The Complex Relationship Between Chronic Illness and Alcohol Consumption

alcoholic drink and wood

The world has been grappling with a menacing chronic illness problem. Approximately 6 in 10 US citizens have a chronic illness, and around 4 in 10 have multiple. These illnesses can include conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. 

Some states have a higher prevalence of chronic ailments than other states. For instance, data from America’s Health Rankings shows that New Mexico has one of the highest chronic kidney disease prevalences at 3.9%.

While these chronic illnesses are not curable, they can be managed with proper care and treatment. Unfortunately, individuals suffering from chronic disease may also struggle with alcohol abuse or addiction. This is common because many people use alcohol to cope with stress or emotional pain.

However, this coping mechanism may not be effective for everyone and can lead to more harm than good for chronically ill people. For instance, in places like New Mexico, where the chronic kidney disease rate is high, even the death rate due to alcohol consumption is high. It stood at 86.6 per 100,000 people in 2020.

This article lists how people with chronic illnesses can deal with alcohol abuse.

How Chronic Conditions Impact Your Mental Health

Chronic conditions and mental health goes hand-in-hand. The existence of one can significantly increase the risk for the other. For instance, you will feel stressed and lonely if you suffer from a chronic condition. Hence, you might start consuming excess alcohol to cope with the problem.

Likewise, if you are consuming excess alcohol, it puts you at a higher risk of developing chronic conditions like kidney diseases, cancers, etc. Moreover, alcohol can also interfere with your medication absorption. This means you will have to consume more medicine to manage your condition, which can lead to side effects.

Excessive use of medicines can also impact your mental well-being, and you might start getting into substance abuse. A study published in the Frontiers Journal shows that acetaminophen, a commonly prescribed drug, has a very high oral bioavailability. Moreover, the study also finds that acetaminophen can have analgesic effects that can impact your mental health.

Many people also have to start staying at home due to chronic illnesses. In such a scenario, if they start consuming more alcohol, it can adversely affect their health. If you or a loved one is in such a condition, you must seek professional help for residential rehab treatment.

It is best to contact a local rehab center so that you can go for treatment and sessions as and when required. For instance, New Mexico has a high alcohol consumption and alcohol-related death rate. Hence, if you live in a city like Albuquerque in New Mexico, connect with a center from that very city. You can choose from outpatient, inpatient, or residential treatment.

Seeking Help if You are Struggling in New Mexico

Getting residential treatment in Albuquerque is not very challenging, but finding a reputable and effective treatment center can be a bit trickier. You can do a Google search to find a reliable rehab center with good reviews and testimonials. You can also ask your friends and family members for recommendations. 

In our own findings, the staff at Icarus Behavioral Health (based in Albuquerque with locations statewide) present an array of professional programs for both mental health and alcohol or substance use disorders. 

Many people confuse inpatient with residential treatment. According to Icarus Behavioral Health, while both treatment approaches are very similar, they differ. For instance, the duration and intensity of care vary with both methods.

Drinking alcohol in a bar

The Temptation of Alcohol for Individuals with Chronic Illness

Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it slows down your body and brain. This can be helpful for individuals with chronic illnesses who are constantly feeling overwhelmed by their symptoms. Alcohol is also a sedative, meaning drinking can help you fall asleep more quickly than usual.

Drinking alcohol reduces stress levels by releasing endorphins, the feel-good hormones, into the bloodstream. Drinking alcohol may also boost serotonin levels in the brain, which helps regulate moods and dopamine production. Due to these reasons, a person having a chronic illness might be more tempted to drink excessive alcohol.

Coping Mechanisms and Alcohol: Seeking Solace in Spirits

A coping mechanism is a way of dealing with stress, pain, or anxiety. For many people living with a chronic illness, alcohol can be an effective coping mechanism. Alcohol has soothing properties that make it helpful in reducing stress and anxiety.

It can seem like a good idea at first glance to use alcohol to deal with the symptoms of your illness. But it’s important to remember that all addictive substances have side effects that may outweigh any benefits you might gain from them.

Having a moderate amount of alcohol can prove beneficial. For instance, it could help improve quality of life by reducing stress levels, enhancing sleep quality, improving appetite, etc. However, excessive drinking is what you must avoid, as it can lead to various disorders and deteriorate your health.

For instance, genetic factors are one of the biggest causes of eating disorders. Data from a Cambridge study shows that the heritability estimates for anorexia nervosa vary between 0.48 and 0.74. However, consumption of alcohol can further disrupt your eating cycle and negatively affect your condition.

How to Reduce Alcohol Consumption When Chronically Ill

There are many ways to reduce alcohol consumption when chronically ill.

  • Reduce intake of alcohol. To reduce your overall consumption, reduce your daily intake by half or more.
  • Avoid drinking before bedtime. Alcohol can interfere with sleep and lead to poor-quality rest, worsening your symptoms and making it harder to get through the day without feeling fatigued or overwhelmed by fatigue-related symptoms like headaches or nausea.
  • Only drink with protein and fiber meals. This will help slow down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream so that it doesn’t reach toxic levels too quickly, thus reducing the risk of harm from overconsumption.
  • Drink more water throughout the day and beverages containing caffeine, sugar, or artificial sweeteners. These drinks are dehydrating even though they don’t have high amounts of water. Therefore, consuming them alongside regular hydration sources such as water will help prevent dehydration.
  • Get professional help for reducing alcohol intake. You can join structured programs to support mental health. A strong support network can also play a vital role in coping with substance abuse and the mental effect of chronic illness. You can quickly search for structured programs to support mental wellness.

Unveiling the Complexities of Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol consumption is a complex issue that can be difficult to understand. While it’s easy to assume that those who drink alcohol are simply “alcoholics,” this is not always the case. Many people consume alcohol in moderation and don’t experience any adverse effects from their drinking habits. They may even report positive effects such as reducing stress or improving social connections.

For some people, however, alcohol consumption can cause more harm than good, and healthcare providers need to understand this relationship to help patients make informed decisions about their healthcare choices.

Supports for Alcohol and Mental Health are Available

Alcohol consumption is a complex issue that requires careful consideration. Chronic illness can impact your mental health in many ways, including an increased risk of anxiety and depression. This can lead to increased drinking and a desire for solace through spirits. But this will only make things worse. 

If you want to reduce your alcohol consumption but still enjoy social occasions with friends or family members who drink, try modifying your environment or seek professional help from a therapist or counselor specializing in addiction issues.

For those whose issues require detox and more extended treatment, it can make sense to seek a provider who offers all the levels of care you need. If you (or a loved one) are struggling, reach out to Icarus Behavioral Health in New Mexico for support today to lighten your load!