Understanding Addiction with Reflections Recovery Center

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Xanax and Alcohol Mixed

Alcohol and Xanax (also known as Alprazolam) are both substances that are legal. They are also both substances that are widely available and commonly abused. This can make it difficult to recognize any issues. In regard to alcohol and Xanax, mixing the two can be incredibly risky even without a severe addiction to either. In moderation, alcohol does not cause severe damage every time it is consumed. Xanax is a controlled substance, that medical professionals issue to often help with anxiety disorders or panic attacks.

However, it is possible for them to both easily become an abused substance. Alcohol and Xanax can both have negative side effects. Mixing them can magnify what each substance does and cause greater harm. Combined alcohol and Xanax use increases risk for overdose, something many people may not realize.* To understand this better, it can help to know how each substance affects people and what happens they are mixed.

What is Xanax and what does Xanax do?

Xanax is the brand name for Alprazolam, which is a short-acting benzodiazepine often used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, or even nausea from chemotherapy. It is the most commonly prescribed psychiatric drug in the United States and often frequently abused. Like other legal drugs, there are counterfeit pills that can be found on the black market. While they may be similar, they are often cut with other substances and can cause significant harm. From McGill University, “GABA is a chemical messenger that is widely distributed in the brain. GABA’s natural function is to reduce the activity of the neurons to which it binds.”* Neurons can become overexcited, which can lead to anxiety. Benzodiazepines, like Xanax, work to enhance the actions of GABA, which depresses the over-excited central nervous system, and provide a sense of calm.

Clearly, when done legally and under medical supervision, Xanax is meant to be helpful and it has helped people. However, like any medication, it can have adverse side effects. Symptoms will vary for different people and will range in severity. Some common side effects can include: memory or concentration problems, depression, fatigue, suicidal ideation, or trouble breathing. Withdrawal from Xanax can be severe, and should be done under the supervision of a medical professional. Xanax is a short-acting drug that processes quickly and leaves the body quickly. This leaves you at a higher risk for withdrawal, since your body has less time to adapt to working without the drug.* Listing these symptoms is not a scare-tactic, but rather a way to convey issues that can arise. Further, it is helpful to understand the side effects to then understand how mixing alcohol will interact with Xanax.

What is alcohol and how does it affect us?

Simply put, alcohol is an organic compound; it is alcohol ethanol found in alcoholic beverages, which occurs by fermenting sugar with yeast. The alcohol humans drink acts as a suppressant to the central nervous system, similar to Xanax. It can boost one’s mood and increase their inclination to be social, while calming any over-excited nerves that usually make a person anxious. Many people drink for just these reasons. The negative aspects for alcohol, which become worse the more one drinks, are numerous, but the severity will affect individuals differently. Short-term effects might include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, anxiety, and fatigue. Alcohol can be addictive, which can lead to dependence and withdrawal. Long-term effects include liver damage, neurological damage, and various forms of cancer. Furthermore, the abuse of and addiction to alcohol can also lead to significant problems in one’s social and professional life.

Despite many of the negative aspects listed above, alcohol is one of the most common recreational substances. It has been around for thousands of years and it’s prevalence makes it widely accepted. In an article from National Geographic, archaeologist Patrick McGovern said, “Alcohol is central to human culture and biology because we were probably drinking fermented beverages from the beginning.” What is more, in modern times alcohol is marketed as a way to more fun and a better life. Even some of the adverse effects of alcohol, primarily concerning behavior during drinking and hangovers, are seen as humorous. This attitude combined with the popularity of alcohol makes it hard to recognize when it becomes a problem. Or that it can even become a problem at all. With that in mind, it is understandable how many people can then miss the dangers of drinking combined with something like Xanax.

Alcohol and Xanax Mixed

Alcohol and Xanax both suppress the central nervous system and mixing the two can intensify the actions of both substances. From an article published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), alcohol enhances the effects of Xanax which includes drowsiness, sedation, and impaired motor skills.* As both substances are sedatives, they significantly impair breathing when combined. As more alcohol is consumed, the areas of the brain that regulate “basic life-support functions—such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control—begin to shut down.”* Consumption of alcohol and Xanax at any amount can be dangerous, but the risk of overdose becomes even more dangerous the more alcohol is consumed. Alcohol impairs one’s ability to think clearly, which makes recognizing symptoms of overdose even more difficult.

When taking Xanax, there is a warning not to consume alcohol. However, many people may either disregard this or not realize the severity of mixing the two substances. When dealing with addiction, someone might not be in a place to consider or assess the risks at all. What is more, with addiction, it is likely that someone could turn to using unregulated Xanax. This increases the risks with unknown substances added.

Treatment

It is possible, and often likely, that someone dealing with addiction will be facing issues with more than one substance. With alcohol and Xanax, it is tough to recognize that you or a loved one might have a problem.

At Reflections Recovery Center, we offer a detox center with a 5-day program. Withdrawal from alcohol and Xanax can both be dangerous to do alone. Our highly qualified team of medical professionals will work with clients to ensure a safe detox process. We also offer inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, with many resources available to create a unique and thorough treatment plan. Reflections can also treat co-occurring disorders, providing essential treatment for mental disorders and substance abuse disorders. Our goal is to help each client through every step of the process and to provide tools to maintain sobriety long after treatment. Alcohol and Xanax can be an incredibly dangerous combination. If you or a loved may be struggling with this, contact us today for help.

*Resources:
Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose – NIH
Side Effects of Benziodiazepines – Mind.org
Were Humans Built to Drink Alcohol? – National Geographic
Alcohol and Medication Interactions – NIH

Nutrition in Recovery

Nutrients found in food are essential to life. They provide calories and energy that is needed so we can go throughout our days. It is possible though to consume food without much nutrition and feel like you’re able to go about your day with no problems. The connection between food and health might not always be so clear to everyone. What may or may not seem obvious, is that food impacts our health and how we deal with daily life. With processed foods, it begins to lose most if not all of the nutrition it may have had. This type of food can leave someone feeling sick, lethargic, and can greatly affect one’s mood. Processed food puts the body into a state of inflammation, which leaves people feeling depressed and anxious.

Naturally, your body adjusts to what you regularly consume. For Psychology Today, Dr. Nicole Avena writes, “Without even realizing it, most food choices are made based on taste, convenience, and familiarity. The gut will not be primed for digestion of fibrous fruits and vegetables, and there exists a strong preference for food that is salty (chips) or sweet and easily digestible (sweetened cereal with milk).” If you eat only junk food, that is what you crave and what triggers the reward center in your brain. With nutrient therapy, we want to show that it is possible to feel better by eating better. Addiction significantly deprives the body of nutrients. For a thorough recovery, it is essential that we work with patients to repair their health through nutrition.

Alcohol and Nutrition

The vagus nerve is a nerve that helps your gut and your mind communicate. The food you consume directly affects this nerve, and naturally so does consumption of alcohol. When something is permeable, it becomes more absorbent or more easily allows substances to pass through. Some permeability in the gut or intestines, for example, is okay, but when it increases it can become a problem. A study done in 2014 found that alcohol-dependent subjects may have higher gut permeability, which can affect behavioral changes and mood.

The authors also wrote, “Alcohol-dependent subjects frequently develop emotional symptoms that contribute to the persistence of alcohol drinking.”* Someone might drink to cope with other issues and then develop issues from drinking, which will then lead to continued heavy drinking. This can clearly create a negative cycle; it will damage the gut and can lead to anxiety and depression, which then may be self-medicated with alcohol.

Furthermore, alcohol impedes a body’s ability to break down nutrients into molecules that the body desperately needs. Excessive consumption of alcohol can deprive the body of vitamins and minerals. A deficiency in Vitamin K, for example, can cause delayed blood clotting and will result in excess bleeding. Furthermore, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “…eighty percent of bipolar sufferers have some vitamin B deficiencies (often accompanied by anemia).”* A vitamin B deficiency is not the sole cause, nor will everyone with a deficiency suffer from bipolar disorder. However, it is an important facet to consider and increasing vitamin B levels can help to alleviate some symptoms.

Other vitamin deficiencies can cause severe neurological damage. Mineral deficiencies can result in a number of health problems including calcium-related bone disease, zinc-related night blindness and skin lesions.* For clients seeking treatment for alcohol addiction, we will identify any malnutrition or micro-nutrient deficiencies. When we know what to address, we can form a plan with food, nutrition and other necessary medicine to restore balance.

Drugs and Nutrient Deprivation

Drugs also clearly deprive the body of essential nutrients and can lead to severe malnutrition. Opiates (including codeine, oxycodone, heroin, and morphine) can cause gastrointestinal problems which can include diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. This can result in a lack of nutrients and electrolytes, like sodium or potassium.* With stimulants, like meth, crack, or cocaine, appetite is reduced and this leads to weight loss and poor nutrition. Long-term use can result in permanent memory problems.* There are, of course, many other possible issues. Substance abuse is a disease that can drastically destroy the mind and body. However, with proper help and treatment there is hope.

When someone is in recovery, particularly after abusing stimulants, it is possible they might turn to overeating. At Reflections, we want to work with clients on a plan to return their health to a good place and to learn new, healthy habits. This can start with eating at regular times, eating food that is high in nutrition, and even learning to prepare healthy food for oneself. Nutrition is essential to having energy, maintaining body structure, and bodily function.

A better mood and mental state is a good defense against relapse in many ways. It can encourage someone to engage in other healthy behaviors. As good food makes the body and mind feel better, physical activity will be something clients feel they can engage in. Being active can be a significant help in recovery. Overall, we want our clients to develop good nutritional habits that will reach every other area of their lives.

Utilizing Nutrition in Recovery

At Reflections, each client will go through an initial evaluation. This allows us to take a comprehensive look at our client’s health. With laboratory testing, we can identify the vitamins and minerals where there is a deficiency. This helps us identify how their health is affected, physically or mentally, and how we can proceed with treatment. We can begin to introduce food and other healthy methods of restoring balance in the body. Our goal is that each client will feel better physically, which can lead to improved mental health. We also want clients to know that they can take control of their health and what they eat, and thus play a big part in their sobriety.

If we can teach our clients proper nutrition, we can allow them to take control. Learning about nutrition regarding food, drinks, and supplements is something clients can take with them after treatment. When clients are feeling better physically and mentally, they may feel more capable of engaging in physical activity. An active life in turn further benefits their physical and mental health, creating a positive cycle. At Reflections, we all truly want each client to walk away with the skills to continue a positive life and to maintain sobriety.

*Resources:
Psychology Today – Nutrition in Recovery from Addiction
Intestinal Permeability – PNAS
Alcohol and Nutrition – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Substance Use Recovery and Diet – MedlinePlus

What Are the Chances of Becoming an Alcoholic with an Alcoholic Parent


Parents influence their children in countless profound ways. Parents can shape a child’s sense of self-worth, problem-solving skills, and perceptions of his or her environment. When a child has a parent with an alcohol abuse disorder, the parent’s behavior will invariably influence the child’s. In some cases, children grow up to develop alcohol abuse disorders after observing a parent’s struggles with alcoholism or as a coping mechanism. In any case, it’s essential to address and analyze these connections and understand parents’ effects on their children in terms of substance abuse.

Understanding Genetic Alcoholism

The links between alcoholism and genetics are complicated, and no clear genetic indicator that a person will succumb to alcoholism in his or her life exists. However, studies show that a child with a parent who has an alcohol abuse disorder is three to four times more likely than his or her peers to develop alcoholism later in life*.

There has also been research into specific populations with genetic trends that influence alcohol-related behaviors. For example, some individuals from East Asia have a genetic marker that produces more of the enzyme that metabolizes alcohol than other people have. This can cause them to drink more than average in one sitting than others to achieve the desired effect, and over time this leads to faster formation of tolerance and a higher susceptibility to developing alcoholism.

Parents’ Influence On Behavior And Perception

When children grow up around alcohol abuse they tend to develop decreased sensitivity to alcohol and its effects. For example, a child who grows up with an alcoholic father may not realize until later in life that such a family dynamic is neither normal nor healthy. This has a domino effect and can increase the likelihood of a child experimenting with drugs and alcohol at an earlier age or taking experimentation too far and developing a substance abuse problem at a very young age. An alcoholic with an alcoholic parent may blame the parent for being a bad influence, but having an alcoholic parent is not an automatic sign that the child will be an alcoholic too.

Alcoholic parents are inherently more likely to abuse their children due to diminished judgment and constant drunkenness. This in turn can traumatize children, cause the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and propel a child to cope by using drugs and alcohol later in life. Genetic markers account for roughly half of a person’s risk of developing alcoholism as an adult**, but simply having a parent with alcoholism is not a surefire sign the child will develop alcoholism. Ultimately, the decision to start drinking is a personal choice.

High-Functioning Alcoholism In The Family

Some children develop distorted views of alcohol due to parents with high-functioning alcoholism. A high-functioning alcoholic may not abuse or neglect his or her children, but the behaviors surrounding his or her alcohol abuse will influence the children’s perceptions of alcohol. For example, if children see dad come home from work every day and have a drink, they may start to assume that drinking after work is just a normal response to stress. Eventually, this perception can bleed over into other aspects of life and teach them that alcohol consumption is an acceptable response to everyday stresses.

Does Your Parent Or Sibling Suffer From Alcoholism?

If you have a parent or close blood relative with an alcohol abuse disorder such as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or sibling, it may be worth assessing your personal risk of developing alcoholism and carefully analyzing your own alcohol consumption patterns. If you believe a young man you know is at risk of alcoholism, consider taking this brief quiz on the Reflections Rehab website to assess risk factors and identify red flags.

My Risk Of Alcohol Abuse Disorder With An Alcoholic Parent

Genetic influences may account for half of a person’s risk of developing an alcohol abuse disorder, but what about the other half? Several factors can influence a person’s alcohol abuse habits. Some of the most common include:

  • Peer pressure. Social drinking is extremely prevalent in American life and it can be difficult for some people to overcome pressure to drink, even at inappropriate times.
  • Stress. Drugs and alcohol appear to be easy coping mechanisms for stress but relying on these substances is ultimately destructive. It’s vital to learn healthy stress management techniques.
  • Environment. People who are constantly around alcohol and people with alcohol abuse disorders are more likely to develop problems with alcohol.
  • Boredom. Substance abuse can seem like an easy escape from monotony and repetition common in many people’s everyday lives.
  • Mental health disorders. A substance abuse disorder running in tandem with a mental health disorder is a dangerous situation that can quickly develop into a dual diagnosis. Unchecked mental health issues can lead to self-medication with alcohol that gradually turns to alcoholism.

Overcoming Dangerous Influences And Unlearning Damaging Behaviors

During alcohol addiction treatment a patient learns to address the underlying issues that led to substance abuse, and this sometimes means confronting parental issues like abuse, ridicule, and bad influences. A parent’s behavior may shape a child’s perception of the world, but this does not mean this pattern needs to continue into adulthood.

Once a child becomes an adult and learns to take responsibility for him or herself, it is no longer realistic to place blame on a parent. The patient can confront the parent’s past misdeeds or abusive behaviors, but ultimately the parent did not force the child to start drinking, and taking personal responsibility for poor choices is a crucial step to recovery.

Finding The Right Treatment Plan For You

Reflections Rehab is a men’s-only recovery center that emphasizes outdoor activity and individualized treatment plans for all types of substance abuse disorders. Contact us or visit us online to learn more about our alcohol addiction treatment program and find out if it is right for you.

High-Functioning Alcoholics: Are You Overlooking an Issue?


What Is a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

A high-functioning alcoholic (HFA) is someone who appears to function normally in their daily life, despite having an addiction to alcohol. When people picture an alcoholic, they envision someone who may stumble when they walk, slur their speech or lose their temper with friends or coworkers.

HFAs actually present a completely different image. The addiction usually is kept a secret, making it look as if they are doing fine and have their lives together.

Types of High-Functioning Alcoholics

HFAs exist in two categories:

  • They either sneak drinks all day long, keeping their blood alcohol level high.
  • Or they stay sober during the day and binge drink at night or on weekends.

Both scenarios are damaging to not only themselves, but to those around them.

Since HFAs are particularly good at hiding their addiction, years can drift by before family and friends notice the signs. Unfortunately, because HFAs have become so savvy at sneaking around and hiding the truth, their instinct is to continue concealing the problem.

There are also cultural stereotypes and myths facing HFAs that can cause them to avoid seeking treatment. Here are some myths about HFAs to think about when looking for help for yourself or a loved one:

Myth 1: High-Functioning Alcoholics Can’t Hold a Job or Be Successful

Many high-functioning alcoholics have great jobs and successful careers backed by warm and loving families. They may seem like they have their lives together with a home, friends and kids. All this success can undermine the grim reality that the person is suffering from alcohol use disorder. The truth is HFAs end up battling emotional problems and are often in denial that there is a problem at all.

About 20 to 32 percent of alcoholics actually fall into the high-functioning alcoholism category. Those in the HFA category are often middle aged and well educated with stable jobs and families.

About one-third of HFAs have a genetic predisposition to alcohol use disorder, and a quarter of them have suffered from a major depressive disorder at some point during their lives. These underlying conditions lead to feelings of low self-esteem and depression, masked by alcohol use.

Myth 2: HFAs Don’t Have a Problem

For people suffering from HFA, denial is often a factor. They often think that because they can function and hold a great job, there is no problem with their drinking. If you are concerned about a loved one, stop and take a look at how much drinking happens in a 24-hour period.

Excessive alcohol use is:

  • More than three drinks a day for women;
  • More than four drinks per day for men;
  • Or a total of more than seven drinks per week for women or 14 or more drinks per week for men.

Anyone who drinks more than this is putting himself or herself at risk. While the effects might not show up immediately, prolonged use will take a toll.

Myth 3: HFAs Don’t Show Signs of Alcoholism

HFAs might present symptoms differently than people with more obvious signs of alcohol dependency, but they still suffer from the same signs of abuse. Signs of functional alcoholism might be more subtle, but they are there.

Anyone showing signs of alcoholism (which we will get to in a moment) may try to hide them or to isolate oneself in order to avoid detection. Just because the person is successful at disguising them to the world does not mean these symptoms do not exist. High-functioning alcoholics’ relationships with friends and family can become strained due to the behaviors they use to avoid facing the truth.

Myth 4: HFAs Don’t Need to Seek Help

Many HFAs can lead normal lives for years. Because they can hold a job and still handle normal daily tasks, they continue down the same path, never stopping to get help for their substance abuse.

Drinking large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis builds tolerance, meaning you need more alcohol to continue feeling the same effects as time goes on. What may have started as an innocent relationship with alcohol can spiral out of control to a place where the alcoholic doesn’t know how to get out. At first, the drinking may seem benign, or like a social obligation, but as the body builds tolerance, HFAs will continue drinking to keep the feeling going.

Seeking help and treatment is the only way to recover. HFAs will usually not seek treatment by themselves. Often, they need friends or family members to encourage them to take the next step.

Myth 5: HFAs Are in Control

The illusion HFAs portray shows them as highly educated with good jobs and a stable life. This sometimes tricks friends and family into believing that the HFA is in control of the drinking.

Any recovering alcoholic will tell you that this is not the case. They only seem like they are in control because they have managed to hide the drinking from those around them. They conceal the problem by consciously masking the signs in order to appear in control at all times.

Just because HFAs are great at concealing the signs of alcoholism does not mean there are no signs. The signs may just be more subtle and harder to see from an outside perspective.

A few of the signs of alcoholism include:

  • Using alcohol to relax and feel more confident
  • Drinking in the morning
  • Drinking too much
  • Blacking out after drinking
  • Needing a drink for every situation, good and bad
  • Joking about an alcohol problem
  • Drinking alone
  • Missing school or work because of drinking
  • Continuing to drink even though it brings feelings of anxiety or depression
  • Becoming angry when confronted about alcohol abuse
  • Having a record of DUI arrests or other alcohol-influenced charges

Help for High-Functioning Alcoholics from Reflections Recovery

If you or a loved one is suffering from any of these symptoms of alcoholism, it is time to get help. HFAs experience a wide variety of long-term health effects, making it more dangerous as time continues.

Contact the compassionate team at Reflections Recovery Center in Prescott, Arizona to talk treatment options. Our men’s rehabilitation facility is the perfect place to begin long-term recovery.

Learn More Alcohol Abuse Facts

There Is No Healthy Amount of Alcohol


Numerous studies exist on the impact of alcohol on people’s health. The results can seem obvious at times: Drinking large amounts of alcohol can put you at a risk for many health conditions, including, but not limited to:

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Alcohol addiction

In most research, there is a clear link between excessive drinking and negative health conditions.

On the other hand, many studies over the years have suggested that moderate drinking can help improve your health, as long as it is limited to a certain number of drinks per week. The specific health effects depend on the type of alcohol, such as the potential for drinking a glass of wine once per day to improve heart health.

How Much Alcohol Is Healthy?

While the findings of such studies may seem like great news to the casual drinker, they’re not as beneficial as you may think. A newer study has found that, despite previous research, there is no healthy amount of alcohol.

Recent Study Published in The Lancet Comes to a Different Conclusion

Medical journal The Lancet published a study in August that made waves in regard to global alcohol consumption. English researchers Robyn Burton and Nick Sheron took a closer look at the 2016 Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study (GBD), which gathered data on 195 countries and territories from 1990 to 2016. Burton called the GBD 2016 “the most comprehensive estimate of the global burden of alcohol use to date.”

Results of Burton and Sheron’s Analysis of the GBD 2016

The GBD 2016 had already found that alcohol was the seventh-leading risk factor for death, as well as for disability or shortened lifespan. In those between the ages of 15 and 49 years old, alcohol was the leading risk factor for both death and shortened lifespan in 2016.

According to Burton and Sheron’s report after their analysis of the GBD 2016, “The conclusions of the study are clear and unambiguous: alcohol is a colossal global health issue and small reductions in health-related harms at low levels of alcohol intake are outweighed by the increased risk of other health-related harms, including cancer.”

Based on their findings, they could not support any level of alcohol consumption as being “safe.”

Findings such as these serve as a sobering reminder of the impact alcohol can have on our lives. Even people who drink moderately and responsibly can still be at risk for other health conditions that will be exacerbated by their drinking.

Drinking Increases Risk Development

Alcohol-related health problems do not always develop solely from drinking. Conditions such as heart disease and cancer can emerge due to numerous other genetic and lifestyle causes. However, moderate drinking increases the risk of conditions such as these.

In comparing individuals who don’t drink to those who indulge in daily drinking, there is a 0.5 percent higher chance of those in the latter group developing an alcohol-related health problem. Yes, that’s not too drastic, but this risk, as one would expect, increases the more someone drinks:

  • People who drink two alcoholic drinks in one day have a 7 percent chance of developing an alcohol-related health problem.
  • People who drink five drinks per day on average have a 37 percent increase in risk.

When you start to break down the potential risks for moderate drinkers, there’s hardly a statistical difference in developing health issues between no drinks and very few drinks. However, there is still a risk, which can easily counter the potential benefits someone may hope to gain from moderate drinking.

Daily Drinking: Perceived Benefits vs. Risks

Even if someone does benefit from regular drinking, such as improving the condition of diabetes or increasing antioxidant consumption, alcohol can still simultaneously promote negative results, such as cancer development, as Burton and Sheron’s research found. Drinkers ultimately may come to accept these risks, but they’re not ones that anyone hoping to avoid deadly diseases should take.

The negative health risks exist in tandem with additional risks that alcohol poses in regard to others’ safety and interpersonal relationships. This especially applies to people who drink beyond safe levels and engage in binge drinking on a regular basis.

Heavy Alcohol Consumption and Binge Drinking Levels

While drinking any amount of alcohol can become dangerous, high levels of consumption pose the greatest risk. The precise amount of heavy alcohol consumption can vary depending on a person’s age, body, genetics and other health considerations.

The general standards for at-risk drinking are:

  • More than four servings a day, or more than 14 drinks per week for men.
  • More than three drinks a day, or more than seven drinks per week for women.

About a quarter of people who regularly exceed these limits have an alcohol use disorder. The remaining three-fourths are at much greater risk of developing both an alcohol use disorder and other alcohol-related health problems.

Unfortunately, this level of alcohol consumption is common, and it puts numerous people at risk. The top 10 percent of alcohol drinkers consumes upwards of 74 alcoholic drinks a week – averaging about 10 drinks per day – according to National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) data.

Potential Impact of Alcohol Use on the Body

Both regular drinking and binge drinking can easily lead to numerous health issues, as Burton and Sheron’s research reaffirmed.

Brain Function

The feeling of being drunk comes from the way that alcohol interacts with the brain, decreasing the functioning of neurotransmitters and impacting emotion regulation, cognition and impulse control. Repeated heavy drinking makes the brain used to drinking, potentially leading to symptoms of alcohol withdrawal when one tries to abstain.

Liver

The liver can suffer from inflammation and multiple problems due to heavy drinking, leading to possible problems such as:

  • Steatosis (buildup of fat in the organ)
  • Fibrosis (thickening or scarring of connective tissue)
  • Cirrhosis
  • Alcoholic hepatitis

Cancers

One of the most severe health conditions related to heavy alcohol consumption, cancer is a greater risk the more one drinks. Nearly 3.5 percent of U.S. cancer deaths in 2009 were alcohol related.

Regular heavy drinking can increase the risk of developing one of the following types of cancer:

  • Head
  • Neck
  • Esophageal
  • Liver
  • Breast
  • Colorectal

Heart Disease

Despite the reported heart-health benefits of alcohol, even drinking in small amounts can damage the heart, potentially causing:

  • High blood pressure
  • Arrhythmia (irregular heart beat)
  • Stroke
  • Cardiomyopathy (stretching and drooping of heart muscles)

Pancreatitis

Drinking causes the pancreas to release toxic substances. Heavy and continual drinking then leads to high levels of these substances entering the body. This can cause pancreatitis and prevent proper digestion of food and nutrients.

Immune System

In addition to other specific health issues, heavy drinking can weaken your immune system, providing diseases with an easier entryway into your body. Binge drinking, for example, can potentially weaken your immune system for 24 hours after the last drink.

See More Alcohol Abuse Facts

What This Research Means

The GBD 2016 and the recent study published in The Lancet have provided many insights into the overall impact of alcohol. Long-term health effects of drinking abound, overriding any previous studies that boast of the miniscule benefits of drinking.

Furthermore, these studies should serve as a reminder that regularly drinking isn’t a bona fide way to improve your health, and those who don’t drink shouldn’t start simply to reap some health benefits. The potential risks are much too great to be worth it. We’re not saying don’t drink at all – just that you should be careful.

If you or a loved one is struggling with excessive drinking, Reflections Recovery Center can craft a plan that leads toward long-term sobriety.

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Alcohol and Fibromyalgia: The Links Between Alcohol Abuse and Neuropathic Chronic Pain


What Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a long-term (chronic) condition characterized by widespread pain and chronic fatigue – the source of which is subjective, and cannot be determined by tests. Because the source of the chronic pain cannot be pinpointed, diagnosis and treatment are also fairly subjective.

Physicians don’t currently have a clear understanding of fibromyalgia’s root causes, and therefore treat the condition based on several working theories. One theory is that fibromyalgia pain is a type of neuropathic (nerve) pain.

“Fibromyalgia affects between 1% and 5% of the world’s population.”

Fibromyalgia Symptoms

  • Chronic, Widespread Pain (Particularly in “Tender Points”)
  • Chronic Fatigue, Lack of Energy and Constant Feeling of Being Tired
  • Sleep Problems (Insomnia, Hypersomnia, Inability to Fall or Stay Asleep)
  • Concentration Problems and Cognitive Impairment (Sometimes Referred to as “Fibro Fog”)
  • Anxiety, Depression and/or Panic Attacks
  • Stiffness in Joints and Muscles (Particularly in the Morning)
  • Numbness in Hands, Feet and Extremities (Tingling, Sharp Pain and “Pins and Needle” Pain)
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Problems with Urination
  • Increase in Menstrual Pain and Cramps
  • Manic or Rapidly Changing Moods

What Is Neuropathic Pain and Neuropathy?

Neuropathic pain emanates from the central nervous system itself, due to damage or dysfunctional nerve tissues.

In non-neuropathic pain, the nerve cells and tissues are working properly, and report damage or injury to surrounding muscles and tissues to the brain as pain signals.

With neuropathic pain, the injury or damage affects the nerve tissues themselves, or there is no damage at all, yet still the nerve tissue reports pain signals to the brain.

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

Without being able to pinpoint the causes and mechanisms of neuropathy and fibromyalgia pain, it is difficult to say that any one or multiple factors can cause fibromyalgia. However, physicians have pinpointed seven factors that can increase your risk and/or predisposition for fibromyalgia. Those factors include:

Genetic Predisposition to Fibromyalgia and Neuropathy

Children of fibromyalgia and neuropathy sufferers are more likely to develop symptoms themselves – suggesting that genes and genetics commonly play a role in the development of fibromyalgia.

Particularly, genetic polymorphisms (variations) in the systems regulating serotonin, dopamine, and in the catecholaminergic system are suggested risk factors, according to a study* on “Genetic Susceptibility to Fibromyalgia.”

*Park D-J, Kang J-H, Yim Y-R, et al. Exploring Genetic Susceptibility to Fibromyalgia. Chonnam Medical Journal. 2015;51(2):58-65. doi:10.4068/cmj.2015.51.2.58.

Comorbidities and Illnesses Can Increase Your Risk of Fibromyalgia

Those suffering from fibromyalgia often have one more more co-occurring conditions affecting their health – both physical and mental health conditions. Neuropathic pain is more common in those that have had traumatic physical injuries, or who have lived through traumatic events.

Diseases that are commonly seen in fibromyalgia sufferers include:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Chronic Headache/Migraines
  • Tension Headache and Stress-Related Headaches
  • Depression, Anxiety and Panic Disorders
  • Endometriosis
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Restless Leg Syndrome

According to a Mayo Clinic study**, the following comorbidity rates were seen in fibromyalgia sufferers:

  • Chronic Joint Pain and Degenerative Arthritis was present in 88.7% of fibromyalgia sufferers.
  • Migraines and chronic headaches were present in 62.4% of fibromyalgia sufferers.
  • Hyperlipidemia (High Cholesterol) was present in 51.3% of fibromyalgia sufferers.
  • Obesity was present in 48% of fibromyalgia sufferers.
  • Hypertension was present in 43.2% of fibromyalgia sufferers.
  • Type 2 Diabetes was present in 17.9% of fibromyalgia sufferers.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) was present in 32.5% of fibromyalgia sufferers.
  • Plantar Fasciitis was present in 24.8% of fibromyalgia sufferers.
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ & TMD) were present in 17.4% of fibromyalgia sufferers.
  • Chronic Pelvic Pain issues were reported by 15.3% of fibromyalgia sufferers.
  • Depression was present in 75.1% of fibromyalgia sufferers.
  • Anxiety was present in 56.5% of fibromyalgia sufferers.
  • Insomnia was present in 50.6% of fibromyalgia sufferers.
  • Restless Leg Syndrome was present in 20.3% of fibromyalgia sufferers.

“50.5% of fibromyalgia sufferers also met the criteria for a metabolic syndrome – like diabetes.”

**Vincent A, Whipple MO, McAllister SJ, et al. A cross-sectional assessment of the prevalence of multiple chronic conditions and medication use in a sample of community-dwelling adults with fibromyalgia in Olmsted County, Minnesota. BMJ. Open 2015;5:e006681. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-006681

Emotional and Physical Abuse Leading to Fibromyalgia and Neuropathic Pain

A connection between emotional, physical and sexual abuse and fibromyalgia has long been suspected, but a 2011 study on “Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse in fibromyalgia syndrome: a systematic review with meta-analysis” found significant associations between abuse and the incidence of fibromyalgia.

Scientists theorize that past trauma – physical, mental or emotional – can actually change the way the way the brain utilizes pain signals. Some studies suggest that the body and brain create false pain signals in reaction to stressors such as disease, mental health conditions and feelings/emotions that are causing stress.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Fibromyalgia

Numerous studies in recent years link PTSD to fibromyalgia and chronic neuropathic pain. These studies found that not only could fibromyalgia pain be directly related to the presence of a trauma-related disorder, but also that fibromyalgia symptoms were much more severe in individuals who showed more severe symptoms of PTSD.

One study dealt specifically with the topic of “Fibromyalgia in Men Suffering From PTSD,” concluding that while there was a strong association between PTSD and the tender points for neuropathic pain, sufficient exercise could decrease the pain.

Lack of Exercise and Fibromyalgia

Lack of exercise is also directly related to increased neuropathic pain. Studies have shown that fibromyalgia sufferers are more likely to not exercise regularly. Also, fibromyalgia sufferers who don’t get enough exercise report more painful symptoms.

Fibromyalgia Is Most Commonly Diagnosed in Women

An astounding 91 percent of fibromyalgia diagnoses are of women. Physicians agree that women are more likely to suffer from neuropathic pain and fibromyalgia. However, they also agree that fibromyalgia in men is widely underdiagnosed.

Doctors worry that this underdiagnosis of men with fibromyalgia is indicative of misdiagnosis, meaning many men with the symptoms of fibromyalgia may have incorrect diagnoses. Studies show that neuropathic pain in men is much less severe than in women; this means that women feel the pain more intensely than men do.

If this is true, it could mean that men diagnosed with depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mental and physical disorders could be living with undiagnosed fibromyalgia.

Untreated Anxiety and Depression Can Lead to Fibromyalgia

One of the biggest concerns among mental health experts and substance abuse counselors is the theory that untreated anxiety and depression can lead to the development of fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia and neuropathy rates are much higher in populations that have at least one mental health condition. Medical professionals warn that if patients don’t receive adequate treatment for these mental health conditions, the resulting stress and effects will transcend from mental symptoms to physical symptoms – in the form of neuropathic pain.

Under this theory, if an individual does not adequately treat and deal with his or her mental health issues, the brain begins to scream for help by igniting pain signals all throughout the body. Essentially, this is the brain giving them a “zap” to try to get some relief from the symptoms of the comorbidities. This may involve underlying physical illnesses and mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or trauma.

“It is hypothesized that individuals suffering from fibromyalgia are getting the pain signals from the nervous system, but – without any visible injury or obvious reason for the pain – don’t understand how to prevent or stop the pain signals.

“Without a valid way to stop the pain, most individuals are forced to self-medicate in an attempt to numb the symptoms and chronic pain.”

Alcohol and Fibromyalgia: Why Do Fibromyalgia Sufferers Abuse Alcohol?

Self-medication is extremely common in fibromyalgia sufferers. This is understandable when you consider that standard medical care practitioners still really don’t know what causes fibromyalgia, or how to even adequately diagnose the condition with 100 percent certainty. All fibromyalgia sufferers know is that the pain is immense, relentless and that they want to feel better.

Alcohol has the ability to numb pain, a property that has been known for thousands of years. However, alcohol is not a considered a suitable long-term method for dealing with pain. It is simply too addictive, and the drawbacks of persistent use greatly outweigh any perceived benefits.

Doctors know all too well the cycle of self-medication and addiction that alcohol brings. But for everyday pain sufferers, alcohol may feel like a cure for their pain – in the beginning. Alcohol doesn’t cure anything, unfortunately, and does an even worse job at managing pain in the long term. In the end, individuals who try to self-medicate underlying physical and mental health conditions with alcohol end up becoming dependent on the chemical.

Fibromyalgia Medications Carry the Risk of Addiction

Prescription medications for dealing with fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain can offer much needed relief to sufferers. However, without a known way to “cure” or reverse the symptoms of fibro, the only option is to preserve quality of life through medication.

Medications for fibromyalgia aim to treat the various symptoms that fibro causes, including pain, cramping, anxiety, depression, insomnia and concentration/cognitive problems. These medications would inherently need to be used long term – since the symptoms will likely not go away.

Long-term use of any medication carries the risk of dependency, abuse addiction, and possibly overdose. The medications that treat fibromyalgia symptoms are infamously addictive.

Common prescription medications for fibromyalgia:

  • Sleep Aids – 33.3% of fibro patients
  • SSRIs (Antidepressants) – 28.7% of patients
  • Opioids – 22.4% of patients
  • SNRIs (Antidepressants) – 21% of patients
  • Alpha-2-Delta Ligands (Seizure and Pain Meds) – 19.4% of patients
  • Benzodiazepines (Sedatives) – 18.5% of patients
  • Tramadol (Opioid) – 15.7% of patients

Opioid painkillers are one of the riskiest types of medication that doctors commonly prescribe for the long-term management of fibromyalgia-related pain symptoms. Opioid painkillers for the management of chronic pain disorders carry a very large risk: the risk of addiction. The recent opioid epidemic has taught us the dangers of these drugs.

Benzodiazepines can treat anxiety and insomnia issues related to fibromyalgia. Though benzos were once thought to be non-addictive, widespread benzodiazepine prescribing since the 1960s has shown that not only are these drugs addictive, but also that benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can be as deadly and dangerous as alcohol withdrawal and delirium tremens (DTs).

Mixing alcohol with fibromyalgia medications is another grave concern, though a popular practice. Estimates show that up to 15 percent of fibromyalgia sufferers mix alcohol with their medications.

How Do You Treat Drug and Alcohol Addiction in Fibromyalgia Sufferers?

Fibromyalgia sufferers already have a lot stacked up against them. Doctors aren’t sure what causes fibromyalgia, nor how it causes the symptoms that it does. Up until recently, doctors weren’t even sure if fibromyalgia was a real condition, or if those claiming neuropathic pain were being truthful.

There are currently no medical tests that can say for sure you 100 percent have fibromyalgia. And, even if you do get diagnosed as likely suffering from fibromyalgia, the only treatment is addictive medications that could bring on more symptoms and underlying issues.

What happens when, on top of all of this, you feel like the medications you are taking are starting to cause more problems, and the benefits you once received from them are waning? How can you get off the medications and/or alcohol and still adequately manage your pain? Is it possible to live pain free without fibromyalgia medications?

Though you should make lifestyle changes, you can still control fibro symptoms and pain with lower-dose medications for pain management, and through holistic treatment therapies.

”Living with fibromyalgia is all about managing how healthy and well you feel throughout your mind and body.”

By making some small changes to your health and lifestyle, you can see reduced symptoms and decreased neuropathic pain. An unhealthy body and mind invites worsening symptoms of fibromyalgia. Through diet, exercise, management of mental health conditions, and pain-management techniques, you can achieve greater control of your fibro.

While Western medicine has not yet found a cure for fibromyalgia, we do know how to bring fibromyalgia under greater control. And, with this control, you can find a greater quality of life – one that is free from self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.

Do You Have a Loved One Suffering From Fibromyalgia and Substance Abuse? Call Us to Learn How a Substance Abuse Treatment Plan Can Foster Proper Pain Management and Sobriety.

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Relapse Prevention for Alcohol Abuse: Tips for Staying Sober


Alcohol treatment centers are the oldest consistent forms of addiction treatment programs. People have been struggling with addiction to alcohol since we started manufacturing alcoholic drinks thousands of years ago. In all that time, alcohol relapse has remained a problem, with alcohol relapse rates averaging anywhere from 30-80%.

Relapse prevention has become a needed component to alcohol addiction recovery, due to the fact that urges and triggers are ever-present in sobriety. Quitting drinking is one thing, but how do you stay sober after alcohol rehab?

How Long Does It Take to Become Addicted to Alcohol

How long does it take to become addicted to alcohol, or physically dependent? The exact time it takes for the body to develop a chemical dependency to alcohol has many variables, but many recovering alcoholics will admit that they can remember a single moment when their alcohol problems began. This doesn’t mean that it took a split second to become addicted, but it certainly did only take a moment for the seeds of addiction to be sown.

In early alcohol addiction, the signs of a problem are obfuscated – meaning the signs are hazy and not exactly clear. Binge drinking, and drinking 6-15 beers in a single night is an obvious red flag, but most don’t recognize that as being a problem in the early stages. When you start craving a drink every night after work, that is another obvious red flag, but many simply write it off as a stress-reliever.

Alcoholism is a progressive disease, and in its early stages it can look similar to the habits of social drinkers. The problem is that problematic drinking doesn’t go away, it worsens. For that reason, it could take as little as a month to develop the early stages of alcoholism and alcohol addiction. This may seem like a short amount of time, but when you think of the fact that severe alcoholism and end stage alcoholism can develop in the short span of 5 years, a single month of binge drinking is more than enough time to do damage.

10 Tips to Quit Drinking Alcohol and Stay Sober

Before you can focus on staying sober, you first have to quit drinking. Quitting alcohol is the first hurdle in alcohol abuse recovery. This is easier said than done for most people who have been chronic drinkers or binge drinkers for a long time. The best way to deal with an alcohol use disorder is to seek help and treatment from an alcoholic treatment program. However, it could be beneficial for you to take these tips to stop drinking.

  1. Take a Good Look at Your Social Circle and Your Entertainment Habits

    Your entertainment habits include what you do to relax and enjoy yourself. It includes going out to dinner, watching movies, attending events with friends, and what you do to keep yourself busy. If dinner with friends always includes or is based off of drinking – that is a problem. If you go to sports events, movies, or concerts, and you have to have a few drinks to enjoy the event – that is a problem.

    Look at why you need to drink to enjoy these things. Is it because your social circle is drinking and you want to feel part of the crowd, or do you not truly enjoy the activity, and enjoy the drinking aspect instead? Looking at this and making a change to how you spend your free time can be the biggest help in cutting down or quitting your drinking.

  2. Look at Your Mental and Physical Health

    Self-medicating with alcohol is very common for a host of mental and physical issues including depression, anxiety, and underlying medical conditions you might not be aware you have. Find out what makes you happy and what doesn’t. If you find that you have to have alcohol to boost your mood or feel the excitement, then there is likely an underlying condition that needs to be addressed. In many cases, treating anxiety, depression, or other health concerns can fix the perceived need for alcohol.

  3. Replace your Alcoholic Beverages with Non-Alcoholic Drinks

    An issue that is very common amongst long-term beer drinkers is that the habit and action of drinking alcoholic beverages has become an addiction. In short, your drinking is just a habit that you have fallen into. You might be able to recognize this if you have ever had an empty drink, and the feeling of needing a replacement could almost drive you mad. What do you need another drink for? Is it just to have one?

    Try switching drinks to non-alcoholic choices, and have those choices available to you at all times. Sugary sodas are not the best option, but seltzer water, juice, tea, and flavored waters are great choices.

    Try and break the habit of giving the body an alcoholic drink every time the urge comes along. It might be tough to break the habit at first, but in many cases where the issue is problematic drinking, and not alcohol dependence, this solution may be enough to get you to cut out alcohol completely.

  4. Focus on Better More Quality Sleep

    Sometimes our cravings for alcohol equate to self-medication due to exhaustion and stress. The body’s natural remedy for these feelings is to get a good night of deep and restorative REM sleep so you can awake relaxed and refreshed for another day. If you are caught in the cycle of working late, drinking even later, waking up feeling sluggish and sick, and repeating the whole cycle over again, you are due for some rest and relaxation.

    Try getting a full night’s rest and waking up in the morning naturally (no caffeine), and see if this decreases your cravings for alcohol. Alcohol may feel like it helps you overcome a fast lifestyle, but when the alcohol becomes a bigger problem than you can handle, nipping it at the bud and focusing on slowing down your lifestyle might get to the root of the problem.

  5. Compare Your Drinking Habits to Those of Your Significant Other

    If you are in a relationship with someone, you can definitely adopt their habits, or their drinking habits can affect yours. Similar to our first suggestion of “Take a Good Look at Your Social Circle and Your Entertainment Habits,” take a look at what you and your spouse or significant other do together to keep each other busy.

    How much of your relationship is built on drinking? Would cutting down or quitting drinking put you at odds with your S/O, or would they be willing to cut down or quit as well? If your significant other is unwilling to change, how do you expect to be able to spur a change in yourself?

  6. Find Your Hobby. What do you love to do?

    Drinking is very much an affixation. When you are young and drinking is a new experience, it quickly becomes an easy go-to for entertainment. Think about those early experiences with alcohol – when it was new, it quickly became something that you planned on doing on weekends, or created a new angle on activities you enjoyed. The problem is that alcohol quickly takes over, and soon enough you look forward to the alcohol more than the activities. Instead, replace the alcohol with activities.

    Find out what you love to do, and can see yourself doing for hours on end, without even worrying about alcohol. For some, exercise is a natural replacement activity; for others, creating art or writing is a replacement. We can give more generic examples, but really it comes down to finding what you like to do. Can’t think of anything that interests you? Start trying new things and search out what makes you happy. Just don’t let alcohol be the only thing that brings you (what you perceive as) joy and fulfillment.

  7. Exercise, Eat Healthy, and Focus on Bettering Yourself

    Exercising and being healthy can be the activity or hobby that some find they love to spend their time on; but even if this is not going to become your hobby, it should be a part of your routine. Focusing on moderate exercise, healthier diet choices, and an overall focus on a healthier attitude and daily routine is essential for everyone – not just those looking to cut down on unhealthy habits.

    Diet and exercise plays the biggest part in who you are. A poor diet and lack of exercise can make you depressed, anxious, moody, emotional, and pretty much hate life. If you have these types of negative feelings, simply cutting out alcohol isn’t going to reverse everything and fix all your problems. Cutting out alcohol, eating a healthier diet, and getting a moderate amount of exercise will make you feel better though.

  8. Stay Away from Social Media (Or Moderate its Use at the Very Least)

    Social media is a very tricky thing; while it promotes that it is an easier way to help you stay connected to friends, social media is not your friend. In fact, it is the enemy of your mental and emotional health. Health agencies are starting to find that we are in the midst of a mental illness epidemic the likes of which has never been seen before – and it can be tied directly back to social media usage.

    Researchers have also begun to link increased drinking and an increase in alcohol use disorders to those that spend more than an hour per day on social media. Social media is built on reward triggers in the brain, just like drugs and alcohol trigger reward centers. Removing the source of these triggers can help greatly in reducing urges to drink when first quitting alcohol, or when trying to stay sober.

  9. Spend Time with Friends (and Without Alcohol), or Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself When Alone

    Social interaction (real social interaction, not social media interaction) can greatly help your mental health, and can help to prevent urges to drink. Spend time with your friends, and get your brain to spark the reward centers based off interaction with others. The reward your brain gives you for enjoying a conversation with a friend or talking about what you two have in common is chemically the same as reward response triggered by alcohol.

    Not only that, but talking about your feelings, problems and emotions with a good friend gives you another viewpoint. Talk through your problems with someone else, or vent a little – it can take a load off your shoulders.

    What if you’re an introvert, and prefer some time alone over too much time with others? Hey, no one loves you like you love you… but make sure it is self-loving and not self-loathing. Spending too much time focused on your problems, shame, embarrassment, or what doesn’t make you happy will only cause more negativity in your life. Don’t ruminate! If you don’t have anything nice to say about yourself, find a community or group activity that you can get involved with and try and get some new experiences that teach you to love yourself.

  10. Take a Look at Your Behaviors

    Nearly every aspect of staying sober comes down to your behaviors – whether it is what type of drink is in your hand, who you hang out with, how much exercise you get, or what activities and hobbies you are engaged in. There is a good reason alcohol abuse is often referred to as a behavioral health issue – the act of drinking is a behavior that is detrimental to your health.

    Take a deep look at your behaviors and ask yourself, why am I doing this? Why do I want do drink that drink? What reward am I going to get from that drink? What would I be missing out on if I don’t drink that drink…? This deep look at why you do what you do is a staple of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and CBT is one of the best therapies for alcoholism and alcohol abuse.

    CBT does work best when you have someone objective that is guiding you through the process (at least in the beginning), but you can get into CBT all by yourself, and it can change your life. For everything you do in life, there is a thought process that happens in the blink of an eye, too fast for you to even realize the decision-making process that just happened. By slowing down and looking at that decision-making process, you can make better choices, or at least make choices that guide you toward better outcomes.

Alcohol Relapse Rates 

All of the ideas we have given are great examples of how you can fight urges to drink when you are first quitting, or if you find yourself in a situation where your sobriety is tested. However, alcohol addiction and the urges to drink can be powerful, they can even be stronger than your better judgement, in some cases.

*Short Term Alcohol Relapse Rates (Within the First Year of Recovery):

  • With Treatment – Vary between 20% and 50% depending on the severity of the alcohol use disorder
  • Without Treatment – Vary between 50% and 80% depending on the severity of the alcohol use disorder.

*Long Term Alcohol Relapse Rates (Within the First Year of Recovery):

  • With Treatment – Average 23%
  • Without Treatment – Average 40%

This is why we urge those who have struggled with alcohol use to get into treatment,if they can’t do it on their own. When we look at the numbers, we can see that alcohol relapse rates are much higher in those that do not receive any help at all. You are stronger than addiction, but sometimes you need a coach in your corner that motivates you to show that extra strength and knock back the urges.

We can also see that the rate of relapse drops significantly if you can stay sober in your first year. Getting through that first year is key, and most of us need professional help for alcoholism and alcohol abuse to get through all of the triggers that present themselves in the first year.


*Moos RH, Moos BS. Rates and predictors of relapse after natural and treated remission from alcohol use disorders. Addiction (Abingdon, England). 2006;101(2):212-222. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2006.01310.x.

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Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy: Symptoms, Causes, Life Expectancy, and Recovery


Alcohol abuse – especially binge drinking and long-term chronic alcohol abuse – takes its toll on the heart muscle and vascular system. We often forget just how dangerous alcohol can be, and wrongly assume that it takes decades for severe problems to show up from excessive drinking. 

How Alcohol Affects the Heart 

There are several concerns about the heart and circulatory system with heavy drinkers:

  • Arrhythmias
  • Strokes
  • Hypertension
  • Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy (Heart Failure)

Arrhythmias Caused by Alcohol Abuse – Abnormal heartbeats are quite common in heavy and chronic drinkers. The severity of arrhythmias ranges from mild to severe, with the least concerning being “innocent” heart palpitations and arrhythmias. These innocent heart arrhythmias could be temporary and could stem from a simple electrochemical imbalance or from poor nutrition and diet caused by alcohol abuse. Both atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia are forms of arrhythmias in common with alcohol abuse.

Alcohol-Related Strokes – A more serious concern is the risk of strokes with alcohol abuse. Binge drinking and chronic alcohol consumption for months or even a few short years can increase the risk of ischemic strokes and hemorrhagic strokes. Alcohol-induced strokes can occur in otherwise healthy patients and without existing coronary artery disease.

“Binge drinkers have an increased risk of ischemic stroke, are 56% more likely to have a stroke than non-binge drinkers, and are 39% more likely to have any type of stroke.

Alcoholic Hypertension – Binge drinkers and chronic drinkers know all too well the fact that heavy alcohol use raises blood pressure – sometimes raising it to dangerous levels. Alcohol causes your arteries and veins to stiffen, instead of flexing to the beat of the heart. Worsening the problem, continued alcohol abuse can cause the blood vessels to constrict within the already shrinking arteries and veins. Hypertension is an early sign of the increased risk of stroke and heart disease.

Alcohol and Cardiomyopathy 

Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy is the most serious concerns of the effects of alcohol on the heart. Cardiomyopathy means “heart failure,” and alcoholic cardiomyopathy simply means that the heart failure is caused by alcohol. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a progressive disease, meaning that it worsens over time – especially with continued alcohol use.

“Quitting alcohol as soon as possible, and staying sober can immediately stop the progression of alcoholic cardiomyopathy in many cases – as long as the heart failure is not in the late stages of progression.”

Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy Symptoms 

It is good to note first that just because you have one or more of these symptoms, it does not mean that you immediately have heart failure. The symptoms of very serious cardiomyopathy are similar to the symptoms of less serious heart issues that can be temporary and also caused by alcohol. If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to see your doctor and have them test to know for sure what is causing those symptoms.

That being said, the following are the symptoms that should prompt your doctor visit:

  • Edema (swelling of the ankles, feet, and legs)
  • Swelling in the extremities, neck, torso and overall swelling
  • Shortness of breath, especially when running or with strenuous activity (dyspnea)
  • Difficulty breathing (especially when laying on your back)
  • Weakness, Fatigue, and feeling faint or lightheaded
  • Foggy head (decreased alertness or difficulty concentrating)
  • Coughing and a cough with mucus discoloration (pink or frothy)
  • Decreased urine output (oliguria)
  • Increased urination at night (nocturia)
  • Heart Palpitations (irregular heartbeats)
  • Rapid pulse (tachycardia)

 Can Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy be Reversed? 

Alcoholic cardiomyopathy can be treated, which is good news for those suffering the symptoms of early stages of the disease, however, it does require a change of lifestyle to be effective. It all depends on how early you catch the disease, and whether or not you can quit drinking for good – that means no alcohol at all.

Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy Life Expectancy

Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy: Symptoms, Causes, Life Expectency, and RecoveryWhat is the prognosis and life expectancy for someone who has been diagnosed with alcoholic cardiomyopathy? The prognosis really depends on whether or not the patient is able to quit drinking. If he/she stops drinking and the damage to the heart is not severe, the outlook is very good, and one would not expect a shortened lifespan. However, if the disease is in late stages and the damage is severe enough, it may be too late. Someone with end-stage alcoholic cardiomyopathy is not expected to live more than 4 years.

If someone does not quit drinking, the progressive disease is expected to get worse, and the outlook is grim for someone who continues to drink alcohol and let the disease progress to final stages. Let us be clear that if you do not stop drinking, alcoholic cardiomyopathy will lead to death – although this could take anywhere from 2-10 years, depending on how much existing damage there is.

“We cannot say this enough: quitting alcohol completely gives you the best shot at slowing or reversing this disease, and continued drinking only leads to worsening the disease and eventual death.”

Preventing Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy: Alcohol Treatment Programs 

Again, alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a progressive disease, and gets worse as you continue to drink. When diagnosed with this disease, it is imperative that you quit drinking completely. It is at this stage – when trying to quit – that many binge drinkers and chronic drinkers find that they cannot quit, or can’t stay sober for an extended period of time without relapsing.

When alcohol has such a strong hold on you that even the threat of terminal heart failure can’t get you or a loved one to quit drinking, the need for an alcohol treatment program that is intensive and offers a high chance of turning around both your lifestyle and health is needed. Individuals at this point are in a serious position where the stakes are high, and they need the best clinical and therapeutic care they can get.

Reflections Recovery Center is a leading alcohol treatment center in Arizona that can deal with unique needs an of alcoholic men facing health problems due to chronic drinking. The Reflections program puts emphasis on adopting a healthier lifestyle and finding joy in being sober and caring about your health and happiness. Our program can be just what men need when faced with the reality that they need to quit drinking, or face serious health problems.

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Signs You’re Living with a Functional Drug Addict


Addicts are generally depicted as people who have turned to illegal substances and have hit rock-bottom. They have been stereotyped as individuals who come from dysfunctional households, earn meager income, and are school dropouts. Addicts are usually assumed to be violent and angry people who are either high or just coming down from one. This is far from true. There are actually addicts who do manage to do things normally and successfully, or so they say.

What is a High-Functioning Addict?

Signs You're Living with a Functional Drug AddictA high-functioning addict can be the family doctor, a preschool school teacher, the successful lawyer with the nice office, or the busy and very personable soccer mom. A high-functioning addict may seem to be living a happy, balanced, and successful life. He has a caring and loving family and friends, have great a job, is active in church and the community, and has interests and hobbies for him to de-stress. The reality is that he secretly takes his substance of abuse for him to function through the day.

A high-functioning addict is highly capable of keeping his addiction a secret from everyone. He is skilled in going through his daily activities without his addiction getting in the way. Most high-functioning addicts believe that they do not have a substance abuse problem. They think that they can handle their substance addiction, unwittingly jeopardizing themselves for psychological and physical health problems.

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What is Addiction?

Addiction is a state in which an individual is compelled to repeatedly use an illicit substance or engage in an activity that he finds rewarding. A person can be addicted to substances such as prescription drugs, alcohol, cocaine, and more, or in activities such as gambling.  Scientific studies indicate that the addictive substance or behavior strongly activates that brain center of reinforcement and reward, involving the dopamine neurotransmitter.

Individuals who develop an addiction are not readily aware that their tolerance to the pertaining substance or behavior has increased.  The brain’s executive functions are affected that is why an “addict” does not realize that his behavior is harming himself and those around him. Thus, a high-functioning addict’s mindset is the same.

Recognizing a High-functioning Addict

Individuals turn to drugs for various reasons. For example, a college student may use stimulants to enhance his focus while studying, or an athlete may use prescription painkillers due to an injury, or a stay-at-home mom may turn an occasional wine before dinner into a devastating alcohol addiction.

Are you living with an addict? If he or she is a high-functioning one, then knowing if he or she is an addict is not as easy. High-functioning addicts can readily hide or disguise their drug problems without family and friends knowing any better. However, there are ways to discern and unmask one.

Denial is a key sign of addiction. High-functioning addicts may not use drugs on a daily basis. They may prefer to drink only the finest wines and do designer drugs. They can effortlessly manage their family and career, fulfilling their obligations and responsibilities easily. They may even feel entitled to indulge in their substance of addiction as a means of rewarding themselves for their hard work. Recognizing that they have an addiction problem is farthest in their mind. Their friends and loved ones sometimes fail to recognize the addiction problem even if they are presented with facts.

Changes in Behavioral Patterns. No matter how many functional addicts rationalize that they do not have an addiction, they will still experience the consequences.  Subtle changes in their behavior uncharacteristic of them may appear. They may have the tendency to isolate themselves, refusing to interact socially and failing to do family obligations. Professionally, they may show lack of focus in doing tasks, miss deadlines, and might frequently call in sick. They may show some physical signs of addiction such as paranoia, insomnia, and unsteadiness in their movements.

Master of Excuses. A high-functioning addict is a master in making excuses for his unusual behavior and strange occurrences. Coming home drunk or high, he will usually cook up a seemingly realistic story to cover his addiction.

Double Life Situation. Leading a double life becomes the norm for high-functioning addicts. He is the exact opposite of the person he shows and maintains to the outside world. He exudes confidence, success, and everything that is truly remarkable but when the curtain is drawn and he is by himself, his inner demons manifest. On occasions, he feels the burden of his lies and deception, but this does not mean he is ready to admit his addiction and seek rehabilitation. Hitting rock-bottom seems to be the thing that could motivate him to seek treatment.

Being in a relationship with a high-functioning addict is not easy as he does not fit the typical drug addict or alcoholic.  His job is his anchor of keeping sane as it offers him financial stability to support his addiction. The regular working hours offer him consistency and structure. The job gives him a sense of being someone else, and not an addict. He is mostly at work that it makes it easy to do his drugs or alcohol away from the eyes of his family.

A great concern is that unless he admits his addiction, he continues to be a liability to himself and to those around him.

Tell-tale Signs of Addiction

Classified as a chronic brain disease, addiction will ultimately lead to lower quality of life, health issues, financial problems, work problems and family/relational problems for the addict. Are you in a relationship and is not quite sure if your partner has addiction problems because of his weird actions? Here are some signs that you are dating an addict.

  • Your partner can’t seem to limit his drinks or “recreational drugs”.
  • He claims that he is feeling just a bit under the weather and needs to drink or take drugs to feel nice and comfy.
  • You notice that something is not quite right with his behavior, and then he attempts to weave stories and lies about his consumption.
  • He has not introduced you to his buddies, and then you found out that his buddies do drugs or binge on alcohol.
  • After a tasking work is done, your partner rewards himself by binging on alcohol or drugs.

Addiction has its repercussions, and an addict will most likely attribute his addiction-related problems for other reasons. His thoughts are preoccupied with the substance of his addiction, always finding ways to get a hit. Since high-functioning addicts can deceive their family, the very same family became his enablers -defending and making excuses for him. Until he hits rock-bottom, a high-functioning addict will not seek help.

The question now is: “How to help a functioning addict?”

For family and friends, it is important to support and understand the person with an addiction problem. There are various reasons why he started abusing substances and condemning him at this point will not be constructive. Intervention and treatment are the solutions. Now!

Reflections Recovery Center offers detoxification and rehabilitation for men with substance abuse problem. Unlike a sterile-constricting hospital setting, there are facilities that offer a young and edgy vibe that inspires patients to get well.

Why Men's Only Rehab Works - Reflections Recovery Center

Alcohol Treatment Centers: What Treatment Types Do Alcoholics Need in Rehab?


All alcohol rehabilitation programs are not created equal. Finding a rehab center with the most effective types of treatment can make the difference between relapse and lifelong recovery.

Below, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best alcohol treatment options for achieving a life of sobriety.

Medically Supervised Alcohol Detox

Patients going through alcohol detox are at risk for a number of potentially dangerous side effects. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal typically begin six hours after the last drink, and include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

These symptoms, and the anxiety that they produce, can make the already difficult process of recovery even harder. Detoxing from alcoholism in a facility with around-the-clock medical supervision ensures that these symptoms are promptly treated.

Medical supervision also helps put the patient’s mind at ease, allowing them to focus on overcoming acute withdrawal and starting their recovery. 

Effective Therapies for Alcoholism Treatment

There are many best practices when it comes to helping alcoholics put down the booze for good. Most of the top alcoholism treatment centers use a mix of clinical and holistic therapies.

Here are five of the top treatment modalities you should look for in a worthwhile alcohol addiction rehab program:


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is used in addiction treatment to help clients overcome the harmful patterns of thought, behavior and emotions that led to addiction. CBT can be broken down into two primary components: functional analysis and skills training.

Functional analysis works on the principle that a person’s behavior is influenced by their environment. Through working with a cogitative behavioral therapist at an alcoholism rehabilitation center, clients discover the situations that trigger their addictive urges. Recognizing the situations that lead to addictive behavior is the first step toward avoiding these triggers in the future.

Once the client has discovered the environments and situations that led them to drink, their therapist will begin the skills-training portion of CBT. Skills training is the process of unlearning destructive habits and replacing them with healthier ones. Retraining the way a client copes with stressful environments greatly reduces the risk of relapse.


Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a treatment strategy that emphasizes both individual psychotherapy and group skills-training classes. The goal of DBT is to help guide clients toward developing a life they believe is worth living.

DBT has five primary components:

  1. Improving the client’s own capabilities through DBT skills training
  2. Improving the client’s motivation through extensive individual psychotherapy
  3. Customizing treatment strategies to each client through in-the-moment coaching
  4. Structuring a positive environment through individual case management
  5. Providing support to the client’s primary therapist with a secondary DBT consultation team

What sets DBT apart from other types of therapy is its focus on finding the right balance between acceptance of one’s present situation and the motivation to change. In other words, DBT helps clients come to terms with their past while building the skills that will improve their future.

The four primary skills clients learn through DBT are:

  • Mindfulness the skill of maintaining focus on the present moment
  • Distress Tolerance learning to accept and tolerate discomfort without trying to change it
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness effectively expressing desires and setting boundaries with the people in the client’s life
  • Emotion Regulation – the ability to recognize unwanted feelings while finding ways to overcome them


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy was developed by psychologist Francis Shapiro in the late 1980s as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Because there is a strong link between PTSD and signs of alcoholism, individuals looking for the best alcohol treatment center should make sure that EMDR therapy is utilized in the facility’s addiction treatment protocol.

EMDR therapy works by allowing patients to reprocess the traumatic events in their lives. PTSD entails a person’s brain mistaking a memory for reality. From the brain’s point of view, remembering past trauma is the same thing as the trauma happening all over again. After treatment with EMDR therapy, clients will not feel the same negative emotional response when (or if) they recall these painful events.

EMDR therapy is an eight-stage process that begins by identifying the traumatic experiences in the client’s life that have overwhelmed their brain’s natural coping mechanisms. Next, the client focuses on a painful memory and identifies the negative feelings and beliefs associated with it.

The therapist will then perform a number of exercises that utilize bilateral stimulation (rapid side-to-side eye movement, for example) in order to desensitize the patient to these painful memories.

Bilateral stimulation is an extremely effective tool for reprogramming the mind, which is why we believe EMDR therapy is one of the best alcohol treatment options for those suffering from co-occurring PTSD.


Access to Trauma-Informed Addiction Therapy

Trauma and alcoholism go hand in hand, making it extremely difficult to treat one problem without also addressing the other. Traumatic experiences can result in a number of mental health issues, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

A trauma-informed approach to alcohol addiction treatment refers to a specific mindset. At Reflections Recovery Center, our therapists work closely with both the client and his family members to identify the signs and symptoms of trauma.

Our therapists then create a recovery plan designed to help the client heal from both alcohol addiction and his traumatic experiences at the same time, while actively avoiding any re-traumatization in the process. 

Our commitment to a trauma-informed approach to alcohol addiction treatment is one of the reasons Reflections is considered by many to be one of the best alcohol rehab centers for men struggling with alcoholism.


Nutritional Therapy

Alcoholism wreaks havoc on the body. Consuming too much alcohol can lead to liver damage, memory disorders, heart problems, alcohol poisoning, etc.

One risk of alcohol abuse that is frequently overlooked is digestive system disorders. Over time, alcohol consumption will inhibit the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food, potentially leading to severe vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Vitamin therapy for alcoholism treatment helps to reverse this damage. Making sure that clients receive high doses of essential nutrients during the recovery process helps to relieve the symptoms of alcohol detox while also jump-starting the body’s metabolic systems. Many of the top treatment centers also offer nutrition counseling and put their clients on a customized meal plan that addresses their dietary needs, preferences, goals, etc.

Explore Other Effective Therapies


Alcohol Treatment Centers: Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Not everyone can afford to put their lives on hold while working toward sobriety. But for many, programs like Alcoholics Anonymous are just not enough. Intensive outpatient treatment may be the best option for men at this point in their recovery.

A quality outpatient treatment program will include many, if not all, of the services offered to inpatient clients. Intensive outpatient treatment is a reasonable option for those with a stable living situation and strong emotional support system at home. 

At Reflections, men who graduate our inpatient program can move to this level of care afterward (if their family leaves nearby or if they stay in a sober living home). Some of our clients actually start out at this level of treatment if they already live in the area and if their addiction isn’t severe enough to warrant 24-hour supervision in an inpatient environment.

Rehab Aftercare Program for Alcoholism

Making the transition back into society after rehab is no easy feat. A robust aftercare program can make the difference between relapse and lifelong recovery. In Reflections’ aftercare program, we teach men the skills they’ll need to navigate the challenges of everyday life while remaining alcohol-free.

After graduating from our alcohol rehabilitation program, our alumni are offered a number of services for alcoholism relapse prevention, including:

  • Housing and job placement services
  • Weekly monitored urine analysis
  • Recreational activities with fellow alumni and current clients
  • Twice-weekly group counseling sessions


Sober Housing Options

Spending time in a sober living program is a great option for those seeking additional help during the transition process. Sober housing allows patients to receive support from both fellow alumni and addiction counselors while they rebuild their lives. Patients can attend school, maintain a job and practice life skills in an environment dedicated to healing and recovery.

Alcoholism Treatment at Reflections

Reflections’ men-only alcoholism treatment center utilizes the most effective treatments designed to set our clients on a path toward lifelong sobriety. If you or your loved one is seeking to overcome an addiction to alcohol, know that help is just a phone call away.

Explore Our Full Continuum of Care

What real clients have to say about Reflections Recovery Center in Arizona
Reflections provided me with the tools that got me where i am today with 14 months sober.
— Ricky A, Long Beach CA
Reflections gave me a life and an opportunity to become part of society. They challenged me and shaped me into the man I want to be.
— Dyer K, Gilbert AZ
I learned how to stay sober, found my best friends and created a new life at Reflections
— David S, Phoenix AZ

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If you have any questions about addiction treatment, we're here.