Alcohol use disorder is a very real disease that affects numerous people. Alcohol is addictive because it releases endorphins inside of the reward centers in the brain.3 Alcohol use disorder can lead to health, financial, and social problems.
Alcohol is widely used in the United States. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 85.6% of people 18+ report that they have drunk alcohol at some point during their life.4
Additionally, 25.8% of people said they participated in binge drinking, which is drinking multiple standard drinks within a short period, making one intoxicated. Binge drinking consistently can lead to alcoholism, more properly known as alcohol use disorder.
Currently, 14.5 million people 12 years or older suffer from alcohol use disorder. That is nearly 7% of men and 4% of women. Out of those, 414,000 are adolescents. Because of this fact, nearly 95,000 people die every year due to alcohol-related deaths inside of the US.4
The effects of alcohol can be felt within 5-10 minutes of taking a drink because alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream when consumed through the stomach and small intestine.5
Normally, the effects of alcohol reach their peak between 30-90 minutes after consumption. However, the effects will vary depending on how much alcohol is consumed during a timeframe. It takes the liver one hour to break down one standard drink. When someone consumes more than one standard drink per hour, their blood alcohol concentration will start to rise and drunkenness kicks in (Health Promotion Agency, n.d.).
There are multiple signs of alcohol addiction. Some of the signs will deal more with health, while some will deal with behavioral changes.
Some behavioral signs of alcohol addiction are as follows:7
The brain is one of the most affected areas in the body when it comes to alcohol consumption. Long-term use of alcohol can cause the frontal lobe to shrink. This shrinkage can cause a fogginess, making it difficult to make decisions, and it can cause serious behavior changes.
For some people, alcohol use disorder causes hallucinations, both short and long-term. When someone consumes too much alcohol in a short period, they may experience blackouts. Finally, people can become dependent on the substance and suffer from addiction.8
The leading cause of death in the United States is cardiovascular disease. Long-term alcohol abuse can damage the heart severely. Chronic drinking is the leading cause of a cardiovascular disease.8
Several myths surround how to get alcohol out of your system. One of the biggest myths is that caffeine/coffee will help someone sober up. However, the liver can only break down one drink per hour. Alcohol will stay in your system until you’ve had enough time to break down the amount of alcohol consumed.
Another myth is that forcing yourself to throw up will help get rid of the alcohol in your body. Because alcohol flows into the bloodstream within five minutes of consuming it, throwing up will get rid of almost no alcohol. Instead, it will only make you feel sick.
Taking a shower will not help someone become alert. Eating a lot of food will not help someone sober up. Ultimately, the only thing that will get alcohol out of your system is time. Drinking water will help with hangover symptoms and dehydration. However, it will take approximately one hour per standard drink consumed for your body to break down the alcohol in your system.
Alcohol use disorder is very serious. The withdrawal symptoms can be extreme and possibly fatal. Therefore, someone must recover under the supervision of a medical professional.
Many people will go to therapy once they have gone through withdrawal, including drug therapy or counseling. The most common methods are cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychotherapy. The goal of therapy is to help a person learn new ways to cope with life and change their behaviors.
Many times, chronic alcohol use will continue to cause health issues after a person sobers up. Due to the damage that has been done to the liver, heart, lungs, and pancreas, doctors will normally continue treatment to help with such issues. Multiple check-ins per year are necessary to make sure damage does not progress into more serious health concerns down the road.
Alcohol has multiple harmful effects on a person’s body and mind. If you are struggling with alcohol use disorder, please reach out to a medical professional, a rehab facility, or even an Alcoholics Anonymous group in your area.