Alcohol has been a significant part of our society and culture for many centuries. Across the US, people of all ages drink various amounts of alcohol, some on a daily or weekly basis.
What is alcoholism?
For many of us when we think of getting together with friends or family, we think about where we want to meet up, a restaurant/bar, or someone’s home. We may also think about the beer, wine, and liquor we will all enjoy together and the laughs we are going to have. However, alcohol is a depressant that works on the nervous system and the brain’s communication pathways. Experts in the field of substance use continue to discuss the risks and benefits of drinking and debate over whether moderation or complete abstinence is the best choice for those who struggle with an alcohol addiction.
Alcohol's Effects on the Body
Drinking too much – on a single occasion or over time – can take a serious toll on your health. Here’s how alcohol can affect your body:
When we drink alcohol it interferes with our brain’s communication pathways, and will affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions in the brain communication pathways will change our mood and our behavior, and make it harder for us to think clearly and to move with coordination.
Drinking a lot of alcohol over a long period of time or even too much on one single occasion can really effect and damage the heart, causing problems such as:
Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of the heart muscle
Arrhythmias – Irregular heart beat
Stroke – the blood supply to part of the brain is reduced and prevents brain tissue from getting oxygen
High blood pressure – the force of the blood against the artery walls is too high
Heavy drinking also wreaks havoc on the liver, and will lead to a variety of issues and liver inflammations including:
Steatosis, or fatty liver
Fibrosis – formation of scar tissue in the liver
Cirrhosis – liver disease –loss of liver cells and scarring of the liver
Whenever we drink alcohol it causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that will eventually lead to pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a dangerous inflammation and swelling of our blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents our bodies from properly digesting food.
What effect can alcohol have on our mental health?
When we drink too much alcohol many problems can arise in our personal lives, and with problems comes consequences from our actions, which can then lead to mental health problems in which we drink too much to try and alleviate them, and it turns into a vicious non-stop cycle.
One major reason that many of us drink alcohol is to change our mood – or our mental state. Alcohol temporarily alleviates those feelings of anxiety and depression and makes us feel really good about ourselves. As well as, people often use alcohol as a form of “self-medicating” in an attempt to improve their mood or to help with their sleep. Drinking to deal with difficult feelings or symptoms of mental illness can make the existing mental health problems much worse.
Research shows that people who consume high amounts of alcohol are susceptible to an increased risk of developing mental health problems and large amounts of alcohol consumption can be a contributing factor to some mental health problems, such as depression.
What about the after effects of alcohol on mood?
A large problem associated with using alcohol to deal with mental health problems is that regular intake of alcohol changes the chemistry of the brain. It decreases the levels of the serotonin, which is a key neurotransmitter in depression. As a result of this depletion, a recurring process begins where one drinks to relieve depression, which causes serotonin levels in the brain to deplete, leading to the individual to feel even more depressed, and needing to consume even more alcohol to then medicate this depression.
Vivitrol Treatment for Addiction and Alcoholism
What is Vivitrol?
Vivitrol is a non-addictive, once-monthly treatment proven to help reduce heavy-drinking in alcohol-dependent individuals when used in conjunction with talk therapy. However, before starting it, the individual must be opioid-free for a minimum of 7 to 14 days to avoid sudden opioid withdrawal.
Vivitrol is an injectable and a long-lasting form of naltrexone. Naltrexone affects dopamine in the brain; so when a person take Naltrexone, drinking alcohol won’t cause the same type of dopamine reaction that the person is used to feeling, and since dopamine creates pleasure, drinking alcohol while taking naltrexone won’t be as enjoyable.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Vivitrol for the treatment of alcohol abuse back in 2006. It works on the brain by blocking the effect that opioids have on the brain, and reduces the cravings that many people experience after they quit.
Things to know about Vivitrol
Used with counseling
Not a narcotic
Requires opioid detox
Is Vivitrol a good option for you?
If you or someone you know has already completely detoxed from alcohol and opioids you or they may be a candidate for Vivitrol. However, its important to know that it’s not intended to help you or someone you know to stop drinking.
The FDA states that, patients "must not have any opioids in their system when they start taking Vivitrol; otherwise, they may experience withdrawal symptoms from the opioids. Also, patients may be more sensitive to opioids while taking Vivitrol at the time their next scheduled dose is due. If they miss a dose or after treatment with Vivitrol has ended, patients can accidentally overdose if they restart opioid use."
Vivitrol Works as Part of a Complete Treatment Program
Vivitrol has been clinically proven to help people who are continually participating in an outpatient mental health facility to reduce consumption or to refrain from drinking. It’s a helpful additional tool in the battle against temptation and relapse.
When working with a talk therapist, you may come to understand and learn how and why you drink, and learn effective strategies to minimize cravings and manage cravings that do arise. Vivitrol can help you by reducing the frequency and intensity of the cravings that you experience.
To learn more about Vivitrol and to meet and talk with one of our many therapists and our two board certified psychiatrists call us today.
Laine E. Davis, PsyD
Postdoctoral Psychology Resident
Blair H. Mor, Psy.D.
Supervising Licensed Psychologist
Owner at MorMindful Therapy & Psychiatry