Alcohol Abuse

Alcoholic Beverage

An alcoholic drink contains ethanol, commonly termed as alcohol. Alcohol is a psychoactive drug that is central nervous system depressant and rapidly absorbed in the bloodstream. It can be addictive and the state of alcohol addiction is known as alcoholism.

Physiologic Effects of Alcohol Use

When a person drinks alcohol, he or she may experience relaxation and loss of inhibitions initially. However, when large amount of alcohol is ingested intoxication may occur. The person who is intoxicated may experience the following manifestations.

  • Slurred speech
  • Unsteady gait
  • Lack of coordination
  • Decreased attention span
  • Reduced concentration
  • Impaired memory
  • Impaired judgment

An overdose of alcohol in a short period of time can result to the following manifestations:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Respiratory depression

Physiologic Effects of Long-term Alcohol Use

  • Cardiac myopathy
  • Wernicke’s encepalopathy
  • Korsakoff’s psychosis
  • Pacreatitis
  • Esophagitis
  • Hepatitis
  • Cirrhosis
  • Leucopenia
  • Thrombocytopenia
  • Ascites

Treatment of Alcohol Overdose

  1. Gastric lavage or dialysis. The procedure is performed to remove the drug from the systemic circulation.
  2. Support of respiratory and cardiovascular functioning.

Alcohol Withdrawal

When an alcoholic withdraws from alcohol use, withdrawal symptoms usually starts at about 4 to 12 hours after a marked reduction or cessation of alcohol intake. The withdrawal may take 1 to 2 weeks. It can be life-threatening thus, prompt treatment and management is required or necessary.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are:

  • Coarse hand tremors
  • Sweating
  • Elevated pulse
  • Increase blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea and vomiting

Delirium Tremens (DT’s)

In cases where the withdrawal signs and symptoms are not treated or becomes severe, the condition may progress to a condition called delirium tremens. Delirium tremens is an acute episode of delirium that is mainly caused after a long period of drinking and being stop abruptly and the person experiences withdrawal. It may also be triggered by head injury, infection, or illness in people with a history of heavy use of alcohol

Signs and Symptoms of delirium tremens:

  • Transient hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Delirium

Management for Alcohol Withdrawal

  1. Detoxification under medical supervision
  2. For mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms and the client can abstain from alcohol, home treatment is possible.
  3. For severe cases where the client cannot abstain from alcohol during detoxification, a short admission (about 3-5 days) is done.
  4. Safe withdrawal is accomplished through the administration of benzodiazepines such as Chlordiaxepoxide (Librium), Lorazepam (Ativan) or Diazepam (Valium) to suppress the withdrawal symptoms.

Daisy Jane Antipuesto RN MN

Currently a Nursing Local Board Examination Reviewer. Subjects handled are Pediatric, Obstetric and Psychiatric Nursing. Previous work experiences include: Clinical instructor/lecturer, clinical coordinator (Level II), caregiver instructor/lecturer, NC2 examination reviewer and staff/clinic nurse. Areas of specialization: Emergency room, Orthopedic Ward and Delivery Room. Also an IELTS passer.

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