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How to Tell If You Are Addicted to Alcohol

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Are You Addicted to Alcohol?

Alcohol abuse is when someone takes excessive or inappropriate amounts of alcohol.

What Qualifies as Alcohol Addiction?, Is Dependence the Same as Addiction?, How to Tell if You Have an Alcohol Addiction, What Does Addiction Feel Like?, What are the 4 Levels of Addiction?, How Can You Tell You’re an Alcoholic?, What Happens if You Drink Every Day?, What is the Main Cause of Addiction?, How Can I Break My Addiction?, Rehab Is Your Best Chance

Whether it is alcohol or drugs, addiction is a serious medical condition that is characterized by the inability to quit. Addicted individuals will keep taking that particular substance even if they are already experiencing its adverse effects. And addiction has plenty of them: this medical condition affects a person’s mind, body, and even extends into other aspects of their life including their relationships, career, spiritual life, and finances.

Because of addiction’s overwhelming effects, it can be challenging for a person to recover. Alcohol and drugs can bring feelings of euphoria and pleasure, which prevent them from quitting. But it is possible to regain your sobriety and maintain it for the long term with the help of rehab and proper addiction treatment.

The first step is admitting that there is a problem. However, you can’t do this if you don’t realize that there is a problem in the first place. It’s not always easy to recognize the signs of addiction. Alcohol addiction in particular can be hard to spot, since recreational drinking is such a common activity in every part of the world.

Still, you can help someone who is struggling with alcohol addiction—or any type of addiction—by recognizing the warning signs. Identifying the problem is a key part of the journey towards recovery. Today we will be focusing on alcohol addiction and its warning signs.


What Qualifies as Alcohol Addiction?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcohol use disorder (AUD) is “problem drinking that becomes severe”. A person who is addicted to alcohol does not just enjoy drinking, but instead they have reached a point where they can’t quit even if they wanted to. They don’t know when or how to quit. They also don’t bother to watch how much they consume at a time. Slowly, their drinking habits begin to affect their life and their health, causing problems at home or at work.

Addiction has a physical and psychological effect on a person. It can affect their health and change their behavior. If you think someone you care about may be addicted to alcohol or a particular drug, watch out for the signs and symptoms we’ve listed below.

Alcohol abuse is when someone takes excessive or inappropriate amounts of alcohol. This is not necessarily considered addiction, but it’s what leads to addiction and dependence.

Remember that drinking casually does not generally lead to any physical or psychological effects. But if a person drinks to excess on a regular basis, this may be considered alcohol abuse, and it can lead to alcohol use disorder if not controlled.

Is Dependence the Same as Addiction?

Dependence and addiction are not exactly the same, although they can both develop in a person who is abusing alcohol. It’s similar to how people can develop drug addiction and drug dependence if they keep taking an illicit substance or prescription medication. The same applies to alcohol.

Physical dependence is when a body adjusts to the constant presence of a certain substance. It’s a chemical change within the body. When a person becomes dependent, they will begin to feel like they can’t function normally or feel normal without taking the substance.

When they attempt to quit, they will go through painful or uncomfortable withdrawal. They will also have intense cravings for alcohol. More often than not, this leads to relapse.

On the other hand, addiction refers to the uncontrollable and compulsive need for the substance. They will keep drinking even when they are suffering from all the adverse effects.

A person who is abusing a substance may also develop tolerance at some point. Tolerance is when the person has to take more of a drug or drink more just to get the same euphoric effects. Tolerance leads to increased alcohol intake, which makes the person more vulnerable to addiction and dependence.


How to Tell if You Have an Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction affects everyone differently. But you can usually look out for physical, psychological, and behavioral warning signs. So if you are worried that you or someone you love is addicted, watch out for these signs and symptoms.

Some warning signs are harder to spot than the others. The more warning signs a person displays, the more likely it is that they are struggling with an addiction. Mild alcohol abuse can be hard to recognize, but even a minor issue can develop into something serious over time, so take this seriously. The sooner you can get the professional treatment that you need, the better.

Aside from the quantity of symptoms, you should also look at their severity. Someone with a severe alcohol use disorder may exhibit more serious signs and symptoms. They may also display more noticeable behavioral changes. For example, someone might try to cover up their excessive drinking by lying, being secretive, or isolating themselves. Watch out for uncharacteristic behavior like irritability or extreme mood swings.

The person may suffer from short-term memory loss or temporary blackouts. They will also find any excuse to drink such as to manage stress or feel normal. Drinking alone or drinking during the day are common indicators of an alcohol use disorder.

An addicted individual may begin to prioritize drinking over everything else, neglecting their responsibilities and losing interest in the things they used to enjoy. Because of this, their relationships, finances, and career may struggle. They may even get in trouble with the law as they engage in dangerous activities. They will become more and more distant from their friends and family members. Sometimes they will even change their social circles, preferring friends that will tolerate their behavior.

Remember that there is no exact formula that will determine if someone is an alcoholic. But the more warning signs you encounter, the bigger the chances that they may have a drinking problem. It is also possible for one symptom to snowball into another, causing more problems as the person keeps drinking.


What Does Addiction Feel Like?

There is a lot of stigma when it comes to addiction. Many people think willpower is enough to get over an addiction and that addicted individuals simply need to “choose” to get better. But it doesn’t work like that. Some don’t even consider addiction to be a medical condition.

But in order to help those who are struggling with addiction, it is important to understand what they are going through, so you can help from a place of compassion. It goes without saying that developing addiction, suffering from its adverse effects, going into a downward spiral, going through withdrawal, and working towards recovery is not an easy journey. Even when you become sober again, you must work hard to keep it that way. As a chronic disease, recovering from addiction is a lifelong process.

Anybody can develop an addiction. Some are just more likely to develop it because they have more risk factors. There are genetic factors as well as environmental factors that expose people to a greater risk of developing addiction. Addiction does not discriminate: people from all walks of life can get addicted. People from all over the world can develop an addiction. So if you think you are addicted, you are not alone.

Addiction is not just a craving. By describing it as a craving, you are effectively misunderstanding the condition. It’s not just a bad habit. It changes the way your brain works, so the substance essentially controls your entire being. It feels like you cannot live without it. The physical effects of addiction depend on the substance taken, the frequency of intake, the dosage or volume taken, and the presence of co-occurring disorders, among other factors. This is why everyone goes through addiction differently.

Withdrawal is also an extremely uncomfortable stage. Withdrawal symptoms vary, but they include chills, headaches, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, sweating, confusion, insomnia, and high blood pressure.

People in recovery go through it, but if they are in rehab, they can receive proper care and assistance from medical professionals and addiction experts. Sometimes medications are given to control cravings and withdrawal symptoms. During the stage of detox, the person gradually lowers their intake of alcohol or drugs as their withdrawal symptoms are managed. This is an important step in the recovery journey.

Although recovery is difficult, it is also possible. It takes some time and hard work, but people can develop a healthy life outside of rehab and after addiction. Even maintaining sobriety is a challenge, but it is yet another obstacle in this continuous journey.

If you know someone who is dealing with an addiction, do not downplay their suffering. A bit of empathy can go a long way, especially if you are dealing with a condition that is as painful and strenuous as addiction.


What are the 4 Levels of Addiction?

Recognizing the stages of alcohol addiction or alcoholism can help you weigh your options when it comes to detox and treatment. According to E. Morton Jellinek, a scientific researcher who studied alcoholism intensively, there are four stages of alcoholism: pre-alcoholic, early alcoholic, middle alcoholic, and late alcoholic. Jellinek’s work is a major contributor to the modern view of alcoholism as a biological condition rather than a moral failure.

The pre-alcoholic stage is described as having little evidence of problem drinking. During this stage, any sign of “problem drinking” can be mistaken for regular drinking behavior. People in this stage may only drink socially, but as the stage progresses they will begin to drink more to cope with stress. The pre-alcoholic stage also includes developing tolerance.

Drinking casually is not a problem, especially if you are drinking manageable amounts and only on occasion. But if you are starting to drink to make yourself feel better, to reduce anxiety, or to forget bad memories, this is when you should start to worry.

The early alcoholic stage means that the person has already experienced their first alcohol-related black out. They will experience a growing discomfort with drinking, but they will be unable to resist it. This is when people typically start hiding or lying about their drinking habits. Tolerance of alcohol continues to grow. Some even become obsessed with thoughts of alcohol.

The middle alcoholic stage is when it becomes obvious to friends and family members that the person has a drinking problem. They may miss social obligations or work because they are suffering from hangovers or they are drinking. They may begin to drink at inappropriate times, even in front of their children or while driving. People in the middle alcoholic stage experience a lot of physical and mental health effects such as irritability, facial redness, stomach bloating, and significant weight gain or weight loss.

Those who are in the middle alcoholic stage may attempt to stop drinking repeatedly. They may even attend support groups. Support groups and other forms of treatment can work well.

The final stage is the late alcoholic. This is when the long term effects of alcohol abuse become apparent. The person is dealing with serious health problems. Everything takes a backseat to drinking, including friends and family. Job loss may occur at this stage if it has not already happened. Dementia, cirrhosis of the liver, and other serious diseases caused by drinking may develop.

The good news is that even this last stage can be helped with therapy, medical detox, and rehabilitation. There is hope, no matter what stage of alcoholism the person is currently in.


How Can You Tell You’re an Alcoholic?

It’s easy to think about alcoholism and think of someone whose life is falling apart and in extremely poor condition. But sometimes people with drinking problems can function quite well at work or outside of it. Because they are “high functioning”, people around them don’t immediately think they have a problem. They may be responsible or productive. They may even be an achiever or in a position of power. Their productivity masks the bigger problem underneath.

If you’re worried that you or someone you care about is a high functioning alcoholic, here are a few things you need to look out for. Aside from the warning signs, symptoms, and behavioral changes we’ve listed above, there are a few more things to keep a close eye on.

For women, heavy drinking is described as having more than three drinks a day or seven a week. For men, it’s four or more per day or 14 per week.

The person’s success may be causing people to overlook their drinking habits, but it doesn’t mean that the problem isn’t there. In fact, the addicted individual may be in denial about their own drinking habits. But the reality is that they are not doing fine.

High functioning alcoholics may “joke” about alcoholism. They may drink in the morning or when they are all alone. They may drink just to feel confident or relaxed, even getting drunk when they don’t intend to. Getting a DUI or having other legal problems related to drinking is another indicator of an alcohol use disorder.

They will deny or hide their drinking habits from loved ones and get defensive when people ask about it. Heavy drinking will eventually catch up with them if they don’t keep it under control.


What Happens if You Drink Every Day?

It goes without saying that alcoholism is dangerous and can have severe effects on a person’s health. Alcohol abuse can lead to serious health complications. It can put a person’s life at risk.

Alcohol can affect many different organs of the body, and not just the liver. Addicted individuals may suffer from stroke, fatty liver disease (steatosis), cirrhosis, arrhythmias, fibrosis, and weakened immune system.

It also affects a person’s mental health. Addicted individuals may suffer from worsened mental health. These mental health effects go hand in hand with the physical symptoms. They may experience symptoms such as depression, anxiety, cravings, irritability, sleep disorders, and panic attacks.

If you drink every day for a long period of time, you will eventually experience some serious diseases caused by long term alcohol abuse. It will damage your heart, liver, kidneys, vascular system, and your gastrointestinal tract. These damages may contribute to the development of chronic diseases.

Here are some of the diseases associated with chronic alcohol abuse: cardiovascular disease, anemia, cancer, cirrhosis, depression, gout, dementia, high blood pressure, seizures, pancreatitis, and nerve damage.


What is the Main Cause of Addiction?

There are many possible causes of addiction. In fact, the way it develops may be different for everyone. Because there is a genetic factor, some people are more susceptible to developing addiction. Other risk factors include mental illness, poverty, homelessness, traumatic life experiences, domestic violence, lack of a social support system, and a family history of addiction.

The more risk factors a person is exposed to, the more likely they are to develop addiction, but it is not a guarantee that they will.

Drug use can start at any age. Teenagers may be pressured into trying drugs or alcohol by their peers. Some adults begin to experiment with different substances as they get older. Some people get hooked on medication that was prescribed to them by their doctor. Some even begin abusing drugs or alcohol during their childhood.

When a person begins to take a substance, they may eventually seek out more potent substances to enjoy more intense effects such as a stronger high. This puts them at risk of developing dependence and addiction.


How Can I Break My Addiction?

If you think someone you love is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it’s time to seek medical help. But first, remember that you need to treat addiction as a medical condition because that’s what it is. Your loved one cannot just stop any time even if they wanted to. That’s why they need medical treatment to get the best chances of recovery.

In some cases, you may need to set up an intervention, either with your family or with the assistance of a professional who specializes in intervention. Intervention should not be confrontational. Instead, it should be done with love and support. It needs to emphasize that addictive behavior will not be tolerated or enabled—this is something that family members tend to do. Intervention should also set a clear direction that the individual must take: treatment and rehab.

The intervention process should make it clear how the individual’s addiction is affecting everyone. Reassure them that you will be there to provide emotional support throughout their journey towards recovery.

Blaming them for their condition is pointless and unproductive. It will not help push them into the right direction because it won’t give them any motivation to change. This is a chronic disease that changes the brain and makes it more difficult to stop. Willpower isn’t enough to stop alcoholism, so always be nonjudgmental when talking to an addicted loved one.

Don’t let them get discouraged by relapse. It is a common occurrence and is considered a normal part of the recovery journey. Some addicted individuals relapse repeatedly before being able to maintain long term sobriety. Relapse is not failure.

Be involved in their recovery process if necessary. Next, start researching about treatment options. Look into the facilities that are closest to you and find out what kind of programs they offer. Find out as much as you can about these programs. The more you know, the more you can understand how the rehab process works.

A personalized treatment plan will work best for the addicted individual. Find the best treatment centers near you so that your loved one can begin to get the treatment that they need.

There are many addiction treatment options out there. There are inpatient rehab programs, outpatient facilities, etc. While their treatment approach may vary, they will generally involve two things: medical detox and behavioral therapy. These programs tackle both the physical and mental health effects of addiction.

Behavioral therapy tackles the issues that caused the addictive behavior in the first place. The goal of rehab is to teach patients how to slowly move away from their alcohol abuse and learn proper coping mechanisms which they can apply in real life. Rehab teaches them how to adapt to the drug-free lifestyle. Patients learn healthy ways to deal with stress so they don’t fall back into their old ways once they get sober.

Maintaining sobriety is the real challenge. That is why aftercare is a necessary part of the rehab process. During treatment, the patient will go through aftercare planning, so they can have continuous support even after stepping out of rehab.

If you think you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol use, seek help right away. The sooner they receive treatment, the better.


Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.

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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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