What are the Physical Signs of Heavy Drinking?
Are you a heavy drinker? Drinking heavily will damage your body, your brain and even your relationships. In this blog post, we explore the physical signs of heavy drinking, as well as the effects of heavy drinking on the body and the brain.
Effects of alcohol on the brain
When you drink alcohol, water-soluble ethanol enters your digestive system. From there, it enters your bloodstream and passes through cell membranes. It soon reaches the heart. When water-soluble ethanol reaches the brain, it acts as a central nervous system depressant. Ethanol also increases the release of feel-good dopamine. The release of dopamine is what makes alcohol pleasurable (at first).
Alcohol also amplifies the effect of GABA. GABA is a calming brain chemical. This is why alcohol helps us to relax. This is also why it’s dangerous to drink alcohol and take benzodiazepines (such as valium) at the same time. Benzodiazepines (“benzos”) also increase the production of GABA. If you drink alcohol and take benzodiazepines at the same time, the effects of GABA will slow your heart rate and respiratory system to dangerous levels.
Effects of alcohol dependence and withdrawal
Alcoholism, now called alcohol-use disorder, is when people feel like they cannot function without alcohol.
Do you sometimes drink more than you planned to?
Have you tried to stop drinking, but failed?
Have you missed work or social obligations because you were hungover?
Do you think of alcohol all the time?
Do the people close to you think that you should stop drinking?
Have you stopped doing other activities so that you can drink more?
Has drinking put you in dangerous situations?
Have you ever drunk to the point of memory blackout?
Do you have to drink more and more to feel a buzz?
If you’re a heavy drinker, you may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking. These can include insomnia, shakiness, nausea, sweating, high heart rate, seizures and hallucinations. These symptoms can be dangerous or even fatal. If you think that you are experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, please get medical help immediately.
How can alcohol withdrawal kill you?
When you are a heavy drinker, the ethanol in your brain amplifies the slowing effect of GABA. If you stop drinking suddenly, the slowing effect stops and your brain speeds up dangerously quickly. This can be fatal. As we’ve said before, it’s essential that you get medical help if you plan to detox from alcohol.
A medical professional can treat the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal with medication. They might prescribe benzodiazepines to reduce the risk of dangerous symptoms. As we know by know, benzodiazepines increase the production of GABA in the brain. This can help the brain return to normal at a safe pace.
But there are two potential dangers of benzodiazepines. The first is that you cannot take benzodiazepines and alcohol at the sametime, as that might slow the heart rate and respiratory system to dangerous levels. The second is that benzodiazepines are addictive. It’s possible for someone with alcohol use disorder to swap their alcohol addiction for a benzodiazepine addiction.
Kindling is another dangerous feature of alcohol withdrawal. It’s possible for a person to go through alcohol withdrawal more than once if they start drinking again. Alcohol withdrawal is more dangerous each time a person goes through it. The risk of seizures, for example, is much higher for people who have already experienced alcohol withdrawal once.