Many people who drink alcohol also have issues with other types of substance abuse, anger, anxiety, behavioral addictions, eating disorders, bulimia, binge eating, depression, grief, parenting, relationships, self-esteem, time management. Counseling, education and support groups are often helpful. Alcohol is a drug that produces a dual effect on the body: a depressant or relaxing effect that lasts a relatively short time, and a weaker exciting or stimulating effect that persists about six times as long as the depressant effect. In a quiet, nonsocial environment people often easily feel the sedation and drowsiness produced by alcohol. In a social or exciting environment or situation the depressant effect often helps people “relax” and lose their inhibitions and stimulant influence often leads to impulsive and sometimes aggressive behavior. The drinker may be excited, talkative, vivacious, self-confident, and general loss of self restraint. As the person drinks more, and during chronic intoxication, the alcohol produces more of the same effects. There may be slurred speech, staggering, loss of emotional control, stupor from which arousal is difficult, severe respiratory depression, coma, and death.
Since the stimulant effects last longer than the depressant effects, the alcohol is also responsible for causing the jittery, anxious feeling most people get (That they usually tame with another drink). People prone to panic attacks of high anxiety often have “episodes” after heavy drinking. Alcohol affects the serotonin (happy chemicals) in your brain as well. A very simple explanation is that when you drink, your body uses more happy chemicals than usual, causing you to feel good in the moment. Unfortunately, when the alcohol wears off, you have used up too much of those chemicals and feel depressed. It takes your body a couple of days to replenish the supply from even one night of heavy drinking.
¼ oz. of alcohol is metabolized every hour. The legal limit is .08, but impairment is seen at .02 in nonalcoholics As it is broken down by the body, alcohol and its by-products are toxic or irritating to cells and tissues and disrupts body chemistry putting people at greater risk for diseases.
Things that affect alcohol’s effects:
How much you drink
How much you weigh
What is in your stomach
Other drugs/medications you are on
Type of mixer used
Type of alcohol drank
Temperature of the drink
Withdrawal symptoms include restlessness, shakiness, confusion, increased blood pressure, hyperventilation, hallucination, and convulsions. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are usually far more dangerous than those of other drugs. Severity of the symptoms depends on the length of alcohol abuse and the degree of intoxication. Typically, symptoms begin within the first 24 hours after the last drink, reach their peak intensity within two or three days, and disappear within one or two weeks. During the first day of withdrawal, there may be headaches, anxiety, involuntary twitching of muscles, tremor of hands, weakness, insomnia, and nausea.
Alcohol detoxification can be life threatening. There may be a fall in blood pressure; fever; delirium characterized by disorientation, delusions, and visual hallucinations; and convulsions. The fever, delirium, and convulsions are the most serious symptoms and have proved fatal in a number of instances. Early alcoholic drinking may produce the following specific medical conditions:
Loss of control of eye muscles
Increased susceptibility to infections
Constant flushing of facial edema
Increase in blood alcohol level
Increase in blood pressure
Chronic alcohol drinking produces even more severe conditions, some of which may be irreversible, such as:
Korsokoff Syndrome (vitamin B deficiency)
Cancer of the tongue, mouth, or pharynx, hypopharynx, esophagus, and liver
In fact, the brains of some alcoholics after death are so soft, pulpy, and deteriorated that they are not suitable for dissection by medical students who need to study brain structure.
Depending upon the severity of the symptoms, complications due to use, co-occurring mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia, the level of motivation for change and the health/supportiveness of the recovery environment/support system, treatment may be able to be accomplished with a combination of self-help groups and outpatient therapy (online or face-to-face) or may require more intensive treatment up to and including long-term residential.
http://ncadi.samhsa.gov/ Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Addictions Treatment Information. Contains excellent free videos/webcasts for classroom use as well.
http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugpages.htmlInformation on all types of drugs
http://teens.drugabuse.gov/parents/index.asp Site designed for Teens
- Brain Power! The NIDA Junior Scientist Program (For grades K-1)
- Brain Power! The NIDA Junior Scientist Program (For grades 2-3)
- Brain Power! The NIDA Junior Scientist Program (For grades 4-5)
Middle & High School
- NIDA for Teens Web Site
The Science Behind Drug Abuse (For grades 5-9)
- Mind Over Matter
The Effects of Drug Abuse on Your Body & Brain (For grades 5-9)
- Teacher’s Guide for the Mind Over Matter Series
(For grades 5-9)
- HEADS UP: Real News About Drugs and Your Body
A Scholastic and NIDA cooperative education project (For grades 6-10)
- Trends in Drug Use, High School and Youth
- Slide Teaching Packets
The Neurobiology of Ecstasy, Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction, more…
- The Brain: Understanding Neurobiology Through the Study of Addiction
NIH Curriculum Supplement Series (For grades 9-12)
- NIDA Goes Back to School
Free science-based educational materials developed by NIDA, online ordering available.
- NIH Science Education Homepage
Curricula developed by NIH for elementary, middle, and high school classes