What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction?
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:
- Drinking larger amounts of alcohol than previously consumed
- Spending more time, money, and energy working on getting and using alcohol
- Spending more time being hungover and recovering from alcohol’s effects
- Frequently showing signs of intoxication, like slurred speech, poor coordination, and walking problems
- Increased injuries from falling or engaging in risky behaviors
- Decreased self-care and poor hygiene
- Smelling of alcohol or having many empty bottles around the house
Psychological Signs of Alcohol Addiction
The psychological symptoms of alcoholism are:
- Rapidly changing moods
- Increased irritability, anger, and aggression
- Failing to follow throughout on responsibilities
- Problems with memory, concentration, and attention
- New or worsening anxiety
- Possible hallucinations or delusional thinking
Social Signs of Alcohol Addiction
The social signs of alcohol addiction problems include:
- Spending less time around friends and isolating oneself
- Spending more time in new and changing social groups
- Increased lying and deceitfulness
- Failing to follow through on plans
- Increasing conflicts with friends, family, and coworkers
- Decreased performance in school, work, or sports
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:
- Relieve Stress
- Feel Good
- Cope With Loss
- Overcome Anxiety
- Lack Of Connection
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:
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.
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:
- Slurred speech
- Problems walking steadily (one of the common physical consequences of alcohol abuse).
- Poor memory and attention
- Mood changes
- Poor judgment
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:
- Brain defects
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (a neurobiological disease)
- Liver disease
- Diabetes complications
- Heart problems
- Increased risk of cancer
- Vision damage
- Bone loss
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
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).
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
Find Help For Alcohol Addiction at Alta Centers
Are you currently looking for help with alcohol addiction treatment and withdrawal? Alta Centers is the perfect place for you. At Alta Centers, our specialty is providing premium-quality care and treatment for individuals suffering from drug and alcohol addiction.