What's The Definition Of Sobriety? - Lakeview Health

What’s The Definition Of Sobriety?

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Published: December 1, 2019

The Definition of Sobriety

The definition of sobriety can be described as the absence of intoxication. Sobriety refers to the physiological and psychological state of being unaffected by the presence of an intoxicant.

For people who are in recovery from substance or alcohol use, the definition of sobriety is similar to the definition of abstinence. It means living a life free of drug or alcohol use. Some people argue that people in recovery can use substances or alcohol in moderation, but research shows that the vast majority of people who have ever struggled with addiction cannot handle moderation.

Sobriety can also be defined as refraining from alcohol or psychoactive substance use, which suggests sustained discontinuance. Less frequently, however, sobriety can also be interpreted as moderate alcohol or substance usage with no overt signs of intoxication.

History of Sobriety and Substance Abuse Rehabilitation in the US

In the early 1800s, most of American society regarded drinking and substance use as unethical and believed that alcohol threatened the country’s success. These beliefs led to widespread support for temperance as postulated by the American Temperance Society (ATS). This eventually led to calls for discontinuing alcohol (particularly spirits) outside medical procedures. By the 1830s, however, the ATS insisted that adherents abstain from all alcoholic beverages, not just spirits, giving rise to the notion of teetotalism (or sobriety).

The need for sobriety and rehab facilities came to be as society began to treat addiction as a medical condition needing special care and attention. Throughout history, humans felt the harmful effects of a lack of sobriety, substance abuse, and resultant addiction. To combat these societal issues, humans have devised different means of rehabilitation over hundreds of years which have finally developed into the rehab centers we have today. One of which is the New York State Inebriate Asylum, founded in 1864 as the first hospital for the treatment of alcoholism.

As time passed, rehab centers developed programs to suit each patient’s needs while offering the best care possible. One of these core programs includes Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), created by Bill Watson and Dr. Bob Smith in 1935. AA helps aid sobriety among recovering individuals affected by alcohol or substance abuse. Today, various rehabilitation and sobriety treatment options are available, with evidence-based treatment practices designed to cater to each person.

How The Definition of Sobriety Can Vary Among Different People

As with every aspect of healthcare and wellbeing, individual variability plays a significant role in the definition of sobriety and how each person may appear sober. Nevertheless, failed sobriety is often associated with chronic relapse, and this description is supported by several epidemiological studies, everyday anecdotes, and clinical observations.

The high post-treatment substance use relapse rate, most frequently within 90 days of treatment discharge (after a clean sobriety record), and the increase in incomplete addiction treatment programs show that attaining sobriety can be challenging.

Just as each person’s route to sobriety is unique, so are the outward portrayals of sobriety.

However, symptoms of early sobriety in individuals receiving treatment for substance use include;

  1. Mood Swings: In the early stages of sobriety, this happens frequently, typically because continuous substance use affects the ability to feel and cope with frequent distress, resulting in varying mood swings depending on temperament.
  2. Weight Issues: Significant weight loss or gain can result from getting sober, and the rate at which this happens varies for different individuals. While some individuals use food as a coping technique or dopamine booster, others find that they start to eat less as they get better.
  3. Having Dreams Marked by Substance Use: This is a common experience. While these dreams may cause cravings, they also act as mental cleansing and eventually disappear. Nevertheless, the frequency and duration of these dreams vary depending on an individual’s history and substance use habits.

Ways to Measure Sobriety

A practical approach to measuring sobriety is through sobriety testing. Sobriety testing is typically used to assess the level of intoxication. Measuring sobriety entails observing physical appearance while an individual completes tasks to determine coordination. In some instances, clinical tests are carried out to ascertain the level of substances in the bloodstream.

Sobriety Tests Done Outside Medical Facilities

  1. Eye Examination: Overindulgence in substance use is usually indicated by bloodshot eyes. While opioids like codeine and heroin make the pupils smaller, hallucinogens and inhalants can cause them to enlarge (dilation) beyond what is typical for light conditions.
  2. Horizontal Gaze Test: On its own, the eye examination is typically inconclusive due to various physiological and environmental factors. The horizontal gaze test is quite often simultaneously implemented. For example, this test detects sobriety by observing the jerking of the eyeball when the eyes are rotated at high circumferential degrees. Conversely, intoxication is generally revealed by more pronounced eye jerks at lesser angles.
  3. Using A Breathalyzer: Standard sobriety tests frequently involve measuring the alcohol in exhaled breath to determine the amount of alcohol in the blood. This test uses a breathalyzer, which displays the amount (in grams) of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. Typically, 0.08 is the legal limit. If the breathalyzer reading is higher than this, impairment is evident.
  4. The Walk-And-Turn-Test: The walking and turning test is an assessment of balance used to measure sobriety. Individuals must follow a set of given and demonstrated instructions to pass the test, which involves taking steps and turning on a real or imaginary line. Beginning the test before the instructions are given, stopping while walking, failing to walk heel to toe, stepping off the line, using arms for balance, and turning incorrectly during the test, are typically assessed to mean some intoxication is present.

Sobriety Tests Done in Medical Facilities

  1. Drug Testing: Drug tests are the primary way clinicians measure sobriety in conjunction with nonclinical tests for sobriety. Drug testing is done to measure the extent of substance usage and misuse. Urine, blood, saliva, hair, or sweat samples are used in a drug test to measure sobriety or intoxication by looking for a specific or group of substances. The urine test, which examines the urine for the presence of specific illegal narcotics and prescribed pharmaceuticals, is the most popular type of drug test. Given that they can detect drugs even after five days of infrequent use, urine drug tests are quite effective.

Ways to Become Sober

If maintained and done correctly, Sobriety can drastically improve an individual’s quality of life and wellbeing. Substance use disorder is often characterized by a lack of sobriety, substance cravings, compulsive alcohol or substance use despite the detrimental effects. As a result, becoming sober and avoiding substance use requires more than just good intentions or a strong will.

Some treatment methods with a track record of success in achieving sobriety include:

  1. Identifying Personal Triggers: Understanding internal and external triggers and developing a plan to avoid them are vital components of preventing relapses while maintaining sobriety. Individuals must minimize physical and emotional stress and environmental cues related to substance use to become sober. Also, cut all ties with people and environments where substance use is prevalent.
  2. Setting Sobriety Goals: The decision to become and remain sober is supported and reinforced by setting a goal for sobriety, which aids in overcoming uncertainty and offers daily objectives.
  3. Having Staying Power: The first step in getting sober is deciding to do so; the next is committing to the cause. It is crucial to understand and plan for the likelihood that several setbacks are likely to occur before achieving long-term sobriety.
  4. Checking into A Residential Treatment Facility: Numerous studies show that attending formal treatment and staying in it for a long time are consistently linked to better sobriety outcomes. In addition, licensed in-patient treatment facilities such as Lakeview Health provide round-the-clock intensive care and employ several therapeutic modalities to achieve long-term substance-free, sober status.
  5. Considering Outpatient Behavioral Rehabilitation: Making regular appointments with a behavioral health counsellor is a successful strategy for achieving sobriety. This notion is backed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) report that asserts that involvement for more than 90 days in a behavioral health program (e.g. cognitive behavioral therapy) is effective for maintaining positive outcomes.
  6. Enrolling for After-Treatment Care: A 12-step affiliation after-treatment care has also been confirmed to be an essential component of the sobriety recovery process. Aftercare programs ensure that levels of sobriety attained during treatment are reinforced and maintained.

Ready To Get Sober? Lakeview Health Can Help

If you’ve realized your drinking or drug use is out of control and you need help getting your life back, Lakeview Health is here to help. We treat all of our clients as individuals. Furthermore, we recognize that your mental health, life history, and addiction history are unique to you. When you begin treatment at Lakeview Health, you’ll meet with your counselor to talk through your past. This conversation will begin to inform your personalized treatment plan

At Lakeview Health, many of our clients find that they have success by using a variety of modalities of treatment. Because different treatments are successful for different people, we recognize the importance of attacking addiction in more than one way. When you choose treatment at Lakeview Health, you’ll meet with your counselor regularly to discuss the effectiveness of your treatment plan. We know your needs change as you walk the road to sobriety. Therefore, it’s key your treatment plan reflects those changes.

Also, at Lakeview Health, we offer treatment for many different substance abuse issues, including:

It’s Time To Change. Call Us.

If you’re ready to embrace sobriety, Lakeview Health counselors are here to help you start your journey to recovery. We understand reaching out for help can be hard. Thus, we’re proud of you for researching the first steps in getting sober. At Lakeview Health, we never judge. We’re only here to help you find your path to your healthiest, happiest self. We’ll be with you from your first phone call to us to the day you walk out our doors to start your new life. If you’re ready, we’re here. Call us at 866.704.7692 to learn more about our treatment offerings and whether what we do here could be a good fit for your needs.

Sobriety is possible. You deserve to live the life you’ve always dreamed of. Our trauma-informed treatment may be exactly what you need to open the door to getting your life back. But no matter how far gone you may be, we believe that you can get well. Make a choice to pick up the phone today.

Whether you’re someone who has struggled with addiction or not, you’re likely familiar with the concept of sobriety. Most people take sobriety to mean the absence of alcohol or other substances from one’s life, but the word has different meanings depending on the source of your definition of sobriety. Some people take sobriety to mean remaining in control of your life, while others take it to mean abstinence from alcohol.

At Lakeview Health, we’re here to help you learn more about sobriety in recovery, and get control over your drinking. It’s not easy to ask for help, but doing so is the first step to getting your life back.

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