AddictionSpring Break and Binge Drinking

It’s that time of year where college students head out with friends to take a break from studies and enjoy spring break. Although most college kids look forward to spring break, many parents feel unnerved by the events that they’ve heard can happen. Chief among most concerns is alcohol consumption. It seems that college spring breakers and alcohol more often than not go hand in hand. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “four out of five college students drink alcohol. Half of these students that drink also binge drink, which is defined as consuming between 4 to 5 drinks in two hours. This is a dangerous amount of alcohol and can have many health consequences if done on a regular basis. Alcohol abuse in college also accounts for 1,825 deaths and 599,000 assaults each year. Over 150,000 develop health related problems due to their drinking.”

So why are college students more likely to binge drink during spring break?

  • Many spring break events, as previously mentioned, involve alcohol. Because students know they don’t have to be at class or work during the break, or simply because spring break is a “bigger party” than normal, students may tend to drink more than they otherwise would
  • The easy access of alcohol, especially if college students travel out of the country to popular spring break spots, allows for more binge drinking
  • Spring break can provide even more freedom than college students (who are already adjusting to new amounts of freedom) are used to back on campus. They may feel that if they are off campus and even further from “supervision” they can indulge even more.

Although, as a parent or loved one, you may not be able to control a college student’s binge drinking or other activities during spring break, you can take precautions not to encourage dangerous behaviors. If they take a vacation with friends, ask them to check in with you a few times so they know that you are thinking about them while they are away. Just knowing that someone else is aware of them and hoping they will make good decisions can instill a desire to keep things in check. Further, don’t fund trips or excursions that include individuals who may encourage your college student to binge drink or engage in other dangerous activities. College binge drinking is a serious concern and escalates during spring break but awareness and concern can help lead to more caution by those you love.


Post-Acute Withdrawal and What to Do About It


For people with drinking or drug problems, quitting can be extremely difficult. Though this is sometimes due to a lack of desire or lack of will power, it is often because of powerful withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms are immediately eased by going back to alcohol or drugs, making it difficult for many people to stay on the proverbial wagon.


Some of these symptoms occur soon (or immediately) after a person stops using, while others begin after the acute phase has ended. The latter symptoms are often a result of Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS).


HeadacheIIPAWS Defined

Per the University of Wisconsin, PAWS can be defined as a group of symptoms that occur after the initial symptoms of alcohol or drug cessation. It is often considered the second stage of withdrawal (the first stage is the acute phase; it causes physical symptoms and typically lasts for a few weeks) and usually causes emotional and psychological symptoms.


The symptoms associated with PAWS happen as the brain chemistry is returning to normal and the organs are being repaired. This causes brain chemicals to fluctuate, leading to fluctuating emotions and moods. According to the Oklahoma State University Medical Center, the length of this phase can vary, but PAWS usually starts 7-14 days after quitting alcohol or drugs and peaks over the next 3-6 months. Ultimately, it can last for two years or more (though most people have periods of remission over this period) and tends to get better as time goes on.


Its length is often dependent on a variety of factors, including: how long a person was addicted (and what they were addicted to); the severity of their addiction; their age; their gender; and their overall state of health.


In general, the longer a person has been addicted to drugs or alcohol, the longer PAWS will last and the more pronounced the symptoms will be.


The Symptoms of PAWS

Depending on the person, the symptoms of PAWS may drastically vary. In fact, some people may experience very few symptoms, whereas others will experience many. For the average person, these symptoms include: mood swings; anxiety; lethargy; trouble sleeping; low energy; inability to concentrate; panic attacks; cravings; feelings of hostility or aggression; feelings of guilt; lack of motivation; depression; a tendency to overreact to little things; numbness; boredom; problems socializing; an increased sensitivity to pain; memory problems; and irritability.


Treatment for PAWS

Unfortunately, there is no magic pill that can cure PAWS. However, there are measures that sufferers can take to assuage their symptoms. Sometimes this involves avoiding certain items, such as drinks high in caffeine or foods lacking in nutrition; other times it involves the practice of mind over matter.


People with PAWS can often find relief by being patient, taking it one day at a time, accepting the symptoms as part of recovery (rather than trying to fight them), practicing good health habits, staying busing with a hobby or activity, exercising, spending time focusing on relaxation, and taking advantage of a support system. For people whose symptoms are severe, relief may be obtainable by psychiatrist-supervised cognitive behavioral therapy, or through certain medications prescribed by a doctor.

This article was written by Laura Green.  She knows that PAWS can lead to relapse if you don’t know what’s happening to you, and recommends getting clean with the help of a compassionate drug treatment center, or a 12 step support group. 


EnergyDrinkEnergy drinks and alcohol

Recently, studies have shown that combining energy drinks and alcohol can be more dangerous than just drinking alcohol alone – especially if the energy drink contains caffeine. Researchers at HealthDay say the recent findings suggest that it may even be appropriate to put warning labels on energy drinks saying they should not be mixed with alcohol.

The mixing of energy drinks and alcohol has become trendy but few realize the serious risks. Results of a recent laboratory study appeared in the July 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.  In this study, measures of intoxication due to alcohol alone versus alcohol/energy drink intoxication were compared.  It was found that the combination of the energy drinks and alcohol enhanced feelings of stimulation in participants. However, it was also noted that the mixing of energy drinks and alcohol did not change the level of impairment for impulsive behavior. These findings of the study suggest that energy drinks combined with alcohol may increase the risks associated with drinking.

Cecile A. Marczinski, assistant professor of psychology at Northern Kentucky University and first author of the afore mentioned study indicates that, “young people are now drinking alcohol in different ways than they have in the past.  Classic mixed drinks such as rum and coke have been replaced with mixed drinks that use energy drinks instead, such as yagerbombs and Red Bull and vodka.”

The study reports findings that indicate that energy drinks alter the reaction to alcohol that a drinker experiences when compared to a drinker that consumed alcohol alone (Marczinski, 2011).   Impulsivity is the main concern when energy drinks and alcohol are mixed.  The study points out that when an individual consumes alcohol alone their behavior is less impulsive than when they consume energy drinks and alcohol together.  Marczinski concludes, “therefore, consumption of an energy drink combined with alcohol sets up a risky scenario for the drinker due to this enhanced feeling of stimulation and high impulsivity levels.”

It should be noted for college students (the main demographic for alcohol and energy drink abuse) that the mixture of the two is riskier than drinking either beverage alone.  Further, it is very important to note that for patients seeking treatment for alcohol or drug addiction, their clinicians should try to steer them away from beverages labeled as energy drinks.

Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER) “Effects of Energy drinks Mixed with Alcohol on Behavioral Control: Risks for College Students Consuming Trendy Cocktails,” Mark T. Fillmore (University of Kentucky) and Mark E. Bardgett & Meagan A. Howard (Northern Kentucky University). &

AlcoholismChoosing an Alcohol Treatment Program

Deciding which alcohol treatment program is best for you or your loved one can be a difficult, taxing process.  There are many important factors and considerations that one may face.  According to the SAMHSA (the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) there are 12 questions people should consider when selecting an alcohol treatment program:

  1. Does the program accept your insurance, and if not, will they work out an affordable payment plan?
  2. Is the program run by trained professionals who are state-accredited or licensed?
  3. Is the facility clean, organized, and run well?
  4. Does the program cover the full range of individual needs from medical through vocational and legal?
  5. Does the program address sexual orientation and disabilities, and provide age, gender, and culturally appropriate treatment services?
  6. Is long-term aftercare encouraged, provided, and maintained?
  7. Is the treatment plan continuously assessed to ensure it meets changing needs?
  8. Are there strategies to engage and keep the individual in longer-term treatment, which increases the chance of success?
  9. Are there counseling and other behavioral therapies that enhance the ability to function in the family and community?
  10. Is medication, if appropriate, part of the treatment?
  11. Is there ongoing monitoring of possible relapse to help the person return to abstinence?
  12. Are there services or referrals offered to family members to ensure they understand the process and support the individual in recovery

It’s clear that there are many important factors involved in the difficult choice of selecting an alcohol treatment program, but once an individual commits to a program, their chances of recovery improve drastically.

Whiskey on the rocksAlcohol detox

Alcohol detox is an important step in the management of and recovery from alcoholism. WebMD defines alcohol detox as, “a medically supervised period of alcohol withdrawal.”  They further indicate that during this time of alcohol detox, doctors may administer medications to control symptoms of withdrawal and monitor the patient to ensure his or her safety.  In addition to medical care during alcohol detox, patients usually also receive education about his or her alcohol problem and treatment.

WebMD also points out that, “medical management of alcohol withdrawal for people who are alcohol dependent is often necessary, because the symptoms of withdrawal can be dangerous.”  They cite the following symptoms that can occur during alcohol detox:

  • Sweats
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures

Detox may or may not be necessary depending upon a patient’s age, medical status, and history of alcohol intake.  It is also important to note that not everyone will experience all of these symptoms when going through alcohol detox.  Most often, alcohol detox takes place in a hospital, an outpatient facility, or a specialized alcohol detox clinic.  In order to recover from alcoholism, detox is extremely important and can last from a few to many days. Once detox is complete, treatment for alcoholism can begin.

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