brain to heal from alcohol

How Long Does it Take for Your Brain to Heal from Alcohol?

Recovery is a beautiful thing. It is a fact that even someone with a lengthy history of alcoholism can regain brain health in recovery, reversing years of damage to brain structures, volume, and functioning. Even after only six months, the individual in recovery will experience significant restoration of brain health.

In fact, even two weeks of abstinence will reveal a reversal of brain damage, according to a study out of Stanford University. The focus of the study was on volume loss caused by alcohol abuse, which is associated

Several factors may influence how long it takes for the brain to heal from alcohol addiction. These include the number of prior detoxifications, if the individual is a smoker, or if he or she has a strong family prevalence of alcoholism. These factors can slow down or prevent a complete brain recovery.

For someone considering getting treatment for an alcohol use disorder, it is encouraging to learn that not only will the individual experience improvements across the board in psychological and physical health, but their brain health will recover, too. These kinds of results will only be experienced when the individual complies with continuing care efforts and remains sober, but knowing that it is possible for the brain to heal from alcohol addiction is a powerful motivator.

How Alcoholism Affects Brain Health

Chronic alcohol abuse has deleterious effects on the brain. The brain matter volume literally shrinks as a result of alcoholism. In addiction, there can be an increase of cerebrospinal fluid. Along with the loss of volume in the insula and cingulate cortex, are other neuropsychological effects, also known as alcohol-related cognitive impairment, such as difficulty concentrating, memory loss, and even increased impulsivity.

Individuals with a serious alcohol use disorder experience changes in the frontal lobe, where executive functions like decision-making and self-control are regulated. The cerebellum is also affected by alcohol abuse, which is the region that contributes to controlling and coordinating muscle movements. Additionally, alcohol dependency can slow brain cell development and accelerate dementia.

5 Ways the Brain Heals from Alcohol Addiction

MRI imaging reveals the rapid restoration of brain volume in studies that measure brain scan results from participants of which half are in early alcohol recovery, starting 24-hours after detox, and half who had little exposure to alcohol. The increase in the cerebellum region was nearly completely restored after 14 days of abstinence.

Although the impact of chronic alcohol consumption on the brain is significant, the brain has an amazing ability to regenerate following abstinence from alcohol. This encouraging news is tempered somewhat by the fact that not all brain damage will be immediately restored, and that some effects of alcohol abuse on the brain may have permanent effects. However, the brain has an amazing capacity to heal. Some of the ways the brain heals from alcohol addiction include:

  1. Brain volume is restored. A dramatic increase in brain matter volume occurs within 2 weeks of abstinence from alcohol, as has been shown on brain imaging tests.
  2. New cell growth. While some brain cell destruction is permanent, sustained abstinence results in new brain cell growth in the hippocampus.
  3. Improved motor skills. Executing a motor skill toward a predetermined movement outcome is a brain function that improves with sobriety.
  4. Improved visual-spatial abilities. While visual-spatial abilities will not recover completely there is some improvement with long-term abstinence.
  5. Improved cognitive abilities. As the brain heals, cognitive functions, such as short-term and long-term memory, and most executive functions are improved.

Recovery of such behaviors as sustained attention span and other neurocognitive functions may take longer to rebound.

Other Benefits of Sobriety

Renewed brain health isn’t the only benefit enjoyed in sobriety. Some of the other positive effects associated with early recovery include:

  • Improved mood. Alcoholism often coexists with the symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. The impact of alcohol on the brain creates emotional instability, and the negative life consequences due to alcoholism only enhance feelings of shame, guilt, and anxiety. After a month or two in recovery an improvement in mood along with a renewed sense of purpose are quite common.
  • You just feel better. Alcohol is a toxic substance that can do serious damage to major organs. High daily consumption results in hangovers and nausea, and a general feeling of illness as the disease progresses. By abstaining from alcohol the body eliminates the associated toxins and the brain will stabilize. After a few months of sobriety the individual may feel more energetic and focused as the body begins to function optimally again.
  • Better appearance. Alcohol abuse has a dehydrating effect that can leave us look old and tired, as the body is unable to produce new cells at a normal rate. Inflammation caused by alcohol can cause a reddish skin tone. In sobriety the individual will notice an improvement in the overall appearance of their skin as collagen levels are restored to normal.
  • Better sleep. People may be under the misunderstanding that alcohol will assist with sleep. Alcohol is a sedative and may help someone fall asleep faster, but its effects in the bloodstream will disrupt the third and fourth phases of the sleep cycle, impacting the circadian rhythm and causing sleep disturbance. Sustained sobriety has the positive affect of better sleep quality, a key component of achieving overall wellness.
  • Weight loss. Alcohol is high in sugar content and calories, therefore alcohol abuse is often associated with weight gain and bloating. Individuals with a moderate to severe alcohol use disorder may also begin to adopt an unhealthy diet. This combination of high alcohol intake and poor diet can lead to extra pounds, liver distention, and water retention. When eliminating alcohol consumption from the daily caloric intake, facial features becoming more defined, your belly flattens, and a trimmer overall appearance will result.

Signs of an Alcohol Use Disorder

An alcohol use disorder is defined as the excessive consumption of alcohol to the point that it begins to negatively impact health, quality of life, and daily functioning. Sometimes it can take years for an alcohol habit to begin to reveal negative consequence. It is always best to recognize the warning signs of an alcohol use disorder early on so appropriate steps can be taken to proactively obtain professional help.

Some of the signs of an alcohol problem include:

  • Increased tolerance to alcohol, leading to higher alcohol consumption in an effort to experience the initial desirable effects
  • Neglecting daily responsibilities, such as parenting obligations or paying bills
  • Lying to others about how much you drink, hiding alcohol around the house, in the car, or at work
  • Isolating from friends and family so one can drink in private
  • Becoming obsessive about having alcohol available, looking forward to drinking, seeking excuses to drink
  • Experiencing problems at work, declining work performance, termination from job
  • Legal problems, such as DUI or child custody challenges
  • Negatively impacting interpersonal relationships
  • Alcohol cravings
  • Attempting to stop drinking but cannot
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when alcohol is withheld

Getting Help for Alcoholism

The road to restoring brain health and general wellness begins with the completion of a medically supervised detox program and commitment to addiction treatment. Following the detox the individual in recovery will need an extended period of professional treatment to acquire new behaviors and recovery skills designed to help them remain sober. Treatment programs are available in either an outpatient or a residential setting. The level of care that is appropriate is determined by the severity of the alcohol use disorder.

During the treatment phase of recovery the individual will participate in a variety of treatment activities and therapies that approach all aspects of alcoholism recovery. These interventions include:

  • Psychotherapy, which allows the individual to explore underlying emotional issues or past traumas that may be a contributing factor.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, which guides the individual toward adopting new thought patterns that replace the dysfunction patterns that have fueled the alcohol abuse.
  • Group therapy, which provides opportunities for individuals in recovery to gain mutual peer support and learn new recovery skills.
  • Family-based therapy helps family members to process and heal their frustrations, emotions, and fears while learning new ways to relate.
  • Medication management using naltrexone can help recovering alcoholics manage cravings, which can reduce the risk of relapse.
  • Relapse prevention planning, which encourages the individual to examine their unique triggers and stressors that might disrupt recovery and lead to relapse.
  • 12-step meetings or similar programming, which provide social support and opportunities for leadership and making new sober friends.
  • Holistic therapies that can assist in regulating stress, such as yoga, massage therapy, acupuncture, practicing mindfulness, and art therapy can enhance the effects of traditional therapy as promote relaxation.
  • Nutritional counseling and exercise, which can help build a healthy lifestyle and promote physical and emotional healing.

Anyone who desires to take back control of their life and enter into recovery from alcoholism should be encouraged by the improvements in brain health, mood, physical health, and quality of life that result from a commitment to sobriety.

Ken Seeley Communities Trusted Resources for Alcohol Recovery Treatment

Ken Seeley Communities is a leader in the field of addiction recovery. Founder Ken Seeley is a renowned professional interventionist who was featured regularly on the A&E series, Intervention. His recovery center provides all levels of treatment for the recovery continuum, including intervention services, medical detox, outpatient rehab programming, residential rehab programming, and sober living housing. If you are ready to address an alcohol use disorder and allow your brain to heal from alcohol addiction, please reach out to Ken Seeley Communities today at (877) 744-0502.

 

alcohol and social anxiety

The Link Between Alcohol and Social Anxiety

When considering what may drive someone to use alcohol as a soothing panacea for managing mental health disorders it is helpful to gain a deeper understanding of the connection between social anxiety and alcohol abuse. It isn’t difficult to identify the causal nature of this link, considering the effects of social anxiety on a person. For individuals who suffer from social anxiety, the intense level of discomfort in social situations can lead to an array of physical symptoms. These include a racing heart, spiked cortisol and adrenaline production, palpitations, sweating, shaking, and nausea. Alcohol can behave as a very quick antidote to these symptoms, producing a calming, relaxing effect in moments.

But as with all substances that produce chemical changes in the brain, alcohol can create a whole host of additional problems on top of the social anxiety it is supposed to be helping. The partnership between alcohol and social anxiety becomes symbiotic, that is the effects of one enhance the effects of the other, as a vicious cycle. Alcohol abuse can enhance the anxiety symptoms, as well as contribute to depression and many negative consequences in one’s life.

Why Do Those With Social Anxiety Use Alcohol?

Someone with social anxiety disorder typically has an intense fear of social events and interactions. This can include fearing simple activities like eating a meal in public or something associated with an extreme fear of being judged, such as public speaking. It has been found that 20% of those who suffer from social anxiety disorder also present with a comorbid alcohol use disorder, according to the article by Book and Randall, “Social Anxiety Disorder and Alcohol Use.” Alcohol can help these individuals relax in social settings, reducing the anxiety symptoms associated with the social phobia.

For those who dread the prospect of being scrutinized or criticized publically, turning to alcohol can be the last thing they do before leaving the house. Self-medicating fears away is only going to provide a temporary Band-Aid as more and more of the substance will inevitably be needed to relax.

Signs of Alcohol Dependency

Alcohol dependency comes in stealthily, like a thief in the night attempting to rob one of everything they hold dear. While the alcohol started out as a crutch for managing social anxiety, over time increased tolerance resulted in higher levels of alcohol consumption. There are some specific signs that alcohol abuse has evolved into a disorder. These signs include:

  • Being unable to control the levels of alcohol consumption. No shut-off capability
  • Turn to alcohol first thing in the morning
  • Hiding alcohol in the house or at work, or lying about alcohol use
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Excessive absences from work or classes
  • Decline in work or academic performance
  • Obsess about getting alcohol, having enough on hand, anticipating drinking
  • Try to quit alcohol but cannot stop
  • Experience withdrawal symptoms when try to quit

Treatment for Social Anxiety

Treating social anxiety will involved a combination of targeted psychotherapy and the use of medication. The psychotherapy best suited for treating social anxiety disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In addition, exposure therapies are also helpful in assisting individuals in overcoming their fear of social situations.

Antidepressants may be effective in managing the symptoms of social anxiety disorder. In addition, other types of antidepressants, such as the SNRI has been shown to be effective for this anxiety disorder. Anti-anxiety medications may also help reduce feelings of anxiety in a stressful situation, however these drugs have a high propensity for abuse and addiction.

Treatment for an Alcohol Use Disorder

When seeking help for an alcohol use disorder the first step in the process of recovery will be the detoxification process. Alcohol detox should always be conducted in the safe and supportive detox environment. Alcohol detox can suddenly introduce serious health risks, such as seizures or the delirium tremens, so detox should never be done without appropriate supervision.

Once the detox is completed, it is time to transition to treatment for the alcohol and social anxiety disorders. Both disorders should be treated simultaneously using psychotherapy, such as CBT and motivational enhancement therapy, medication, 12-step programming, and adjunctive activities that can enhance the conventional treatments. These might include recreational therapy, mindfulness, EMDR therapy, yoga, and hypnotherapy.

Ken Seeley Communities Treats Dual Diagnosis in Palm Springs

Ken Seeley Communities is an integrated alcohol and dual diagnosis treatment center in California. At Ken Seeley Communities, great lengths are taken to match the needs of each individual client based on their particular substance of abuse or co-occurring mental health condition. For alcohol and social anxiety, a comprehensive approach to treating the co-occurring disorders would involve evidence-based therapies that are targeted toward social anxiety disorder. These include cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, and exposure-based therapies. The alcohol use disorder should be treated simultaneously for the best recovery outcome. For more information about our recovery services, please contact Ken Seeley Communities today at (877) 744-0502.

Dual Diagnosis Alcohol and Depression

Dual Diagnosis Alcohol and Depression

A dual diagnosis occurs when an individual is struggling with both a substance use disorder and a coexisting mental health disorder. Dual diagnosis is a complex and prevalent condition that impacts about 25% of those with a drug or alcohol addiction, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Of those, the most common is the dual diagnosis alcohol and depression combination.

There are two ways the dual diagnosis alcohol and depression can develop. In some cases, the individual is experience a major depressive episode and may turn to alcohol as a means of self-medicating their emotional pain away. Over time, the tolerance to alcohol increases, resulting in more excessive drinking and potentially alcohol addiction. This is a situation where depression was a precursor to alcoholism. In others, the individual develops alcoholism first. As the consequences that result from the alcohol addiction mount, depression can set in, indicating that alcoholism can trigger a depressive disorder. In both scenarios, the dual diagnosis alcohol and depression is the outcome.

This particular dual diagnosis is a particularly dangerous one. Because alcohol is a depressant, and can cause major devastation in all aspects of one’s life, when co-occurring with depression there is a higher risk of suicide. In fact, suicide rates among alcoholics are exorbitantly high. According to a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, among alcoholics, the lifetime risk of suicide is 10%-15%, and that, in fact, depression and alcoholism were comorbid in 85% of 100 cases of completed suicide.

Treatment for individuals who present with this dual diagnosis of alcohol and depression will need to be provided through a specialized dual diagnosis provider where both disorders will be treated simultaneously for the best recovery outcome. These programs include psychiatric expertise on staff that are trained to respond to the issues that may emerge during detoxification and rehab.

Signs of the Dual Diagnosis Alcohol and Depression Co-Occurrence

The symptoms of both disorders, depressive disorder and alcohol dependency, will be evident in individuals who have developed this dual diagnosis. These symptoms include:

Depression

  • Sadness, despair, hopelessness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of desire to participate in usual activities
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Slowed motor and cognitive functioning
  • Inappropriate feelings of shame or guilt
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Suicidal thoughts

Alcoholism

  • Tolerance increases causing increased alcohol consumption
  • Experiences blackouts
  • Increasing time spent thinking about, obtaining alcohol, and recovering from drinking
  • Continue to drink despite negative consequences
  • Secretive behavior, hiding alcohol, lying about how much is being consumed
  • Efforts to quit or cut back are ineffective
  • Physical signs include bloating, glassy eyes, ruddy complexion
  • Withdrawal signs commence when alcohol is not available

Characteristics of Alcoholism and Coexisting Depression

The fallout for this dual diagnosis can be exceptional. Struggling with both depression and alcohol dependency can result in a slew of negative consequences. This can be due to the increased impulsivity of the alcoholic, an increase in risk-taking behaviors, and neglecting obligations, among other causes.

Consequences of the dual diagnosis of alcoholism and depression might include:

  • Loss of job
  • Divorce or interpersonal relationship issues
  • Loss of custody
  • Financial consequences due to job loss
  • Legal problems, such as getting a DUI
  • Health problems, such as pancreatitis, liver disease, heart disease, cancer
  • Accidents that result in injury to self or others, or damaged property

Individuals with a dual diagnosis of alcoholism and depression should not ignore the need for professional help. Loved ones who recognize these signs and symptoms are encouraged to seek out treatment for the individual.

Suicide Prevention

One of the more devastating consequences of alcoholism/depression co-occurring disorders is the dramatically increased risk of suicide. Primary care providers are being trained to assess for risk of suicide among patients who are alcohol dependent, hopefully increasing referrals to addiction treatment programs. These patients should be questioned about possible presence of depression symptoms as a way of identifying suicide risk in this group.

Suicide awareness includes recognizing symptoms such as:

  • Prolonged and persistent sadness, signs of hopelessness
  • The individual conveys the opinion that his or her loved ones are better off without them
  • Isolating behaviors
  • Loneliness
  • Successive setbacks that occur, such as relationship problems, loss of employment, financial difficulties
  • Appear to be giving away prized possessions
  • Making end of life arrangements
  • Saying goodbye to loved ones and friends
  • Acquiring the means to commit suicide, such as a firearm, rope, pills

Comprehensive Treatment for Dual Diagnosis

Treatment for the dual diagnosis will involve a full spectrum of therapeutic interventions that work together in an integrated approach to recovery. These treatment elements include:

Residential detox and withdrawal: Alcohol detox should always be supervised, as potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms can suddenly emerge. 

Individual psychotherapy: Therapy is an essential core element for treating both disorders. The therapist will guide the individual to examine sources of emotional pain and help them resolve these. In addition, cognitive behavioral therapy helps shift addiction responses toward positive, productive behavioral responses, as well as teaching coping skills.

Group counseling. Group therapy supports peer interaction and is a source for sharing and accountability.

Relapse Prevention: Individuals create a detailed relapse prevention strategy by identifying specific triggers or situations that could lead to relapse, and response strategies as well.

Continuing care services: Following completion of the program, sober living housing, 12-step group participation, and outpatient counseling are strongly encouraged.

Ken Seeley Communities Provides Expert Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Ken Seeley Communities is a Palm Springs-based addiction and dual diagnosis recovery program. The expert dual diagnosis clinical staff is trained to treat both disorders, alcoholism and depression, concurrently, providing detox, rehab, and sober living transitional housing. Ken Seeley Communities features a unique approach to guiding individuals into recovery, including intervention services and a subsequent continuum of care throughout the recovery process. For more detail about the program, please contact Ken Seeley Communities today at (877) 744-0502.