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Alcohol Misuse and Abuse: Withdrawal Symptoms & The Detox Process

The abuse of alcohol could be considered a byproduct of popular culture. There is no shortage of opportunities to drink socially. Now that pandemic restrictions are being relaxed globally, happy hours, work functions, holiday parties, and gatherings at bars or restaurants are a part of day-to-day life. There is really no debating it, alcohol consumption is commonplace in our society.

Although not all recreational activities lead to alcohol dependency, the chances of alcohol misuse seem to magnify for those who drink more heavily than their peers.

What is Alcohol Dependency?

Alcohol use disorder, more commonly known as “alcoholism,” is a physical dependency on alcohol and causes disruption in day-to-day life. Prolonged alcohol dependency is harmful to your physical and mental health. Even if you think you have a mild dependency, it can escalate to a more serious problem if not addressed.

Although being dependent does not mean you are addicted, they are closely linked. Addiction occurs when the brain changes your behavior, making alcohol a priority regardless of harm to self and others. If not treated, addiction to alcohol can be deadly.

Alcohol Consumption Statistics

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, has compiled the following statistics for alcohol consumption from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Among people aged 12 or older in 2020…

  • 162.5 million people (or 58.7%) used tobacco, alcohol, or an illicit drug in the past month (also defined as “current use”), that’s 138.5 million people who drank alcohol
  • 61.6 million people (or 22.2% of alcohol consumers) were binge alcohol users in the past month
  • The percentage of binge drinkers was highest among young adults aged 18 to 25 (31.4% or 10.5 million people)

Many researchers are now reporting that during the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in the consumption of alcohol as well as increases in related harms associated with alcohol. These findings are in direct correlation with the increases in stress and social isolation at the beginning of the pandemic. Co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety also play a large part in one’s participation in heavy drinking.

The popularization of drinking in a social setting is not always the cause of negative effects, but the increased need for treatment for alcohol use disorder tells a very different story.

How to Determine if Alcohol Dependency is a Problem

If you’re trying to assess if you or your loved one may have a problem with alcohol, taking a quick assessment will offer some clarity. From there, you can make a decision as to get them involved with professional assistance or treatment.

Alcohol Dependency Evaluation Questions

These have been adapted from our sister facility, Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute.

  1. Have you been consuming large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis?
  2. Have you attempted to limit or stop your alcohol use, but can’t do it on your own?
  3. Do you constantly end up in ‘recovery mode’ due to alcohol abuse?
  4. Do you find yourself craving alcohol?
  5. Is alcohol use negatively affecting your work, school, or relationships?
  6. Do you want to do alcohol in spite of it ruining your relationships?

Treatment for Alcohol Dependency

The American Addiction Centers defines Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS) as a set of symptoms that occur when someone who is physically dependent upon alcohol suddenly stops drinking or drastically reduces their alcohol intake.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Mood Changes
  • Gastrointestinal Disturbances
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Increased Blood Pressure or Heart Rate
  • Hypothermia
  • Rapid Abnormal Breathing 
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

After long-term and heavy alcohol consumption, your brain has most likely made adjustments to drinking. According to the Harvard Medical School, symptoms and severity of withdrawals, when you stop drinking, may differ from person to person, and you may need hospital treatment. Detox and withdrawals can take 2 to 7 days and is done in a hospital or inpatient treatment center.

How To Get the Help You Need for Alcohol Dependency

Trying to address the problems related to alcohol dependency for yourself or a loved one can be an overwhelming task and dangerous if you try to go it alone. Due to the physical and mental challenges of alcohol detox, it’s best to seek professional help. At Plum Creek Recovery Ranch, we can assist you in getting enrolled in the right detoxification program with 24/7 monitoring from medical professionals.

If you have already finished your detox treatment and are looking for a comfortable, safe and supportive environment that builds connection, clarity, and hope in your life, Plum Creek Recovery Ranch’s residential treatment would be a good fit for you.

Located just outside of Austin, Texas on 200 acres of working ranch land, Plum Creek Recovery Ranch offers a comprehensive, clinical program that addresses the whole person–body, mind, and spirit. For more information or for a confidential assessment with one of our licensed counselors, call 512-398-3000.

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