance at a better life.


Stay Sober by Getting Away from It All

The simplest way to stay sober when surrounded by alcohol is to leave the room. If you are still going to parties where people serve alcohol, consider not going, or consider asking the organizers to go non-alcoholic. Walking around with a non-alcoholic drink to avoid being offered alcohol can be a good tip, but if you are deeply struggling to stay clean and find yourself regularly challenged through casual social alcohol consumption, the safest thing to do is move away from it all.

If your family or friends continue to drink without much regard for your sobriety, then consider moving away, and finding new friends. In fact, you may find that some of the friends you used to have while still hooked are not such great company now that you are clean.


Stay Sober by Sticking to The Plan

Ever heard “consistency is key?” Most treatment plans emphasize the importance of schedules, structure, and consistency. The mind loves consistency, especially when you try to learn something. Speeches are delivered in such a way that they keep listeners engaged, while consistently repeating the same key points over and over again. Most forms of sport involve repeating basic drills to improve motor neuron function and boost the body’s efficiency. Teachers build their subject curriculum around several key lessons, and help their students consistently work through the material to gain (and hopefully maintain) knowledge.

By being consistent day in and day out, you retrain the brain. This is important, because addiction changes the way the brain prioritizes things, making it difficult to be consistent about anything other than a regular high. By antagonizing an addiction with a disciplined approach toward treatment, you increase your chances of replacing one form of commitment with another. To be committed to your sobriety, you need to do more than swear you won’t ever use again – you have to put in the work, day in and day out, to steer clear from triggers, ignore cravings, and maintain a schedule that balances your work life and your responsibilities with your hobbies and favorite stress management techniques.

However, this is a massive task, one that most people do not have the willpower to achieve alone. Never think that this is a completely one-person job – understand that while you need to walk your way, you can have others help keep you on your feet when you trip or stumble. Having friends and family around to help you stay consistent is a tremendously important part of maintaining sobriety, especially when you’re tempted all around.


Stay Sober by Enrolling in a Sober Living Home

There is quite a lot you can do to alleviate the stress of being faced with constant temptation. By adding onto the quality of your recovery and creating a whole new relationship between yourself and your sobriety, you can help distract yourself from cravings and fortify your commitment towards staying clean. Furthermore, by making new friends and reconnecting with old ones you can help create a safety net that keeps you clean even on the hard days.

But if you need another option, then the safest thing to do is head into a sober living home. Unlike other addiction treatment clinics that typically focus on helping people through early recovery or during a relapse, a sober living home exists just to create a normal living space for people who want to spend time in a drug-free environment, while still leading normal lives. Some sober living homes are stricter than others, but most follow a set of rules:

  • No drug use.
  • Strict curfews.
  • Chores and responsibilities for every tenant.
  • It is required that tenants have work or are currently looking for work, unless they are still in school.

Beyond that, sober living homes can vary wildly. Some are extremely strict with what they allow and do not allow within the premises of the community, including alcoholic mouthwash. Others put more of a focus on regular community events and group meetings, making these mandatory, so individuals get used to being part of a supportive group of people.

Whatever you choose, a sober living home is a perfect place to go when you desperately need help staying clean and want every assurance that there will be no temptation around you. However, if you have been clean for several months and are through with your recovery programs, make sure you have considered the other options before going back to a clinic or a sober home. While sober living communities often have no limit on how long someone can stay, learning to live with temptation rather than completely avoid the issue is a big part of overcoming the addiction. Do not tempt yourself too much – find your red line, and get professional help before you cross it.


Physical Symptoms of Addiction

Physical Symptoms of Addiction

The human body can take a lot of abuse. We can survive severe physical trauma, from falling several meters to taking a bullet. We can overcome terrifying diseases, force cancers into remission, and heal snapped bones. A healthy body is always on the defensive, tackling environmental dangers, weaker viruses, and bacteria.

But when we willingly feed our bodies poison, we make them inherently weaker. At first, our appearance will start to go – and with time, our organs give up on us. While a single hit won’t kill you, entering the realm of addiction will break your body down. Knowing how drugs affect the body can help you identify physical symptoms and the signs of addiction in yourself or loved ones.

Let’s start with the core organ in addiction: the human brain.


What Drugs Do to The Brain

When drugs enter the bloodstream, their intended destination is the brain. Once there, a drug binds itself to your brain’s cells, manipulating the way you feel. To be more specific, all addictive drugs affect the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter integral to the brain’s “reward system”. The brain naturally releases dopamine when you do certain things, like eat, exercise, or have sex. Part of the physical symptoms of addiction revolve around the extensive and “unnatural” release of dopamine in the brain through drugs, or the amplification of existing dopamine and serotonin.

Continuously taking drugs leads to physical dependence – when your body begins to develop withdrawal and physical symptoms whenever you try and stop and staying sober for lengths of time presents you with growing cravings.


Physical Symptoms of Your Body on Drugs

Drugs affect the human body in different ways, causing different types of organ damage through overuse. Due to the way drugs are metabolized, kidney and liver damage is common, as is malnutrition due to a poor lifestyle and diet while addicted. There are a few other similarities in physical symptoms across different kinds of substance abuse, including:

  • Headaches, nausea, and flu-like symptoms during abstinence/sobriety.
  • Fidgeting.
  • Flushed skin and broken capillaries, indigestion, sores and wounds, throat pain.
  • Lack of appetite and trouble with hygiene and orderliness.

Other non physical symptoms that commonly manifest socially include trouble keeping a conversation, mood swings, rash decision making and anxiety. Drug usage affects a person’s behavior and thinking not only by causing damage, but by shifting focus from other sources of motivation towards the irresistible lure of another high.

Because of this, addiction also causes severe cravings. Once the body gets used to the effects of a drug, it begins to normalize that state – and push you to get more. These cravings can be as powerful as hunger or thirst, although they are fundamentally different from the urge to fulfill basic needs.


How Addiction is Defined Physically

Aside from making you happy, drugs typically have other side effects. Alcohol, for example, mimics several different neurotransmitters and affects your cognition, memory, and motor control. Opioids, on the other hand, are pain-numbing. Spun into a positive light, alcohol can potentially reduce anxiety while opioids can lessen physical hurt.

Yet central to addiction is the addictiveness of a drug – and to understand that, we need to look at how addiction is defined. Without a strict definition, an addiction to alcohol or cigarettes might be considered similar to an internet or sugar addiction. While some people do show signs of being compulsively and truly addicted to consuming sugar, or surfing online, despite serious negative consequences including deteriorating health, these are wholly different from a physical dependence on an addictive drug.

The main factor here is the speed at which drugs can turn someone from a casual user into an addicted user. Addiction is the inability to stop taking a drug, despite negative consequences, marked by powerful cravings, physical symptoms and, often, a rising tolerance leading to larger and larger doses. Physical symptoms and mental symptoms – such as diminished cognitive ability, psychosis, changes in behavior and fidgeting – indicate an addiction, but to be diagnosed as addicted, a person must be demonstratively incapable of simply stopping themselves from using.

If you use a drug often but can stop at any time and control your intake completely, then you are not addicted. You could still be putting yourself and your mind in harms way due to a potentially excessive consumption of harmful substances, but addiction is defined not by the damage done by the drug, but by the inability to stop using it.

It is never recommended to take addictive drugs, unless specifically necessitated by a medical professional. Taking drugs recreationally or for the sake of physical or academic performance is dangerous and can ruin your future. No prize or achievement is worth a lifelong fight against an enemy as insidious and powerful as addiction.

In cases of physical dependence, the body becomes used to a regular intake of drugs. Stopping in turn causes the body to react violently, with mild to severe physical symptoms. Some drugs, like alcohol and benzodiazepine, can even cause fatal withdrawal symptoms.


Healing After Recovery

In a way, addiction is no different from many other diseases, affecting us mentally and physically – and like other diseases, it takes time, patience, and personalized medical advice to properly and fully recover.

While some damage is arguably more difficult to heal – like brain damage caused by excessive drinking – a healthier lifestyle during sobriety can help you reverse a lot of damage to the brain in the first year and reach peak improvement at about 5-7 years of complete abstinence.

Damage to other organs – especially the liver – can heal much faster. The liver is one of the fastest regenerating organs in the body, due to its crucial role in digestion and detoxification. The heart is also severely affected by alcohol overuse, as people struggling with alcoholism tend to develop problems including hypertension and heart disease.

Different drugs mean different challenges. A heroin overdose can cause permanent damage (and even paralysis) due to oxygen deprivation. Cocaine can leave lasting damage in the heart, due to overstimulation. Methamphetamine, aside from wrecking your appetite, will severely damage your teeth and can cause skin sores.

Physical issues are one part of the problem. As a brain disease, addiction manifests itself not just in the body, but in a person’s behavior and thoughts. Deteriorating physically is one thing, but the battle in the mind of an addict can be even more devastating.