26th February, 2024

Alcohol Addiction

Overview, Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

alcoholism signs

Alcohol abuse can lead to addiction, where a person loses control over their drinking and is at risk for serious consequences.

Addiction to alcohol occurs much in the same way addiction to other substances does. While alcohol is a legal substance that can be fine in moderation, it can also lead to a serious disorder when a person abuses it to an extremely dangerous and unhealthy point. Alcohol addiction is incredibly dangerous and can lead to physical problems, mental disorders, and even death.

When someone becomes addicted to alcohol, they cannot stop drinking even if they want to or realize that their drinking causes problems for themselves and their loved ones. Alcohol addiction is a serious disorder that can only get better with treatment.

What is Alcohol Addiction?

There are two different kinds of alcohol use disorders a person can have: alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Alcohol abuse, according to the NLM, means that “you are not physically dependent, but you still have a serious problem.” It is important to note that alcohol abuse is not quite at the level of alcohol addiction, but anyone who abuses alcohol regularly does run the risk of becoming addicted to alcohol.

Alcoholism is when someone drinks to excess and/or so often that they develop an alcohol addiction and alcohol dependence. When someone is an alcoholic, they experience these four issues that all point to a severe alcohol addiction:

  • Cravings
  • Loss of control
  • Physical dependence
  • Tolerance

Alcohol addiction is a dangerous disease that changes the way the brain works to the point where the individual cannot stop drinking. It causes many issues in all aspects of a person’s life and can even be deadly. Alcohol addiction, or alcoholism, should be treated right away and especially if a person is considering attempting to stop their alcohol abuse immediately as even this could be potentially life-threatening.

An Overview of Alcohol Addiction

The NIAAA states, “Approximately 17 million adults ages 18 and older (7.2 percent of this age group) had an AUD [alcohol use disorder] in 2012.” Many of these individuals were addicted to alcohol. Unfortunately, only 8.4 of adults in need were treated in a specialized facility for their alcohol addictions.

Alcohol addiction can be treated, but many people will not attend treatment until after issues are caused by their alcoholism which they cannot ignore. There are many signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction, and these can become clear if you know what to look for.

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Signs of Alcohol Addiction

If you are concerned that someone you know might be addicted to alcohol, look for the following signs of alcohol addiction and consider whether or not they may need treatment. If they constantly exhibit many of the signs below, formal alcohol addiction treatment will likely be necessary before the individual is able to build up a strong recovery and return to a normal life.

  • The individual constantly exhibits the signs of intoxication like:
    • Smelling of alcohol
    • Having bloodshot eyes
    • Staggering or being unsteady
    • Inability to concentrate
  • Experiencing mood swings or moods that are not appropriate to a certain situation
  • They drink more than they say they will or drink even when they make promises not to.
  • They ignore other important matters in order to drink.
  • They miss work, school, or family engagements to drink and/or drink during these times.
  • They are particularly more prone to violence or hostility toward others when things go wrong.
  • They make risky decisions (having unprotected sex, getting behind the wheel of a car) as a result of their alcohol use.
  • They start only wanting to spend time around other people who drink.
  • They “spend a lot of time and effort to get alcohol, use it, or recover from its effects” (NLM).
  • They experience many issues related to their alcohol use including legal, financial, relationship, and work problems.

Someone who is an alcoholic will not want to stop and will constantly make excuses for their alcohol use. Even if their use of alcohol is hurting others, they will continue to do it. Over time, heavy and constant alcohol use changes the way the brain works until the individual believes that they always need to be drinking, even if it causes problems.

There are medical signs that someone is an alcoholic as well. Long-term heavy drinking can cause many psychological and mental health issues that, if an individual is diagnosed with several of them, there is a high chance that they may be an alcoholic. As stated by the AOC, these issues include:

  • Liver damage
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Loss of brain cells and brain mass
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Decrease in male sperm production
  • Stomach and intestinal ulcers
  • Anemia
  • “Bleeding in digestive tract” (NLM)
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Poor nutrition
  • Depression
  • Dementia
  • Memory loss
  • Insomnia
  • Liver, colon, or esophagus cancer
  • Alcohol withdrawal and delirium tremens

Alcohol Withdrawal

When someone suffers from alcohol withdrawal if they stop drinking or cannot drink, it is the defining sign that separates alcoholism from alcohol abuse. The person will experience tremors, anxiety, depression, clammy skin, nightmares, and nausea. A very harmful form of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens can be life-threatening and includes hallucinations, seizures, fever, and severe confusion. These are clear signs of alcohol addiction.

Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

While there are many signs that can help you discover whether or not your loved one is addicted to alcohol, there are symptoms as well that only the individual knows for sure. Prompting yourself to ask if you experience the symptoms of alcohol addiction is important as well because it can cause someone to realize that they truly need help for their addiction.

Ask yourself these questions keeping in mind that you should be truthful because alcohol addiction is best treated as soon as possible.

  • Have you built up a tolerance to alcohol to the point where you need more than you used to in order to get drunk?
  • Do you continue to drink, “even though you know it is making health problems caused by alcohol worse?” (NLM)
  • Are you unhappy unless you are drinking or do you feel that drinking is the only way for you to have fun?
  • Do you think about alcohol and drinking all the time?
  • Do you feel cravings for alcohol?
  • Do you deal with your stresses by drinking?
  • Have you ever tried to stop drinking and then were not able to?
  • Do you feel that you are not in control of your alcohol use?
  • Are you unable to stop drinking once you start?
  • Have multiple people commented on your drinking as being excessive?
  • Have you experience multiple issues that you can attribute to your drinking?
  • Do you often drink alone?
  • Do you feel guilty about your drinking or feel bad when you drink?
  • Do you worry that your drinking is causing serious issues in your life but you feel that you cannot stop even though you want to?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, you are likely dealing with a severe alcohol use disorder that is more than likely as strong as alcohol addiction. Cravings, tolerance, dependence, and a loss of control are all the most obvious symptoms, and if you know that you experience them, you are addicted to alcohol and will need treatment to get better.

Where do calls go?

Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Calls to any general helpline will be answered or returned by one of the treatment providers listed, each of which is a paid advertiser: ARK Behavioral Health, Recovery Helpline, Alli Addiction Services.

By calling the helpline you agree to the terms of use. We do not receive any commission or fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a caller chooses. There is no obligation to enter treatment.

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