Drinking becomes a problem drinking when the cost of drinking outweighs the benefits. Problem drinking can quickly progress into alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependency syndrome. Problem drinking often starts with binge drinking – drinking large amounts of alcohol with the intention to get drunk. Binge drinking becomes alcohol abuse when the drinking starts causing problems. And alcohol abuse becomes alcoholism when the user starts to experience obsessive cravings for alcohol, a loss of control of drinking, and withdrawal symptoms when not drinking. It’s important to realize that not all alcoholics drink all day, every day.
Alcohol can produce a whole host of physical problems and can damage almost every part of the body, some irreversibly. On a minor level, it can cause broken capillaries and puffiness in the facial area. More seriously though, alcoholism can cause blood conditions that can lead to infections and anemia. Many cancers are linked to alcohol, including throat and mouth cancer. Alcoholism can also result in liver disease and cirrhosis which can ultimately be fatal. Alcohol can lead to many emotional problems, including depression and confusion after a drinking session, blackouts which can be incredibly frightening, and a loss of interest in friends and hobbies.
What is Alcohol addiction?
Alcohol addiction (Alcoholism) is where an individual develops a physical and/or mental dependence to Alcohol. There are varying degrees of alcohol addiction but all are serious conditions that require professional treatment. Alcohol addiction is characterized by the following groups:
Alcohol Dependency – Physical
Alcohol dependency that is physical is where an individual, due to drinking frequent amounts of alcohol, has built a tolerance to the amount that they drink. This simply means that in order to avoid the effects of withdrawal, they have to consume a certain amount of alcohol in order to keep themselves balanced physically and mentally. If they drink less than the amount their body has developed a tolerance to, they will experience very unpleasant and sometimes dangerous symptoms of withdrawal.
Signs of physical alcohol dependency
- Liver damage and failure
- Severe Depression and Anxiety
- Multiple organ failure
- Weight loss or gain
- Certain Cancers
- Heart attack
- Lethal withdrawal symptoms
Alcohol Dependency – Mental
A mental dependency on alcohol is where an individual feels the need for alcohol in order to face certain events or situations. This may or may not be accompanied by physical dependency. An example of this is someone that feels the need to drink alcohol in order to socialize or someone who feels the need to drink alcohol in order to relax or sleep. They use alcohol as a crutch to overcome uncomfortable feelings.
Signs of mental health alcohol dependency
- Low self-esteem
- Panic attacks
- Social Phobia
Binge drinking alcohol is where an individual finds it difficult to stop or regulate the amount of alcohol they drink once they have started. Binge drinking is characterized by consuming large quantities of alcohol within a relatively short period of time, with periods of abstinence or normal drinking in between. Binge drinking often follows a pattern that is specific to the individual. Examples of this may be someone who binges on alcohol at the weekends but remains sober during the week; or someone who may binge drink for a period of days but then have weeks of abstinence in between.
Signs of binge drinking
- Loss of control
- Loss of consciousness
- Liver damage and failure
- Alcohol poisoning
- Lethal alcohol withdrawal symptoms
Alcohol abuse is where someone may either binge on alcohol or mix it with drugs or medications in order to get a greater effect. For example, someone who may drink alcohol with Valium or Sleeping tablets, or someone who may take alcohol at the same time as stimulants so that that they can drink more and for longer periods.
Signs of alcohol abuse
- Loss of Consciousness
- Respiratory arrest /failure
- Reduced awareness
- Loss of control/ uncharacteristic behaviors
- Liver damage/failure
- Multiple organ failure
The Effects and Risks of Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction carries many risks, both in the short term and long term. Whether consumed over a short period of time or a longer period of time, too much alcohol is bad for us both mentally and physically. With each group carrying its own health risks, professional help should always be sought:
Alcohol dependency can present with some very dangerous and unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal. If you or a loved one are alcohol dependent, always seek medical advice before attempting to stop or detox. For those who are alcohol dependent, there are medications available that can help you detox safely. Symptoms of Alcohol withdrawal can include any of the following:
Signs of alcohol withdrawal
- Shaking uncontrollably (Delirium Tremors)
- Anxiety and panic
- Agitation and aggression
- Hallucinating visually or auditory
- Muscle rigidity and spasms
- Heart attack and respiratory arrest
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
Most people with alcohol addiction will try to hide the fact that they have a problem, but there are some signs that are not indicative of someone who is in control of their drinking. When challenged, it is common for an individual with alcohol addiction to be defensive, evasive, or dismissive. Some individuals will have great denial of their addiction to alcohol and will fiercely try to defend and justify it. Here are some signs that should never be ignored, and an individual displaying these signs and symptoms should always be encouraged to seek professional help:
- Empty bottles or cans hidden
- Frequently smelling of alcohol, or trying to mask the smell with toothpaste, mints, or perfume
- Failing to keep appointments or frequently calling in sick to work due to hangovers
- Isolation or going missing for days
- Frequently drinking to excess
- Uncharacteristic behaviors whilst intoxicated, such as violence, aggression, risk-taking, unusual confidence, and melancholy
- Vomiting and shaking
- Hiding alcohol around the house
- Swearing off alcohol frequently
- Blaming others for their problems and alcohol drinking
- Not accepting responsibility for their behaviors
- Rarely mildly intoxicated when drinking, usually extremely drunk or drinking to unconsciousness
- Reliance on alcohol to relax, fall asleep, or socialize
Sometimes identifying someone who has an addiction can be made more difficult if they are using work as a cover. This is known as a Professional High Functioning Alcoholic
If you or a loved one are suffering from Alcohol addiction and need help in giving it up, Addiction Helper can help. We have a range of treatment programs that can help overcome addiction to Alcohol. For someone with a long-standing or heavy use of Alcohol addiction, or an individual who is experiencing symptoms of withdrawal or displaying destructive behaviors, an inpatient period of detoxification and to gain abstinence is suggested. In addition, in order to remain abstinent and help prevent relapse, an intensive therapy program is also strongly recommended with an aftercare package to follow. It is important to deal with the issues that are underpinning the addiction if you or a loved one wants to stay free of Alcohol in the long term.
Detox and withdrawal from alcoholism need to be undertaken in a medically controlled environment as the body can go into shock. Alcohol abuse is usually a symptom of a problem and is most effectively treated in a residential center with a structured program that takes a holistic approach. As with most addictions, relapse is always a danger. Therefore, follow-up care, such as attendance of AA meetings, is essential. At Addiction Helper, we can help you look at all the options available and provide all the support that you and your family will need.
WARNING: If you or a loved one are physically dependent on alcohol, do not attempt to stop or detox without first consulting a medical practitioner or Addiction Specialist. Failure to do so could result in a serious threat to your life. Serious Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can result in death.