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Alcohol Dependence and Drug Addiction -Tolerance

by James Heller 18. May 2010 13:48
Tolerance, as it relates to alcohol dependence and drug addiction, is often misunderstood by many in the general public.  In the manner that drug and alcohol tolerance functions, it can be a safety mechanism to the body and, at the same time, deadly.  This makes awareness of the subject critical for anyone who engages in alcohol abuse or drug abuse, as well as those in recovery.

It can easily be assumed that tolerance means that an individual can drink more alcohol without getting drunk, or handle drug use in a seemingly controlled manner.  With this assumption comes the belief that these “abilities” are an example of the natural differences that exist from one individual to another.  While this is partially true, the nature of alcohol and drug tolerance is much more complicated.

Alcohol tolerance is the example with which most people can relate.  Consider the amount of alcohol you need to drink before you feel the effects, or “buzzed”.  Let’s say this is 2 beers.  If you drink 2 beers every day, over time you will feel less of an effect.  If you want to feel the same effect, you must drink more alcohol.  The amount of alcohol needed for the same feeling will continue to increase as you add more alcohol.  

The same concept works with drugs.  Alcohol abuse or drug abuse can result from tolerance since individuals will chase that feeling by drinking or using more on each occasion.  If the cycle continues with regular daily alcohol or drug intake, the body can become physically dependent and alcoholism or drug addiction is the result.  

On this road to addiction that we just followed, the brain has protected the body from overdose, with tolerance, by adjusting to the higher levels of substance use.  This benefit of drug tolerance can become a dangerous consequence, though, for recovering individuals who relapse.  The addicted brain still needs a large amount of drugs for an effect, but the body returns to a lower tolerance of what is essentially a poison.

At the time of first use on a relapse, the brain will dictate the most recent amount of drugs used to get a desired effect.  If the formerly recovering addict is not careful, this amount can easily cause a drug overdose or even be fatal.  Many drug addicts are not aware of this fact, and will even ignore warnings from fellow drug users because they don’t realize the consequences they face.

While alcoholics are less likely to overdose on alcohol during first use on a relapse, they may experience what is known as a lack of tolerance.  At this point, a drunken feeling may result from only 1 drink.  Lack of tolerance can actually occur with anyone who drinks alcohol, but it is typically coupled with alcohol dependence.  Of course, that 1 drink will still not be enough to satisfy alcoholics and they can become a danger to themselves through inebriation and alcohol’s effect on the body.

This information is good to share with teens, friends in recovery, or anyone you may know who engages in alcohol abuse or drug abuse.  Too many see tolerance as a benefit both early in substance use and in addiction.  Tolerance is explained in effective alcohol and drug treatment as part of addiction education groups to prevent accidental overdoses among those who may relapse.  Bringing this awareness to the general public may save even more lives.

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles provides youth alcohol and drug treatment and addiction education.  We specialize in treatment for mental health and substance use disorders, and have two primary medical care clinics in the San Fernando Valley and Antelope Valley.  If you or a loved one needs help with alcohol dependence, drug addiction, or co-occurring mental health disorders, please call us now at 888-777-8565 or contact us here.

Southern California Locations for Alcohol and Drug Treatment
Tarzana Treatment Centers has locations all over Southern California in Los Angeles County. Other than our central location in Tarzana, we have facilities in Lancaster in the Antelope Valley, Long Beach, and in Northridge and Reseda in the San Fernando Valley.

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Senior Alcohol Abuse - Damaging Effects

by James Heller 12. May 2010 15:07
Senior alcohol abuse is often more difficult to correct than with any other group in America.  By age 60, most individuals are set in their ways and don’t feel the need to change anything.  In fact, many seniors are aware of the risks they face with heavy drinking and continue seemingly without care.  Loved ones may feel helpless, but solutions exist.

About 40% of those over 60 say they drink alcohol, with almost one-third of them admitting to binge drinking and heavy drinking, or alcohol dependence.  These statistics come from a 2007 report at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies website.  This means that about 1 in 10 seniors at least binge drink on occasion, which can be very dangerous to their health and that of others.  

Many external changes happen with individuals when they reach age 60.  Retirement is imminent if it has not already occurred, friends begin to move away or pass away, and family members may even suggest a change of residence.  Worst of all, the mind and body begin to show signs of aging, meaning that doctor visits become common and more medications need to be taken.  All of these can be terribly stressful on anyone when they are grouped into a few short years.

Boredom, loneliness, and a sense of powerlessness can each lead anyone to drink alcohol.  Whether it is a time-filler or an escape from negative feelings doesn’t matter.  The end result is that it works and leads to earlier drinking times and less time outside the home.  Senior alcohol abuse may even be a purposeful celebration of the golden years.  The daily party begins with joy, but can quickly turn to injury or a fatality.

This can all be very harmful for seniors due to interactions with medications, a higher risk of falling, and aging major organs.  If alcohol dependence sets in, the effects on the body and brain are more detrimental to seniors than anyone else.  The celebrators, in freedom, usually drive under the influence.  Yet most seniors who abuse alcohol either hide it or justify it, and accept the risks.

Family members who see the alcohol abuse will often accept the behavior as a rite of passage.  Considering the years they have lived, why would a loved one deny what seems well deserved? And if nobody gets hurt, all is okay.  That is, until somebody gets hurt or health problems develop.  Some seniors will stop the behavior at this point, but most will continue to drink heavily and probably more.

There are 2 things that loved ones can do at this point.  The first is to strongly suggest alcohol detox and alcohol treatment.  But most people in their 60’s today will see that as a sign of weakness and refuse, and family members generally won’t force the issue.  Doing so may get the elderly alcoholic into treatment, but he or she will only benefit if self-motivated.  So keep suggesting, with love, and let them make the decision.

Second, you can set boundaries and stick to them.  If they refuse to quit drinking or cut down, suggest accompanying them to the doctor so you can discuss medication interactions.  Let them know you understand that they are not concerned with their own health, but you are concerned with the health of others including yourself and younger members of the family.  It may be hard, but you must be firm, with love, and continue to suggest alcohol treatment.

To the younger generations, seniors who refuse to change these behaviors seem stubborn.  However, like any other individual who engages in alcohol abuse, the bottom line is that they are escaping from emotions.  Instead of arguing and treating them like children, it is best to discuss feelings as much as possible.  Avoid forcing the issue of senior alcohol treatment, and use gentle, loving nudges.

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles provides alcohol and drug treatment for seniors in a culturally sensitive manner.  We specialize in treatment for mental health and substance use disorders, and have two primary medical care clinics in the San Fernando Valley and Antelope Valley.  If you or a loved one needs help with alcohol dependence, drug addiction, or co-occurring mental health disorders, please call us now at 888-777-8565 or contact us here.

Southern California Locations for Alcohol and Drug Treatment
Tarzana Treatment Centers has locations all over Southern California in Los Angeles County. Other than our central location in Tarzana, we have facilities in Lancaster in the Antelope Valley, Long Beach, and in Northridge and Reseda in the San Fernando Valley.

Alcohol Dependence

by James Heller 18. September 2009 07:15
Alcohol dependence can be progressive and deadly.  Alcohol’s effects on the body can be harmful if there is a repeated compulsive use.  A person may be dependent on alcohol because the person: craves alcohol, is unable to reduce or stop alcohol consumption, and has increased tolerance and experiences withdrawal symptoms when stopping alcohol consumption.

Alcohol dependence can have harmful consequences because of patterns it may create.  For example school and job related tasks may not get done due to a hangover or still being inebriated.  Legal issues can arise due to alcohol, like getting arrested because of drunk driving, and may also cause social and family problems. 

Although I don’t have this problem, I did see alcohol dependence taking over my father.  The alcohol dependency took over his life.  He was a functional alcoholic who went to work and took care of his family, income wise.  But, he was not there in his full senses to enjoy his five children being raised by our mother.  He passed away due to an enlarged heart, caused by his ongoing alcohol dependence.  The personal experience within my family and a good education gave me the knowledge I need to help others. 

The National Institute of Health mentions that thirty years ago not much was known about alcohol dependence.  Today the National Institute of Health informs that “The neural basis of alcohol dependence was clarified. Research showing that drinking is influenced by multiple neurotransmitter systems, neuromodulators, hormones, and intracellular networks provides evidence of a number of potential target sites for which new medications may be developed.”

-- Source: http://www.nih.gov/about/researchresultsforthepublic/AlcoholDependenceAlcoholism.pdf --

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles provides alcohol detox as part of our commitment to integrated behavioral healthcare in alcohol and drug treatment.  If you or a loved one needs help with alcohol dependence, please call us now at 888-777-8565 or contact us here.

Southern California Locations for Alcohol and Drug Treatment
Tarzana Treatment Centers has locations all over Southern California in Los Angeles County. Other than our central location in Tarzana, we have facilities in Lancaster in the Antelope Valley, Long Beach, and in Northridge and Reseda in the San Fernando Valley.


References

www.healthauthority.com/AlcoholDependence.htm

www.mentalhealth.com/dis/p20-sb01.html

Alcohol Withdrawal

by James Heller 11. September 2009 14:31
Alcohol’s effects on the body are compounded as use increases.  Social drinking is not at issue here.  Once that line is crossed into binge drinking and hangovers, the damage has begun.  Most people realize that a simple hangover is a sign of alcohol withdrawal.  But some accept it as a side effect, and continue to harm themselves.

What deserves publicity, though, is the profound effect alcohol dependence has on the human body.  In most cases medical detoxification can reverse the physical symptoms of withdrawal, opening the door to outpatient rehab or residential alcohol and drug treatment.  This article is a public service to those who are currently in need of alcohol detox, or find themselves on the road to alcohol dependence.

The following is from the Daily Strength website, and offers some good information about alcohol withdrawal.  The full article is linked below and provides details on the stages of alcohol dependence.

-- Begin external content –

Alcohol detox or withdrawal symptoms that are experienced by people who have stopped drinking alcohol abruptly (cold turkey) can range from mild to life-threatening if not properly treated.  The severity of these alcohol withdrawal symptoms is usually dependent upon how “alcohol dependent” the chronic drinker has become.  

Those who drink heavily of a daily basis of course have developed a high level of dependency on alcohol and will almost certainly experience at least some sever withdrawal symptoms, but even those who drink alcohol daily, but not heavily and those who drink alcohol heavily but not daily, can also be chemically dependent upon alcohol.

When someone who has become “alcohol dependent” stops drinking abruptly, they will experience some level of physical discomfort.  This is why it is extremely difficult for alcoholics to stop drinking “on their own” without the assistance and support of an alcohol rehab center of support group.

For some who are less chemically dependent, withdrawal symptoms might be as mild as merely getting the shakes, the sweats or night sweats – maybe nausea, headache, anxiety, a rapid heartbeat and increased blood pressure.

Although these alcohol withdrawal symptoms are uncomfortable and irritating they are not necessarily dangerous.  But they are often accompanied by the craving for more alcohol, making the decision to continue abstinence much more difficult to make without counseling or support.



Within six to 48 hours after not drinking, hallucinations may develop for the more seriously alcohol dependent.  These are usually visual hallucinations but they can also involve sounds and smells.  They can last for a few hours or up to weeks at a time. Also within this time frame after quitting, convulsions or seizures can occur, which is the point at which alcoholism and alcohol withdrawal becomes dangerous if not medically treated.



Chronic alcoholism and it`s severe withdrawal symptoms may progress to delirium tremens (DT`s) after three to five days without alcohol.  The symptoms of DT`s include profound confusion, disorientation, hallucinations, hyperactivity and extreme cardiovascular disturbances.  This condition causes shifts in your breathing, your circulation and your temperature control.  It can cause your heart to race or can cause your blood pressure to increase dramatically and it can cause serious dehydration.
Once DT`s begin, there is no known medical treatment to stop them.  Grand mal seizures, heart attacks and strokes can occur during the DT`s all of these serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be fatal to an alcoholic if not properly treated.

-- Source: http://www.dailystrength.org/c/Alcoholism/forum/6363758-stages-alcohol-withdrawal-symptoms --

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles provides alcohol detox in alcohol treatment as part of our commitment to integrated behavioral healthcare.  If you or a loved one needs help with alcoholism, please call us now at 888-777-8565 or contact us here.

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles makes a daily effort to find treatment news articles that we can share with our readers in the alcohol and drug treatment community.  The external content was found among other articles of equal informational and educational quality.

Southern California Locations for Alcohol and Drug Treatment
Tarzana Treatment Centers has locations all over Southern California in Los Angeles County. Other than our central location in Tarzana, we have facilities in Lancaster in the Antelope Valley, Long Beach, and in Northridge and Reseda in the San Fernando Valley.

Drug Withdrawal

by James Heller 9. September 2009 08:27
According to Webster’s online dictionary, the definition of withdrawal is as follows: A period during which somebody addicted to a drug or other addictive substance stops taking it, causing the person to experience painful or uncomfortable symptoms.

Generalized drug withdrawal has 4 categories, ETOH or alcohol withdrawal, opiate withdrawal, benzodiazepine withdrawal and stimulant withdrawal. All of which, excluding stimulant withdrawal, can be both physically uncomfortable and sometimes fatal.  Severity depends on the amount of the drug abused.

Alcohol appears to be the most life threatening. Alcohol, the legal drug most commonly abused, remains in the body for approximately ½ - 1 day and suppresses the central nervous system. The withdrawal symptoms present themselves almost immediately.  Tremors of the upper extremities can be mild, moderate or severe. The patient’s gait can be stable or unstable, and in more severe cases DT’s (Delirium Tremens) can occur. DT’s are the latent stages of alcohol withdrawal.  The patient has severe tremors of the upper extremities, gait is unsteady, and more often than not the patient is incoherent (disoriented).

Second, there is Opiate withdrawal.  Though very painful and uncomfortable, it is not as life threatening as alcohol withdrawal. Opiates can best be described as any substance derived from the Morphine family (i.e. Heroin, Vicodin, Norco ect.). Opiates depress the central nervous system and can be intravenously injection or ingested. The withdrawal symptoms consist of achy bones, chills, runny nose, diarrhea and vomiting.

Next is Benzodiazepines including Ativan, Klonipin, Xanax and Valium. Benzodiazepine withdrawal is always accompanied by seizures if abruptly discontinued. All benzodiazepines act by enhancing the actions of a natural brain chemical. They affect both the body and the brain. Withdrawal symptoms consist of high levels of anxiety.

Finally, there is stimulant withdrawal. Stimulants include methamphetamine and cocaine. Although they also affect the central nervous system there is generally no physical withdrawal, only psychological withdrawal: whereas, craving to continue the use of these drugs is so over-powering that judgment is impaired.  Individuals routinely places themselves in harm’s way (i.e. prostitution, crime, disease ect,).

In conclusion, anything that is physically or psychologically addictive will cause some type of withdrawal. But withdrawals of any kind should be medically monitored to alleviate the severity of the withdrawal symptoms.

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles provides medical detoxification services for all drugs as part of our commitment to integrated behavioral healthcare in alcohol and drug treatment.  If you or a loved one needs help with alcohol or drug detox, please call us now at 888-777-8565 or contact us here.

Southern California Locations for Alcohol and Drug Treatment
Tarzana Treatment Centers has locations all over Southern California in Los Angeles County. Other than our central location in Tarzana, we have facilities in Lancaster in the Antelope Valley, Long Beach, and in Northridge and Reseda in the San Fernando Valley.

Senior Alcohol Withdrawal Dangers

by James Heller 24. April 2009 14:50
April, 2009 marks the 22nd year of Alcohol Awareness Month.
 
Tarzana Treatment Centers is participating with a series of articles meant to inform and educate the general public about alcohol abuse, dependence and treatment.  Considering that over 21 million Americans meet the criteria for alcohol abuse and over 53 million admit to past-month binge drinking, not to mention the many loved ones affected by each, our efforts are worthwhile.

As we age we become more susceptible to problems related to alcohol and prescription drugs.  Senior alcohol abuse and prescription drug abuse often is the result of self-medicating for physical and emotional issues that afflict older men and women.

One particular danger in cases of senior alcohol abuse or dependence is severe withdrawal symptoms.  There are several reasons that older men and women suddenly quit drinking, unaware of the health risks involved.  One example is quitting for a few days when family or friends visit.  

With emergency hospitalizations, lacking knowledge about alcohol withdrawal symptoms coupled with shame can lead to serious issues.  For example, if an elderly man is admitted to a hospital and a family member needs to give admitting information, they may not mention that he drinks throughout every day due to shame.  This could complicate primary treatment when withdrawals occur because of the hurdle the symptoms create for medical staff.

For those with older family members, a little knowledge about alcohol withdrawal symptoms and their impact on seniors, and alcohol detox, can save a life.  Seniors should consult with their doctors if they abuse alcohol or have become dependent.  It should be noted that older women are at greater risk of developing alcohol problems than older men.

The above examples are meant to encourage readers to seek more information.  A sample of a report by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism follows.  

-- Begin external content --

OLDER WOMEN HAVE INCREASED RISKS FOR ALCOHOL PROBLEMS

Older women tend to have longer life expectancies and to live alone longer than men, and they are less likely than men in the same age group to be financially independent. These physical, social, and psychological factors are sometimes associated with at–risk drinking in older adulthood, so they are especially relevant for older women.

Older women have major physical risk factors that make them particularly susceptible to the negative effects of increased alcohol consumption (Blow 1998). Women of all ages have less lean muscle mass than men, making them more susceptible to the effects of alcohol. In addition, there is an age–related decrease in lean body mass versus total volume of fat, and the resultant decrease in total body mass increases the total distribution of alcohol and other mood–altering chemicals in the body. Both men and women experience losses in lean muscle mass as they age, but women have less lean muscle mass than men throughout adulthood and, therefore, are less able to metabolize alcohol throughout their lives, including into older adulthood (see Blow 1998 for further information). Liver enzymes that metabolize alcohol and certain other drugs become less efficient with age, and central nervous system sensitivity increases with age for both genders. In sum, compared with younger adults, and with older men, older women have an increased sensitivity to alcohol.

Older women also have a heightened response to over–the–counter and prescription medications (Smith 1995; Vestal et al. 1977; Blow 1998). The use and misuse of alcohol and prescription medications are therefore especially risky for women as they age because of their specific vulnerabilities regarding sensitivity to alcohol and medications. For most patients, any alcohol consumption coupled with the use of specific over–the–counter or prescription medications can be a problem. For example, combining alcohol with psychoactive medications such as benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and antidepressants can be especially problematic for this population. Older women are more likely than older men to receive prescriptions for benzodiazepines in particular, and are therefore more likely to be faced with problems related to the interaction of these medications with alcohol (see Blow 1998 for further discussion). There is a paucity of data available on rates of the co–occurrence of alcohol and medication use in older people. This area needs more study.

Because older women generally drink less than older men or abstain from alcohol, health care providers may be less likely to recognize at–risk drinking and alcohol problems in this population. Moreover, few elderly women who abuse alcohol seek help in specialized addiction treatment settings. These problems stand in the way of effective interventions that can improve the quality of life of older women drinking at risky levels.

-- Source: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh26-4/308-315.htm --

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles makes a daily effort to find treatment news articles that we can share with our readers in the alcohol and drug treatment community.  The external content was found among other articles of equal informational and educational quality.

Addressing Delirium Tremens

by James Heller 24. March 2009 07:06
April, 2009 marks the 22nd year of Alcohol Awareness Month.  

Tarzana Treatment Centers is participating with a series of articles meant to inform and educate the general public about alcohol abuse, dependence and treatment.  Considering that over 21 million Americans meet the criteria for alcohol abuse and over 53 million admit to past-month binge drinking, not to mention the many loved ones affected by each, our efforts are worthwhile.

Alcohol dependence causes physical health issues the same as any other drug addiction.  When too much alcohol is introduced to the human body, it is considered a poison as it is slowly damaging vital organs.  And when the alcohol dependent body is denied alcohol, withdrawal symptoms result.  These symptoms are in the form of a hangover at best, and Delirium Tremens (DTs) at their absolute worst.

Delirium Tremens (DTs)


The onset of DTs is rapid and can be fatal if not treated properly.  This is very important information for those who know an alcoholic or a binge drinker.  Since loved ones may be on the lookout for manipulation and deceit, DTs can be misunderstood and the results could be tragic.  The information on this page is in part from the Medline Plus website, and can save a life.

A person does not need to be alcoholic to suffer DTs.  Although uncommon, they can occur in binge drinkers.

Delirium tremens can occur after a period of heavy alcohol drinking, especially when the person does not eat enough food.  It is especially common in those who drink the equivalent of 7 - 8 pints of beer (or 1 pint of "hard" alcohol) every day for several months.  Delirium tremens also commonly affects those who have had a history of habitual alcohol use or alcoholism for more than 10 years.

Keep in mind that DTs are a medical emergency.  Alcohol dependence is a serious disease that affects both the mind and the body.  While a friend with a hangover may be a laughing matter, DTs are no joke.  Contact emergency medical assistance immediately if someone is suffering from DTs.

Symptoms most commonly occur within 72 hours after the last drink. However, they may occur up to 7 - 10 days after the last drink. Symptoms may get worse rapidly.

The symptoms that accompany DTs are listed below:  

    * Body tremors
    * Mental status changes
          o Agitation, irritability
          o Confusion, disorientation
          o Decreased attention span
          o Decreased mental status
                + Deep sleep that persists for a day or longer
                + Stupor, sleepiness, lethargy
                + Usually occurs after acute symptoms
          o Delirium (severe, acute loss of mental functions)
          o Excitement
          o Fear
          o Hallucinations (visual hallucinations such as seeing things that are not present are most common)
          o Highly sensitive to light, sound, touch (sensory hyperacuity)
          o Increased activity
          o Mood changes rapidly
          o Restlessness, excitement
    * Seizures
          o Most common in first 24 - 48 hours after last alcohol consumption
          o Most common in people with previous complications from alcohol withdrawal
          o Usually generalized tonic-clonic seizures
    * Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal
          o Anxiety
          o Depression
          o Difficulty thinking clearly
          o Fatigue
          o Feeling jumpy or nervous
          o Feeling shaky
          o Headache, general, pulsating
          o Insomnia (difficulty falling and staying asleep)
          o Irritability or easily excited
          o Loss of appetite
          o Nausea
          o Pale skin
          o Palpitations (sensation of feeling the heart beat)
          o Rapid emotional changes
          o Sweating, especially the palms of the hands or the face
          o Vomiting

Getting treatment for these symptoms is only the first step to recovery.  Alcohol detox is then needed to cleanse the body of its dependence.  Then treatment for alcoholism follows, most likely residential, to work towards long-term abstinence from alcohol.


Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles makes a daily effort to find treatment news articles that we can share with our readers in the alcohol and drug treatment community.  Portions of the article above were found at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000766.htm among others of equal informational and educational quality.