Hooch, brew, firewater. Booze, sauce, bug juice. It can lift your mood, bury your anxiety, make you popular and give you courage. It can also deaden your reflexes, murder your brain cells, make you sad and knock you out cold. It is alcohol. It’s got as much in common with a kiss as it does with a fist. And you never which you’re gonna get.   Alcohol can be sipped, shot, belted and swigged. It can come in pints, fifths, tall boys, high balls, handles and 40s. And it can be crafted, blended, mixed, strained, distilled, shaken and stirred. Alcohol has been coursing through our bloodstream since the Stone Age. And it shows absolutely no signs of abating any time soon. Sometimes drinkers dissolve a little cocaine into their cocktail. That’s called Baltic Tea.

Short Term Effects of Alcohol

Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions. These are most often the result of binge drinking and include the following:
  • Injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, drownings, and burns.
  • Violence, including homicide, suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.
  • Alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels.
  • Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
  • Miscarriage and stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) among pregnant women.

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Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems including:…………….

  • High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.
  • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
  • Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance.

  • Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
  • Social problems, including lost productivity, family problems, and unemployment.
  • Alcohol dependence, or alcoholism.


Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to serious and are largely dependent upon how much you drank and for how long. Mild symptoms usually show up as early as six hours after you put down your glass and can include anxiety, shaky hands, headache, nausea, vomiting, insomnia and sweating. More serious symptoms range from hallucinations about 12 to 24 hours after that last drink to seizures within the first two days after you stop.
You can see, feel, or hear things that aren't there. This is different from delirium tremens, or DTs. DTs are severe symptoms that usually start 48 to 72 hours after the last drink and include vivid hallucinations and delusions. Only about 5% of people with alcohol withdrawal have them. Those that do may also have confusion, racing heart, high blood pressure, fever and heavy sweating.
A range of treatments are effective in treating alcohol addiction, including dual-diagnosis medications and behavioral therapy. It’s crucial though to match the best treatment approach with the particular needs of each individual patient. Behavioral therapies for alcohol addiction include cognitive-behavioral therapy and contingency management. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps modify the patient’s substance-use expectations and behaviors. It also helps effectively manage triggers and stress. Contingency management provides motivational incentives for staying alcohol- and drug-free. These behavioral treatment approaches are especially effective when used along with a solid 12 Step regimen.
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  • 10,000 B.C. Discovery of late Stone Age jugs in Dikili Tash (Macedonia) suggest that intentionally fermented beverages existed at least as early as the Neolithic period.
  • 8000 B.C. In Persia and the Middle East, a fermented drink is produced from honey and wild yeasts.
  • 6000 B.C. Viticulture, the cultivation of grapevines for making wine, is believed to originate in the mountains between the Black and Caspian Seas.
  • 4000 B.C. Wine making is established in Mesopotamia (present day Iraq).
  • 3000 B.C. Both beer and wine are produced in ancient Egypt; wine production and trade become an important part of Mediterranean commerce.
  • 800 B.C. Barley and rice beer are produced in India.
  • 625: Islamic Prophet Muhammad orders his followers to abstain from alcohol.
  • 1100: A medical school in Italy documents alcohol distillation. The product is named “spirits.”
  • 1516: Germany passes a beer purity law, making it illegal to make beer with anything but barley, hops and pure water.
  • 1789: The first American temperance society is formed in Litchfield, Connecticut, with the goal of reducing alcohol consumption. Similar societies soon follow in other states.
  • 1791: The act of 1791 (popularly called the “Whiskey Tax”) enacts a tax on both publicly and privately distilled whiskey in the United States.
  • 1793: During the whiskey rebellion of Pennsylvania, government troops arrest a handful of distillery leaders who refused to pay taxes on their products.
  • 1802: The Whiskey Tax is repealed.
  • 1814-1817: A new alcohol tax is temporarily imposed in the United States to help pay for the War of 1812.
  • 1850s: New York bartenders invent the cocktail.
  • 1860: In the United States 1,138 legal alcohol distilleries are operating and producing 88 million gallons of liquor per year.
  • 1862: Abraham Lincoln imposes a new tax on liquor to help pay the bills from the Civil War.
  • 1884: Laws are enacted to make anti-alcohol teaching compulsory in public schools in New York State. The following year similar laws are passed in Pennsylvania, with other states soon following.
  • 1906: The Pure Food and Drug Act is passed, regulating the labeling of products containing alcohol.
  • 1910: New York introduces the first drunk-driving laws.
  • 1920: The passage of the 18th Amendment (prohibition) and the Volstead Act effectively outlaw the production, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States. (Alcohol was also illegal in Finland from 1919 to 1932 and in various Canadian provinces at various times between 1900 and 1948.)
  • 1920-1933: The illicit alcohol trade booms in the United States.
  • 1933:Prohibition is repealed; most states restrict youth under 18 (the minimum voting age) from possessing or consuming alcoholic beverages.
  • 1935: Alcoholics Anonymous is established; the American Medical Association passes a resolution declaring that alcoholics are valid patients.
  • 1944: The U.S. Public Health Service labels alcoholism the fourth-largest health problem.
  • 1964: The Grand Rapids Study shows that the risk of an automobile crash increases as more alcohol is consumed.
  • 1970-1975: The minimum drinking age is lowered in 29 states from 21 to 18, 19 or 20 following the enactment of the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which lowers the legal voting age to 18.
  • 1980: Mothers Against Drunk Driving is established with the goal of reducing alcohol-related highway fatalities.
  • 2000: A new federal law requires states to pass legislation making it a crime to drive with blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above .08 percent.
Alcohol has occupied a place in human culture since at least the late Stone Age. In fact, some form of fermented beverage (beer) was made for nearly 4000 years before wine entered the picture. Ancient Egyptians made both wine and beer. And alcohol played a significant role in Mediterranean commerce. Early U.S. moderation efforts can be traced back to American Independence. And temperance movements began springing up around the country as early as 1789. The American Temperance Society itself was founded in 1826, and by 1835 it had grown to 1.5 million members. Maine entirely banned the manufacture and sale of alcohol in 1851. Twelve other states would follow suit. But people lost the taste for prohibition during The Civil War. In 1869, the Prohibition Party revived the dry crusade. And in 1873, the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement actively used temperance as a way of entering politics, despite the fact that women still weren’t permitted to vote. Methodists, Northern Baptists, Southern Baptists, New School Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, Congregationalists, Quakers, and Scandinavian Lutherans, as well as the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America and the Latter-day Saints all actively advocated for Prohibition through the early 20th century. The religionists claimed that it was a moral cause.


Organized crime comes into being largely as a direct result of Prohibition. Jewish, Italian and Irish immigrants set up extensive smuggling networks, and paid police and politicians in order to operate speakeasies in America cities. While in the South, rural farmers established their own extensive network of moonshine makers and distributors. When Prohibition is repealed in 1933, most crime syndicates reorganized to operate legal liquor concerns. Alcohol, of course, fueled much of the arts. Jazz Age writers such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald were especially adept drunks (see Hemingway’s posthumous A Moveable Feast for some crazy tales of the friends’ imbibing). While Hemingway committed suicide (by shotgun), Scott Fitzgerald died of complications brought about by excessive drinking. So did Tennessee Williams, Jack Kerouac, Truman Capote and poet Dylan Thomas, who died four days after collapsing at New York’s infamous White Horse Tavern.
Many writers wrote while drinking, including noir kingpin Raymond Chandler. But William Faulkner, also a lifelong drinker, reportedly did not. The most harrowing drinking life stories not only made it to the page, but they also made it to the screen. Most notably is Charles R. Jackson’s The Lost Weekend and Charles Bukowski’s Barfly. Writers weren’t the only creatives whose lives were fueled by excessive drinking. Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin and Rothko all went heavy on the absinthe, while Picasso, Van Gogh and Pollock were just plain drunks. In fact, Pollock died in a single car crash while driving under the influence of alcohol. The list of alcoholic actors is far too long to include here, and includes everyone from Ben Affleck to Mel Gibson. Fortunately, actors have access to effective addiction treatment, so most are able to get a handle on their alcoholism. Hollywood also has a notoriously robust sober support community, which allows for significant sobriety in the film industry.

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