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
Is Alcohol a Depressant or a Stimulant? brain on hand 1

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. 

What Are Benzodiazepines?

What are benzodiazepines? Benzodiazepines, also called benzos, are a particular class of drugs with similar effects. Benzodiazepines are controlled substances, available by prescription if you have a qualifying medical condition.

They’re for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. Short-term use is somewhat safe, but long-term treatment or use can lead to harmful effects, including dependence and addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse

Why Are Benzodiazepines Prescribed?

When you take a benzodiazepine drug, it changes neurons’ activity, triggering anxiety and stress responses. FDA approved uses for benzodiazepine medication include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Epilepsy and other seizure disorders
  • Panic disorder
  • Insomnia

Off-label uses for these types of medications can include tic disorders, bipolar disorder, and the management of alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Common benzodiazepines include:

  • Alprazolam for the treatment of panic and anxiety disorders
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium) for the treatment of anxiety symptoms and alcohol withdrawal
  • Clonazepam, which is for seizure and panic disorders
  • Lorazepam, that can help with seizures and anxiety and may be given as part of anesthesia
  • Temazepam for insomnia and sleep disorders 
  • Diazepam for panic attacks, insomnia and sleep disorders, alcohol withdrawal, seizures, and restless leg syndrome

Valium and Xanax are two of the most common brand name drugs in this category.

How Do Benzodiazepines Work?

When someone takes a benzo, it’s a fast-acting medicine to reduce anxiety. There are sedative effects, and these drugs are calming, which is why they’re often for panic attacks and severe short-term anxiety. 

Most benzos start working quickly—within around 30 minutes to an hour after taking them. They tend to leave your system reasonably quickly also—the peak effects will wear off within a few hours for most people.

When you take this anti-anxiety medication, it impacts neurotransmitters as the mechanism of action. Neurotransmitters are chemical brain messengers. The action of benzodiazepine increases the effects of GABA, a neurotransmitter responsible for calming brain activity and slowing the central nervous system.

Common symptoms include:

  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Problems concentrating
  • Alcohol sensitivity
  • Vertigo
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Slow movement or muscle weakness
  • Memory impairment
  • Muscle spasms
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased risk of falls
  • Depression, symptoms of other mental disorders, or cognitive impairment 

Less common side effects may include low blood pressure, tremors, double vision, and headaches. Some people may experience serious adverse effects, including behavioral changes, delirium, and risk of dependence. There’s also some evidence that long-term use could contribute to cognitive decline, but more research is needed. 

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepine Addiction and Physical Dependence

Someone who uses benzos, particularly over a long period, may experience physical and behavioral effects of addiction and dependence. As you take these drugs for longer periods, a tolerance may develop. As you become tolerant, you need larger doses to achieve your desired effects.

With tolerance can come both addiction and independence. A substance use disorder diagnosis will include at least two of a possible 11 symptoms within one year. These diagnostic symptoms can consist of:

  • Taking the drug for a more extended period of time than you intend or taking more than you mean to.
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining the drug, using it, or recovering from the effects.
  • If you aren’t currently on the drug, you may have withdrawal symptoms.
  • The development of tolerance, or needing more to get the same effects, is a diagnostic criterion for substance use disorder.
  • You continue using the substance despite known adverse effects.
  • Your performance at home, school, or work is impaired because of the use of the drug.

Behavioral signs of benzo addiction can include withdrawal from friends and family, changes in routine or behavior, and doing uncharacteristic things to get more of the drug, such as stealing.

If you develop an addiction to a drug like Xanax or Valium, using it is no longer in your control. Drugs affect specific areas of your brain that play a role in your reward cycle. When a drug triggers that reward cycle, you experience severe cravings and continue to use it even if you don’t necessarily want to.

Benzodiazepine dependence is a physical situation that often occurs with psychological addiction, but not always. You can be dependent on benzos without having a diagnosable addiction.

When you’re dependent on a benzo, your body needs it to maintain a sense of “normalcy.” If you stop using the drug suddenly, known as going cold turkey, you will experience benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. 

To avoid addiction and dependence, it’s important never to use these substances recreationally. You should only use them with a valid prescription and under the supervision of a qualified medical provider. Even then, there are risks of addiction and dependence, but they’re lower than is the case with recreational use.

Avoid benzodiazepine abuse by doing the following:

  • Only use these drugs if your doctor prescribes them
  • Telling your doctor anything else you take, including over-the-counter medicines and supplements, because interactions are possible
  • Following all of your healthcare provider’s instructions
  • Not using the drugs any longer than what your doctor instructs you to
  • Never change your dosage without speaking to your doctor
  • Not combining opioids or alcohol with the benzos
  • Don’t take another person’s drugs
  • Keep all medications out of reach of children

Symptoms of Benzo Withdrawal

There can be a range of mild to severe withdrawal symptoms associated with these prescription medications. 

The severity of symptoms you might experience during withdrawal from benzodiazepine dependence can vary significantly based on individual health and characteristics. Other factors impacting the severity of withdrawal symptoms include the dose of the drug you regularly use and how long you’ve been using it.

Whether you use short-acting benzodiazepines or long-acting benzodiazepines can affect the timeline and symptoms of withdrawal. 

Possible benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms and withdrawal effects include:

  • Rebound anxiety
  • Panic
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Tremor
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Stomach pain and gastrointestinal problems
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Muscle pain
  • Headaches

If you use daily doses of benzos for more than two weeks, even at therapeutic doses, your chances of experiencing withdrawal symptoms start to go up. Even just using them for three to four weeks can lead to withdrawal symptoms. To avoid withdrawal, you should do a supervised taper rather than abrupt cessation, which can be dangerous.

There are a few phases of the withdrawal process. 

The immediate phase of the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal is when rebound symptoms occur. Rebound symptoms are when you may notice the symptoms that you initially took the drug to treat start to re-appear and sometimes are more severe than they were before. For example, you may experience insomnia in the early phase of benzodiazepine withdrawal.

Acute withdrawal usually begins within a few days after the last dose, and symptoms can last anywhere from five to 30 days or sometimes several months.

Another possible phase of withdrawal is protracted withdrawal. Not everyone experiences this, but ongoing symptoms can include depression, mood swings, anxiety, poor concentration, and loss of sex drive.

These symptoms can impact your quality of life, but medications and targeted therapies can help you during the withdrawal period. 

Are You Struggling with Benzos?

If you’re struggling with addiction or dependence on a drug like Xanax, please reach out to our treatment center by calling 408-547-4089. Members of the Silicon Valley Recovery team are available any time to answer questions you have and help you discover more about treatment plans and programs that will work for you as an individual. This includes the treatment of benzodiazepine withdrawal and comprehensive addiction treatment. 

A Person Who Has Been Drinking Will Usually Behave This Way

When we drink alcohol, it affects our brains, bodies, and behavior. For some people, even minimal amounts of alcoholic beverages begin to affect their ability to function normally. A person who has been drinking alcohol will usually seem less coordinated, perhaps have slurred speech, and have lower inhibitions.

Along with general personality changes, some people might experience especially adverse changes in their behavior. For example, when a person who has been drinking even small amounts, a person will sometimes become angry or aggressive.

Is someone an alcoholic simply because their personality changes when they drink?

No. 

An alcohol use disorder is a diagnosable condition with a set of criteria used in the evaluation, as with other mental disorders. Personality changes don’t mean someone is an alcoholic or has an alcohol addiction. It can mean that they’re problem drinkers or experience adverse outcomes when they drink. Being a problem drinker is a risk factor for developing a more significant alcohol use disorder, but it isn’t an addiction necessarily. 

Below we break down some of the ways a person who has been drinking alcohol will usually behave and how drinking can impact our personality. You can also learn about addiction recovery here.

How Alcohol Changes Your Personality

You may have various motives for drinking alcohol. You may drink primarily when you’re socializing to serve as a way to be more outgoing, so it’s a situational factor. Some people drink when they’re happy, to celebrate. Others drink alcohol to relax at the end of the day, and some do so when they’re feeling upset as a coping mechanism.

When someone drinks and especially engages in heavy drinking, they may experience changes to their personality.

You may have a group of friends you usually have alcoholic drinks with. There may be the sad drunk or the happy drunk within that group. That person’s personality changes are probably similar every time they drink, no matter the environmental factors or outside circumstances.

Our expression of personality can shift when we’re drinking or drunk. Personality isn’t just how we outwardly behave or act in social interactions under typical circumstances. Our personalities are complex and include how we feel and how we’re experiencing any given situation.

A reason for the changes is the loss of control you experience. Alcohol disinhibits the part of your brain that gives you self-control. That’s why you might become more extroverted when you drink, or you could become more angry and aggressive. You’re removing that element of control that you use in your daily life with the addition of alcohol.

The traits that come out when you drink are already there—they may be underlying. They are just heightened with the addition of alcohol, and especially heavy drinking. 

If you’re someone who has underlying and unresolved anger, you’re more likely to expose that when you drink. If you’re generally happy, then you might experience a more over-the-top version of those feelings as you drink.

Most researchers believe alcohol begins to affect a person’s abilities to conceal elements of their personality perhaps. It doesn’t make you a different person to drink, however.

Why Does Alcohol Lower Your Inhibitions?

As we’ve touched on, a person who has been drinking will usually do things they wouldn’t otherwise. Chemical reactions happen in your brain when you drink. These reactions also play a role in coordination, as the alcohol begins to affect a person’s abilities.

When you drink, a few things happen.

  • GABA levels increase.
  • GABA is a brain chemical messenger or neurotransmitter. When the neurotransmitter goes up, you feel relaxed, and your stress and anxiety go down. 
  • There’s an increase in dopamine in the brain. Dopamine sends chemical messengers that create feelings of pleasure, thus the buzz you get from drinking.
  • Norepinephrine goes up, which is a stimulating neurotransmitter. This is the neurotransmitter primarily responsible for excitement, as well as lower inhibitions and increased impulsivity. When your norepinephrine is high, it can make it hard for you to weigh the consequences of your decisions thoroughly.
  • There are also effects on the brain’s prefrontal cortex, responsible for helping you think rationally and clearly. When you drink, it impairs the abilities of your prefrontal cortex. You’re then more likely to act without thinking.
  • Alcohol reduces the behavioral inhibition centers in your brain.
  • You have a slowdown in the processing of information in the brain, so it’s more difficult for you to think through the consequences fully.
  • The prefrontal cortex is also responsible for managing your willpower and feelings of aggression.

All these effects mean that if you’re already feeling angry or aggressive, that shield of inhibition goes away. You’re more likely to act on those feelings that were already there bubbling under the surface.

Many of the brain areas affected by alcohol also play a role in mental health and mental health issues. For example, if someone has co-occurring disorders like bipolar disorder, the influence of alcohol can also make the symptoms worse.

Alcohol and Aggression

There are certain people that we see and think “they’re an angry drunk.” The reasons are due to the factors above. However, even if you’re not an inherently angry person, you may still get more violent or aggressive than you would otherwise.

For example, if someone were to provoke you after you’d been drinking, you could be likely to take the bait and engage with them. In your normal daily life, without the addition of alcohol, you’d probably just ignore or walk away from the situation.

It’s important to note links between drinking habits and intimate partner violence. In fact, in one study, 30% of couples reporting intimate partner violence said alcohol was a factor.

Regardless of whether you believe it’s the alcohol affecting someone’s behavior, if you experience violence or abuse of any type when someone is drinking, you should leave the situation and go to a safe space. It’s never an excuse. Alcohol doesn’t create these components of someone’s personality — again, it just enhances or brings them to the surface.

A Person Who Has Been Drinking Will Usually Behave This Way
A Person Who Has Been Drinking Will Usually Behave This Way man taking breathalyzer test

Are You An Alcoholic When Your Personality Changes?

As mentioned above, when your personality changes or, more accurately, when certain characteristics come out when you’re drinking, that doesn’t inherently point to alcoholism or alcohol dependence. There are complex factors and diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder. It’s a chronic illness and a mental health disorder. 

One of the primary criteria for diagnosing an alcohol use disorder or any substance use disorder is continuing to drink despite negative, known consequences. So, if you know that you become aggressive or angry when you drink, and it leads to fights, altercations, legal problems, or other issues, yet you keep drinking, that could be a red flag.

If you try to cut down on your drinking and you aren’t able to, and you keep finding yourself in situations where your personality changes in an unpleasant way, it could be an indicator of an alcohol use disorder.

Dangerous Behaviors

One of the most dangerous behaviors of someone who has been consuming alcohol is drunk driving. In the United States, you are considered legally drunk when your blood alcohol content (bac) is .08. If your alcohol levels are beyond this point you are considered to be a drunk driver and prohibited to operate a vehicle. When you drink and drive your reaction time is lowered, a significant amount of fatal crashes reported come from impaired drivers. 

Getting Help

We encourage you to call 408-547-4089 and reach out to the Silicon Valley Recovery addiction treatment team if you’re worried about your behavior or someone else’s. We can help you connect with resources to help to guide you in how to deal with a person who has been drinking. 

Is Marijuana Addictive? Truth, Risk & Solutions

Is marijuana addictive? This question is especially relevant right now, as our society, in general, has shifting views on the use of the drug. Also, marijuana laws are changing rapidly.

While marijuana remains an illegal drug at the federal level in the United States, many states have created laws surrounding its use. States allow it for medical purposes only, and there’s also a significant portion of legal recreational marijuana.

In 2012, Colorado voters approved an initiative legalizing the recreational sale and use of marijuana. Colorado was the first state to do so. Eighteen other states, as well as Washington D.C., have since done the same.

Smoking marijuana is in some ways like alcohol. Even though the stigma surrounding its use is declining, that doesn’t mean it’s not harmful and doesn’t have potentially adverse consequences. No matter the laws or the perception, it’s essential to recognize the reality of the risks of marijuana and what they can entail, including its addictive quality.

How Does Marijuana Cause Addiction?

To explore the answer to “is marijuana addictive,” it’s helpful to have at least a general understanding of how it affects you.

Marijuana can have THC, a psychoactive compound and mood-altering substance. THC is what makes you feel high when you use marijuana. Regions of your brain that affect memory, learning, coordination, appetite, and pleasure have cannabinoid receptors. Those receptors are affected by the use of marijuana.

In the short term, THC alters the function of your hippocampus in your brain, as well as the orbitofrontal cortex. These parts of your brain influence your ability to learn and do complex tasks. There are effects on memory and focus too.

This also happens because marijuana’s impact on cannabinoid receptors affects your brain’s reward system.

The reward system includes brain regions controlling pleasurable actions that are healthy, such as eating and sex. However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drugs and alcohol can activate the reward system in unhealthy ways.

As with other drugs of abuse, THC will stimulate the neurons in your reward system. That stimulation then leads to the release of dopamine. The dopamine release occurs at much higher levels than stimuli that are naturally rewarding. As there’s a surge of dopamine in your brain, it’s learning to repeat the activity leading to the reward, giving the drug its addictive properties.

That all means that, yes, marijuana addiction can develop similarly to other types of drug abuse.

Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana isn’t necessarily as addictive as some substances of abuse. For example, alcohol and opioids might be more addictive, but that doesn’t mean marijuana doesn’t have addiction potential.

  • Around 1 in 10 adults who use marijuana develop an addiction.
  • Even more significant risk for addiction exists in young people.
  • If you use marijuana before you’re 18, the addiction rates go to 1 in 6.
  • If you’re addicted, you may have what’s technically called a cannabis use disorder. Someone with a cannabis use disorder will experience physical, social, or emotional problems because of their marijuana use.
  • You may also hear it called a marijuana use disorder. As with other substance use disorders, it can be mild to severe.

According to the National Institutes of Health, cannabis use disorder is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The DSM-5 is the gold standard for the diagnosis of psychiatric and addiction disorders.

The Symptoms of Cannabis Addiction

According to the DSM-5, for a diagnosis of a marijuana use disorder, there should be the presence of at least two of the following symptoms.

These symptoms should occur within 12 months, indicating problematic long-term marijuana use.

  • Continuation of use, despite adverse effects in your life. For example, you might keep using it even if you have psychological or physical effects you know are related to your usage.
  • Creating health problems
  • Having intense cravings for marijuana.
  • Developing a tolerance and needing more and more for the same effects.
  • Having marijuana withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the drug, which is a sign of physical dependence.
  • Giving up other activities or interests in your daily life.
  • Use more marijuana than you intend or use it for a more extended period than you initially intended.
  • Dangerous use, such as using marijuana and then driving.
  • Impacts on other priorities such as work or school, social life, or your family life. You might have a decline in school performance, for example.
  • You spend a significant amount of time getting the drug, using it, and recovering from the effects.
  • You’ve tried unsuccessfully to reduce your use or stop.

Marijuana Use and the Young Brain

As mentioned above, young marijuana users are at the highest risk of developing a substance use disorder involving marijuana.

  • Marijuana addiction also puts young people at risk of permanent brain damage. Marijuana affects many areas of the brain.
  •  Sometimes when those effects occur on the developing brain of a young person, they may not be reversible, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  • Our brains are in a state of development until we reach our early 20s. During this time, we’re particularly susceptible to environmental influences, including substance use.
  • The earlier someone begins their abuse of marijuana; the more detrimental the effects of cannabis are likely to be on their brain. For example, currently available data suggest vocabulary and information measures of what’s known as crystallized intelligence are lower in young people who use marijuana. Crystalized intelligence is a measure of the knowledge you gain through learning or experience.

What Determines Whether You Develop Marijuana Dependence?

Some people can use recreationally and never develop symptoms of addiction. For other drug users, using addictive drugs just a few times can lead to problematic patterns. As with different types of addiction, there isn’t one particular risk factor relevant to marijuana use disorders.

There are often multiple risk factors playing a role.

  • Genetics is a strong predictor for the development of addiction, based on what we know from the National Institute On Drug Abuse.
  • Mental health is another risk factor when it comes to addictive substances. It’s relatively common for people with an addiction to drugs or alcohol to have a co-occurring mental health disorder, such as anxiety or depression. You may use marijuana to self-medicate the symptoms of a psychiatric disorder, for example. You have underlying mental health issues that can also make you more prone to developing an addiction.
  • The issue of marijuana potency is something that we talk about more now too. The more potent marijuana is, the more it affects your brain, especially if you’re under the age of 25. The drug is getting more robust based on marijuana samples.

What Can You Do?

Is marijuana addictive? Yes.

How does marijuana cause addiction? It’s a complex effect that occurs on your brain and primarily your brain’s reward system that leads to the addictive nature of marijuana. Marijuana can also lead to withdrawal symptoms similar to other illicit drugs as well as alcohol.

If you feel like marijuana use is problematic in your life, what can you do?

The most important thing is being honest with yourself and potentially your loved ones about what you’re experiencing. Again, because the stigma of marijuana is gradually reducing, we may think that it’s perfectly fine to use it. The reality is that it can have very real negative consequences.

Once you’ve recognized the symptoms of a marijuana use disorder in yourself, treatment programs and support groups are available to help with your dependence. We encourage you to call 408-547-4089.and talk to a care coordinator at Silicon Valley Recovery to learn more about marijuana addiction and how you can explore treatment options like marijuana detox to improve your quality of life.

Drug Abuse Statistics: The Numbers Behind the Epidemic

We often hear about the opioid epidemic, which we will discuss below, but the United States faces more than just a problem with opioid use. We’re in the midst of a drug abuse epidemic in general. Indicators show it seems to be getting worse.

It’s likely as we learn more about the impact of the pandemic, we’ll also find that it significantly worsened the issue of substance abuse in the United States We already see some of the pandemic-related drug and alcohol use numbers, and they’re difficult. The illicit drug abuse epidemic impacts social and economic well-being and public health.

So what’s the reality behind the substance use disorder statistics, and how did it all happen?

Drug Abuse Statistics

According to national survey results, illegal drug use has been increasing across generations, demographics, and genders in the U.S.

It’s incredibly challenging even to know the full scope of people with a substance use disorder. Even based on what we do know according to self-reporting and overdoses, it’s alarming.

Along with deaths from the pandemic, 2020 appears to have been the deadliest ever in American history for drug use and drug addiction.

Related drug abuse statistics include:

  • The number of overdoses in 2020 hit record highs.
  • Oregon saw a 40% spike in drug deaths. Opioids were one factor, but there was a significant uptick in using other substances like meth. Cocaine deaths went up by 57%, and fentanyl contributed to 92% of these drug deaths.
  • Virginia is another state dealing with the fallout from record deaths related to drug abuse. More than 2,030 deaths occurred from overdoses in 2020, well over the state’s previous record of 1,626.

The states above are only examples. Most other states had similar issues.

We understand some of the reasons that 2020 was a particularly tragic year regarding substance abuse and associated deaths. People were isolated and dealing with declines in mental health because of the pandemic and its ripple effects.

Along with rises in substance abuse deaths, suicides have also been soaring.

Mental illness stemming from stress, financial insecurity, anxiety, depression, and poor coping mechanisms can lead to people abusing substances to self-medicate.

It’s unfortunate because there was a brief decline in overdose deaths from 2017 to 2018. The decline was modest at 4.1%, but still, it indicated to many that maybe things were turning a corner until the year 2020 began.

  • Overdoses went up more than 18% from the 12 months that ended in June 2019.
  • In 2020, there were 81,000 reported drug overdoses, the highest ever recorded.
  • While we talk primarily about overdoses because they’re a metric that can be quantified, even when someone doesn’t overdose, they may still be using drugs.
  • According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, at least 11.7% of the population was actively using drugs in 2018—a number that’s likely higher now.

The above statistics don’t even consider heavy drinking and alcohol addiction, also on the rise.

The Most Commonly Used Drugs

Popular drugs as far as abuse include:

Marijuana

Marijuana is also called cannabis. While marijuana isn’t legal federally, it is legal for recreational and medicinal use in many states despite its potential for abuse.

A national survey on drug use and health shows that attitudes toward legalization and marijuana use are changing, but it’s not a drug without consequence.

This common drug can trigger psychosis in people vulnerable to the condition. The use of cannabis can also impair learning and memory and damage the lungs. People who begin using it as teens are anywhere from four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults.

Prescriptions and OTC Medications

Prescription and over-the-counter drugs are among the deadliest and most misused drugs in the country and contribute to numerous drug overdose deaths.

Prescription opioids fall into this category, as do stimulants like Adderall.

There are also central nervous system depressants that are part of the problem with prescription drug abuse. Benzodiazepines such as Xanax have exceptionally high abuse rates, and there is a potential for addiction and physical dependence, even when you have a prescription.

Heroin

Heroin is a highly deadly, illicit opioid. In 2016, around 948,000 Americans reported they’d used heroin in the past year.

The age group driving that trend most appears to be young people between 18 and 25. At one point, heroin was predominantly in urban areas.

Now heroin use is seen in rural and suburban communities.

Methamphetamine

For a while, methamphetamine use was going down in the United States, but that’s a trend that appears to, unfortunately, be reversing.

Meth-related deaths are rising across the country, despite the country focusing primarily on the opioid epidemic.

Among minority groups and, in particular, native populations, the rates are going up even faster. Among American Indians and Alaska Natives, deadly meth overdoses have more than quadrupled in recent years.

Black Americans are also experiencing an increase in meth-related deaths. These trends are being seen across all Americans too, but at a lesser rate, as meth increasingly becomes a drug of choice for some.

The Opioid Epidemic

While the use of drugs like meth is going up, the opioid epidemic remains the most troubling issue regarding drug abuse statistics.

Since 1999, more than 841,000 people deaths have been the result of a drug overdose. In 2019, more than 70% of overdose deaths included the involvement of an opioid.

Opioids include prescription pain relievers like oxycodone and hydrocodone. Heroin is an opioid, as are synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Fentanyl is especially problematic right now because even a minuscule amount can be fatal.

Drug Abuse

Drug Abuse Statistics: Behind the Epidemic

Teenage Drug Abuse Statistics

Teens certainly aren’t immune to the damaging effects of drug abuse and addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adolescents most often use alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco. For young people using drugs or other substances, the risks can be exceptionally high.

  • The teenage brain develops until we’re in our 20s. Teen substance abuse may lead to adverse effects on brain development and even brain damage.
  • Teen drug abuse also contributes to physical health problems later in life, such as heart disease, sleep disorders, and high blood pressure.
  • When they begin using substances and experience the influence of drugs or alcohol, the younger a teen is, the higher the chances they develop a substance use disorder and ultimately become addicted.
  • Statistics show that 12th graders and even kids aged 12 and up report trying illicit drugs like heroin, in addition to alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco. That use among high school seniors and younger students increases the potential for full-blow addiction, like an alcohol use disorder, as well as drug overdose deaths.

Why Do Drug Abuse Statistics Show Increasing Use Rates?

One reason that drug abuse rates seem to be going up is one we talk about above, which is the pandemic. However, the trends were moving upward even before COVID-19.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Mental Health Services Administration, it’s likely a complex situation with many factors contributing.

Economic disparities, a lack of access to health care, and accessibility maybe some of those factors. It also seems that mental health disorders are on the rise in the U.S., like anxiety and depression.

Mental disorders tend to occur more prevalently in people who use substances, although it’s sometimes unclear which comes first. If you have a mental health disorder, you could use illegal street drugs, prescription drugs, or alcohol as a coping mechanism. The effects of substances themselves can also trigger mental health disorders.

While the above picture can be dismal regarding the rates of substance use and even teenage drug addiction, and there are large-scale factors that may be out of our control, we can take control of our lives and our health. If you’d like to explore substance abuse treatment options or speak to an addiction specialist, call 408-547-4089 and a care coordinator from the Silicon Valley Recovery team will answer your questions, and talk more about effective treatment programs.