The Effect of Alcoholism on the Heart

The Effect of Alcoholism on the Heart

Moderate alcohol intake–meaning maybe one or two drinks per day–is not likely to damage the heart and some studies suggest it might actually have some benefit. Drinking a bit more tips the scale toward negative effects and heavy prolonged drinking can do serious damage to the heart.

In the short term, even one bout of binge drinking can negatively affect the heart. Binge drinking can disrupt the heart’s rhythm, making it beat irregularly. This can feel like a heart attack, with chest pain and shortness of breath. If you already have a heart condition, this arrhythmia can actually cause a heart attack, possibly a fatal one.

Regular heavy drinking can cause episodes of heartbeats that are too fast, too slow, or irregular. Occasional irregular heartbeat is not especially dangerous, but frequent episodes increase risk of blood clots, which can cause heart attack or stroke. One particularly bad sort of arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation. This is when the upper chambers of the heart quiver rather than beat. This allows blood to pool and clot in the atria. The clots leaving the heart can then cause an ischemic stroke by blocking arteries in the brain.

Heavy prolonged alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure, which is one the biggest risk factors for heart attack and hemorrhagic stroke. Drinking causes a temporary increase in blood pressure. If you drink often enough, the arteries begin to harden which causes a permanent increase in blood pressure. Excessive drinking can also lead to weight gain, which increases blood pressure and stress on the heart.

Heavy drinking eventually weakens the heart muscle, a condition called cardiomyopathy. The heart becomes enlarged and unable to pump blood adequately. This condition is called congestive heart failure.

The good news is that much of the heart damage caused by alcohol is reversible. When you stop drinking, blood pressure starts to drop, arrhythmias become less frequent, and arteries begin to heal. The extent to which you can recover depends on how long and how heavily you drank. If you reach the point of cardiomyopathy there might not be much you can do, but up to that point, improvement is possible, even if it requires some medical intervention. The sooner you quit, the better the chances you can recover from the damage.

Heart problems are only a small part of the damage alcoholism can do to your body and your life. If you need help quitting, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox and make a plan for treatment. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.

Depressant vs. Stimulant Addiction

Depressant vs. Stimulant Addiction

Depressants and stimulants are basically opposites. Stimulants wind you up and depressants calm you down. People who feel lethargic or fatigued tend to want stimulants to pick them up. People who feel stressed or anxious tend to want depressants to calm them down. These are broad generalizations but more or less true.

Common stimulants are caffeine, cocaine, meth, Adderall, and Ritalin. A stimulant is anything that increases your energy and focus. They often make you feel confident or euphoric as well. They also wear you down in the long run. Stimulants make it hard to sleep. The less you sleep, the more tired you feel, and the more you need stimulants. It’s a hard cycle to break.

Prolonged abuse of stimulants can lead to heart problems like structural damage or irregular heartbeat. It can also lead to anxiety, fatigue, and paranoia.

People recovering from stimulant addiction tend to feel depressed. They have no energy or focus and generally feel stuck in the mud. They might spend all day in bed. They feel like they’ll never be happy again. Stimulants are a productivity drug that people often start using to perform better at work or school, or just get through the day. Feeling stuck or exhausted is especially difficult because they are used to doing a lot and used to feeling like they have to do a lot. The reluctance to give up that feeling of being supercharged can be a challenge when it comes to getting treatment.

Common depressants are marijuana, alcohol, opioids, benzos, and barbiturates. A depressant is anything that calms you down and chills you out. People typically go for depressants when they feel they need to unwind or when they worry they won’t be able to sleep.

Depressants are more commonly abused than stimulants, possibly because anxiety disorders are one of the top mental health issues in the US. Most people in treatment are in treatment for alcohol addiction and marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug. Although overdoses of meth are more dangerous, overdoses of opioids are more more common.

Detoxing from depressants is also more difficult than detoxing from stimulants. Withdrawal from alcohol, barbiturates, and benzos can be fatal and withdrawal from opioids can feel like a really bad flu. While it is advisable to detox in a clinic for any serious addiction, it is particularly important for these drugs.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to stimulants or depressants, Gardens Wellness Center can help. We can help manage the painful symptoms of withdrawal and get you started in treatment. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.

Addiction and the Central Nervous System

Addiction and the Central Nervous System

Addictive drugs mostly affect the central nervous system, which includes your brain and spinal cord. They typically work by changing the way neurons interact with neurotransmitters, which are the chemical messengers that tell neurons what to do.

Most of the effects drugs have on the body have to do with changing the function of neurotransmitters. Even effects like changes in heart rate and blood pressure are caused by change in neurotransmitters because the nervous system mostly controls those functions. There are long term effects of drug abuse that are not directly related to the nervous system. For example, if prolonged excessive drinking has caused structural damage in the heart or hardening of the arteries, those will cause irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure, respectively.

The addictive aspects of drugs have mostly to do with the central nervous system and they take place on at least two levels. The first level is the balance of neurotransmitters. When a substance changes the level of a neurotransmitter, or changes how that neurotransmitter interacts with neurons, it affects your feelings and perceptions, but it also forces your body to adjust to the change in levels. For example, opioids intensify the production of dopamine in the brain, causing the feeling of euphoria. If you use them frequently enough, your brain starts to realize it’s producing too much dopamine and so it starts producing less. Now you need the opioid to feel normal and that’s how physical dependence forms. When you stop taking the drug, you are stuck with the abnormal balance of neurotransmitters, which makes you feel awful until your brain readjusts to normal levels.

Behavior is the second level at which addiction affects the brain. This actually happens on several levels and it’s related to physical dependence, although addiction can happen without chemical dependence, as we see with gambling, for example. Addictive behavior is complex and variable but perhaps the most important concept is that of triggers. Addiction creates deeply ingrained behavioral networks, or clusters of cues and actions. Anything–a person, a place, a feeling–that is associated with using can trigger a strong craving and perhaps a relapse. Often, people are not even aware of their triggers or why they behave the way they do.

Treating addiction is a complex process. Treatment needs to take place on the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social levels to be effective. It’s not only a matter of willpower or medication. Depending on your addiction, you have to bring different treatments to bear on the different levels of addiction.

Gardens Wellness Center can help you with an individualized plan for recovery. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.

Most Common Dual Diagnoses

Most Common Dual Diagnoses

Addiction is often precipitated or compounded by another mental health issue. This is known as a dual diagnosis and it may apply to half of people seeking addiction treatment. Dual diagnoses can be challenging and require special care. If you take medication for a mental health issue, for example, that may affect what medications can be administered during detox. Mental health issues complicate other areas of treatment and recovery as well.

In dual diagnoses, the mental health issue typically comes before the addiction. Overall, about half of people with mental health issues will also have problems with substance abuse. Addiction often worsens mental health issues, and in some cases, causes them. Prolonged cocaine, addiction, for example, can engender anxiety and paranoia. The following conditions are particularly common in people seeking treatment for addiction.

Depression. Depression is the most common mental health issue in the US. It presents a particular challenge to addiction recovery because someone in a depressive episode either doesn’t care about recovering or doesn’t think recovery is possible.

Anxiety. Anxiety disorders are also extremely common. People dealing with anxiety often have trouble with socializing or sleeping. They tend to prefer drugs that calm them down, like alcohol or benzos.

Post-traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms of PTSD include anxiety, obsessiveness, and intense nightmares. Like people struggling with generalized anxiety, people with PTSD usually want something to bring them down or help them sleep.

Bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is characterized by massive swings between depression and mania. Bipolar disorder is typically associated with alcoholism.

ADHD. The standard treatment for ADHD is stimulants, particularly Adderall, which is an amphetamine. People medicated for ADHD develop a physical dependence, which, ideally, remains carefully controlled. The medication often interferes with sleep and they may use alcohol to counter the effect.

Antisocial personality disorder. This undermines the formation of strong social bonds that can protect against addiction. Antisocial personality disorder often leads to alcoholism, which can make the condition worse.

Schizophrenia. As with other mental health issues, as many has half of people with schizophrenia may abuse drugs. Cigarette smoking is common and may actually relieve some symptoms.

It is sometimes true that people self-medicate, or that the addiction causes the mental health issue, but more often there is a complex interplay. They may have a common cause, as with PTSD, or they may erode protective factors, as with depression or antisocial personality. Mental health issues are typically complicated in themselves, so even these are overgeneralizations. It’s important to treat the mental health issue along with the addiction because an episode of depression or anxiety often leads to relapse.

Gardens Wellness Center has the resources to treat dual diagnoses. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.

Alcoholism in History

Alcoholism in History

People have consumed alcohol through most of human history, perhaps all of human history, as animals are sometimes observed intentionally eating fermented fruit. Despite this long history, alcoholism seems to be relatively new. While there have probably been alcoholics at least since the beginning of agriculture, alcoholism has only becoming a widespread problem in recent centuries. Broadly speaking, there are several factors that affect a society’s rate of alcoholism, or as it is usually called historically, “drunkenness.”


Excess alcohol consumption doesn’t usually appear in a society until at least some of its members have excess money and time. If food is scarce, it doesn’t make sense to turn some of that food into alcohol. Of course, we see examples today of people buying alcohol at the expense of food, but that’s because the alcohol is already available. Someone else has made it and mass production makes it relatively cheap. Societies have to reach a certain level of wealth before widespread alcoholism is even a possibility, like Elizabethan England, for example.

Cultural attitudes

Ancient Greeks usually drank diluted wine after dinner. While they weren’t averse to occasional drunkenness–read Plato’s Symposium, for example–they more often praised moderation. Republican Romans were similar, drinking mostly at meals. Drinking later became more common as Rome became obscenely rich. Sulla drank himself to death in retirement and Mark Antony drank at the expense of duty and common sense. Some emperors are legendary for their parties.


In our age of worldwide distribution and unprecedented abundance, it’s easy to forget that famine was a constant threat to our ancestors. A plague or drought could ruin a harvest. Even a culture that celebrates drinking can’t make alcohol without wheat, honey, or grapes. This variability would slow addiction, as nature would impose dry periods every so often.


The more potent a substance is, the more quickly you become addicted. For thousands of years, alcohol was not particularly concentrated and even then it was often diluted. Even children drank alcohol with meals. When alcohol is more potent, it becomes a problem. For example, when the Romans first introduced wine to Gaul, the tribes there, who were accustomed to beer, didn’t know the wine was supposed to be diluted. This led to widespread drunkenness, which made them easier to conquer. Similarly, distillation turbocharged alcohol addiction in many countries, for example Gin in England and Vodka in Russia.

Drinking is sometimes defended as natural, cultural, or even healthy. This may be true in moderation, but like all good things, we’ve managed to turn alcohol up to 11. We didn’t evolve to drink vodka and whisky, and just as we now enjoy an overabundance of food, we also have an overabundance of alcohol, which even our poorest citizens can acquire. It’s no wonder so many people become addicted.

If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at

The Most Common Non-Drug Addictions

The Most Common Non-Drug Addictions

Drug and alcohol addiction is a serious problem that ruins people’s lives and health. Most people understand that certain substances are so addictive that physical dependence can form quickly. Someone can become addicted to opioids in a matter of days, and sometimes sooner. What is less understood is that people can become addicted without an addictive substance.

Non-drug addictions can damage lives just as badly as drugs or alcohol. Like substance addictions, behavioral addictions become compulsive. People with behavioral addictions get the same dopamine boost from their addictive behaviors as other people do from drugs and alcohol. These behaviors consume their attention and derange their priorities. They can’t quit the behaviors and they experience withdrawal if they try. These addictions can cost people their jobs, their money, and their families and must be taken seriously. Here are some of the most common non-drug addictions.


This is one of the best-studied behavioral addictions. Eating addiction is insidious because we all need to eat to live. In some people, eating is so strongly rewarded that they just can’t stop. This can lead to weight gain that causes health and mobility problems. Some food addicts eat as much as 10,000 calories per day. It would take the average person four or five days to eat that much. It can be really expensive, especially if the weight gain impairs your ability to work.


Like food, sex is a deeply rooted biological drive that sometimes becomes too strong to control. The toll sex addiction can have on long-term relationships is perhaps obvious. Like other addictions, sex addiction can crowd out other priorities and lead to risky behavior.


Gambling exploits one weird trick in your brain: variable reward. That means the rush you get from winning is extra huge because it’s not guaranteed. Every losing spin of the wheel raises the stakes, and when you finally win, you feel much better than you would have if you consistently won a little at a time. In this regard, gambling has drugs beat. Someone hooked on prescription opioids knows exactly what reward to expect every time. Street drugs have a bit of variable reward built in because of inconsistent quality, but casinos–and now, Silicon Valley–have variable reward down to a science. They know exactly how to take all your money and get you to come back.


Porn addiction uses mostly the same circuits as sex addiction. Now that porn is ubiquitous online, there is the added factor of novelty, which makes the addiction more intense. A quick Reddit search of “addiction” suggests that everyone on Reddit is either actively addicted to porn or in porn addiction recovery.

Every addiction is serious, whether or not it involves a substance. It takes your money, your relationships and your freedom. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at

Addiction and Depression

Addiction and Depression

Addiction and depression are highly correlated. Studies variously show that of people struggling with alcohol addiction, between one fifth and one third of them also struggle with depression. People seeking treatment for alcohol abuse are about 40 percent more likely than the general population to have a mood disorder. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, people struggling with mental health issues consume 69 percent of the alcohol and 84 percent of the cocaine in the US. Overall, about half of people seeking treatment for addiction have some other mental health issue as well.

The links between addiction and depression are complex. People typically assume the overlap between the two is caused by people self-medicating their depression. This may be true to some extent. Depression is a kind of pain, and some people will take anything to make the pain stop.

Other mechanisms are more complicated. For example, some people, especially men, drink or do drugs to overcome social anxiety. If the social anxiety is particularly bad, it might lead to feelings of isolation and depression. Or, if someone is depressed and withdrawn, he might lack a strong social support network. A strong social support network is one of the strongest factors protecting against addiction.

Causation can also go in the other direction. Addiction can disrupt relationships and lead to social isolation, which can lead to depression. If the addiction is bad enough to cost you your job, the loss of work puts you at much higher risk of depression. You have nothing to do and nowhere to be. Why not drink?

No one enters treatment when she’s still having a great time. People typically enter treatment when their addiction has had some negative consequences in their lives–enough to justify the expense and inconvenience of taking time to address it. At that point, no one feels especially good and many people feel understandably terrible.

Treating a dual-diagnosis is somewhat more complicated than treating addiction by itself. Treating the depression is absolutely necessary though, because a depressive episode is one of the biggest relapse triggers. Treating depression sometimes requires medication and usually requires long-term support. Depression usually does not just disappear when an addict enters recovery. It’s a separate animal that requires attention.

If you suffer from addiction and depression, it’s important to get treatment for both. Gardens Wellness Center has expert staff who are trained to deal with complex conditions. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.

Why Four Loko Was Banned and Where it Isn’t

Why Four Loko Was Banned and Where it Isn’t

Four Loko was originally an alcoholic energy drink. It was malt liquor that contained caffeine, taurine, and guarana and sold in a 24 ounce can. It first came on the market in 2005 and was banned in many states in 2010.

Several different concerns led to the ban of Four Loko. The first is that mixing alcohol and caffeine is dangerous. Caffeine masks the effects of alcohol, making you feel more alert than you normally would after drinking a certain amount. This can lead to drinking too much without realizing it, leading to blackouts and alcohol poisoning.

Alcoholic energy drinks are also associated with a greater likelihood of binge drinking. This is partly because of caffeine’s masking effect and partly because of the deceptively large quantity of alcohol in a can of Four Loko. A 24 ounce can contains about as much alcohol as four or five 12 ounce cans of beer. The caffeine also appeals to people who want to party longer, which is to say some of the negative effects associated with Four Loko are because people who were drinking it were planning to drink a lot anyway.

A final problem with Four Loko is that the company appeared to specifically target a younger demographic, promoting their products on social media and using young-looking models in their advertizing. That’s in addition to adding alcohol to a product–energy drinks–that is already popular among younger consumers. In a settlement with several states’ attorneys general, Four Loko was specifically prohibited from using these tactics to target younger consumers.

These three concerns–that caffeine masks the effects of alcohol, that caffeinated energy drinks are associated with binge drinking, and that Four Loko targeted younger customers–came together in a couple notable incidents leading to Four Loko’s ban. In one incident, nine students, aged 17 to 19, at Central Washington University were hospitalized with dangerously high blood alcohol levels. This led to Four Loko being banned in the state of Washington. In another incident, 17 students and six visitors at Ramapo College in New Jersey were hospitalized, leading to a Four Loko ban on its campus. After that, many other colleges banned the drink as well and soon it was banned by many states and many retailers stopped selling it.  

Four Loko and other varieties are back on the market today in 49 states, but it’s not the same drink originally banned in many states. It has been reformulated without caffeine, guarana, and taurine, so that it is no longer an energy drink at all and so no longer masks the effects of excessive consumption. Also, Four Loko is no longer allowed to use advertising targeted to consumers under 25 years old.

START your recovery at the Gardens Wellness Center in North Miami. Our comfortable environment offers the highest luxuries in detox, making sure you are safe and encouraged to make it through withdrawals. Changing the way we approach detox, our program is focused on holistic care in order to create a foundation of recovery. For information, call:  (844) 325-9168

The Lie of Manageable Addiction

The Lie of Manageable Addiction

Among the many lies addicts tell themselves is that their addiction is manageable. Sure, they may have an addiction, but it’s under control and they can continue to function more or less normally for as long as they keep it controlled. There is a kernel of truth in it. After all, addicts are often very good at hiding their addictions for a while. Someone who seems functional, and even successful may be privately battling addiction. There are even outliers like Churchill, who led Britain through World War II while regularly drinking enough to put a normal person in the hospital.

Despite these examples, addiction is not a stable condition. The successful person who hides her addiction today will show cracks before long. There will always be a point when she decides to escalate. Your body always adapts to whatever drug you are using. When your body adapts, you no longer get the feeling you wanted when you first started using. That means the pain will come back or you will resume thinking about whatever it was you wanted to forget. Maybe you do just a little more, just this once. If you try to back off, you discover that addiction only goes one way. It’s easy to do more and hard to do less. The addiction grows in this way until it is no longer “manageable.”

Even if you are able to maintain a stable dose for a while, the addiction will still affect your life. The drug slowly becomes the most important thing. You schedule your time around when you can use. You worry about any deviation that might make you miss a dose. Your happiness becomes dependent on using. After every dose you are briefly satisfied and they you soon start looking forward to the next one. You don’t want to try new things. You might feel a bit flat. This is the best case scenario when trying to manage an addiction and escalation at some point remains likely.

Having a “manageable addiction” is no way to live. If your use has remained stable for a while, be thankful it hasn’t gotten worse, but don’t expect the situation to continue. If your life seems to be going ok despite your addiction, now is the time to get treatment. It will only be harder if you wait until the cracks start to show, until you feel like you’re losing control of your drug use, or until your family or boss start to notice your addiction.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s manageable. It will only get worse and harder to treat. Living with a “manageable addiction” is only waiting for the other shoe to drop. The sooner you get help, the sooner you will start to focus on improvement, rather that preventing decline. Gardens Wellness Center can help. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at

The Impact of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse

The Impact of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse

Alcoholism is destructive for alcoholics, their families, their jobs, and their communities. The destruction is in terms of lives, relationships, and property. Anyone who has had to deal with an alcoholic knows this destruction is emotional as well as financial.

Accidents. As many as half of emergency room and trauma center visits are alcohol related. In 2015, more than 10,000 people died in alcohol-related wrecks, which accounts for about 30 percent of all traffic deaths. The cost of alcohol-related car crashes is more than 44 billion dollars a year.

Alcohol poisoning. One of the most immediate effects of alcohol abuse is alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning is caused by binge drinking, which is roughly quantified as five drinks in two hours for men and four drinks in two hours for women. It happens when the liver can no longer keep up with the task of metabolizing alcohol and blood alcohol content rises quickly. Binge drinking is common in the US and most binge drinkers are not alcoholics.

Alcohol poisoning kills about 2200 people in the US every year, with many more hospitalized. The CDC estimates health problems related to binge drinking cost the US about 171 billion dollars every year, the majority of alcohol-related medical expenses. In some states, it’s legal for insurance companies to deny coverage for alcohol-related hospital visits, so after a miserable trip to the emergency room, you may also have to pay the bill yourself.

Relationships. Alcoholism is incredibly hard on relationships. Exactly what problems it causes depends on the severity of the problem. At first the alcoholic might neglect his family to drink, missing important events and responsibilities. He may become angry and violent or he might spend the grocery money on alcohol. If the alcoholism progresses far enough, he might lose his job and the family may not be able to support itself. All of this is incredibly hard on families and it’s difficult to quantify the loss of relationships with children or a spouse.

Alcoholic diseases. Alcoholism is tough on the body. Leaving aside the much greater risk of serious accident, alcoholism has many negative effects on your health. Fatty liver can start to occur after just a few bouts of binge drinking. Alcoholic hepatitis can occur earlier than most people think, especially in women, who are more susceptible. Alcohol increases your risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. Longtime drinkers are at greater risk for heart attack and stroke. The annual cost of treating these diseases in the US is about 52 billion dollars.


If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism, the longer you wait to get help, the harder it will be. Don’t wait until alcohol does serious damage. Call Gardens Wellness Center today at 844-325-9168 or email us at