Alcohol Addicition

Description/Overview

Alcohol (ethanol or ethyl alcohol) is one of the most commonly abused drugs in our society. Alcohol:
• Is a Central Nervous System depressant (slows down body reactions and general brain function)
• There are two kinds of alcohol:
o Ethyl – found in “beverage” alcohol (beer, wine, spirits and liquors). Ethyl is also present in
“non-beverage” alcohol (rubbing alcohol, mouthwash, cooking wine)
o Methyl – found in solvents (paint removers, antifreeze, household products)

Short – Term Effects
• Sense of well being, euphoria and release of inhibitions and tension
• Drowsiness, dizziness and flushing
• Affected speech, balance, and vision
• At higher doses, the effects may be reversed (from euphoria to depression and suicidal behaviour)
• “Hangover” feeling (syndrome of fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, and shakiness)

Long – Term Effects
• Heavy drinking over a long period of time (more than 2 drinks per day) can lead to serious health
problems such as:
o Stomach ulcers, disorders of the pancreas, liver damage/disease
o Sexual problems/impotence/reproductive problems
o Brain damage
o Certain types of cancer
o Heart disease
o Blackouts (loss of memory)
• Depression is common
• Disruptions in social, work and family life,
• Financial and legal problems

Dependence Potential
• Nervous system adapts to the presence of a chronic depressant and physical dependence develops
• Psychological dependence can also occur, in which users may experience anxiety and even panic when
alcohol is not available
• Regular use leads to needing increased doses to produce the desired/same effect (tolerance)
• Regular users of alcohol may not appear to be drunk, but it still is not safe for them to drive a car or
perform other tasks

Withdrawal
• Withdrawal effects may range depending upon severity of physical dependence:
• Withdrawal symptoms may include and progress over three stages:

1. Tremulousness (the shakes), irritability, nausea and vomiting, difficulty sleeping. These
symptoms may occur a few hours after drinking stops and peak within 24 to 48 hours and then
subside in 2 or 3 days. This is the stage where alcohol hallucinations can occur

2. Convulsions (seizures) can develop within 24 to 48 hours after stopping heavy drinking.
Convulsions can last from 5 to 20 days

3. Delirium tremens (DTs) is the most serious stage of alcohol withdrawal. Occur 4 or 5 days
after heavy/prolonged drinking stops. A person can become extremely confused, agitated and
disoriented, with dilated pupils, fever and rapid heart rate

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