Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
Can alcohol withdrawal be fatal?
Yes, alcohol withdrawal can be fatal in severe cases, which is why it should always be managed under the supervision of healthcare professionals. This is especially true for individuals who have been drinking heavily for a long period of time or who have a history of severe withdrawal symptoms.
The most serious form of alcohol withdrawal is called delirium tremens (DTs), which occurs in approximately 5% of patients undergoing withdrawal. It typically starts 48 to 72 hours after the last drink, and symptoms can include severe confusion, hallucinations, high blood pressure, fever, heavy sweating, and rapid heartbeat. In addition to these, seizures can occur, which add to the risk.
Delirium tremens is a medical emergency and can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Mortality rates without treatment are estimated to be as high as 35%, but with appropriate treatment, this rate drops to 5-15%.
Even less severe cases of alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous because they can lead to dehydration, severe vomiting, or other complications. Furthermore, withdrawal symptoms can make it difficult for an individual to maintain abstinence from alcohol, increasing the risk of a potentially dangerous relapse.
Why do people abuse addictive substances?
People may abuse addictive substances for a variety of reasons, often involving a complex interplay of biological, psychological, and social factors. Here are some common reasons:
Biological Factors: Certain individuals may be genetically predisposed to addiction. This could involve inherited traits that affect the way substances interact with their brain or influence their susceptibility to mental health disorders, which can increase the risk of substance abuse.
Psychological Factors: Many people turn to addictive substances as a way to cope with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Substance use may provide temporary relief from these conditions, though in the long term it often exacerbates them.
Social Factors: Peer pressure, especially among young people, can lead to substance abuse. If an individual is in an environment where drug or alcohol use is common, they may feel compelled to partake in order to fit in.
Environmental Factors: Stressful or traumatic environments can increase the risk of substance abuse. This can include living in poverty, experiencing abuse or neglect, or being exposed to violence.
Curiosity and Experimentation: Particularly among adolescents and young adults, the desire to try new experiences can lead to substance use.
Self-Medication: Some people use substances to self-medicate physical pain. For example, the opioid crisis has been fueled in part by individuals who initially used prescription opioids to manage pain and then developed an addiction.
Escapism: People may use substances to escape their reality, numb emotional pain, or simply to feel good. Addictive substances often provide a temporary sense of euphoria or relaxation, which can be enticing.
Co-occurring Disorders: Individuals with co-occurring mental health disorders are at a significantly higher risk of substance use disorders. This is because these individuals might use substances as a form of self-medication.
How does denial impact drug and alcohol abusers?
"Denial can have a profound impact on individuals struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, significantly affecting their health, relationships, and overall quality of life. Here are some ways in which denial can impact substance abusers:
Prevents Acknowledgment of the Problem: The most immediate impact of denial is that it prevents individuals from recognizing and acknowledging that they have a problem with drugs or alcohol. This can delay them from seeking treatment and starting the recovery process.
Perpetuates Substance Abuse: Denial can contribute to the continued use of substances despite negative consequences. Individuals may downplay the extent of their substance use or its impact on their life, allowing the cycle of addiction to continue.
Deteriorates Health: Denial can lead to a lack of recognition of the serious health consequences related to substance abuse. This can result in worsening physical health, including damage to vital organs, increased risk of disease, and potential overdose.
Strains Relationships: Denial can strain relationships with friends, family, and loved ones. It can cause conflicts, broken trust, and isolation, as the individual may reject concern from others or fail to acknowledge the impact of their substance use on those around them.
Hinders Professional and Academic Progress: Denial can prevent individuals from seeing the negative effects of their addiction on their work or studies. This can lead to job loss, poor academic performance, or loss of career or educational opportunities.
Interferes with Treatment: Even if an individual does seek treatment, denial can interfere with the effectiveness of the intervention. An individual in denial may be resistant to treatment strategies, less likely to engage fully in the recovery process, or more likely to relapse.