Alcohol and Substance Abuse: A Deadly Duo

Why is alcohol and substance abuse dangerous? Is there treatment for both?

Someone said, “If you want to be powerful, educate yourself”. In the same way , you must be informed about the potential risk of any substance you take and possible treatment options.

What the numbers say

In 2015-2016, there were about 8,621 hospital admissions in the UK according to the National Health Service. The primary diagnosis was drug-related mental health and behavioral disorders under the influence of alcohol. This is 6 per cent more than the 2014-2015 and 11 per cent higher than 2005-2006.

UK hospitals recorded admissions with a primary diagnosis of poisoning by illicit drugs and admissions related to alcohol consumption. This was based on a narrow measure according to the data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Public Health England (PHE).

The World Health Organization (WHO), committed to assist countries in the development, organization, monitoring and evaluation of treatment stated that annual deaths of 3.3 million were alcohol-related.

The average alcohol consumed by a person aged 15 or older is  6.2 liters of pure alcohol yearly. Additionally, about 15.3 million people were found to have drug abuse disorders. In 148 countries, use of injected drug has resulted to some 120 HIV-positive cases in their population.

Dangerous combination

Alcohol & Substance Abuse
You need professional help to quit if you abuse alcohol & drugs.

Generally, combining alcohol with any medication or any substance is a no-no. For example, you must not combine alcohol and Xanax. This is very dangerous because both substances are depressants. The components of these two will slow your brain’s activity. It can result to  very serious reactions that can damage your central nervous system.

Combining alcohol and drugs will fast track your level of sedation to excessive and potentially fatal degree.  Albeit, that is the feeling most users are looking for. However, too much sedation can trigger your brain to cease from functioning. You may experience slipping into a coma, respiratory depression, and even cardiac arrest.

Alcohol in your drink

Alcohol is the colorless, tasteless clear liquid which gives a burning sensation to the mouth, esophagus and stomach.

There are two kinds of alcohol –methyl and ethyl alcohol.  Methyl alcohol is very poisonous. But it is not an ingredient in alcohol drinks but is used in some industries. Ethyl alcohol is used in drinks manufactured in breweries. This occurs when germs called yeasts act on sugars in food to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide.

How much alcohol is in your drink? A standard drink has been identified to guide you on the amount of alcohol your body can have. Fermented brews and spirits contain different amounts of alcohol. The amount of alcohol in beer is less than what can be found in other drinks.  Although, it also varies from 2.5% to 8% in different countries.

In the US, about 14 g of pure alcohol is considered acceptable. According to National Institute for Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism (NIAAA), at least 5% is found in 12 ounces of regular beer. More or less 12% alcohol is in a 5 oz. of wine while a 1.5 oz. of distilled spirits can contain 40% alcohol.

Standard Drink for Alcohol
Image credits to NIAAA

Alcohol abuse

Addictive substance can be found in any alcoholic drink. However, not all who drink alcohol will end up addicted to alcohol. And not all alcohol drinkers will abuse alcohol.

Alcohol abuse is different from alcohol addiction.

When you refer to alcohol addiction, it means a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol.  If you are addicted to alcohol, your body develops tolerance to alcohol substance through the years. Your body will crave for alcohol daily. You think that you need to drink in order to survive the day. As a result, you will have serious alcohol-related problems.

Alcohol abuse, on the other hand, refers to heavy alcohol drinking. Alcohol abusers may not drink on regular basis compared to an alcoholic.  However, if you abuse alcohol, you also put yourself at risk of developing serious health issues later.

Substance abuse

Abuse of drugs or substance is defined as hazardous use of psychoactive substances such as tobacco and illicit drugs.

Substance AbusePsychoactive substance abuse can lead to dependence syndrome. This refers to behavioral, cognitive, and physiological phenomena after repeated use of substance. When this happens, there is a strong desire to take drugs. The person may have difficulties in controlling its use. He will have increased tolerance to the substance despite its harmful effect. He may experience physical withdrawal state

Drugs most often associated with abuse of substance include: cannabis, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, methaqualone, opioids and some substituted amphetamines.

Reasons for alcohol & substance abuse

Why do people abuse alcohol and substance?  For some, it seems that the use of drugs and alcohol can help them manage overwhelming or depressing situations. These feelings are accompanied by fear, helplessness, and powerlessness. These emotions can also lead to shutting down everyone around. Alcohol and substance becomes a way to manage these feelings.

However, using drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism for challenging emotions and thoughts can create more problems later on. It’s possible that an alcohol addiction can develop. And pushing the pain away with substances only makes the inner turmoil worse. This is why alcohol and substance abuse is a fatal duo.

Quitting is possible

Like many drugs, alcohol is toxic. It can poison your body if taken in large amounts or in combination with other drugs. But can you quit both?

Quitting alcohol and substance abuse is not an overnight success. It usually begins with understanding and accepting that you have a problem. Then, your family or loved ones can help you with your decision to undergo treatment. But again, it will not be possible if you don’t have a strong conviction to get help. You must commit to your recovery and undergo the stages no matter how difficult it will be.

The duration of your treatment depends on several things such as:

  • the substance type you used
  • the frequency and amount you used it
  • the kinds of other substance abused for multiple-drug abuse
  • existing or co-occuring mental health conditions derived from substance abuse.

It’s very important to look for centers that have the facility to handle co-occurring disorders. Co-occurring disorders needs careful treatment. Addiction and mental health needs to be handled simultaneously to ensure successful and long lasting results.

Remember that you cannot quit alcohol and substance abuse on your own. It can become dangerous and so your treatment and recovery must be under the guidance of medical professionals.

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