Drinking With Muscular Sclerosis

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Alcohol use depresses the central nervous system and many processes within the body. In people with muscular sclerosis (MS), their alcohol use can worsen some of the effects of their conditions. Some individuals might find that even a small amount can adversely impact their balance and coordination and cause other neurological issues. Alcohol can also interact with some medications used to treat symptoms of MS.

If you have muscular sclerosis and have found it challenging to curb your drinking, you may have an alcohol use disorder and could benefit from professional help. Guardian Recovery provides integrated, customized treatment for individuals seeking to overcome drug or alcohol dependence. We offer multiple therapeutic options, including behavioral therapy and group support, designed to promote long-term sobriety and physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness.

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An Overview of MS & Alcohol Misuse

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that,  like alcohol, affects the central nervous system (CNS). In this, the immune system attacks the protective sheath surrounding nerve fibers and disrupts communication between the brain and body. Many alcohol intoxication symptoms mirror those of MS, such as blurred vision, impaired coordination, memory loss, tremors, and fatigue. (1) 

Challenges such as impaired mobility and balance can lead to falls and potentially severe injuries. Furthermore, in a study published in the Journal of Studies of Alcohol, researchers found that alcohol can amplify cognitive impairments associated with MS. (2)

Due to the overlapping effects of alcohol and MS, their overall impact can be amplified. Chronic drinkers with MS can also experience increased tingling sensations, numbness, organ damage, and dementia. These are symptoms of MS and also alcoholic neuropathy, which can occur with long-term alcohol use. (3)

Acute alcohol use can have other effects, including impulsivity, poor judgment, and impaired cognition. (4) These psychological issues do not interact well with this severe condition or any other. When combined with impaired balance and mobility, falls are more likely to occur and result in significant injuries. For all these reasons and others, individuals with MS are urged to abstain from drinking entirely to prevent these effects or worsening symptoms. 

Excessive Drinking, MS, & Mood Disorders

Research conducted in collaboration with the University of Washington and Yale University observed 140 persons living with MS.(5) Investigators noted that those with MS were at a higher risk for mood disorders and suicidal ideations. These psychiatric issues have also been associated with alcohol use in those without MS. 

In the study, researchers sought to determine if individuals with MS engaged in problem drinking, which was linked to mood and anxiety disorders. They found that 1 in 6 people with MS drinks to excess over their lifetimes. In addition, patients with a history of long-term alcohol use were at risk of experiencing anxiety throughout their lives. There was also a clear link between excessive alcohol use, the use of other substances, and mental illness among those with MS. (6)

Researchers also reported that clinicians should check for a familial history of mental health disorders and anxiety to determine if a person with MS may have problematic drinking patterns.

Finally, investigators have also found alcohol and illicit drug use might be more problematic in those with MS than in the general population. This could result in additional neurologic injury to the compromised CNS or lead to dangerous interactions with prescription drugs. (8)

Do People Drink to Cope With MS Symptoms?

Like many people with serious illnesses, those with MS may engage in alcohol misuse to avoid addressing their negative feelings about their disease in a healthy way. They may also suffer from mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety, which are commonly associated with alcohol misuse. (9)

Persistent pain and impairments caused by MS could be other reasons for misusing alcohol and drugs. For example, individuals suffering from chronic pain often turn to psychoactive substances, such as opioids, cocaine, and alcohol, in an effort to relieve their symptoms. (9)

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Can Alcoholism Cause MS?

Another study (11) focused on whether people with alcohol misuse disorders had a lower risk of MS than the general population. However, researchers found there was a significantly increased risk for MS following alcohol use, misuse, and dependence and “within one year of the admission for alcohol abuse only.” This was also true for those with MS “with an interval of more than one year from the first admission with the alcohol misuse disorder.”

Treatment for Alcohol Misuse & Dependence

Addiction treatment must be tailored to each individual and their needs and goals. As a result, treatment varies regarding levels of care, therapeutic approaches, and physical and mental health needs. The following include some of the most common addiction treatments clinically shown to help people seeking recovery to achieve their health and wellness goals.

Detox

Medically-assisted detox allows alcohol-dependent individuals to eliminate toxic and addictive substances and byproducts from their bodies. Supervised detox is strongly recommended for alcohol withdrawal due to the potential dangers involved. Individuals with particularly severe addictions are susceptible to severe and life-threatening symptoms such as hallucinations, seizures, and death.

Undergoing withdrawal is not optional, and every alcohol-dependent person seeking recovery will have to experience this sooner or later. However, even medically-assisted detox cannot address the underlying causes that contribute to addiction. This is why a holistic approach to recovery is often necessary to promote long-lasting abstinence and relapse prevention.

Behavioral Therapy 

According to the National Institutes of Health, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) (11) approaches “have among the highest level of empirical support for the treatment of drug and alcohol use disorders.” Most mental health specialists agree that CBT is a helpful tool to address many forms of substance misuse, including dependence on alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription medication. 

One of the primary goals of CBT is to help individuals identify their unhealthy and dysfunctional ways of coping and foster healthier, more effective coping mechanisms. CBT is easily integrated with other therapies, group support, and family counseling. (12)

12-Step Support

12-step programs, such as Alcohol Anonymous (AA), are a form of group therapy that urges participants to admit they are suffering from alcohol dependence and cannot control their drinking. They must also confront the adverse consequences of their behavior, which can be physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. 

Adherence to the 12 steps begins with acceptance and moves on to surrender to a higher power. Consistent participation in group meetings is highly encouraged, which includes in-depth discussions with participants, their relationship with alcohol, and their overall well-being and recovery status.

Medication-Assisted Therapy

Medication can play an essential role in recovery from alcohol dependence when integrated with behavioral therapies, group support, and holistic activities. Certain medications can reduce cravings and the euphoria associated with alcohol and block its effects. The Food and Drug Administration approves three medications to treat alcohol use disorder: naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram. (13)

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Finding Better Ways to Cope With MS Through Professional Treatment

Some individuals with MS turn to alcohol and other substances because they feel overwhelmed and are unaware of better coping mechanisms to manage the physical and emotional effects of their condition. Although psychoactive substances appeal to many people who struggle with serious health issues, ultimately, they do not remedy these problems and can serve to make them worse. 

Fortunately, there are safer and more effective ways to deal with your condition. If you are misusing alcohol or drugs, we encourage you to seek professional help. We can help you foster a new, healthier life in sobriety. Contact Guardian Recovery today for a free, no-obligation assessment and health benefits check and learn more about our holistic approach to recovery.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

(1)https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350269 (2)(10)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9500305/ (3)https://bpspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2125.2011.04111.x (4)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29910014/ (5)(6)(7)(8)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2706287/#R74 (9)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2706287/ (10)https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/part-2-co-occurring-substance-use-disorder-physical-comorbidities (11)https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/1901155 (12)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5714654/ (13)https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma15-4907.pdf

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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