The Alcohol Withdrawal CIWA Protocol

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild sleeplessness and shaky conduct to more serious ones like delirium tremens. Although a person’s medical history and a physical exam are usually enough to make a diagnosis, CIWA protocol makes the treatment process even more efficient. CIWA, which stands for Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment Protocol, gives doctors a way to objectively measure how bad a patient’s alcohol withdrawal is likely to be.

What is the CIWA Protocol? 

The CIWA Protocol is a scale that measures the symptoms used to evaluate and treat people trying to quit drinking. Each symptom on the scale has its score, and when you add up all the scores, physicians get an overall value that shows how bad alcohol withdrawal is. The score for nine of these symptoms is between 0 and 7, and the score for orientation is between 0 and 4. This makes figuring out how to treat the patient more effective.

CIWA Protocol Scoring for Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Treatment

We initially mentioned that the CIWA Protocol has a scoring system for ten symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. These symptoms have a related question that the therapist asks to determine the requisite point. The point between 0 to 7 for the first nine questions and 0 to 4 for orientation is based on the patient’s response. Let’s check out the Questions, the scoring for responses, and how experts use them to determine the next steps for treatment. 

High Pulse Rate and Sweating

Alcohol affects the CNS and circulation, increasing heart rate and dilating skin blood vessels. Hence, Alcohol withdrawal causes the body’s sweat glands to work overtime and cause ‘night sweats.’ These symptoms are observed and scored based on the CIWA scale below:

  • 0 means Sweating is not evident
  • 1 represents very light perspiration, wet palms
  • 2,3, and 4 are points for dripping sweat on the forehead.
  • Five, six, and seven are points for sweaty pangs.

Tremors in the Hands

This symptom of alcohol withdrawal is a common sign of alcoholism. This symptom often emerges less than 6 hours after drinking alcohol. Alcohol depresses the CNS and causes the brain to release more neurotransmitters than usual. When alcohol use is abruptly interrupted, the brain still believes it should generate enough neurotransmitters for the alcohol it’s accustomed to. This causes hand tremors. Here, Clinicians observe by asking the patient to stretch their hands forward. Points for observations are:

Lack of Sleep or Insomnia

Alcohol impairs the brain’s natural mechanism for determining the sleep duration required every night based on active periods. Alcohol’s diuretic nature increases the desire to use the toilet at night and affects sleep quality. To ascertain this symptom, the Clinician observes the patients.

Nausea and Vomiting

Alcohol withdrawal causes nausea for several reasons. Alcohol dehydrates the body. It also increases urine production and causes dehydration. 

Alcohol irritates the stomach and intestinal lining to cause vomiting. First, nausea from stomach muscles contracting causes alcohol-induced vomiting. Second, ‘dry heaves’ cause the stomach’s biggest section to spasm. Then, the Small intestine’s contents are expelled through the mouth. To ascertain this condition, The Physician asks, “Is your stomach aching or making you want to vomit?”. Your response determines your points on the CIWA Scale. Here,

  • 0 points for not nauseating or vomiting symptoms.
  • 1 for very minimal vomiting.
  • 2,3 and 4 for consistent nausea and dry heaves.
  • 5,6, and 7 for more continuous nausea, vomiting, and dry heaves.

Hallucinations

This symptom is often called ‘delirium Tremens’ which is the medical name for withdrawal-induced hallucinations. This usually happens on the second to third day after withdrawal. The Physician asks here, “Is there anything you’re seeing that makes you uncomfortable? Do you have an uncanny ability to perceive things that aren’t there?”

  • 0 means no presence of hallucinations.
  • 1,2, 3, and 4 represent moderate to light sensitivity 
  • 5 represents terrible hallucinations
  • 6 means Intense hallucinations
  • 7 is the point for Constantly hallucinating 

Anxiety

Although sedating, alcohol disturbs the brain’s normal chemical process. How the body and brain handle alcohol’s abnormal compounds cause alcohol-related anxiety. After extended alcohol consumption, the brain thinks it should manufacture sufficient neurotransmitters to compensate for the consumed alcohol. Experts often ask a question to grade this symptom: “Do you have a heightened sense of anxiety?”. The response is graded as follows:

  • 0 means the patient is at ease.
  • 1 means the patient is moderately anxious.
  • 2,3 and 4 mean the Client is somewhat apprehensive
  • 5,6, and 7 represent chronic states caused by schizophrenia or delirium tremens.

Agitation

Alcohol changes brain chemistry by reducing serotonin levels, which govern memory, sleep, and mood. Low amounts of this substance cause poor sleep, cognitive problems, and mood changes. This symptom is assessed by observation. Here are the points for each:

  • 0 signifies a normal level of activity.
  • 1 represents a little more than the usual activity
  • 2,3,4 represents moderate agitation and restlessness
  • 5,6,7 are scores consistent pacing and thrashing

Grand Mal Seizures

During alcoholism, the body relies on a brain-affecting synthetic chemical and feels it requires it to live. This poison causes shock when removed rapidly. Grand mal seizures are caused by abruptly stopping alcohol use. These convey signals to muscles, nerves, and glands. Disrupting this mechanism may lead the brain to instruct the body’s processes to escalate performance and cause seizures.

Here the Physician asks, “Do you feel any numbness, prickling, burning, itching, or the feeling that something is creeping underneath your skin?” 

  • 0 signifies the absence of any unpleasant sensations
  • 1 signifies a minor itch, tingling, numbness, or burning sensation
  • 2 signifies itching, burning, pins & needles, or numbness.
  • 3 signifies Mild irritation, stinging, and numbness
  • 4 represents mild to moderate hallucinations
  • 5 represents terrible hallucinations
  • 6 stands for Intense hallucinations
  • 7 stands for a pattern of persistent, disturbing delusions

The CIWA score helps doctors determine how bad and fast alcohol withdrawal will be. This makes it easier to plan treatments. In treatments, the goal is to give as little medicine as possible in as little time as possible. This makes an effort to reduce the chance that patient’s become dependent on the detox medicine. Clinicians will be able to use the CIWA-Ar scale to decide which magnesium sulfate, Multivitamins, thiamine, IV fluids, and glucose to provide.

CIWA Protocol

How Successful is the CIWA Protocol in the Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal?

Using CIWA-Ar to rate individuals entering medical facilities for alcohol detox has improved results. More patients got discharged from detox centers and hospitals after shorter stays and less usage of shackles.

It was also simpler to treat delirium tremens proactively whenever CIWA-Ar was used since it was more accurate at predicting who would develop the condition.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment in The San Francisco Bay Area

 If you’re seeking alcohol addiction treatment in San Francisco Bay Area, our team at Silicon Valley Recovery can help. We’re highly experienced in using the CIWA Protocol to safely and effectively treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Contact us today by calling 408-547-4089 to learn more about our program and how we can help you or your loved one get on the road to recovery.

5 Facts About Ethanol Abuse

Ethanol abuse is a form of alcohol abuse. Ethanol is a clear, colorless liquid in all alcoholic beverages, although amounts vary. If you drink liquor, beer, or wine, it will have some ethanol alcohol.

Ethyl alcohol is another term for ethanol, and in its pure form, it’s a cleaning agent or antiseptic in products like hand sanitizer. Of course, when talking about ethanol, the pure substance is rarely being discussed. Ethanol alcohol tends to be easier to drink since it’s diluted.

  • The production of ethanol occurs when grains or fruit go through fermentation. 
  • The ethanol in alcohol affects your mood and reactions and leads to the effects we commonly associate with drinking.
  • Different drinks are going to have varying concentrations of grain alcohol. The ethanol concentration is typically expressed as a percentage of alcohol by volume, abbreviated as ABV.
  • When you purchase different types of alcohol, you’ll see ABV on the label.
  • When you’re abusing alcohol, it essentially means you’re abusing any alcoholic beverage.
  • Despite the association with clear liquids, ethanol again is in every type of beverage with alcohol.

Does The Amount of Ethanol Vary in Alcoholic Drinks?

Wine, beer, and spirits are different strengths from one another.

  • Spirits, another word for liquor, usually have the highest alcohol concentrations. Most have an ABV of around 40%. 
  • Some vodkas may have around 30% ethanol, and bourbons can have an ABV of around 60%. 
  • High-proof liquor can have as much as 95% ethanol alcohol content.
  • Liqueurs usually have an ABV that’s 20 percent alcohol or lower.
  • Wine has a lower concentration than spirits. The ABV may be around 12-15% for most types of wine, although some are higher.

What is Ethanol Abuse?

Ethanol abuse means someone is abusing alcohol of any kind. Non-problematic use of alcohol might include the occasional cocktail or glass of wine.

For low alcohol use, there may even be an associated lower risk of heart attack and stroke. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the consumption of ethanol, also known by the abbreviation for ethyl alcohol, EtOH should be limited to no more than one drink a day for women or two for men.

Alcohol use can turn into a problem for some people.

Signs of ethanol abuse and substance abuse in general include:

  • Hiding alcohol or storing large amounts
  • Having a high tolerance means you drink increasingly large amounts to feel the desired effects
  • Changes in mood or behavior when drinking
  • Experiencing blackout periods due to drinking
  • Choosing to drink instead of doing other activities
  • Continuing to use alcohol despite known adverse consequences of doing so
  • Lack of control over your consumption of alcohol
  • Frequently drinking more than you plan to

While alcohol abuse doesn’t automatically mean you have an addiction or alcohol use disorder, it often leads to that. When alcohol addiction develops, it increases the risk of short- and long-term health consequences and problems in your daily life and functionality.

There are situations where any amount of alcohol can be considered abuse. For example, drinking can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome if you’re pregnant. The safe limit for alcohol for pregnant women is zero drinks. 

Ethanol Abuse

The following are five facts about ethanol abuse to know.

1. ABV Matters

We mentioned the ABV measure above or alcohol by volume. ABV is specifically a measure of ethanol. If you have a lower-ABV drink, you can conclude that you will feel fewer effects of ethanol in most cases. 

ABV can indicate not only how you feel after drinking something. It can also tell you how something might taste. Compare the taste of liquor with a high ABV to beer with a lower ABV.

ABV is not the same as proof. Both measure the alcohol content a beverage contains, but the proof is twice the alcohol by volume number.

If you have a drink that has a 20% ABV, it’s 40 proof.

2. ABV Isn’t the Same As BAC

Another measure related to alcohol is blood alcohol concentration or BAC. BAC is the percentage of alcohol (ethanol) in your bloodstream.

If you have a BAC of 0.10%, your blood supply has one part of alcohol for every 1000 parts of blood.

Typically, you’re considered intoxicated if you have a BAC of 0.08% or higher in the legal system.

What you drink, how you drink, and your physical characteristics can affect your BAC.

Some of the particular things affecting BAC include:

  • Your sex
  • Number of standard drinks
  • The amount of time you consume drinks
  • Bodyweight
  • Enzyme levels and production
  • Whether you ate
  • Medications

3. A “Standard” Drink is Often Much Smaller Than People Realize

When we see guidelines for safe alcohol consumption or symptoms of ethanol abuse, they’re often accompanied by the term “standard drink.”

For example, when medical and regulatory officials say that it’s likely safe for women to have no more than one standard drink a day, this is a specific measurement.

So many people are shocked to realize how little a standard drink actually is. We’re used to heavy pours, to the point that you could be bordering on alcohol abuse without realizing it. For example, if you have just “two drinks a night,” but they’re the equivalent of four standard drinks, it may be an issue.

The amount of liquid you consume isn’t automatically a standard drink, just because it’s in one glass or container. 

In the United States, a standard drink contains around 14 grams of pure alcohol or ethanol.

That will be the equivalent of five ounces of wine if it’s 12% alcohol. A standard drink would be 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, assuming it’s 40% alcohol, or 12 ounces of beer, with 5% alcohol.

4. Ethanol Abuse Has Serious Short and Long-Term Effects

Heavy drinking can lead to an alcohol use disorder and many serious health effects in both the short and long-term.

Short-term effects of abusing alcohol and alcohol dependence can include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Impaired judgment
  • Loss of awareness and coordination
  • Blackouts or poor memory
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Dehydration
  • Risky behaviors
  • Injuries

Long-term alcohol abuse effects can include:

  • Liver damage, liver failure, chronic liver disease 
  • Higher risk of cancers
  • Brain damage
  • High blood pressure
  • Weak immune system
  • Addiction
  • Heart disease
  • Pancreas problems
  • Social and financial issues

5. Certain Patterns Are Associated with a Higher Risk of An Alcohol Use Disorder

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), certain drinking patterns might not seem harmful yet can be.

Women who drink three or fewer alcoholic beverages in a day and no more than seven drinks per week may still be at risk for developing an alcohol use disorder. Men who have four drinks a day and no more than 14 a week may also be at risk.

Ethanol abuse affects the body, the brain, lifestyle, and relationships. 

If you’re concerned about your alcohol use or concerned about a loved one, reach out to Silicon Valley Recovery by calling 408-547-4089 to learn about treatment programs that are available in the San Francisco bay area.

Coping with Addiction in the Elderly

When we think about addiction or drug and alcohol abuse, we often associate it with younger people. After young adulthood, illicit drug use typically tends to go down, yet there’s a divergent trend happening. More adults who are older are living with substance use disorders.

In 2018, almost one million people 65 and older in the U.S. were thought to have a substance use disorder, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Following the pandemic, that number is likely much higher now.

Why is addiction in the elderly becoming an increasing and worrisome problem? 

Multiple factors play a role in rising rates of drug addiction in elderly people. Understanding these factors is important so that we can help older people who are loved ones and also start to make strides in research and medical care.

What are the Reasons for Addiction in the Elderly?

Drug addiction in elderly people can have many reasons. Often older people are affected by more than one of these factors, which can include:

  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Medical conditions, including chronic pain 
  • Physical disabilities due to rheumatic diseases like arthritis and other conditions more common in late life
  • Financial issues
  • Death of a loved one
  • Mental illnesses including depression, anxiety disorders, and other co-occurring disorders 
  • Financial strain
  • Loss of a sense of purpose
  • Using multiple prescription medications 

As we age, our lives change. People retire, so they’re no longer in the daily routines they likely participated in for decades. This is significantly impacting the baby boomer generation right now. They might relocate or downsize, their family may not live near them, and they can experience more loss in their lives.

These can raise the risk of drug misuse and addiction at any age, and the older adult population is no exception. Drugs or alcohol can become a way to self-medicate or cope in the elderly population. 

Aging can lead to physical and social changes that increase substance abuse vulnerability.

All the addiction risk factors were present in the older age group before COVID-19, but that situation potentially worsened these factors.

Older people were encouraged to isolate socially, which means they may have gone years without seeing loved ones. That sense of disconnection can worsen physical and mental health problems and substance abuse. There were fewer opportunities for loved ones to check in on the well-being of their older relatives throughout the pandemic.

The Effects of Drugs On Older People

There are many risk factors for addiction prevalent in older populations. These substances can have more significant effects on them, too, increasing the risks.

When we age, our bodies metabolize substances more slowly. Our brains can become more sensitive to the effects of drugs and alcohol. Substances can cause more extreme cognitive impairment in older people. 

Older people are more likely to have memory, mood, lung, and heart disorders. Drugs and alcohol can make these conditions worse.

Drugs and alcohol effects, like impaired coordination and reaction time, can lead to falls and car accidents.

Addiction in the Elderly

Commonly Abused Drugs by the Elderly

There are certain drugs that older people are more likely to misuse. Prescription drug misuse is especially high on that list.

Aging people often have a variety of medications they take for chronic health conditions. 

Studies show it’s common among people between the ages of 57 and 85 to mix various prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and supplements. In a study of 3,000 people in this age group, more than 80% used at least one prescription every day.

Opioids

Opioid addiction in elderly people is increasingly more problematic than the abuse of illicit substances. 

Opioids are prescription pain medicine. These medicines interact with the brain and central nervous system to reduce pain. At the same time, they slow down the functionality of the central nervous system.

  • Prescription opioids are highly addictive, and because of the CNS slowdown they cause, they can also lead to overdoses and death due to respiratory depression and brain damage. 
  • When someone has an opioid use disorder, it’s difficult for them to stop using the drugs independently.
  • Stopping opioid prescriptions cold turkey without a safe detox environment can lead to serious withdrawal symptoms. 
  • Opioid medications are prescribed for medical conditions such as chronic pain, heart disease, and advanced severe pain from cancer. 
  • The effects of prescription drug abuse are similar to heroin, which is also an opioid tied to serious addiction issues. 
  • The risk of overdose with these pain medications can go up when combined with certain other substances like alcohol or benzodiazepines.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are another prescription drug class. 

These medications include Klonopin and Xanax, among others. Benzodiazepines are for the treatment of panic, anxiety, and insomnia.

They are addictive on their own and, as mentioned, increase the risk of overdose when combined with opioids.

Alcohol

Alcohol use disorder rates increased enormously during the pandemic among most age groups, including older people. 

Alcohol can have more profound effects on older people and increase the risk of being hurt.

Drinking can also cause many health problems or worsen them. For example, it affects liver health and raises the risk of cancer.

Mixing Medications

We’ve talked about this a bit already, but older people are at an especially high risk of dangerous effects that can come from mixing medications that are part of their daily treatment plan. 

  • Older people are more likely to have complex chronic health conditions requiring them to see multiple doctors and specialists. 
  • These medical providers might not know every medication someone is on, so they could inadvertently prescribe something that shouldn’t be taken with another medication.
  • It can be harder for a geriatric patient to remember which medicines to take and when.
  • They might take things together that shouldn’t be or take higher doses than they’re supposed to.

What are the Signs of Addiction in the Elderly?

The signs of addiction in the elderly can be harder to spot than in other age groups because they look similar to symptoms of other co-occurring conditions.

Signs of addiction in the elderly include:

  • Problems with memory
  • Different sleep habits
  • Bruises
  • Depression or sadness
  • Unexplained pain
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Isolation
  • Not keeping up with personal hygiene
  • Disconnecting from loved ones
  • No interest in usual activities

What Can You Do?

If you believe your elderly relative could be experiencing a substance abuse problem, there are things you can do. 

  • First, connect with them more and check in when you can. 
  • If you don’t live nearby, you could set up times to use video calls. 
  • If you live nearby, visit frequently and keep an eye on things like their medicine cabinet.
  • If you can go to doctor’s appointments with your loved one, this will help you learn more about the medications they use, and you can talk about potentially harmful interactions. You can ask their treatment providers any questions you might have. 

There are treatment centers and programs for elderly patients dealing with addiction. You can find the right treatment option for their specific needs. Behavioral therapies are an effective treatment, and other options are available too.

The big thing to remember is that just because someone is an elderly adult doesn’t mean they can’t have a substance use disorder. We have to start recognizing this growing problem, which can diminish the quality of life, negatively affect health and even lead to an earlier death.

If you’d like to learn more about drug and alcohol addiction treatment options, including for the elderly population, please reach out to Silicon Valley Recovery today by calling 408-547-4089.

Cocaine Addiction Facts and Statistics

Cocaine addiction occurs because this drug is a powerful stimulant, affecting your brain’s neurotransmitters when you use it. We tend not to think of cocaine as addictive. Unfortunately, people often develop addictions to this drug, affecting their physical and mental health and well-being.

  • Cocaine is an illicit drug with few other legitimate uses. 
  • Most cocaine is a white crystal powder with a fine consistency. 
  • Drug dealers will mix it with other substances like cornstarch to increase profits.
  • Cocaine is increasingly being combined with fentanyl, which is a highly potent opioid responsible for many overdose deaths.
  • If someone buys illegal cocaine and doesn’t realize it has a synthetic opioid like fentanyl, it can be fatal.
  • Most people use cocaine by snorting it. The drug is also dissolved and injected directly into the user’s bloodstream. 
  • An injectable combination of cocaine and heroin is a Speedball, which is also somewhat common. 
  • Freebase cocaine is smoked. The user heats a rock crystal that produces vapors, inhaling those directly into their lungs. This particular form of cocaine is called crack.

Cocaine Effects

When someone uses cocaine, there’s an increase in dopamine levels in their brain. Dopamine is a natural chemical messenger, and it creates a euphoric high and rush of energy. Dopamine especially affects the areas of the brain controlling reward and movement.

Typically, dopamine recycles back into the cell that initially releases it. The recycling effect turns off the signal occurring between nerve cells. Since cocaine prevents the recycling of dopamine, large amounts build up in the space between nerve cells. This buildup stops normal communication.

There is a flood of dopamine in the reward circuit. The stimulation of the reward circuit reinforces behaviors of drug-taking. Then, as someone continues to use the drug, their reward circuit adapts. They’re no longer as sensitive to the effects of the drug as they once were. Someone who’s adapted may take doses more frequently or use larger amounts to feel the same high.

Signs of Cocaine Addiction

When someone uses cocaine, it doesn’t automatically mean they’re addicted. As with other substances, some people use stimulants and don’t develop an addiction. For other people, addiction can occur relatively quickly. Factors that influence the development of a substance use disorder include genetics and family history, environment, and mental health.

The longer and more often someone uses it, the more likely an addiction develops, and the more apparent the signs of cocaine abuse can become. 

Short-term effects of using this nervous system stimulant include:

  • Excitement
  • Raised body temperature
  • Being more alert
  • Overconfidence
  • Being social or talkative
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Dilated pupils
  • Muscle twitches 
  • Staying awake for long periods
  • Loss of appetite
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability or aggression
  • Violent behavior
  • Mood swings

Negative physical symptoms related to health include:

  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Sweating
  • Heart problems
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Risk of overdose 

The longer and more frequently someone uses the substance, the more likely severe side effects are to develop. For example, over time, abusing cocaine can affect the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and GI system.

Specific long-term effects of use may include:

  • Heart attack/cardiac arrest 
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Permanent lung damage
  • Perforated nasal cavities
  • Decreases in sexual function
  • Perforation of the intestines and stomach
  • Ulcers
  • Rhabdomyolysis

When cocaine addiction symptoms occur, a person is no longer capable of stopping independently. They often need professional treatment to stop.

Cocaine use disorders range from mild to severe, and diagnosis is determined by the effects and consequences the drug has on the user’s life.

Cocaine addiction symptoms include:

  • Continuing to use the drug even when there are known negative effects associated with it.
  • Prioritizing using the substance or recovering from it.
  • Forgoing other interests or responsibilities to use drugs.
  • Being unable to stop, even when you want to.
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down or quit altogether.
  • Problems at school or work
  • Loss of motivation
  • Neglecting hygiene or appearance
  • Financial problems, especially due to spending a lot of money to get the substance
  • Obsessing over the next time you get to use the drug or maintaining a steady supply
  • Developing a tolerance and needing more to get high
  • Stealing or lying to get the drug or use it
  • Compulsive drug use that you aren’t able to stop
Cocaine Addiction

How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?

Cocaine effects are short-lived compared to most other substances. The drug can stay in your system for typically one to four days, although detection is possible up to several weeks after using it.

When you take coke, the effects occur fast and hard. If you snort it or put it on your gums, the effects begin within one to three minutes. When you inject or smoke it, you may feel the effects instantaneously.

The high from coke use may last 15 to 30 minutes if you snort it. Smoking it or injecting it may lead to a high lasting 10 to 20 minutes.

Some people feel the effects for as long as an hour.

  • The detection window may be up to four days in a urine test.
  • In blood, detection times can be up to two days.
  • Saliva detection times can be up to two days after use.
  • In a hair test, detection is possible for up to three months.

Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

Some people, particularly long-term or heavy coke users, may experience withdrawal when they stop. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Symptoms of anxiety or depression
  • Changes in appetite
  • Vivid dreams
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Problems with concentration
  • Restlessness
  • Lethargy

Withdrawal symptoms can occur from a few hours to a few days after the last use and tend to get better within a few days for most people.

Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders

With coke, it’s somewhat common for people to have multiple co-occurring addictions. For example, they may have an addiction to both the stimulant drug and alcohol or opioids. Some people use cocaine to combat the negative effects of the other substance, leading to a more complex addiction.

Getting Help for Cocaine Addiction in the San Francisco Area

Cocaine addiction symptoms are similar to the symptoms of addiction to other substances. The mental and physical health effects of an ongoing addiction to cocaine can be devastating or deadly. There are treatment programs available.

A treatment program should be individualized, with a custom treatment plan for your needs. Everyone is unique, as are their mental health needs, substance use history, and physical needs. We encourage you to contact a team member at Silicon Valley Recovery by calling 408-547-4089 if you’re struggling with cocaine addiction symptoms or someone you love is, so we can create a path to recovery.

What It Means to Have Genetic Predisposition to Addiction

When we talk about addiction, we often want to understand why some people develop substance use disorders and others don’t. A genetic predisposition or family history may be part of the answer, but it’s not the only contributing factor to alcohol use disorders or drug addiction. 

While research supports a genetic predisposition to addiction, we always want people to understand that addiction isn’t your destiny. Understanding the scientific links between genetics and addiction is important, but so is the fact that you can change your trajectory.

What Does It Mean to Have a Genetic Predisposition?

A genetic predisposition increases the likelihood of developing a disease based on your genetics. When you have a genetic predisposition, you may have particular genetic variations inherited from a parent. 

Genetics contribute to whether or not you develop a disease, but they don’t cause it directly. Some people with predispositions to certain genes will never get a condition, and others will. These differences can happen within the same family.

Some genetic variations have minor effects on how likely you are to develop diseases; others have significant effects.

There’s a lot of research currently that looks at genetic changes and how these affect disease risk. If a person has many small changes in genes, they may be at risk for relatively common diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and mental illnesses.

Along with genetic factors, lifestyle and environmental factors contribute to whether or not someone develops a condition. You can’t change your genetic makeup, but you can change your lifestyle and environmental factors.

Genes are units of DNA. Genes provide information that directs the cellular activity of the body. Researchers are currently working on genome-wide association studies to learn more about genetic variants and the genetic component of many diseases. Future studies will likely focus on protective factors and risk factors for complex diseases and how targeted therapies can prevent or treat them. 

The Role of Epigenetics

There’s another term we tend to talk about in genetics, which is epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of sometimes inherited changes in gene activity and expression regulation.

These changes don’t depend on gene sequence.

Environmental choices or exposure can change the structure of your DNA at the cellular level.

For example, if you use drugs or alcohol, it can “mark” your DNA and increase the production of certain proteins that are common in addiction. In animal studies, researchers find higher levels of altered proteins are associated with drug-seeking behaviors.

Other environmental factors aside from substance exposure can lead to epigenetic changes. For example, chronic exposure to stress can trigger the development of addiction and mental health disorders.

If you have negative environmental factors in your life, like stress, you can combat some of the adverse effects through behaviors and choices. For example, getting physical activity can help create epigenetic changes that prevent developing an addiction. 

The Role of Genetics in Addiction

Around half of your susceptibility to addiction to drugs or alcohol may come from genetic factors.

There isn’t one particular gene that’s an addiction gene, though, at least not as we know currently. Instead, when we talk about a genetic predisposition to addiction, it’s more about genes broadly passed from parent to child over generations.

People who have addiction disorders have children who also struggle with addiction at rates 25% higher on average than kids of non-addicted parents.

Other genetic factors can play a role in addiction, aside from having a parent who uses substances.

  • For example, people with mental health disorders tend to have higher substance abuse and addiction rates than people without. Mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder, can also run in families.
  • When you’re diagnosed with a mental disorder, you are at least two times as likely to have a substance use disorder.
  • Our brain chemistry affects addiction. People who have naturally low dopamine levels are more likely to abuse substances because they cause a surge in levels, causing the activation of their pleasure response. If you keep taking the drug, your brain produces less dopamine on its own.
  • There’s now a chemical response stemming from dopamine deficiency. Naturally, low levels of dopamine could be something you inherit. Researchers found that a certain type of dopamine receptor may predict someday whether someone will become addicted to substances like heroin, cocaine, and alcohol. Based on brain imaging studies, people with fewer D2 receptors are more likely to develop addictions than people who have more of them. How many of these receptors you have is partially determined by genetics.
  • The same can be true with serotonin deficiency. If you have low serotonin levels, you may be at risk for anxiety disorders. Then, this could make you more likely to self-medicate your symptoms or rely on alcohol or an illicit drug as a way of coping. 

There’s another way genetics can affect the potential to develop an addiction, although it’s a less direct connection.

If you have parents who are themselves struggling with substance abuse, this will create a perhaps stressful environment. As a child, you might have faced instability, exposure to substance use and drugs of abuse, and other environmental factors that then increase the risk you’ll develop an addiction.

Through the years, various research, including studies of identical twins, have shown the complex relationships between an addictive disorder and both genetics and environment. 

Genetic Predisposition

Overcoming A Genetic Predisposition to Addiction

There are so many important reasons to talk about the genetics of addictions and the links with family history. 

First, it helps alleviate the stigma. When people struggle with addiction, they tend to view it as a moral failure or weakness. The reality is that addiction is a chronic disease that’s complex and influenced by factors that are often out of your control. The same is true of chronic diseases like diabetes.

Yes, there are lifestyle factors you can consider to reduce your risk, but biological elements of addiction are real and shown by science. The same is true of something like cardiovascular disease. 

Helping more people understand this can encourage anyone struggling with addiction to seek treatment because it reduces some of the shame they might feel.

Another reason it’s important to talk about genetics and addiction is that the hope is someday the research being done now will lead to more targeted treatment options or preventative approaches to help people avoid addiction altogether. 

At the same time, we never want to talk about a genetic predisposition in a way that makes it seems like you’re destined to be an addict if your parent is or that you can’t recover.

If you do develop a substance use disorder, just as is true for other chronic diseases, treatment is available and is often very effective.

While your genetics may play a role in your history of substance use, you can recover and manage your symptoms. When you get your symptoms under control, you can be productive and thrive in your life. If you’d like to learn more about treatment opportunities in the San Francisco Bay area, we encourage you to contact Silicon Valley Recovery by calling 408-547-4089.

What Does it Mean to Have an Addictive Personality?

In an article in Scientific American written by author Maia Szalavtz, she defines our question as to the myth that it is. She says, “Even when we joke about having an addictive personality it’s usually to justify an indulgence or to signal our guilt about pleasure, even if only ironically.” An addictive personality, some may think, is a person who is more susceptible to developing a drug addiction based on a few character traits that border on obsessing, codependency, impulsivity, and risk-taking. However, many professionals consider there to be no one type of addictive personality. As George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, says, “What we are finding is that the addictive personality…is multifaceted. It doesn’t really exist as an entity of its own.”

What is an Addictive Personality?

The notion of having an addictive personality exists in popular culture as an image that describes a person who is obsessive or guilty of indulging. It is believed to be an indicator in the person who possesses certain characteristics that make him/her destined to become an addict to something. Although the development of addiction is complex and has various contributing factors, having an “addictive personality” is a mix of truth and skepticism.

There is no single personality type that is more prone to develop an addiction than others. There are signs of having an addiction that goes beyond personality traits, as the signs of an addiction are starkly along these lines:

Signs of Addiction:

  • Always wanting and needing more
  • Continuation of the behavior no matter the consequences
  • Not being able to stop
  • Interferes with functioning in daily life
  • Obsession and secrecy

There are, however, a variety of personality traits that exist confluently and can be predictors of drug abuse and alcoholism. There is just not in actuality anything that proves there is a single type of personality that is addiction-prone. There are other high-risk traits that can exist in any individual that are a cause for questioning whether addiction is more likely to develop. There may even be a stark difference between addictive personality and character traits that predispose drug addiction.

These traits may be:

  • Family relations who have addictions
  • Mental health disorders
  • Risk-taking and impulsivity
  • Inability to self regulate
  • Demonstrates a lack of self-control
  • Obsessive-compulsive
  • Disconnected and antisocial

Do I Have an Addictive Personality?

Do you have a difficult time self-regulating? Is your need for reward strong? Do you know your limits and have had accurate insight as to what those are? Are you able to track the quantity of your use and of any repetitive, dependent behavior?

If you are wondering, “Do I have an addictive personality?” look to see if you have insight about yourself for the warning signs of real addiction. Remember that it does not necessarily mean you will be an addict, as there is no character trait that is a single predictor. Be aware of some of these high-risk indicators and whether they exist for you prominently:

  1. Do you know a family member that has been modeling an addiction to you since childhood?
  2. Do you have a history or are currently experiencing a mental health disorder, namely Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Schizophrenia, or Antisocial Personality Disorder?
  3. Do you tend to lean towards a quick fix and engage in any type of self-medicating when you experience difficulty facing an underlying problem? 
  4. Have you engaged in the substance use of nicotine or alcohol socially, alone, or when feeling stressed?
  5. What are your main coping methods when you experience distress?
Addictive Personality

Personality Traits Linked to Addiction

There are other personality types that can lean toward proneness to addiction. An adventurous and risk-taking personality trait may demonstrate that person as having limited impulse control and seeking out risky and dangerous experiences. They can be more likely to try drugs. A disconnected, rigid, or antisocial personality type can seem to be the opposite of the former type mentioned but can be just as susceptible to engaging in substance use. Difficult times in social relationships are a hallmark of this type, as well as the likelihood of depression, anxiety, and isolative tendencies because the person is more likely to want to mask these feelings by self-medicating.

Obsessive-compulsive traits have to do with how someone controls their impulses, even those people who are rigid and overcontrolled or over-controlling. In the presence of ensuing anxiety, stress, and agitation, they may be looking for a way to manage it all. They may swing on the extreme side of a personality and are prone to develop a compulsion as opposed to safer experimentation or single-use.

Another factor in addiction that may exist in the personality is the need for reward and its strength. The feeling that they are never receiving enough of a reward and build up a tolerance to things they once enjoyed or gave them pleasure, needing more and more. While no addictive personality exists, there are addictive traits that a person can experience.

Some of these are:

  • Impulsivity, with little thought of outcome and consequences
  • Sensation seeking, with lots of need and spontaneous actions.
  • Negative affect, reacting to stressors with unpleasant emotions
  • Neuroticism, who often respond to situations with anger, sadness, and anxiety
  • Aggression, high hostility, and violent proneness.

Can You Be Addicted to a Person?

Along with the problems of drug use, it’s important to distinguish if that type of addiction can exist in relation to another person. There are indicators that yes, a person can be addicted to another person. There are healthy delineations within relationships as well as those that lie alongside unhealthy codependency and a host of negative emotions. The most unhealthy extreme can manifest into love and sex addiction and codependency.

Signs you may be unhealthily addicted to a person include:

  • Obsession and dreaming about them constantly
  • Feelings of incompleteness, emptiness, despair
  • Sadness and longing
  • Anxiety and a continual sense of drama
  • Afraid to be alone or without that person
  • More obsessive attention is given to the partner than to oneself

Involvement in bad relationships while being addicted to that person can lead to alcohol and drug abuse and even physical illness and suicide.

Getting Treatment for Addiction in the San Francisco Bay Area

So, if you ask yourself, “Do I have an addictive personality?” or wonder “Can you be addicted to a person?” it’s important to distinguish the extremes of what indicates addiction and whether you tend to lean on extremes in your behavior. If you tend to obsess over things in life or about another person, insight and self-awareness are always going to be helpful. Know that an addictive personality can never be reducible to one stereotype. We can learn, however, that addiction is complex and dependent on multiple factors. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call 408-547-4089 and a care coordinator from the Silicon Valley Recovery team will be happy to answer questions and talk about options for treatment. 

Are Weight Loss Pills Like Other Drugs?

Obesity continues to be one of the most prevalent health conditions affecting about 42.4% of the American adult population annually. Some more startling statistics: In 2008 alone, the estimated medical cost of obesity was about $147 billion. Furthermore, obese individuals have to pay $1,429 more in medical costs than people with a healthy weight in any given year. It is not a secret that workout and diet are two of the most well-recognized and research-backed approaches to losing weight effectively. Research and advancements in technology have also brought about several other innovative approaches and techniques to losing weight over the years. Fortunately, all these approaches have universal acceptance. Well, all but one; the use of weight loss “pills” to get lean. 

Defining Obesity/Being Overweight:

A patient is overweight when his Body Mass Index (BMI) equals 25 or more. An obese patient, on the other hand, refers to an individual with a BMI of 30 or more. Unlike some ailments that you are helpless against, preventing this condition is mostly under your control. This is because it mainly occurs in people who lead an unhealthy lifestyle. Such people often overeat, eat junk and other unhealthy foods, are physically inactive, and consume many sugary products. However, some uncontrollable factors like genetics and certain medications can also contribute to obesity. Furthermore, eating disorders like Anorexia nervosa, Rumination disorders, Binge-eating disorders, or Avoidance or restriction of food intake disorder (ARFID) also plays a role in a person’s BMI or weight. These are beyond anyone’s control.

Dangers of Obesity

The numerous havocs caused by obesity are well documented. Obesity is linked with several health concerns such as stroke, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, sleep apnea, gout, breathing problems, osteoarthritis, metabolic syndrome, and many others. The best way to prevent obesity from leading to these complications is to lose excess weight and body fat. Unfortunately, this fat can be stubborn. It takes a significant amount of discipline and willpower to endure strict dieting and exercise. 

Is There Medication for Obesity?

Researchers listened to the people’s plight and got to work. Soon, different weight loss pills began to appear in the market. However, many people believed the pills were doing more harm than good. Pills are supposed to cure or keep any ailment under control, but many “medical practitioners” were advising against weight loss pills which begs the question, “Are weight loss pills not the same as other drugs?”

Well, the answer is simple. Like every other oral drug, they are broken down by the body into simple molecules, absorbed into the bloodstream, distributed into various body parts (where needed), transformed into a more active form of the drug, performed their duties, and later excreted from the body.

Weight Loss Pills

Are Weight Loss Pills Drugs? 

Like every other drug, weight loss pills also have side effects. There is no laboratory-formulated chemical entity marketed as a drug that doesn’t have a potential side effect. It’s just that some drugs tend to have more side effects than others. Moreover, side effects differ in severity. Some are mild and acceptable, while others are of enormous concern. In the end, doctors tend to weigh the risk against the benefit. In the case of weight loss pills, typical side effects include nausea, vomiting, restlessness, diarrhea, kidney problem, elevated blood pressure, accelerated heartbeat, nervousness, insomnia, and others.

And finally, like some other drugs, dependence and abuse tend to occur with weight loss pills. Sticking to diet plans and a regular workout schedule is not easy. Most people tend to give up while the problem worsens. As a result, such people put all their hopes on weight loss pills since they are marketed as quick fixes to their condition. As such, they abuse the drugs in the hope of a sudden miracle or quick weight loss.

The Good and Bad of Weight Loss Pills

Most people forget that a healthy diet and regular exercise go hand-in-hand with the pills for optimal outcomes. Using pills to get rid of excess weight isn’t that straightforward. Everything can easily go wrong because weight loss pills function by doing one of three things:

  • Inhibit fat absorption into the body system.
  • Suppress appetite by tricking the brain into thinking you are full already.
  • Stimulate the central nervous system to pump you with euphoria and energy 

Taking any weight loss pill that takes any of the last two routes places you at risk of addiction because it modifies the brain’s working system and makes you crave more drugs. 

Are Fat-Absorbing Pills the Solution? 

Studies have shown that most people will regain the weight they had previously lost when they stop taking the pills, especially if they are not eating healthy and exercising. The relapse maybe doubles the original weight. So, even if you choose from those that inhibit fat absorption, you may end up abusing the drug to maintain your new weight. Meanwhile, these pills are to be stopped after a few months consistently! This group of people will knowingly subject themselves to the drugs’ numerous side effects.

Interestingly, weight loss can also occur while taking some other medications. For example, weight loss is part of metformin’s side effects in diabetes management. Other drug classes that cause unintentional weight loss include anticonvulsants, opiates, antipsychotics, antibiotics, and some others. Sadly, people also abuse some of these drugs, albeit for reasons other than weight loss. An example is opioids like cocaine and morphine.

The side effects of weight loss pills far supersede the transient weight loss benefit they offer. Also, these pills reconfigure the brain such that withdrawing attempts are very intense and tasking. While it’s difficult, people with a strong desire to beat their addiction to weight loss pills always pull it off. A licensed rehabilitation center also helps make the task less daunting. They will also identify and address the underlying medical condition that prompted the abuse or addiction to the pills. So, in the face of potential abuse, addiction, and serious side effects; is taking weight loss pills worth the risk?

Seeking Help for Addiction to Weight Loss Pills

The easy way is not always the best path. Using weight loss pills is not something you should take lightly. It’s not even a decision you should make by yourself because of the many dangers associated with it. Instead, let your doctor decide for you and, if needed, prescribe the pill with the least side effects that best suits you. And no matter what, never forget this: to lose weight, a healthy diet and regular workout are non-negotiable!

However, if you belong in the other zone (already addicted to weight loss pills), please seek medical help right away! Weight loss pills are like other pills in theory, but they come with the potential for serious harm like other drugs. 

If you, or someone you love, are struggling with addiction to stimulants, call 408-547-4089 and speak to a Silicon Valley Recovery team member to talk about treatment options in the San Francisco Bay area in California. 

The Dangers of Mixing Prozac and Alcohol

Prozac and alcohol interactions can be dangerous. There are also adverse mental health effects that can stem from alcohol. These effects can worsen the symptoms of the condition you’re using Prozac to treat.

It’s important if you take any antidepressant medications to speak with your health care providers about any interactions or adverse effects it may have, including with alcohol consumption. 

What is Prozac?

Prozac is a brand-name antidepressant medicine. The generic name is fluoxetine. Prozac is for the treatment of the major depressive disorder. The medication also has the approval to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and off-label treats other mental health conditions such as anxiety.

Fluoxetine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor or SSRI. Around 1 in 4 women in their 40s and 50s in the United States take an SSRI medication. Approximately 1 in 10 Americans overall take one.

Prozac was approved in the late 1980s and became one of the most frequently prescribed antidepressants. Now, more commonly prescribed are newer SSRIs such as citalopram and sertraline.

While it’s a safe medicine when prescribed, there are rare possible side effects.

First, the FDA requires Prozac to have a black box warning about the risk of suicide in people younger than 25. Taking an SSRI can lead to suicidal thoughts in children and young people. 

Other common potential side effects can include:

  • Sexual dysfunction 
  • Decreased libido and other sexual side effects 
  • Increases in nervousness or anxiety
  • Strange dreams
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin rash
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Insomnia
  • Drowsiness
  • Sinusitis
  • Painful digestion (dyspepsia)
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Widening of the blood vessels (vasodilation)

People should not take certain medicines with Prozac. These include MAOIs, drugs metabolized by CYP2D6, and tricyclic antidepressants.

While you can technically use them together, people taking this antidepressant should be careful about combining it with drugs affecting the central nervous system. Benzodiazepines like Xanax are an example.

You shouldn’t take this SSRI with antipsychotics, other SSRIs, lithium, or herbal remedies like St. John’s Worth. Someone susceptible to mania or bipolar disorder may also be adversely affected by Prozac and similar antidepressant drugs. 

If someone takes an SSRI for some time and suddenly stops without tapering their dose, they may experience withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms of this prescription drug and others like it can include:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Loss of appetite 

When someone takes this medication, it works by blocking the absorption of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter. The regulation of serotonin helps brain cells communicate with one another. This communication among brain cells promotes a better mood.

Prozac and Alcohol

Alcohol and Depression

If you’re taking Prozac, you likely have depression or another mental health disorder. Alcohol can negatively affect mental disorders like depression.

  • When you drink, it can make depression worse. Sometimes, people who drink heavily may experience symptoms of depression even when they aren’t diagnosed with the condition.
  • Symptoms of depression include sadness, feelings of worthlessness, and loss of interest.
  • There is a relationship between alcohol and substance abuse and depression that can go in both directions.
  • Many times people with an alcohol use disorder also have feelings of depression. Each disorder increases the risk of the other, and each can worsen the other.
  • Some people susceptible to alcohol abuse problems are also vulnerable to depression.
  • Dealing with depression can lead other people to try and self-medicate with alcohol. Over time, this cycle of self-medication can turn into an addiction. 
  • Even without a diagnosable alcohol use disorder, self-medication is associated with increased psychiatric problems, higher levels of stress, and lower quality of life.

A depressed patient who is a heavy drinker is likely to have worse outcomes from their treatment. Even small amounts of alcohol, according to researchers, seems to worsen depression.

Co-Occurring Alcohol Use Disorder and Depressive Symptoms

If someone is drinking while they’re on Prozac, they’re not following the instructions for the medication’s use. This can be a sign of an addiction or alcohol use disorder. Major symptoms of addiction include continual use of the substance even though you know there are harmful consequences.

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re using alcohol in risky ways and have depression, you may need treatment for a co-occurring disorder. A co-occurring disorder means that you have two disorders that are happening simultaneously.

You may need specialized treatment to deal with both conditions and their relationship to one another.

Co-occurring disorder treatment usually begins with detox. During detox, you can go through withdrawal symptoms in a safe, medically-managed environment. You can be more comfortable. Your treatment team might also adjust your medication levels to help even out your mood during this time.

From there, you may begin a rehab program.

Most rehab programs for a co-occurring diagnosis focus on behavioral therapies and medication management. These approaches can help you get your depression under control so that it’s well-managed, which will be helpful as you also work toward ending your alcohol use.

Can You Take Prozac and Drink Alcohol?

If you take Prozac and have alcoholic beverages, there can be adverse interactions between the two. Some of the negative effects may be temporary. For example, a Prozac and alcohol hangover can be more uncomfortable. Sometimes, the results of a Prozac and alcohol interaction can be more serious.

  • When you drink, it slows your body’s functions, including the ones controlled by your central nervous system.
  • Alcohol can lead to impaired judgment, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. You may also experience problems seeing or hearing and reductions in motor skills.
  • With that in mind, Prozac can cause drowsiness. Prozac can also have the same effects as alcohol, such as reducing alertness and coordination. If you combine the two, you’re more likely to experience profound sedation or extreme drowsiness.
  • You’re more likely to have heightened side effects of both substances when you combine them.
  • You may have dizziness, sudden weakness, and feelings of hopelessness. You may also be more at risk for suicidal thoughts.
  • Another reason to avoid the combination of Prozac and alcohol is that drinking when you’re on the medicine can prevent it from working as well as it should. Alcohol is a depressant, so you could be counteracting the medicine’s benefits.

Getting Help for Co-Occurring Disorders

Because Prozac and alcohol are commonly used substances, people may think they’re safe to combine. The reality is there is an increased risk of side effects when you use Prozac and alcohol together. There are also more mental health risks when you combine the two, and you might be worsening your symptoms or preventing your medication from working.

Contact Silicon Valley Recovery by calling 408-547-4089 to learn more about available substance use disorder treatment programs, including a co-occurring diagnosis. Alcohol addiction is treatable, but it’s likely to continue getting worse without treatment. 

Is Alcohol a Depressant or a Stimulant?

Whether alcohol is a depressant or a stimulant is a common question people have. Drinking affects your central nervous system. In doing so, drinking affects how your brain communicates with nerves in your body.

A drug like alcohol will affect neurotransmitters; in particular. it affects a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA; this leads to a slowdown in brain activity.

Below, we discuss how alcohol can affect you and how depressants differ from stimulants.

The Effects of Alcohol on the Body

The effects of alcohol on you begin as soon as taking a sip. At first, when you drink, you might experience a buzzy feeling. You could feel more social, happier, more relaxed, or even euphoric. Those effects are short-lived, however.

Is alcohol a central nervous system depressant? Yes, but you might not feel the depressant or sedative effects right away. These effects tend to be felt more at greater blood alcohol concentrations. 

Other short-term effects include:

  • Changes in mood
  • Impulsiveness
  • Slow or slurred speech
  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Problems with decision-making and brain function 
  • Blacking out, which means you have gaps in your memory or lose consciousness

Alcohol’s Effects on the Central Nervous System

Understanding how alcohol affects your central nervous system helps you better understand many of the more specific impacts it can have.

Drinking reduces communication between your brain and body. That reduction in communication leads to negative effects like slurred speech and changes in coordination, balance, and reaction time. Those central nervous system effects are why you shouldn’t ever drink and drive.

  • Your central nervous system includes the brain and spinal cord.
  • Even moderate consumption affects your central nervous system in both the short- and long term.
  • Drinking can lead to adverse effects such as interruptions in sleep, depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts or behaviors because it depresses the central nervous system.
  • Long-term abuse can lead to a higher risk of dementia, neuropathy, and other serious conditions.
  • Even in the short term, consuming large amounts of alcohol can lead to respiratory failure, coma, or death.
  • Someone with alcohol poisoning can lose consciousness, have a low body temperature, or it can slow their heart rate to a dangerous level.
  • Irregular breathing and low body temperature are also signs of an overdose.
  •  Alcohol poisoning is most common in situations involving binge drinking. 

Other Effects of Alcohol

Along with what’s above, some of the other many potential effects of alcohol can include:

  • Excessive drinking can cause inflammation of the pancreas. This inflammation can cause a medical condition called pancreatitis, affecting digestive and endocrine glands.
  • Your liver helps remove toxins, including alcohol, from your body. Long-term use interferes with your liver’s ability to remove toxins and increases the potential for liver diseases. Often people with alcohol use disorders will develop severe liver issues. 
  • If alcohol causes pancreas damage, it can also affect how your body produces insulin, affecting blood sugar levels.
  • Drinking can damage the tissues in your digestive tract, preventing your intestines from absorbing nutrients and vitamins, leading to malnutrition and other similar long-term effects. 
  • Circulatory system complications from heavy drinking include high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. Drinking can also damage your heart and lungs.
  • Too much alcohol can prevent sex hormone production and lower your libido. It can also increase the risk of infertility.
  • Heavy or excessive alcohol use reduces your immune system.
  • You may be at higher risk of developing many types of cancer if you drink a lot.

Alcohol and Mental Health

Alcohol use can cause certain mental health symptoms or worsen existing conditions. For example, we answered the question “is alcohol a depressant” above. The answer is yes, and since that’s the case, alcohol can cause or worsen depressive disorders. Alcohol can also cause or make anxiety worse, and it can lead to sleep disturbances.

Is Alcohol a Depressant

Stimulants vs. Depressants

While we’ve covered the fact that alcohol is a depressant, despite the initially intoxicating effects, what is a stimulant?

Stimulants affect the body in the opposite way as depressants. Stimulants increase the activity of the central nervous system. You’ll sometimes hear a stimulant called an upper and a depressant, a downer.

A stimulant might increase brain activity. Other effects of stimulants can include higher blood pressure, breathing rate, and heart rate.

While alcohol primarily affects GABA, stimulants mainly affect dopamine and norepinephrine. Stimulants increase the activity of these neurotransmitters. Dopamine and norepinephrine play a role in rewarding behaviors and regulating certain functions.

When you use a stimulant, you feel a rush of euphoria, known as a high. Other short-term stimulant effects include:

  • Increased libido and sexual desire
  • More attention, alertness, and focus
  • Increases in energy and self-esteem
  • Feelings of happiness and well-being
  • Easier breathing and more open airways
  • Suppressed appetite

While the initial short-term effects of stimulants may seem positive, there are serious and sometimes deadly long-term consequences. For example, stimulants can quickly lead to addiction and dependence.

Regular stimulant use can cause anger, paranoia, and psychosis. These substances can trigger irregular heartbeat, raised body temperature, seizures, and heart failure at high doses.

Other Depressants Aside From Alcohol

Alcohol isn’t the only depressant that slows the central nervous system and has a potential for addiction and dependence.

Benzodiazepines like Xanax and sedative-hypnotic drugs are also depressants.

As prescriptions, depressants may be used to treat anxiety, muscle spasms, and sleep disorders. While some are less risky than others, they all have the same general effects on the CNS.

When someone regularly uses depressants, they may become dependent on them. When you’re dependent on a depressant and stop using it, you may go through withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms from a depressant drug include:

  • Shakiness
  • Overactive responses and reflexes
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sleep problems or insomnia
  • Increased temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate
  • Excessive sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

When someone goes through withdrawal from a depressant, it can be potentially severe or life-threatening. Medical detox is recommended because of the possible severity.

Final Thoughts—Is Alcohol a Depressant?

To sum up, is alcohol a depressant? Yes. Since it’s a depressant, alcohol slows the function of your brain and the messaging that occurs between it and your body. Excessive drinking can also trigger or worsen mental health issues like depression.

If you feel like you have an alcohol dependence, it can have serious mental and physical health implications. We encourage you to call 408-547-4089 and contact the team at Silicon Valley Recovery confidentially to learn more about treatment options, including medical detox.

How Does Addiction Affect Your Career?

What happens when your addiction governs your professional life? What’s the effect of drug and alcohol addiction on your career, marriage, and social status? In today’s economy, it’s easier than ever to become addicted to substances and behaviors.  Read more about how does addiction affect your career?

Make no mistake: Addiction can limit your potential in every aspect of your life. To resist this fate, you’ll need help from those who have already walked this path.

Unfortunately, a person’s chase of that initial high they felt slowly but surely, develops into a vicious cycle of substance abuse. 

Addiction affects millions of people each year, and the effects can be detrimental to the careers of the most successful people. The individual who is doing illicit drugs daily will not have the drive necessary to excel at their job. 

Forming positive relationships with coworkers can be challenging if you have an alcohol use disorder. It can also be challenging to hold onto your job if you abuse alcohol or drugs and have poor performance at work. The uncertainty of addiction may lead to unemployment and erode the confidence you need to manage your career effectively.

How Does Addiction Affect Your Career?

Addiction is a severe and chronic disease with far-reaching consequences for you and your personal and professional relationships. The effects of alcohol addiction are grave and far-reaching. Addiction can be devastating for the individual’s overall health and well-being, including mental health, physical health, and social health. 

Addiction interferes and disrupts, your career which can be an incredibly negative experience. Drugs, alcohol, and efficient job performance cannot coexist. Workplace substance use issues do not discriminate. People in all professions, education levels, income levels, and demographic groups are affected—including managers, first-line supervisors, mid-level supervisors, senior executives, directors, professionals, clerical staff, technical staff, salespeople, and service workers.

Unfortunately, drug abuse quickly robs you of your best. In the workplace environment, substance use problems will disrupt the normal functioning of the institution through a multitude of mechanisms. These include absenteeism, tardiness, reduced morale and productivity, increased healthcare costs, impaired decision-making, poor judgment, and higher cost of insurance. 

Also, people with substance use disorders often feel a sense of hopelessness in the face of their addictions. They may lose their temper quickly or suffer from mood swings.

This process is often accelerated by an ineffective or non-existent corporate policy for dealing with substance use problems. Here’s a list of some of the ways how does addiction affect your career:

  1. You become absentminded and forgetful: When you have addictions, your mental and physical state starts degrading. You become absentminded and start lacking attention to detail. As this happens, you’ll start forgetting things or overlooking details that you would never have allowed yourself to forget in the past.
  1. Feelings of depression and irritability: Addiction can create feelings of depression and irritability, which will hurt how you interact with your coworkers, while heavy drinking and addiction are the leading causes of workplace conflicts.
  1. Lack of focus: Anyone with an addiction knows that it can make it challenging. Juggling complex job responsibilities with a regular drug or alcohol habit is impossible. As your substance abuse deepens, you’ll make critical mistakes or begin leaving work altogether.
  1. Chronic fatigue: Perhaps one of the most troubling consequences of addiction is that it inevitably leads to chronic fatigue. If you’re using drugs or alcohol, your healthy appetite may rapidly dissipate, leaving you feeling drained and craving unhealthy foods—both of which can leave you short on energy. 
  1. Hampers your creativity: Sure, drug use might help you think outside the box for that one project, but if you allow your addictions to run your life, you won’t be able to sustain that level of creativity over time. 
  1. Creates family, money, and other personal problems: The connection between addiction and the workplace is obvious—it makes personal issues that can adversely affect your business. 
  1. Causes deterioration of your physical health: A person with any addiction, including substance use disorders, can suffer physical health consequences due to their disorder. Sometimes this happens without them even realizing it – they might make excuses for not coming to work on time or leaving early because they had a rough night the night before due to withdrawal and couldn’t sleep very well. They might develop a reputation for being unreliable at work. 
How Does Addiction Affect Your Career?

Get Help to Minimize the Consequences

You may be able to avoid losing your job altogether or at least minimize the consequences by seeking help for long-term recovery. Finding a job after rehab is easier than maintaining a job while actively abusing drugs. 

Silicon Valley Recovery has staff who have experience and qualifications in addiction care. We can help you or your loved one on the road to recovery. Our addiction treatment program specializes in treating opiate, alcohol, methamphetamine, and other forms of alcohol and drug addiction.

If you or a loved one needs a compassionate reminder of why the sober life is good, Silicon Valley Recovery can help. Call 408-547-4089, and we can provide long-term support through residential and extended care programs that help our clients break their negative behaviors and learn new skills to support healthier lives.