Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol Addiction, Alcohol Abuse or Social Drinker?
Are you an alcoholic? How do you know if you drink at a safe level or if you’ve crossed the line into alcohol abuse or addiction?
Moderate drinking is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. Drinking more than this amount can raise the risk of stroke, suicide, accidents and certain types of cancer.
What qualifies as a drink? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that one drink is equivalent to:
- 12 ounces of beer
- 8 ounces of malt liquor
- 5 ounces of wine
- 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor
While some people can enjoy alcohol moderately, certain groups of people should avoid drinking alcohol altogether:
- Children and adolescents
- Pregnant women and women who may become pregnant
- Individuals in alcohol recovery and those who cannot control their drinking
- Individuals taking medications that can interact with alcohol
Others may be able to drink responsibly, but should be aware that certain factors increase their risk for alcohol addiction, including family history, being male, childhood trauma, having a high tolerance for alcohol, starting to drink at a young age, chronic stress, and having a mental illness like depression or anxiety.
Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
The line between moderate drinking and alcohol abuse and addiction can be blurry. The following are a few of the symptoms of alcohol addiction:
- Drinking more than intended
- Trying unsuccessfully to stop drinking
- Being consumed by thoughts of drinking or making plans for the next time you can drink
- Blacking out or being unable to remember what took place because of drinking
- Behaving in uncharacteristic ways when under the influence of alcohol
- Denying the existence of a problem and refusing to get help for alcohol addiction
- Making excuses for your drinking habits
- Having friends, coworkers or family members who are worried about your drinking
- Giving up hobbies or interests or skipping events in order to drink
- Needing to drink more in order to feel drunk
- Craving alcohol
- Drinking despite negative consequences, such as marital, health, legal or financial problems
- Hiding or sneaking alcohol, drinking alone, or lying about your alcohol consumption
- Experiencing anxiety, nausea, insomnia, irritability, headaches or fatigue when trying to quit drinking
- Feeling guilty about or ashamed of your drinking
- Binge drinking (consuming 5 or more drinks within 2 hours for men, or four or more drinks in that time frame for women )
Lies Alcoholics Tell
Denial is one of the most common signs of alcoholism as well as one of the biggest obstacles to getting needed treatment. The desire to drink becomes so overpowering that the alcoholic tells lies to themselves and their friends and family in order to continue drinking. Some of these lies typically include:
- “I can quit whenever I want to.”
- “My alcohol use is only recreational.”
- “I don’t really drink that much.”
- “The consequences of my drinking aren’t that bad.”
- “Others make a bigger deal of my drinking than it really is.”
- “I drink because of [family, friends, work or spouse].”
The Consequences of Alcohol Addiction
Because it is commonly used and is legal for those over 21, alcohol is sometimes mistakenly seen as one of the least dangerous drugs. But alcohol addiction can lead to significant and sometimes fatal consequences. Some of the risks include:
- Alcohol poisoning or fatal overdose
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Early dementia
- Various types of cancer
- Brain damage
- Heart failure
- Risky sexual behavior (increasing the risk of sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancy)
- Driving under the influence and other illegal behaviors
- Accidental injuries
- Blackouts and hangovers
Helping a Loved One Get Help for Alcoholism
For every individual struggling with alcohol addiction, there are dozens of others affected. If you are a friend, family member or co-worker of someone who has a drinking problem, there are a few steps you can take to be a positive force for change:
- Do get educated about the disease of addiction and share your knowledge with your loved one.
- Don’t lecture or punish or attempt to make an alcoholic feel guilty or ashamed.
- Do stage an intervention, if appropriate, to convey your feelings in a productive way and ask the person to enter treatment for alcohol addiction.
- Don’t cover for an alcoholic, make excuses for them, pay their bills or otherwise enable their addiction.
- Do take care of yourself by finding a therapist, Al-Anon group (a free support group for families coping with alcoholism) or another form of support.
- Don’t pretend the addiction doesn’t exist or hide your emotions.
While you may desperately want to help someone with a drinking problem, the road to recovery usually begins with alcohol rehab. Although you cannot force someone to get help, you may be the voice that finally makes them realize the need for change.
Types of Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
No matter what your history, background or the extent of your drinking problem, you never have to face your alcohol addiction alone. With treatment comes the freedom to re-engage in life, rebuild damaged relationships and develop new passions.
There are a variety of treatments for alcohol addiction including:
Residential Alcohol Rehab Programs – A stay at a residential alcohol rehab facility is ideal for anyone with a serious drinking problem. These alcohol addiction programs offer round-the-clock supervision, therapy, 12-Step meetings, lectures, family programs, sober recreation and peer support. Many also provide aftercare programs and relapse prevention planning.
Detoxification – Alcoholics who stop drinking may face withdrawal symptoms, such as shaking, irritability, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, depression and hallucinations. Alcohol detox usually lasts four to seven days and should be completed under the supervision of a doctor, who may prescribe medication to make the process more comfortable.
Counseling – Individual, group and family therapy are highly effective treatments for alcohol addiction. Together, the patient and therapist work to set goals, explore the issues underlying the addiction, and develop new coping and communication skills.
Medication – For some alcoholics, medication is a helpful tool in recovery. Certain drugs produce a negative reaction to alcohol or block the “high” alcohol causes, while others help control alcohol cravings.
Support Groups – The Alcoholics Anonymous 12-Step program has helped millions of people get and stay sober. Meetings are free and can be found in most cities throughout the world. Many drug rehab programs also offer support groups and aftercare as part of treatment.