How I Earned My BA in Drinking Alcoholically

As I walked onstage in my flowing black gown, I took a moment to look out into the cheering crowd and find my family – my beaming parents, clapping with unadulterated fulfillment as their only daughter waved her hard-earned diploma in the air, tears of self-satisfaction streaming down her accomplished, collegiate face. Actually, it didn’t happen quite like that. I don’t really remember very much of the actual ceremony… I had chugged 2 bottles of cheap champagne in my apartment as I straightened my hair and waited for my boyfriend to come back with the airplane bottles of Smirnoff I had obnoxiously requested so last minute. By the time I stumbled onstage I was in the midst of one of my celebratory brownouts, probably concentrating more on not doing the drunk-girl-baby-deer-walk than on appreciating this like, culmination of everything I had ever been working towards. But looking back, it kind of makes sense that my actual graduation was a wasted commemoration, seeing as I was (metaphorically) picking up a BA in fooling everyone as to how much of a booze hound I actually was; picking up my scrolled-up Basic Alcoholic paperwork as I burped up vodka fumes and tried not to puke on my robe.

My Favorite Brand of Vodka was “Plastic Bottle” Vodka

My parents knew I was taking the whole college party thing a little too far when I came home for Thanksgiving break freshman year and peed on my floor at 3 a.m. thinking I was in my dorm bathroom. Even as I drunkenly scrubbed it out of my rug the next morning, I laughed to myself, almost proud for having at least made it out of the bed. After all, everyone I knew peed in places they were not supposed to pee. My then-boyfriend peed on our new ottoman the first night we met (I knew it was love), my buddy Jacob peed in my roommate’s bed when she was out of town (she wasn’t stoked), and I had probably peed in every parking garage in Westwood at least 13 times. Unfortunately, things sort of went downhill from there. Frat parties stopped being fun after I successfully gained an unfavorable reputation (and a slightly derogatory nickname), my grades started dropping below the contented B as I stayed out later and started drinking earlier (thermos filled with Bailey’s in 8 am French class turned to water bottle filled with vodka turned to ‘I can probably skip class today and tomorrow and every day forever’), and living situations grew strained when my roommates consistently awoke to mysteriously devoured Chinese leftovers.

“I Knocked Over Your Leftovers, I Will Buy You More”, Read the Note. I Ate Them, and I Never Bought More.

The delight I once took in being able to drink my male friends under the table quickly turned to the fearful realization that this was less of a skill than it was a serious problem. I was walking around blacked-out nearly half the time and no one really seemed to notice. To some degree I suppose that was when my functioning alcoholism began to take effect. Yet my peers continued to go out on weekends, and I was careful to surround myself with like-livered individuals who wouldn’t scorn my excess. There are many factors that contribute to college students actively participating in binge drinking and other detrimental alcohol-driven behaviors, one of the most obvious and prevalent being that everyone is doing it. My mom used to say, “Just hang out with people who don’t drink!” as if this was even an option. I never met a human college student who didn’t AT LEAST shotgun Natty Lite on Thursdays. The commonality of alcoholic drinking and the widespread tolerance for overconsumption makes the collegiate environment especially dangerous – a breeding ground for dormant genes stirred to life by gratuitous beer pong tourneys and themed frat parties that might as well all be themed “wear as little clothing as possible please show us your boobs”. College can be pretty dangerous for the coming-of-age lush, and for those who fear they are drinking a little more heavily than their sorority sisters or who find they need a screwball in order to wake up and cram, it would be wise to examine whether such behavior is a mere product of environment or the beginning stages of a devastating and life-threatening disease.

My glory days of handle pulls and King’s Cup lead to an extended stay in an inpatient rehab in Southern Florida, and while I somehow managed to walk away from 4 years of partying and promiscuity with a degree, seeking help as soon as I recognized I needed it would have saved me and my loved ones from the unimaginable heartache and distress I caused and lived with during and after my college experience.

The Delirium Tremens

Withdrawing from alcohol is not only excruciatingly painful, but it can be highly lethal. One of the most dangerous and distressing symptoms of withdrawal from chronic alcohol abuse is delirium tremens. Delirium tremens (Latin for ‘shaking frenzy’) involves a sudden and severe change in one’s nervous system and mental system, and typically affects those who stop drinking suddenly after a period of 10 or more years. Delirium tremens can also be caused by a head injury, severe illness, or infection in people who are afflicted with long-term chronic alcoholism. There are several differences between alcohol withdrawal symptoms and the DTs – both sets of symptoms are listed below.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nervousness
  • Shaking/trembling
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Heart palpitations

Symptoms of Delirium Tremens

  • Body tremors
  • Changes in mental function
  • Agitation, irritability
  • Confusion, disorientation
  • Decreased attention span
  • Deep sleep that lasts up to several days
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid changes in mood
  • Sensitivity to light, touch and sound
  • Stupor, sleepiness, fatigue

Delirium tremens is the most serious form of ethanol withdrawal, and can ultimately (and quickly) lead to total cardiovascular collapse. Because DT has such an exceedingly high mortality rate, any symptoms require immediate medical attention. Several neurotransmitters within the brain are directly affected by chronic alcohol consumption. During alcohol withdrawal, the loss of GABA-A receptor stimulation causes a reduction in chloride flux and in turn is likely to produce or contribute to tremors, anxiety, seizures, tachycardia (increased heart rate), and diaphoresis (profusely sweating).

In the United States, less than 50% of alcoholics experience serious withdrawal symptoms after discontinuing use. Out of those who do, only around 5% will undergo symptoms of delirium tremens. Before pharmacotherapy was available, a staggering 35% of DT sufferers experienced mortality. Currently, the death rates range between 5 and 15%. In the majority of cases, the DTs are treated with benzodiazepines and other pharmaceuticals, as well as antipsychotics if necessary. Because the symptoms of delirium tremens can be so severe and life-threatening, if you or someone you love has been exhibiting signs of alcohol withdrawal or has decided to cease use, it is important that he or she check him or herself into a professional, medically monitored detoxification center immediately.

Alcohol Poisoning Deaths On The Rise

Alcohol poisoning kills an average of over 6 Americans on a daily basis – a total of 2200 per year. Shockingly, the vast majority of those who die at the hands of alcohol poisoning are not identified as having any past history of alcohol abuse or alcoholism. 70% of those who pass away at the hands of alcohol poisoning are not identified as alcoholics, and 3 out of every 4 victims are adults aged 35-65 years old. Binge drinking has become a disturbing trend amongst middle aged white males, and has resulted in mass amounts of deaths over the course of the past several years. What is alcohol poisoning, and why has this trend been escalating at such an unsettling rate in recent years?

Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol is a toxin, and the liver must filter it out of the body upon consumption. Whatever alcohol cannot be filtered out of the body backs up into the bloodstream. When the alcohol concentration within the bloodstream becomes too high, it will likely cause severe damage to the physical and mental wellbeing of an individual. Breathing tends to slow significantly, as does the gag reflex as well as the heartbeat. If one passes out as a result of decreased pulse and vomits with limited gag reflex, he or she is likely to choke. Alcohol poisoning may also cause one to slip into a coma, or cause their heartbeat to become extremely erratic. Other signs that one may be suffering from alcohol poisoning include slurred speech, total lack of coordination, or profuse vomiting. Poisoning caused by overdose can be fatal (and frequently is), so it is important that medical help is sought immediately.

Why The Increase In Binge Drinking?

Interestingly enough, it isn’t the stereotypical college student who is binge drinking beyond the point of simple hangover – middle-aged men and women tend to be the ones suffering the most at the hands at alcohol poisoning and alcohol-related deaths. There is no clear-cut reason as to why this is happening, it is only apparent that awareness needs to be raised in order to prevent this lethal trend from progressing. If you or someone you love has been engaging in binge drinking and needs help to stop, contact one of our trained representatives in order to find out what steps you can take in seeking help.

Relapsing on Mouthwash

After struggling for quite some time, Mary managed to accumulate 6 solid years of continuous sobriety. She had worked hard to stay sober and to humble herself – she spent tireless shifts waiting tables, saving nearly every dollar she earned until she was able to purchase a home. She went back to culinary school, having discovered a newfound enthusiasm for the passion she had deserted long ago. Soon she had her own business in the works, a catering service she ran by herself out of a neatly decorated van. She had business cards made and a chef’s jacket embroidered with her name. Life was good, and complacency began to settle in slowly. Mary went to fewer meetings and spent less time helping those newer in the program than she – business was booming and there seemed no real reason to dedicate valuable time to something she clearly had under control.

Relapsing on Mouthwash is Disturbingly Common

One morning, Mary was getting ready to meet with a potential new client. She was finishing up her morning ritual – brush, rinse, shower – when some of the Listerine she kept on her sink and swished with daily accidentally made its way down her throat. At first she choked, not sure what had happened and taken aback by the overwhelming taste. Suddenly a warm, familiar sensation crept over her. She hesitated for a moment before taking another swig straight from the bottle. The familiarity was too comforting to deny. Before she knew quite what had happened, she had finished nearly half the bottle. She got into her van and drove to the meeting, feeling calm, confident, and slightly confused.

Mary continued drinking mouthwash, up to five bottles a day, for the next year. She picked up her 7-year medallion, convincing herself that it wasn’t really alcohol; it wasn’t really a relapse. It wasn’t really an issue. Deep down, buried beneath the delusions and the lies, she felt ashamed and estranged. She didn’t realize that relapsing on mouthwash was a disturbingly prevalent issue until she checked herself back into inpatient rehab for six months.

Listerine is More Potent Than Many Alcoholic Beverages

Listerine, the most frequently sold brand of mouthwash, contains 26.9% alcohol – making it more potent than beer, wine, and even some liquors. Manufacturers use alcohol in their products because it helps penetrate and dissolve oral plaque, and dilutes other key ingredients helping to form a consistent mixture. The inclusion of several dangerous (if ingested) chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide and methanol make consuming mouthwash in large quantities potentially lethal. 10-15% of alcoholics who are currently in detoxification for alcohol abuse will admit to having used non-beverage alcohol such as mouthwash in moments of desperation. Seeing as alcohol is such a prevalent beverage throughout the country, it may seem odd that anyone would choose a bottle of Listerine over a fifth of Jack Daniels mixed with coke. There are several reasons as to why an alcoholic may use mouthwash or any other non-beverage type of alcohol over a popularly consumed booze product.

  • Mouthwash is easy to conceal.

For one who has openly struggled with alcohol abuse previously, friends and family members may be less likely to notice if their loved one has been drinking mouthwash than liquor. If someone you know has been struggling with alcoholism suddenly has super fresh breath every day all the time, this may be a red flag.

  • Restrictions do not apply.

In most stores, an individual who looks under the age of 21 will not be carded when purchasing dental hygiene supplies. Additionally, mouthwash can be purchased at any hour of the day, while alcoholic beverages can only be purchased before a certain time in the majority of states.

For alcoholics like Mary, convincing yourself that drinking mouthwash is easier than dealing with the overwhelming and instantaneous feelings of guilt and shame that would come with relapsing at a local bar. It is important to remember that addiction is a tricky disease, and a disease of the mind – and logic hardly comes into play.

Relapsing on mouthwash is far more prevalent than one may think. And consuming large amounts of mouthwash may be more immediately harmful than picking up a bottle of liquor based on the combination of chemicals used in production. If someone you know has been acting suspiciously and you believe they may have been using a non-beverage form of alcohol, feel free to contact one of our trained addiction specialists to find out what steps to take to get them the help they need.

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol is by far the most frequently abused chemical substance throughout the country – and has reigned supreme since its introduction into society. While many tend to partake in alcohol consumption because it is “safe” and socially acceptable, the long-term effects of prolonged alcohol abuse are extremely detrimental, and often lethal. However, long-term effects of alcohol consumption can have cardioprotective health benefits. Though be weary of using this as an excuse if you tend to imbibe more than you should. One glass of wine on a Saturday night is exceedingly different than a fifth of vodka first thing in the morning. If you are overindulging, the consequences may be fatal.

Long-Term Consequences of Alcoholism

Long-term effects of alcohol abuse include malnutrition, alcoholic liver disease, chronic pancreatitis, and cancer. Psychological damage is also likely to be done with extended periods of daily and excessive alcohol consumption. Many chronic alcoholics will begin hallucinating or becoming delusional after years of daily use. Typically, there are twelve major risks involved with chronic alcoholism. Each is severe, and many can co-occur depending on the severity of the alcoholism.

  1. Pancreatitis

Heavy drinking has been known to inflame the pancreas, interfering with the digestive process. Up to 60% of pancreatitis cases are caused solely by heavy drinking.

  1. Gout

Gout is caused by the formation of uric acid crystals within the joints. Heavy alcohol consumption can cause gout, as well as aggravate existing cases.

  1. Cardiovascular Disease

When one is drinking heavily on a regular basis, their platelets are more likely to clump together and for blood clots. In many instances, increase in blood clots will eventually lead to heart attack or stroke.

  1. Cirrhosis

Alcohol is extremely toxic to liver cells. After prolonged periods of heavy drinking, the liver may be so scarred it cannot function properly. Liver function is essential to overall health, and cirrhosis can be lethal.

  1. High Blood Pressure

Over-consumption of alcohol can disrupt the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the constriction and dilation of blood vessels.

  1. Nerve Damage

Alcoholism is known to cause what is called alcoholic neuropathy – a painful condition that arises because alcohol is highly toxic to nerve cells.

  1. Anemia

Alcoholism causes the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells to diminish, resulting in anemia. Anemia may cause shortness of breath, fatigue, and dizziness.

  1. Cancer

When large amounts of alcohol are consumed, the body converts it into acetaldehyde – a potent carcinogen. Cancer is more common amongst drinkers that additionally use tobacco regularly.

  1. Dementia

Alcoholism speeds up brain atrophy – the shrinkage of the brain. Memory loss is an extremely common side effect amongst binge and daily drinkers.

     10. Seizures

Not only does heavy drinking cause epilepsy, and sometimes cause seizures in those who do not have epilepsy – alcohol consumption also interferes with medications used to treat convulsions.

     11. Depression

Recent studies show that depression actually results from extensive heavy drinking, rather than the other way around. Additionally, symptoms of depression are proven to decrease once an alcoholic maintains sobriety for a prolonged period of time.

    12. Infectious Diseases

Not only does alcohol consumption majorly suppress the immune system, but those who drink excessively are more likely to engage in risky sex – therefore contracting sexually transmitted diseases.