Alcohol Addiction & Abuse: Causes, Symptoms & Detox in Wisconsin

Alcohol addiction is a growing issue in the state of Wisconsin, even in more affluent areas like Waukesha County. If you or a loved one is struggling to overcome your addiction to alcohol, you’re not alone. At Midwest Detox, we offer top-tier care and accommodations to help you begin your journey toward recovery. If you’re not sure whether detox is the right option for you, continue reading to learn more about alcohol abuse, addiction, and recovery:

In This Article
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    What Is Alcohol Abuse?

    Alcohol abuse is a pattern of excessive and harmful alcohol consumption that can negatively impact your health, relationships, and daily life. It is characterized by various behaviors, including:

    • *Binge drinking (consuming 5 or more drinks within a 2-hour period)
    • *Heavy drinking (consuming 14 or more drinks per week)
    • Drinking despite negative consequences
    • Impaired control over alcohol use
    • Increased alcohol tolerance
    • Alcohol withdrawal

    *These are the figures associated with binge drinking and heavy drinking for men. Binge drinking for women is typically defined as consuming 4 or more drinks in a 2-hour period, while heavy drinking for women is defined as consuming 7 or more drinks per week.

    Alcohol abuse can lead to a range of health problems, including liver disease, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive impairment. It can also increase the risk of accidents, violence, and risky behaviors.

    However, it is important to note that alcohol abuse does not necessarily signify addiction. Alcohol abuse is often the first sign of alcohol addiction, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD) or alcoholism. If alcohol abuse is allowed to continue, it can lead to lasting changes in the brain that can cause AUD and alcohol dependence.

    Alcoholism: Causes & Risk Factors

    Alcoholism, which is the non-medical term for alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a complex condition influenced by a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors. The exact causes of alcoholism can vary from person to person, but some common risk factors include:

    • Genetics - A family history of alcoholism increases the risk of developing the disorder, as certain genes may predispose individuals to a higher likelihood of AUD.
    • Age - Early initiation of alcohol use, particularly during adolescence, can increase the risk of developing alcoholism later in life due to the effect of alcohol on the developing brain and the establishment of patterns of use.
    • Environment - Exposure to peers, family members, or social groups that encourage or normalize excessive drinking can contribute to the development of alcoholism.
    • Cultural Factors - Cultural beliefs and attitudes towards alcohol can influence drinking behaviors and the risk of developing AUD. Some cultures may encourage or glorify excessive drinking, while others may discourage or stigmatize it.
    • Mental Health - Individuals with mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, may be at an increased risk of alcoholism.
    • Personality - Certain personality traits, such as impulsivity, sensation-seeking, or a low tolerance for frustration, can increase the likelihood of developing alcoholism.
    • Stress - High levels of stress can contribute to the development of alcoholism, as some people may use alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with stress or difficult emotions.
    • Trauma - Experiencing traumatic events or having a history of abuse can increase the risk of alcoholism, as individuals may use alcohol to numb the pain associated with trauma or to cope with feelings of helplessness.
    • Gender - Men are generally at a higher risk of developing alcoholism compared to women, although the gap between the sexes has been narrowing in recent years.

    Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder

    Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is characterized by a range of signs and symptoms that may vary depending on the severity of the disorder and your individual circumstances. Common signs and symptoms of AUD include:

    • Craving alcohol
    • Inability to control alcohol consumption
    • Increased alcohol tolerance
    • Withdrawal when alcohol use is reduced or stopped
    • Neglecting school, work, or family responsibilities
    • Social or interpersonal problems
    • Risky behaviors, such as “boofing” or driving while intoxicated
    • Prioritizing alcohol over other activities
    • Impaired movement while drinking
    • Slurred speech
    • Flushed cheeks or face, sometimes known by the slang term “drinker’s nose”

    It is important to recognize that the presence of one or more of these signs and symptoms does not automatically indicate AUD. A healthcare professional should evaluate the pattern of alcohol use and the impact on your life to determine if you meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder.

    Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

    Alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur when a person who has been consuming alcohol regularly (and in large amounts) suddenly reduces or stops their alcohol intake. These symptoms are a result of the body's reaction to the absence of alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may include:

    • Increased feelings of nervousness, restlessness, or irritability
    • Tremors and involuntary shaking, particularly of the hands
    • Insomnia
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Sweating
    • Persistent headache
    • Increased heart rate
    • Loss of appetite
    • Mood swings
    • Fatigue
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Depression
    • Sensitivity to light and sound

    In severe cases, alcohol withdrawal can lead to more dangerous symptoms, known as delirium tremens (DTs). These symptoms may include:

    • Hallucinations
    • Delusions
    • Seizures
    • Confusion
    • Agitation
    • High fever
    • Rapid mood changes

    It is crucial to seek medical help if experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms or if there is a concern about the safety of the person going through withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening, and medical professionals can provide appropriate treatment and monitoring to ensure a safe detoxification process.

    How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your System?

    The duration that alcohol stays in your system can vary depending on several factors, including the amount consumed, your individual metabolism, as well as your body weight, age, and gender. Generally, alcohol is broken down and eliminated from the body at an average rate of about 0.015% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) per hour.

    The period of time that alcohol is present in your body also varies based on the tests used. While this doesn’t change how long alcohol actually stays in your system, it does affect the length of time that alcohol remains detectable. Here is what you can expect using the most common detection methods:

    • Blood Test - Alcohol can be detected in the blood for up to 12 hours after consumption, depending on the amount and rate of alcohol intake.
    • Breath Test - Breathalyzer tests can detect alcohol in the breath for up to 24 hours after consumption, although accuracy tends to decrease as more time passes.
    • Saliva Test - Alcohol can be detected in saliva for up to 24 to 48 hours after consumption.
    • Urine Test - Alcohol can be detected in urine for up to 12 to 48 hours after consumption, but certain tests, such as ethyl glucuronide (EtG) tests, can detect alcohol metabolites for up to 3 to 5 days after the last drink.
    • Hair Test - Alcohol and its metabolites can be detected in hair for up to 90 days or longer. Hair tests are not commonly used for alcohol testing, but they can provide a more extended detection window.

    It is important to note that individual factors, such as metabolism, liver function, hydration, and body composition can influence the rate at which alcohol is eliminated from the body. These factors can lead to variations in the detection windows outlined above.

    Long-Term Effects of AUD

    Alcohol use disorder can have numerous long-term effects on your physical, psychological, and social well-being. Prolonged and excessive alcohol consumption can cause a range of health problems and complications, including:

    • Liver Damage - Chronic alcohol abuse can cause fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis, which can be life-threatening if left untreated.
    • Cardiovascular Issues - Excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of hypertension, stroke, and other heart conditions like cardiomyopathy.
    • Digestive Problems - Alcohol abuse can contribute to inflammation of the pancreas (alcoholic pancreatitis) and damage the lining of the stomach, leading to alcoholic gastritis or ulcers.
    • Brain Damage - Prolonged alcohol use can result in cognitive impairments, memory problems, and changes in brain structure and function. In severe cases, it may cause Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (also known as “wet brain”), a neurological disorder characterized by confusion, memory loss, and lack of muscle coordination.
    • Nutritional Deficiencies - Chronic alcohol consumption can lead to malnutrition and deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B1.
    • Weakened Immune System - Excessive alcohol use can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections and diseases.
    • Mental Health Issues - AUD can exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions or contribute to the development of new ones, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.
    • Increased Risk of Cancer - Long-term alcohol abuse has been linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer, including mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, breast, and colon cancer.
    • Sexual Dysfunction - Chronic alcohol use can lead to sexual problems, such as erectile dysfunction or menstrual irregularities.

    Alcohol Detox In Brookfield, Wisconsin

    You don’t need to continue suffering from AUD or watching someone you love suffer. Alcohol addiction is very treatable, but you have to be willing to take the initiative to ask for help. Detoxification is typically the first step in the recovery process for individuals with alcohol use disorder. Fortunately, the experts at Midwest Detox are ready to provide you with everything you need to cleanse your body of alcohol and move toward a full recovery.

    Do you live in Brookfield, Waukesha County, or the larger Milwaukee area? Are you in need of a private alcohol detox center to begin your AUD recovery? If so, Midwest Detox can provide everything you need to detox from alcohol in a safe, comfortable environment. Visit our site or call us directly at 414-409-5200 to take the first step toward sobriety.