Category Archives: Alcohol Abuse

is alcohol a drug

Is Alcohol a Drug?

Is Alcohol a Drug?

Many people often ask the question: is alcohol a drug? Because this substance is seen as a socially acceptable form of recreation and is widely available throughout the vast majority of the United States, it can be easy to believe drinking is not akin to using drugs. But this lack of stigma or taboo status doesn’t take away from the fact that alcohol is still the third leading preventable cause of death in the country. Society’s relaxed views on the substance can contribute to a casual, almost indifferent attitude towards alcohol abuse. Because casual drinking is tolerated in society and isn’t frowned upon, it can be difficult to accept that drinking is more than just a harmless form of recreation and can have serious health consequences if one doesn’t moderate their usage.

What is a Drug?

In order to determine whether alcohol can be considered a drug, it’s important to define what a drug is. According to Merriam-Webster, a drug is defined as a substance that has a physiological effect on a person when ingested or introduced to the body. Under this broad definition, it can be easy to answer the question: is alcohol a drug? This is due to the fact that the ingestion of this substance has a direct impact on how a person’s body functions.

While much has been made of the recent opioid crisis, what is often lost in the mix is the fact that alcohol use and abuse constitutes a serious health emergency in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 88,000 people each year die from alcohol-related causes, highlighting the severity of the problem. In fact, according to a 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 6.2% of adults in the US have an alcohol use disorder, an example of how common this drug is impacting the general population.

Alcohol abuse disorder and substance abuse disorder can be used interchangeably when discussing drinking or drug use, showcasing how similar these two conditions can be. Regardless of whether a person is addicted to drugs or alcohol, both substances can cause a person to lose sight of their priorities, creating a strain on their health and relationships with others. In both situations, a person will often ignore their most important responsibilities in favor of drinking or using another drug. Alcohol can be similarly self-destructive to that of using drugs, as it can create a distorted relationship with one’s self and the world they inhabit.

How Excessive Drinking Can Wreck a Person’s Health and Social Life

Alcohol consumption can have profound health implications for a person if they begin to regularly use this substance to excess. Side effects of consuming alcohol include damage to one’s heart, as heavy drinking can weaken the heart and negatively affect how oxygen and nutrients are delivered to your body’s vital organs. This can eventually lead to things such as high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat. An individual’s overall health can be severely impacted by regular alcohol consumption, and other organs such as the liver, brain, kidneys, pancreas, and other areas of one’s body can also be affected.

In addition to clear-cut physical symptoms, there are also cognitive and mental health conditions that can manifest themselves when a person is using alcohol regularly to excess. Things such as lapses in memory and coordination, nerve damage, and mood dysregulation can all be the result of alcohol consumption. A person’s overall sense of self-esteem can be depleted through an alcohol abuse disorder, which can also exacerbate existing mental health conditions. An increase in things such as anxiety can also develop as the result of a person’s drinking.

Outside of the physical effects to one’s body, an addiction to alcohol can also result in serious negative consequences to one’s social life. Once a person begins to prioritize their substance abuse above the people most important in their life, their relationships will begin to suffer. Eventually, a person may feel as though the only people they can comfortably associate with are those who share a person’s level of substance abuse.

Addressing the Problem Proactively

If alcohol is your drug of choice and you find yourself struggling to maintain control, it’s critical to take the initiative to regain control of your direction in life. Often, this can require seeking professional outside help in order to facilitate and speed up one’s path to recovery. Treatment for alcohol use disorder can include a number of serious health interventions that can require medical supervision in certain cases where a physical detox is required. It can also involve a psychotherapeutic component as a way to not only quit alcohol but determine why the habit formed to begin with.

Attempting to overcome an addiction to drugs or alcohol can feel like an uphill battle, especially if you’re going it alone without any outside support. If you’re seeking support to make this important self-transformation a reality and are looking for an excellent addiction treatment center, contact Desert Cove Recovery today. Our trusted team will help guide you through the rehab process, working side-by-side with you to create a treatment plan that works and have you on the path to a new lease on life.

quit drinking for good

You Can Quit Drinking for Good

You Can Quit Drinking for Good

Many alcoholics may have trouble admitting they have a drinking problem because alcohol is socially accepted as opposed to other drugs that lead to addiction. But, statistics show that one in eight Americans is an alcoholic. That amounts to more than 12 percent of the U.S. population. Knowing that excessive drinking is a problem many people face can help someone get the help they need to quit drinking for good. Admitting there is a problem is the first step; one that can be the most difficult to face.

Why It Can Be Difficult to Quit Drinking for Good

Once you admit you have a drinking problem, the next step is to seek help. If you think you can do this alone, you may want to reconsider. Many people try it on their own and run into one or more of these issues that prevent them from quitting drinking.

Long-term alcohol use affects brain chemistry

When you decide you want to stop drinking, it’s not as easy as just making a conscious decision. When you use alcohol for a long period of time, your brain chemistry changes leaving you feeling as though you need alcohol to function. Professionals know how to safely handle withdrawal symptoms as you detox from alcohol.

You may experience severe withdrawal symptoms

When people try to quit drinking on their own, they may experience withdrawal symptoms they can’t handle on their own. These can include nausea, vomiting, trembling, anxiety, and much more. At an alcohol rehab program, professionals can determine how to help you detox from alcohol and deal with withdrawal symptoms in a safe way so that you’re not tempted to drink again.
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Alcohol is socially accepted

Unlike drugs, which are illegal, alcohol is legal and socially accepted. If you’re out with friends or at a party, you may be offered a drink or two by people who don’t realize you have an addiction. While they may be able to stop at that point, it’s different for you. If you are trying to quit on your own and are offered alcohol while you’re out, quitting can become increasingly difficult.

How Rehab Can Help for Long-Term Recovery

If you have realized you have an alcohol problem and are ready to seek the help you need to live a sober life, extended care rehab can help. Many people have the misconception that alcohol rehab programs solely consist of AA meetings. While meetings can be part of the recovery process, they are not the entire process. Since everyone’s addiction is treated differently, so is everyone’s recovery.

When you seek help, you will first be evaluated to see if detox is necessary. No other therapy can begin until your body is free from the substance you’ve become addicted to. Professionals at the rehab facility will assure that your detox is medically monitored and that any withdrawal symptoms are dealt with safely by a medical team.

From that point, the course of your treatment will be determined. Some people do well in shortened programs, depending on their level of addiction, while others need more time to sort through their issues and start living a sober life. Whichever category you fall into is perfectly fine. The important thing is that you are now seeking the help you need. Everything else will begin to fall into place as long as you are following the steps of your program and putting in the work that is necessary to succeed.

In order to help you recover, you will likely go through therapy sessions to help you determine what led to your addiction. This is an important part of the recovery process because you need to learn what triggers to avoid, or how to deal with those triggers should you not be able to completely avoid them, in order to get well.

Often times hearing other people’s stories through group sessions can help people recover because they realize they are truly not alone. Knowing that there are other people who are going through the same thing at the same time can be comforting. It can also help to build new friendships and bonds with people who have the same goals.

How Extended Care Rehab Can Help

For some people, short term programs are enough, but for others, extended care rehab is needed. This will be determined by your clinician. The benefits of extended care rehab are that you can work on physical and body issues to help with your recovery. These areas may not be entirely addressed during a regular rehab stay.

At Desert Cove Recovery extended care recovery programs are available to those who need it. During this program, you can expect individual therapy sessions where a therapist will address your issues one-on-one. There are also group therapy sessions available as well as a relapse prevention program that will focus specifically on how to maintain your sobriety.

The final part of the process relies on the transition process to help you succeed out in the world once you leave the program. Once you do leave, you may still attend meetings from time to time on an outpatient basis.

If you’re ready to start your path to recovery, contact Desert Cove Recovery today. One of our caring staff members will answer your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also fill out an online form to get in contact with our team. They will help you to begin living a sober life.

high functioning addiction

Treatment for High Functioning Addiction

Treatment for High Functioning Addiction

Those who are suffering from high functioning addiction are often the most difficult to help. This is partly because they hide their addictions so well, even from themselves in many cases. However, it’s reasonably common as it’s estimated that a fifth of alcoholics have been defined as “functional.”

As the phrase implies, these individuals are high functioning members of society as that relates to their jobs, relationships and otherwise and have continued to be so while in the process of becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs. In other words, they do not present the stereotypical image of someone who is suffering from an addiction. This is often problematic as it results in both the person suffering from the addiction and his or her family, friends and co-workers often denying that an addiction exists when it really does.

In many cases, those with this type of addiction work and experience success in high-profile positions in society and continue to do so while using a considerable amount of alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately, those in these situations are also less apt to get help for it. For example, some may believe that they are too valuable at work to take the time away from it that is necessary to get that help.

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Signs of High Functioning Addiction

One of the toughest things about addiction of this type is that those who care about the person are oftentimes hesitant to say anything when it appears that the addiction is not impacting the person’s life. But it is important to do so as this will, in most cases, only worsen as time passes.

What are some of the signs to look out for?

As far as alcohol goes, simply drinking a considerable amount on a regular basis is cause for concern even if the person appears to not be affected by it as far as family or work goes. For example, a man consuming at least 14 drinks a week or a woman having seven drinks in that time frame are both significant developments that should be disconcerting.

Acting defensive or joking about it when asked about how much is being consumed or hiding it should be noted as well.

Focusing on the substance instead of taking care of themselves in ways such as eating and personal hygiene is another warning sign to consider. Other ones include not socializing as much as had been the case before and accomplishing less at work, doing closer to the minimum expected and not going above and beyond if the latter had been the norm. A decreased interest in hobbies and other activities is another sign.

The Need for Rehab

Many who are in need of rehab do not take advantage of it because of fears of what spending one or more months in rehab might do to their place of employment as well as to themselves in relation to their jobs and reputations. However, if someone is addicted, that person needs to overcome that addiction now, before it worsens. The rehab experience may not be an enjoyable one, but it is one that is very much for the best in the long term.

It should also be considered that, in most cases, family is an especially important element. Oftentimes, someone who is addicted will only consider getting rehab if they realize that sacrificing their substance use is for the good of their family.

Perhaps the biggest warning sign that rehab is necessary occurs when someone defends to himself or herself the need to continue to work by saying that it is necessary in order to continue to receive access to alcohol or drugs. Alcohol/drugs should never be the focus.

If someone you care for is suffering from this, it will likely not be an easy conversation to have, discussing the importance of rehab, but it’s important to stress that need.

How Can Rehab Help?

There are two primary ways that those with a high functioning addiction will be helped by rehab. One is that the addiction is real even if it may not appear so by them or those around them. In other words, the impact on the brain has occurred, and this needs to be reversed for the health of the individual. The other is that somebody who is high functioning while suffering from an addiction today may be non functioning tomorrow. Even if everything appears to be going fine for someone who is high functioning, the possibility of the addiction worsening quickly and significantly is very much there.

If you or somebody you know is suffering from an addiction, whether that’s as a high functioning person or as a low functioning one, please contact Desert Cove Recovery, and we will ensure that help is provided so that short- and long-term recovery can start taking place.

Mayor Proposes Alcohol Tax to Pay for Substance Abuse Treatment

The mayor of Anchorage, AK Ethan Berkowitz wants to ask voters’ permission to enact a new retail sales tax that would be dedicated to substance abuse treatment and homelessness services. The five percent tax is necessary, since state-level support is declining.

Local Tax to be Used to Pay for Public Health Programs

This local tax would be collected and used for a number of public health and safety programs, including the following:

• Clearing illegal camps
• A substance abuse treatment center
• An expanded Anchorage Safety Patrol

The tax money collected could also be used for:

• Cold-weather housing and shelter
• Storing personal property seized from illegal camps
• Anchorage’s “Mobile Intervention Team,” made up of social workers and a firefighter, who triage homeless campers
• Building a future “Alaska Center for Treatment,” or matching funds for private investment in a center

Mayor Berkowitz stated recently that unfortunately alcohol is “an incredibly profitable business in this town.” He went on to say that it’s a cost-causer that isn’t paying the cost.

Voter Majority Needed to Bring in New Alcohol Tax for Treatment

The tax proposal will be introduced to the Alaska Assembly shortly. It needs eight Assembly votes to be placed on the April 2019 ballot. If a majority of voters indicate they are in favor of the measure, the new tax will be brought into effect.

Three Assembly members have signed on to co-sponsor the tax proposal: Dick Traini, Eric Croft and Felix Rivera.

This isn’t the first time an alcohol tax has been proposed to the Assembly. Similar measures have been proposed on seven other occasions since 1984. Traini was involved in three of those efforts (1994, 2015 and 2017). Citizens have pushed for ballot initiatives in 2004 and 2007.

The city can choose to dedicate revenue to specific programs. According to Mayor Berkowitz, the alcohol tax would raise $11-$15 million. This amount would replace state revenue that has fallen in recent years.

The tax would amount to the following for different types of alcohol bought in Anchorage:

• $0.40 on a six-pack of beer
• $0.50 for a $10 mixed drink
• $1.75 for a $35 bottle of wine
• $2.50 for a $50 bottle of liquor

The Assembly could create exemptions for certain types of alcohol.

report on substance abuse, alcohol abuse

Report on Substance Use: Alcohol Holds No. 1 Spot

Reports about the opioid crisis and drugs fentanyl, carfentanil and heroin have dominated recent headlines. During the years 200-2016, the number of lives lost to opioids has more than quadrupled. Though opioids have taken up a lot of our collective attention during the first part of the twenty-first century, it would be a mistake to ignore another addictive substances that have had a negative impact on people’s lives: alcohol.

A new report released from the California Health Care Foundation looked at substance use disorders in California. It examined the impact of alcohol, opioid and other substance use over time. Although this particular report was specific to California, the figures are a fair representation for situations in Arizona and nationwide as well.

Key Findings from Substance Abuse Report

The report, entitled “Substance Use in California: A Look at Addiction and Treatment,” has several key findings, including:

  • Alcohol use disorder was the most common type of substance use disorder among California residents. Approximately six percent of Californians met the criteria for alcohol dependence. Three percent of state residents met the criteria for dependence on illicit drugs.
  • Experimenting with drugs and alcohol is likely to start during the adolescent years. By the time they reach Grade 11, over half of students in California have tried alcohol and close to 40 percent have tried marijuana.
  • Young adults (aged 18-25) were most likely to develop substance use disorders, with the likelihood close to twice the state average.
  • The number of Emergency Department visits related to heroin in California has tripled during the years between 2006-2017.
  • Alcohol was responsible for more nonfatal Emergency Department visits in California than all other drug diagnoses combined.

Substance Abuse Disorders Treatable

Substance use disorders, including alcohol use disorder, can be treated and managed. Like other chronic illnesses, the risk of relapse is a real and ongoing one. Behavioral therapy helps people with substance use disorders change unhealthy coping mechanisms for new ways of dealing with destructive behaviors. Medications can be used to control cravings for opioids and alcohol and reduce the physical reward a user experiences when they are ingested.

Naltrexone is among the most common medications, which is used in many different forms. Vivitrol is an monthly injectable version of naltrexone that is often used to help fight cravings.

changes in alcohol abuse

Physiological Changes in Alcohol Abuse

Physiological Changes in Alcohol Abuse

When it comes to all of the addictive substances available in the United States, alcohol is the one that is most commonly used. Statistics from the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence show that one in every 12 Americans suffer from alcohol abuse.

When someone is dealing with alcohol abuse, he or she is also dealing with the physiological changes in alcohol abuse. These can have devastating effects on different parts and functions of the body. Statistics show that 88,000 deaths a year are attributed to excessive alcohol abuse.

The effects alcohol can have on the body over time can impair everyday functions and impact vital organs. These include damage and functions involving the:

  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Brain
  • Heart

Let’s take a closer look at the physiological changes in alcohol abuse when it comes to these vital organs.

Changes in Alcohol Abuse & Your Liver

The liver helps to break down and remove harmful substances from the body. This includes alcohol. When someone abuses alcohol, the liver can become inflamed, leading to disease. This inflammation leads to scarring on the liver referred to as cirrhosis. This destroys the liver, making it more difficult for the body to rid itself of toxins. When toxins and waste build up in the body, the consequences can be life-threatening.

Changes in Alcohol Abuse & Your Pancreas

Alcohol abuse can also have damaging effects on the pancreas. The pancreas helps to regulate the body’s insulin levels and how it responds to glucose. When someone drinks too much alcohol, it can lead to an abnormal activation of digestive enzymes that the pancreas produces. This can cause an inflamed pancreas or a condition called pancreatitis.

When the pancreas isn’t working properly it can also prevent the body from making enough insulin to use sugar. This can cause extremes in blood sugar levels that range from levels either too high or too low. Either case harms the body and can lead to diabetes or other medical conditions.

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changes in alcohol abuse

Changes in Alcohol Abuse & Your Brain

Excessive drinking and alcohol abuse impair a person’s judgment and reasoning. But, the effects on the brain go much deeper. Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to frontal lobe damage in the brain. This is the part of the brain that controls emotions, short-term memory, and judgment, among other things. When there is chronic alcohol abuse, there is also the risk of permanent brain damage.

Change in Alcohol Abuse & Your Heart

Alcohol abuse also puts life-threatening pressure on the heart. When a person drinks too much they put themselves at greater risk for:

  • Stroke
  • High-Blood Pressure
  • Irregular Heartbeats
  • Cardiomyopathy (stretching & drooping of the heart muscle)

Long-term alcohol abuse weakens and thins the heart muscle. This prohibits the body from pumping blood effectively, leading to the problems mentioned above which can be life-threatening.

Other Physiological Changes in Alcohol Abuse

Besides the impact alcohol can have on the organs, it can also lead to other health issues because excessive drinking lowers the immune system. This impacts your body’s ability to fight off disease and makes it more susceptible to illnesses like tuberculosis and pneumonia. Drinking excessively even just one time slows your body’s ability to fight disease, even 24 hours after being intoxicated.

The effects of alcohol abuse can also be seen in reproductive health. Alcohol abuse in men can lead to erectile dysfunction and a lowered libido. Women may experience irregular menstruation cycles or may stop menstruating altogether, leading to fertility problems.

Alcohol abuse can also increase the risk of developing certain types of cancers like:

  • Breast cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Oral cancer
  • Throat cancer

It can also take its toll on bones in the body, making bones even more fragile and at greater risk for fractures in the event of a fall. Muscle weakness, cramping, and even muscle atrophy can occur with long-term excessive drinking.

Seeking Help from Arizona Alcohol Treatment

For those who may be abusing alcohol, realizing the need for help may be most difficult.  Desert Cove Recovery, Arizona alcohol treatment facility, is here with a variety of treatment programs. For more information, contact us and one of our highly trained staff members will contact you. Let us help you get on the path to recovery and better overall health.

DUI in arizona

Effects of DUI in Arizona & Beyond

Effects of DUI in Arizona & Beyond

Among the most alarming displays of alcohol abuse is the problem of driving while under the influence. There is potential for devastating self-harm, but also the staggering loss of innocent lives taken by someone who simply tried to drive while inebriated is hard to bear. The effects of DUI in Arizona and across the country are a national tragedy, resulting in an average of 28 deaths per day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But the costs are staggering from financial, social, and interpersonal perspectives as well.

Frequently, the costs of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) are listed as direct costs and indirect costs, also being referred to as “hidden” costs. Those hidden costs are hard to quantify when you factor in some of the most damaging repercussions of alcohol abuse. These can include the erosion of family trust, higher divorce rates, the loss of friends or promotions at work that never came because management began to have doubts about an alcohol abuser’s abilities to handle the job.

DUI in Arizona

Straight off the books, a DUI in Arizona for a first offense under a “standard” conviction results in a 10-day incarceration, fines of about $1,500 and an $80 monitoring fee. Screenings for substance abuse diagnosis and counseling are required and licenses can be suspended 90 days or revoked for a year. An interlock device is also attached to the driver’s car for 12 months.

The so-called “standard” offense in Arizona is the term used for a DUI offense in which the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is greater than 0.08 percent, but less than 0.15 percent. If the BAC is between 0.15 percent and 0.2 percent – termed an “extreme” DUI incident – the penalties go up accordingly. There is also a “super extreme” category for BAC levels above 0.2 percent and an increase in penalties for repeat offenders.

Furthermore, a driver convicted of a DUI in Arizona can also be charged with endangering the welfare of a child, reckless driving and other traffic offences that depend on the circumstances and on the level of alcohol in the driver’s bloodstream.

Among the direct costs, a conviction of DUI invariably results in significantly higher insurance rate among those convicted. This factor hits teenagers the hardest, given the risk pool they are thrown into. Arizona has a zero-tolerance rule that results in a DUI conviction for a teenager found driving with any alcohol in their system.

Commercial drivers in Arizona are also subjected to stiffer rules with a DUI conviction available for drivers with just 0.04 percent BAC levels.

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Effects of DUI in Arizona

“Sobering Stats”

In 2015, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention calculated their list of hidden costs related to alcohol abuse. The Washington Post reported on these, calling the list “a pile of sobering stats.” This list totaled $249 billion per year and included early mortality, which was given a value of $75 billion. It also included loss of work productivity ($82 billion), health-care costs ($28 billion), crime ($25 billion) and car crashes ($13 billion).

But what about those attorney fees, insurance rate hikes and other costs? According to BACtrack, a maker of blood alcohol detection devices, the effects of DUI or DWI convictions vary from state to state, averaging around $20,000 for a first time offense. This doesn’t include the possible loss of a job or harm done to property or to a person.

In Texas, the effects of DUI, excluding harm to property or people, range from $9,000 to $24,000. In Illinois, the state government estimates an average cost of $14,660 for a first-time offence.

Some organizations have gone as far as calculating the effects of DUI as including the costs of taking bus, train or taxi to work given the loss of driving privileges.

Off the charts, how can you put a price on the damage done to personal relationships, the effects of unpredictable and self-destructive behavior has on children in the household or the increased divorce rates? And how can you calculate the cost of the emotional damage done to the survivor of an alcohol-related traffic accident?

MADD Applauds Arizona

According to the highly respected MADD organization (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), “on average two in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetimes.”

The good news for Arizona also comes from the MADD organization, which unsmilingly rates each state according to their efforts to control drunk driving. In their five-star rating system, only four states merit a 4.5 star rating: Maryland, Mississippi, West Virginia and Arizona.

According to MADD, Arizona earns a full star for their use of interlock monitoring for all those convicted with alcohol-related driving offences, a full star for the use of sobriety checkpoints, a star for child endangerment laws and a star for their zero-tolerance on those drivers who refuse to take a breathalyzer test.

The state falls short on their license revocation policy, where MADD awarded Arizona half a star. Under the MADD rating system, the lowest rating is 1.5 awarded to one state: South Dakota. No states, according to MADD, are currently earning a five-star rating.

If you or someone you know engages in excessive drinking, contact our staff at Desert Cove Recovery today. Our accredited rehab facility will work alongside you as you start your recovery.

Marijuana Use, Alcohol Abuse Lead to Accelerated Brain Aging

The results of one of the largest brain imaging studies have found the largest drivers of brain aging. Marijuana use and alcohol abuse are among the top things that lead to brain aging. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) round out the top five factors that drive premature brain aging.

Substance Abuse Research Collaborative

brain agingThe study, which was conducted by researchers at Google, Amen Clinics, John’s Hopkins University, and the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, San Francisco, looked at 62,454 brain scans of more than 30,000 people ranging in age from nine months to 105 years. Researchers examined “regional cerebral flow in the brain” and how it’s reduced when a person experiences different disorders.

The results of the study were published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Dr. Daniel G. Amen, a psychiatrist and the study’ lead author, stated that the marijuana abuse result was “especially important,’ since we are looking at it as being a harmless substance. He said that the study results should make people pause to think about that.

Marijuana abuse was found to age the brain by 2.8 years, according to the scientists. Alcohol abuse ages it by 0.6 years, ADHD ages it by 1.4 years and bipolar disorder causes the brain to age by 1.6 years. Schizophrenia makes the brain age by an additional four years.

The researchers looked at 128 regions of the brain to determine a patient’s chronological age. When brain scan age didn’t match the patient’s chronological age, the researchers determined accelerated aging had occurred.

Marijuana Causes Brain Aging

The Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas referred to a similar study that compared marijuana use to brain aging and development. It described how people who started using marijuana at the age of 16 (or younger) had different forms of brain development. When people waited until after the age of 16 to start using marijuana, the scientists found the opposite effect; they experienced accelerated brain aging.

Dr. Francesca Filbey from the Center for Brain Health stated that studies show that when someone starts using marijuana results in very different effects.

Deep Brain Stimulation May Treat Severe Alcohol Addiction in the Future

Despite all the attention that has been paid to the current opioid crisis, alcohol addiction hasn’t gone anywhere. According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, rates of alcohol use disorder rose by just over 49 percent in the US population in the years 2001-2013. One in eight adults meets the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Mild Electrical Current Used

Researchers at Stanford University have found that deep brain stimulation (DBS) could be a possible treatment for even the most severe cases of alcoholism. The results of the study, which were published in the journal Neurosurgical Focus, involves sending a mild electrical current through the affected person’s brain.

How Body Responds to Alcohol

When alcohol is consumed, the brain naturally releases dopamine. This is the body’s “feel good” neurotransmitter, which is released during pleasurable activities, like watching a movie, eating a good meal, exercising or having sex. When the brain becomes overstimulated by drinking alcohol, it associates alcohol with pleasurable experiences.

If that person continues drinking regularly and consumes large amounts of alcohol, the brain becomes desensitized to the release of dopamine. Alcohol no longer provides the same level of enjoyment it once did. The person needs to drink more alcohol to feel pleasure from the experience. 

The Slide Toward Addiction

The slope toward addiction starts at the point when the brain compensates for alcohol’s depressant effects by increasing its glutamate function. Glutamates cause cells to increase their level of activity. In the case of someone with AUD, being around alcohol feels exciting and this feeling continues when alcohol is no longer present. He has to continue drinking to feel normal and less excited.

The longer someone has been drinking, the harder it is to stop. Regular, high-level consumption of alcohol rewires the brain and affects the decision-making process that tells an alcoholic not to drink.

Deep Brain Stimulation Technique for AUD

Deep brain stimulation is already being used to treat Parkinson’s Disease and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Scientists have also noticed that this type of therapy also reduced alcohol cravings in patients.

Dr. Casey Halpern, an assistant professor of neurosurgery at Stanford University, stated that DBS is a minimally invasive form of brain surgery. When treating Parkinson’s, doctors place deep brain stimulators to restore normal functioning to dysfunctional parts of the brain. Patients improve right away when a small dose of current is applied to these areas. Dr. Halpern went on to say that a similar treatment should possibly be able to treat alcoholism.

This may sound like an extreme method of treating AUD. Researchers point out that DBS is one of the least invasive and safest procedures performed by neurosurgeons.

To date, DBS has not been approved as an AUD treatment by the US Food and Drug Administration. This status may change at a later date as more positive evidence is gathered by researchers.

no safe level of alcohol consumption

“No Safe Level” of Alcohol Consumption, New Study Finds

A number of reports in the media have touted the possible health benefits of drinking alcohol in moderation. The findings of a new study warn the public that the potential harms associated with alcohol consumption significantly outweigh any potential benefits. Researchers analyzed data compiled on 28 million people living at various locations worldwide. They concluded that there is “no safe level” of alcohol consumption, once the risks were considered.

Alcohol Played Role in 2.8 Million Deaths

The researchers’ analysis showed that alcohol played a role in 2.8 million deaths worldwide annually. Close to seven percent of men and just over two percent of women on the planet die from alcohol-related health issues every year. The results of the study were published in the journal, The Lancet.

Drinking alcohol regularly can negatively impact the body’s tissues and organs. Binge drinking (defined by the Centers for Disease Control as a man consuming five or more drinks in two hours or a woman consuming four or more drinks in two hours) can lead to injuries and alcohol poisoning. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) puts those living with it at higher risk for committing violence and harming themselves.

Alcohol Harms Increase with Amount Consumed

The lead author of the study, Dr. Max Griswold, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, explains that previous studies have found that alcohol has a protective effect from some medical conditions. However, the “combined health risks” associated with alcohol increase with the amount of alcohol consumed. Dr. Griswold explains that the “strong association” between drinking alcohol and the risk of infectious diseases, injuries and cancer offset the protective effects for heart disease in women. He said that having one alcoholic drink daily is associated with a small level of health risks, rising quickly as people drink higher levels of alcohol.

The study authors looked at data gathered from 694 studies to determine how common drinking is worldwide. They looked at 592 studies with data collected in 195 countries to study health risks associated with alcohol.

Alcohol was one of the leading risk factors for premature deaths and disease in 2016. For people in the 15-49 age group, alcohol was the leading risk factor: 12.2 deaths for men and 3.8 deaths for women were connected to it. Alcohol-related deaths in this group included road injuries, self-harm and tuberculosis.

The risk of developing all other health issues increased along with the number of alcoholic beverages consumed daily. The number of harms outweighed the potential benefits, according to the study’s authors.