Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction is a common problem worldwide and can affect anyone irrespective of age or gender. Learn about alcohol addiction here.

Table of Contents

Overview of Alcohol Addiction

Addiction is a serious problem currently facing families, communities, and societies all over the world. It is usually caused by repeated use or intake of a particular substance until the body becomes so used to the presence of that substance that it can’t function properly without it. Substances implicated in addiction cases are abused substances, and many exist.

One very “popular” substance of abuse commonly misused in societies worldwide is alcohol. This substance is so socially acceptable that many people are unaware of how dangerous alcohol abuse and addiction to alcohol can be.  

What Is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction, also known as alcohol disorder, is a chronic illness characterized by recurrent lapses (relapse drinking alcohol), compulsive alcohol use, uncontrollable craving for alcohol, and the manifestation of negative emotional and behavioral states in an individual when there is no access to alcohol. It is important to note that despite what seems to be the conventional belief that alcohol addiction isn’t really a thing or that it drinking addiction only affects a limited amount of people, the fact is that alcohol use disorder is a disorder that can afflict anyone, regardless of age, sex, or race. 1

Addiction of alcohol usually begins with continuous consumption of alcohol over a long period. This over-alcohol consumption resulting from alcohol abuse eventually results in drinking addiction.

How Addictive Is Alcohol?

According to a study, up to 10% of people aged 12 and above in the United States suffered from Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in 2020. This statistic, coupled with the fact that these numbers are expected to have risen exponentially in recent years, only highlights just how dangerous drinking alcohol can be and how addictive alcohol is. 2

Alcohol addictiveness from over alcohol consumption depends on several factors, so there isn’t a particular metric for measuring alcohol addictiveness. Nevertheless, genetics, family history, and living environment have been known to cause alcohol dependence. 3

Alcohol Misuse vs. Alcohol Use Disorder

You should know that although alcohol misuse and alcohol disorder are sometimes used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing. Alcohol misuse refers to excessive alcohol consumption beyond the lower-risk limits of the NHS recommendation. Alcohol Use Disorder, on the other hand, is a “spectrum disorder” that encompasses conditions such as alcohol abuse, alcohol misuse, alcohol addiction, and alcohol dependence. 4

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction is best treated, and alcohol recovery is easier initiated when alcohol addiction problems are quickly detected. Doing this, however, requires knowledge of the signs of alcoholism. There are numerous signs of alcoholism, which will be detailed below.

Physical Signs of Alcohol Addiction

The physical symptoms of alcoholism include the following:

Psychological Signs of Alcohol Addiction

The psychological symptoms of alcoholism are:

Social Signs of Alcohol Addiction

The social signs of alcohol addiction problems include:

Reasons Why People Drink Alcohol

Now, it might seem quite confusing to understand why many people still drink and abuse alcohol despite the dangers of alcohol and how it affects personal care, family wellness, and social and psychological health. The thing is, alcohol addiction isn’t ”straightforward” because other than the addictive properties of alcohol being responsible for high alcohol abuse rates, people drink alcohol for several different reasons.
According to alcohol addiction facts, reasons why people drink alcohol include the following:

How Does Addiction Develop in the Brain?

Understanding how alcohol addiction develops in the brain will go a long way toward shaping treatment plans for alcohol recovery.

Stages of the Addiction Cycle

There are three stages in the alcohol addiction cycle, and each stage has a direct link to the previous one. They include:

Binge/Intoxication Stage

This is the first stage of the alcohol addiction cycle. In this stage, an individual “newly” experiences the positive effects of alcohol consumption, such as decreased anxiety, increased ease of relating with people, and euphoria. All these effects arise from repeated activation of the basal ganglia. Repeated alcohol intake causes repeated activation and eventual alteration of the basal ganglia, leading to the development of compulsive alcohol use habits. High tolerance for alcohol also develops in this stage.

Negative Affect/Withdrawal Stage

This stage occurs after high tolerance for alcohol has led to the development of compulsive alcohol consumption. In this stage of the alcohol addiction cycle, when an individual who has been consistently consuming alcohol over a period stops or reduces his alcohol intake either due to a piece of advice to stop drinking alcohol or during alcohol detox, he begins to experience several consequences of alcohol use known as withdrawal effects.

These symptoms or withdrawal consequences of alcohol use can include insomnia, dysphoria, anxiety, and pain (including emotional pain). At this point, the person no longer drinks alcohol to experience the euphoric benefits (the “high”) but instead does so to avoid the negative emotions that chronic alcohol abuse has caused. The alcohol health issues felt during this stage are usually responsible for relapse in drinking alcohol during rehab for alcoholism.

Preoccupation/Anticipation Stage

This stage of the alcohol addiction cycle usually occurs after alcohol detox and addiction alcohol help provision. In this stage, the individual no longer suffers from the withdrawal complications of alcoholism; however, there is an increased desire to consume alcohol. The individual begins to spend more and more time looking forward to having a drink of alcohol.

Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse can negatively affect people’s health and overall wellbeing. These effects include short-term effects of alcohol abuse like slurred speech and hangovers to the long-term impacts of alcohol abuse that are usually very serious. Some effects of alcohol abuse include:

Effects can also include alcohol loss of consciousness, alcoholism, digestive problems, and alcohol abuse weight loss.

Health Complications From Alcohol Abuse

The dangers of alcohol abuse and addiction also include several health complications. These health complications are primarily long-term effects of alcohol addiction, and they include:

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, or wet brain, is a serious and detrimental result of excessive alcohol intake. It manifests as a result of the lack of a vitamin known as thiamine in the body that often comes as a result of poor dietary choices, which are aided by a person’s excessive and frequent alcohol intake. As this vitamin deficiency takes its toll all over the body, it eventually starts damaging the brain itself and can cause extensive damage even to the neuroreceptors in their brain.

How Is Alcohol Addiction Diagnosed?

Addiction is a petty complex illness, and its diagnosis usually isn’t straightforward. Nevertheless, alcohol addiction diagnosis usually begins with self-diagnosis followed by professional screenings by a healthcare professional. The professional screening stage could involve inquiries regarding alcohol use and frequency and a thorough assessment of overall health. Diagnosis also involves the use of Lab tests to detect alcohol levels in blood and urine. 5

How Can I Prevent Alcohol Addiction?

There are a couple of methods for the prevention of alcohol abuse. However, the best way to prevent alcohol addiction is abstinence. Abstinence involves complete “cessation” of alcohol consumption. If you’re not ready to completely stop drinking, you should opt for the next best thing, moderate drinking. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism (NIAAA), moderate drinking for women refers to not more than three alcoholic drinks for women and not more than four for men per day. 6

Treatment Options for Alcohol Addiction

Treatment for alcohol addiction includes the following:

Medically Supervised Detox

For many people, detoxing is the first step toward recovery. Although it is not a replacement for therapy, it can help set up the individual for successful therapeutic treatment and long-term recovery. When the body is dependent on a harmful, addictive substance, an individual should be free of these toxins before analyzing unhealthy behaviors thoroughly and learning a new healthy, and sober lifestyle.

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies include a collection of psychotherapy approaches used to help patients break free from alcohol addiction and prepare them for life after addiction. Some examples include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Motivational Enhancement Therapy


Although no specific drug can be used to “cure” alcoholism, there are several media=cations that have been quite useful in treating and managing alcohol withdrawal symptoms and lessening alcohol relapse occurrences. Some of these medications include disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate. 7

Support Groups

Support groups are very important in the alcohol addiction treatment and recovery process. They help provide support and strength patients need to maintain sobriety. Examples include Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and SMART Recovery. 7

Mindful Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a practice that emphasizes deliberately being present in the moment. It encourages awareness and acknowledgment of thoughts and feelings while letting them pass by understanding their ultimate impermanence. As a therapy tool, replacing an individual’s substance abuse with healthy coping skills such as mindfulness meditation allows the client to learn to regulate stress levels that may have led them to use a substance in the first place

Find Help For Alcohol Addiction at Alta Centers

Are you currently looking for help with alcohol addiction treatment and withdrawal? At Alta Centers, our specialty is providing medically supervised detox for alcohol addiction in safe enviroment in Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, California.