Risks of Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is a common form of alcohol consumption that is popular among college-age adults. Even though it is common, it can still be dangerous. People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol at social gatherings often don’t realize that a hangover is not their only consequence. Drinking alcohol excessively can have a major impact on one’s physical, mental, and psychological health. It can increase one’s risk of driving while impaired and it can also be a sign of alcohol abuse and addiction.

 

What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is a form of heavy drinking. It is officially defined as:

  • For men: drinking five or more drinks within a two-hour time period
  • For women: drinking four or more drinks within a two-hour time period

This includes consumption of any time of alcohol, including wine, beer, or hard liquor. Binge drinking is the most common among adults between the ages of 18 and 34. Binge drinking also commonly occurs on college campuses.

 

Why do People Binge Drink?

People binge drink for various reasons and personal circumstances. In most cases, binge drinking occurs in social settings, such as parties. In these cases, people may binge drink in order to feel like they fit in, to easy social anxiety, or simply because they are curious about the experience of intoxication. Teenagers may binge drink because they feel like its an act of rebellion.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people who binge drink are not dependent on alcohol. However, this doesn’t mean that binge drinking doesn’t come without risk. It can lead to or be a symptom of a serious problem.

Reasons for binge drinking that may indicate alcohol abuse include:

  • Drinking to numb emotions
  • Drinking to distract from negative experiences
  • Drinking to self-medicate
  • Drinking to get dangerously drunk
  • Strong alcohol cravings

Using alcohol to distract from personal issues is not a sustainable coping tool. Over time, excessive drinking can pose a serious problem.

 

Short Term Effects of Binge Drinking

Drinking heavy amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time can lead to dangerous levels of intoxication. There are physical, mental, and psychological effects of binge drinking.

Physical Effects of Binge Drinking Include:

  • Dizziness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Drowsiness
  • Dehydration
  • Low blood sugar
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Inhibited gag reflex
  • Hangover

Binge drinking can also pose the risk of alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning can be serious and potentially life-threatening if left untreated.

Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Unusually slow breathing
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Loss of consciousness

If you notice the symptoms of alcohol poisoning, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Mental and Psychological Effects of Binge Drinking Include:

  • Impaired judgement
  • Increased appetite
  • Depression
  • Aggression
  • Lowered inhibition
  • Confusion
  • Memory blackouts

 

Increased Risk for Accidents

One of the most overlooked dangers of binge drinking is the likelihood of leading to serious accidents or injuries.

Dangerous Risks of Binge Drinking Include:

  • Drunk driving fatalities
  • Falls
  • Burns
  • Suffocation
  • Drowning
  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual assault

 

Long-Term Effects and Risks of Binge Drinking

Although there are many short-term effects from binge drinking, there are also long-term effects of it. The more frequently a person binge drinks, the more likely they are to experience long-term effects.

Long-Term Effects and Health Risks of Binge Drinking Include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Various cancers
  • Weakened immune system
  • Memory and learning problems
  • Nerve damage
  • Depression
  • Poor work performance
  • Inability to stay in school or keep a job

Frequent binge drinking can also increase a person’s tolerance to alcohol. This can cause a dependence on alcohol. Alcohol dependence can make it difficult for a person to reduce or stop their drinking completely. People who become dependent on alcohol are at greater risk for alcohol addiction. They may also experience withdrawal symptoms within 12 hours of their last drink.

 

Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

Although most people who binge drink are not expected to develop a serious alcohol problem, many still struggle in silence for fear of shame, addiction, or other personal reasons and they don’t seek help. At Holland Pathways, we offer a safe, accepting environment for all of our clients.

Telling People You’re in Recovery

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Recovery comes with a lot of uncharted territory, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve been sober for years or you’ve only just completed a program at a recovery center. While you may have new coping strategies nobody can fully prepare you for life outside of treatment.

For some people, sharing that you’re in recovery is a large, intimidating hurdle. It can be stressful and cause anxiety. To help with that, we’ll share some tips on when and how to tell people you are in recovery.

When to Tell Someone You’re in Recovery

Unfortunately, there may never be a perfect time to share that you’re in recovery, but that doesn’t mean you should hide it. How soon you decide to tell people about your recovery will depend on your relationship with them.

Ultimately, it is up to you when you share that you’re in recovery. However, if you start to build a close relationship with someone, it is important that you do eventually tell them. Telling someone that you are sober can be a huge weight off your shoulders. In most cases, the sooner you tell someone, the better you will feel. Once they are aware, most people will be supportive and can become another ally for your sobriety.

Knowing when to tell someone you are sober can be challenging, especially when it comes to dating. It may not be comfortable to bring up your recovery on the first date. However, once you start dating someone more seriously, you will need to tell them. If you are looking for a life partner, it’s better to know whether they are okay with it.

How to Tell Someone You Are in Recovery

Telling people that you’re in recovery can be intimidating, no matter how close you are with someone. You may be worried they will judge you or think differently of you. That’s why we will share some advice on how to tell someone that you’re in recovery. It may not be easy, but we hope this helps.

  • Do not worry about being judged. Not everyone is going to be as supportive as you would like them to be. However, the people who truly care about you will be supportive. People who are going to judge you for your sobriety are probably people you don’t want in your life.
  • Do not make it a big deal. People tend to react to things the way they are given the news. While it may seem like a big deal to you, try to relax. The bigger deal you make out of sharing your recovery, the more likely the person is going to be concerned and ask more questions. If you play it off, the person will likely respond in a similar fashion.
  • Keep it simple. Instead of working yourself up and preparing a long explanation, keep it short and simple. Saying “I’m in recovery” or “I’m sober” will often be enough. You can elaborate on your addiction and recovery another time if you feel comfortable doing so. Most people will often leave it at that, but some will ask questions. If you don’t feel like answering questions right away, it’s perfectly acceptable to say you don’t want to talk about it.
  • Tell people who matter. While some people are more open about their sobriety, you do not need to tell people if you don’t want to. We do recommend you tell your friends and family, but you do not have to tell everyone. People like your coworkers, acquaintances, and so on do not need to know if you don’t want them to.

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Sleeping Tips for People in Recovery

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Sleep and Recovery

It’s normal for people to toss and turn at night. It’s normal for people to occasionally have a problem sleeping. However, for people in recovery, sleep problems are a common struggle. It is amplified if people are going through alcohol or drug detox and their body is going through withdrawal. These sleep disturbances can last for weeks or even months. Common sleep disturbances for people in recovery include:

  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Problems staying asleep
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Sleep apnea
  • Abnormal sleep stages
  • Relapse dreams

Some reports have suggested that insomnia is five times more likely for people in early recovery. Even with all of these common disturbances, getting a good night’s sleep in recovery is important to help your body and mind heal. Without sleep, the risk of relapse greatly increases.

Tips for Better Sleep

Because sleep is essential during recovery, it is important to have a few tips and tricks up your sleeve. We’ll give you some sleeping tips to help you feel well-rested.

  • Stick to a Sleep Schedule: One of the best ways to improve your sleep patterns is to stick to a consistent sleep schedule. Not only should you plan for eight hours of sleep every night, but you should also go to bed and wake up around the same time each day. A regular sleep routine can reset your circadian rhythm and help your body understand it’s time for bed. You should also avoid long naps later in the day because it can throw off your routine.
  • Only Use Your Bed for Sleeping: Another tip to help you get a good night’s sleep is to only use your bed for sleeping. Watching television or doing work in your bed can create an association in your mind that your bed isn’t just for sleeping. This association can make it more difficult for your mind to relax when you lay in bed, making it more difficult to fall asleep.
  • Create a Relaxing Sleep Environment: It’s a lot harder to fall asleep with loud noises, bright lights, and when it’s too hot. Try to create a peaceful environment in your room. Studies have shown that people sleep better in a cooler room. Try using a fan, blocking out unnecessary light, and maybe using a white noise machine or a sleep track to drown out loud noises.
  • Exercise Regularly: An easy way to help improve sleep quality is to exercise regularly. Not only is exercise good for recovery and your overall health, but it is also known to improve sleep quality.
  • Track Your Sleep Patterns: If you’re following all of these tips and nothing is helping improve your sleep quality, it may be a sign of another problem. Keeping a log of your sleep disturbances may help a doctor diagnose and treat a sleep condition.

No matter what you do, improving sleep quality takes time, especially in recovery. Be patient if things aren’t fixed right away. Give it some time. Generally, the longer that you are in recovery, the fewer sleep problems you will have. However, if sleep problems persist or do not improve, it may help to go see a doctor.

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Five Signs of Heroin Abuse

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Signs Your Loved One is Addicted to Heroin

Heroin is considered an opioid and can come in two forms – either as white or brown powder or as a black, tar-like substance. When abused, it is consumed by injection, smoking, sniffing, or snorting. Heroin is highly addictive, no matter how it is consumed. If you aren’t sure if your loved one is abusing heroin, we will go over the signs of heroin addiction.

Five Signs of Heroin Abuse

  1. Going “On The Nod”

Like alcohol, heroin is a depressant or a “downer.” This means that it will slow the body down, specifically blood pressure, breathing, and heart. As these internal systems slow down, certain signs will be visible. After the initial high of abusing heroin, your loved one will be in a drowsy state for several hours. Several users will go back and forth between consciousness and unconsciousness while abusing heroin. Going between a wakeful and drowsy state is called going “on the nod.”

  1. Ignoring Physical and Mental Health Problems

Heroin is extremely toxic to the brain and the body. Heroin abuse can cause depression and antisocial personality disorder. Some of the physical health effects include insomnia, liver and kidney disease, lung problems, and transmissible diseases like HIV/AIDS or hepatitis B and C. When a person is abusing heroin, their mind is consumed with the thought of using it again and again, no matter what happens to their mental and physical health.

  1. Withdrawal Symptoms

One of the biggest signs of heroin dependency is withdrawal. If your loved one is not able to use heroin, they will likely become very sick. Heroin exerts a strong force over the body’s chemical makeup and instead of relying on natural chemicals, the body begins to rely on what is coming from the heroin.

Withdrawal symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Cold flashes
  • Goosebumps
  • Intense cravings
  • Involuntary leg movements
  • Muscle aches and pain
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

Withdrawal symptoms are the most severe one to two days after a person last uses heroin. Symptoms will typically fade away after a week. These symptoms can be extreme, painful, uncomfortable, and in certain cases, dangerous. It may be best to choose a medically supervised detoxification program.

  1. Signs of IV Drug Use

The most common form of heroin use is injection. This method is highly invasive. Long-term abuse will cause great damage to person’s body. Injection sites include forearms, legs, hands, and feet. You may notice bruising, scabs, scarring, and unhealed needle marks. Some chronic abusers may get tattoos on their arms or other locations in an attempt to hide the evidence of frequent drug use. Repeated injections can be dangerous, causing infection or inflammation.

  1. They Carry Equipment with Them

Otherwise known as paraphernalia, people who abuse heroin typically carry some sort of equipment with them. Being able to spot these items can help inform you that your loved one is abusing heroin.

Items used for transporting or storing:

  • Small baggies
  • Balloons
  • Foil squares

Items used for injecting:

  • A belt or rubber tubing
  • Burnt spoon or bottle cap
  • Cotton balls
  • Lighters
  • Syringes or needles

Items used for smoking:

  • Burnt aluminum foil
  • Burnt pop can
  • Straw
  • Pipe

Items used for snorting:

  • Cut off, hollowed-out pens
  • Straws
  • Rolled dollar bills
  • Razor blades

Frequent abusers often keep their items in small bags or a small case. This kit might be kept hidden in a vehicle, bedroom, bathroom, or other personal space. If you do find these items, we recommend you don’t touch them. In addition to possible bloodborne illness, heroin paraphernalia may contain traces of other illicit drugs and touching the strongest of these can cause an instant overdose.

Finding Help

Heroin abuse can be overwhelming. At Holland Pathways, we offer medically monitored detoxification services and we offer residential inpatient services.

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Vacation Ideas for the Sober Traveler

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Vacations are for exploring new places, having a good time, and relaxing. While sobriety may change your travel experience, sober vacations can still be all those things. Sobriety doesn’t mean the end of fun things like vacation. In fact, it will most likely improve your vacation experience! You don’t have to worry about nursing a hangover and instead you can spend your time exploring, relaxing, and just having fun.

Where to Go for a Sober Vacation

To be honest, you can travel anywhere you want to. However, depending on your comfort levels, some places may be more recovery-friendly than others. Some vacation destinations have less of a focus on alcohol, drugs, or party scenes. We recommend you skip locations like Napa, Las Vegas, or Ibiza where alcohol and partying are highly emphasized until you are completely comfortable in your recovery and can be there sober. Until then, we recommend these places.

Destinations in the United States

  • San Antonio, Texas: There are a ton of great places to explore in San Antonio. There is the historic Alamo, the Natural Bridge Caverns, the San Antonio River Walk, and more. They even have museums, the zoo, SeaWorld San Antonio, and Six Flags Fiesta Texas.
  • Nashville, Tennessee: The Music City of the United States is a great spot to check out the Country Music Hall of Fame, The Grand Ole Opry, see live music and more. They also have city tours, art, and science museums.
  • Denver, Colorado: You may first think of the abundance of breweries and the legal marijuana when you think of Denver. However, Denver also has plenty of sober attractions. Colorado offers skiing, snowboarding, hiking, white water rafting, and other outdoor activities. They also have the zoo, aquarium, art and science museums, and the Red Rocks Amphitheater.

Destinations Abroad

  • Sri Lanka: The culture in this island de-emphasizes the use of drugs and alcohol. That means that as a tourist, you’ll have reduced exposure. Sri Lanka has a beautiful and diverse landscape. They have beaches to relax on, rainforests to explore, and mountains to hike. They have historical sites as well, like Sigiriya – a rock-top fortress that has served as a royal palace and a Buddhist monastery.
  • Japan: While alcohol is available in Japan, it is much less emphasized. In Japan, you can travel the vibrant cities, explore bamboo forests, and enjoy their delicious food and festivals.
  • Morocco: Like Japan, alcohol is available but not emphasized. It is fairly easy to avoid it all together. Morocco has beautiful architecture and sites. Morocco is home to the Atlas Mountains, the red arches or Legzira, the blue village of Chefchaouen, and more.

In addition to these destinations, there are also sober resorts in Mexico, sober cruises, and more. There are even websites dedicated to sober vacations, like Sober Vacations International and Travel Sober.

What Activities Are There for the Sober Traveler?

A big part of any vacation are your plans. What do you plan to do while you’re there? Of course, the activities you plan depend on where you end up. However, here are some ideas that can be done almost anywhere.

  • A tour of the city you’re in. This can be walking, biking, a bus tour, whatever you decide.
  • Visit historic sites.
  • Visit art, history, or science museums.
  • Try a beach activity. This can be surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, etc.
  • Try a snow sport. If you go somewhere cold, try skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, etc.
  • Go hiking.
  • Attend local events or festivals that are around.
  • Go to local restaurants and try their food.

While it’s a good idea to plan a few activities to make sure you aren’t bored, be careful that you don’t plan too much! The last thing you want to do on your vacation is feel stressed or rushed to do everything.

Tips for Staying Sober on Vacation

Even though we’ve given you a few destinations that are less focused on alcohol, drugs, and partying, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist there. You may find that you are more tempted in this environment. Here, we will give you some tips on how to stay in recovery while away from home.

  • Travel with a supportive or sober companion who will not make alcohol or substance use a priority on this trip.
  • Plan a few things ahead of time so you aren’t bored but leave room for spontaneous fun! Don’t fill up your schedule to the point where you feel stressed.
  • Choose accommodations that don’t include mini bars in the room.
  • Prepare for potential triggers.
  • If you find yourself struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out to your support system or attend an online support group.

The best time to plan a vacation is after you’ve been able to maintain a stable period in recovery. We recommend this so you are able to truly relax and have fun on your trip.

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