Alcoholism is a disease and one that’s most prevalent in the whole world. In particular, America has a serious drinking problem. So fatal is the disease that it claims an estimated 88,000 people yearly. This makes alcohol the third deadliest preventable cause of death in the US. The other two are tobacco and poor diet, respectively.
According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, one in eight American adults is alcoholic. The reason for this is down to the fact that alcohol is legal nearly in every jurisdiction. Perhaps it’s the reason why roughly 700,000 citizens seek alcohol abuse treatment every year.
Due to the fact that alcohol is highly dangerous and extremely available, it helps to know signs and symptoms of alcoholism. Here are the most important symptoms of alcoholism that everyone should know.
The first sign of alcoholism is drinking. If you are not a drinker, there is no way you can develop alcohol tolerance. It’s the reason abstinence is often promoted as the best way of preventing alcoholism.
If you are dependent on alcohol, you will have a compelling desire for the drink and you will even have problems controlling how you drink.
Also, drinking too much makes your body to get used to lots of alcohol. This may make you to develop withdrawal symptoms 3-8 hours after the last drink as alcohol effect wears off. Therefore, even if you have an intention of quitting drinking, you will find that it’s difficult because of withdrawal symptoms. These include:
- Nausea or feeling sick
- Craving for alcohol
This leads you to drink alcohol more regularly and rely on it to prevent withdrawal symptoms. If you quit alcohol, withdrawal symptoms usually last around 5-7 days although alcohol craving could continue for longer. The degree of dependence tends to vary. It is something that can develop and even become highly severe. Signs that you are developing alcohol dependencies include:
- Drinking alone
- Having a strong urge to drink and need to do so every day
- Drinking in order to stop trembling
- Spend much time in activities which involve alcohol. For instance, spending a lot of time at a pub or a social club.
- Neglect other pastimes to drink alcohol.
If you are dependent of alcohol you are often tolerant to alcohol effect. Tolerance means you require more of the booze to experience any effects and get drunk. Obviously, it means you will have to drink more bottles so as to feel the effects, and this can lead you to drinking even more.
If you are dependent on alcohol you will tend to get drunk regularly. But the problem is that you may not become drunk. You will soon start drinking small quantities of alcohol regularly to manage any withdrawal symptoms. This may make you able to conceal or hide your problem from those close to you. But the truth is that you still face serious risk of developing medical conditions as a result of heavy drinking. These include cancers and liver damage among other things.
Denial is another common symptom of an individual with alcoholism. In the long road the alcoholic takes towards physical, moral and mental decline, honesty is often the first thing that disappears. The individual simply lies about their drinking. At first they are little lies.
I only took 2 bottles’ or I haven’t had a drink in a month or I don’t drink as much as you think’….
As an alcoholic person begins to drink, there is a tendency by them to start hiding this fact from the people around them. Sometimes, the person may drink openly but will lie about the amount of drinks. Other times, they simply won’t drink when in the presence of those closest to them.
If an attempt is made to discuss their drinking problem, they simply refuse to discuss or talk about it as a problem. After all, they are adults now and can drink if they want to.
Hint to a Deeper Problem
These simple denial acts, refusing to discuss the problem or lying about the drinking, are clues that the person knows deep down that there is a problem. They wouldn’t lie to it if it wasn’t a problem.
The true alcoholic, that is, the person with the problem, will often cover up and deny their drinking of a feeling that there is something “wrong” about the drinking.
The person is in denial because somewhere inside him, he knows that the drinking isn’t just normal and thus he can’t admit.
For a lot of people especially men, the type of weekend warrior’ drinking ultimately transforms into a more persistent, everyday pattern of consumption. While the person might drink less, there is a sense of more regularity. The individual may find it harder to skip alcohol than they once did.
If this is your drinking habit, or you’ve noticed this in your relative or partner, is it a cause for worry?
With regard to alcohol, there are no clear rules. However, experts don’t necessarily think that a nightly drink or two is not necessarily a bad thing.
When you should be concerned
If you have a family history of alcoholism, more so if either or both of you suffers from alcohol abuse problems, you must be wary of the bottle, and you will be better off controlling your intake.
In addition, if you practically gulp down your first beer of the day, or you take it in one or two slugs, it’s more an indication of binge drinking compared to a low-risk pattern of drinking.
It’s also the same if you find yourself combing a couple of weeknights of moderate drinking with weekends of serious partying.
Binge drinking in the case of men is defined as taking 5 drinks in a 2-hour period, according to experts. If this is the pattern for your Friday and Saturday nights, and you find that you take a couple of drinks each night during the week, you are certainly in danger.
Taking alcohol interferes with several bodily functions and often affects behavior. However, after chronically taking alcohol, the drinker is sure to develop tolerance to some effects of alcohol. Tolerance means drinking for a long time, the drinker realizes that taking the same number of beers doesn’t produce the same effect as it used to do. It forces the drinker to drink more alcohol in order to realize the same effects.
Tolerance to the effect of alcohol influences drinking actions and drinking consequences in a number of ways. Tolerance often encourages alcohol, consumption, something that will contribute to dependence of alcohol and organ damage. It affects your performance of tasks, for instance driving while intoxicated, and also contribute to toxicity or ineffectiveness of other medications and drugs. Finally, tolerance could lead to lack of risk for the alcoholic.
Human beings and animals develop tolerance when the brain functions adapt to make up for the disruption brought about by alcohol in not only their behavior but also bodily functions. This type of adaption is referred to as functional tolerance. Chronic heavy drinkers exhibit tolerance when they don’t show obvious signs of intoxication even after taking considerably high amounts of alcohol which would be even fatal in others. Owing to the fact that the drinker doesn’t experience a major behavioral impairment due to drinking, tolerance often leads to taking increasing quantities of alcohol. The long-term effect of this is that it can lead to physical dependence and other alcohol-linked organ damage.
5. Drinking interferes with responsibilities.
When an alcoholic problem makes a person to start neglecting his financial obligations to a family, it’s usually a sign of a deep problem. Alcohol isn’t free, and it’s certainly not cheap either. While even the strictest budgeter or accountant will make provisions for entertainment expenses, continuous drinking can fast cause an individual to spend way beyond their allocation for socializing. It’s a known fact that alcohol abuse can cause serious financial problems, but not just by dint of the actual cash spent on alcohol. Common side effects of alcohol are lowered inhibitions. These usually appear while a person still has control over their motor functions and sense, at least sufficient to buy things.
For example, an intoxicated person may be inclined to spend more than they planned for at a bar. And even if they drink at home, this won’t necessarily shield you from spending with lowered inhibitions. Thanks to the internet, people today have a whole world of shopping capabilities. Thanks to the “beer goggle” effect, an item can appear more attractive and its purchase price even more inviting, which ends up increasing the likelihood of unnecessary purchases.
Once a person indulges in too much alcohol their work productivity also suffers. Finances are not only the dollars that someone earns, but also include earning potential. Research shows that drinking can have a negative effect on academic or work productivity at every stage of working life. Students that drink too much in college often end up with lower grades, which will affect their employability and even salary potential.
Heavy drinking employees or those who binge-drink have high chances of absenteeism or even presenteeism (being present at work but underperforming). Also, long-term alcoholics may exit careers earlier so as to manage health problems.
6. Drinking to Cope with Stress
When you, a loved one or another relative develops a tendency of drinking when they have a stress, it’s a clear sign that the problem has reached serious levels. Many people take alcohol to cope with stressful situations in their lives, and although one may feel temporarily better after drinking, it often ends up making the stress even worse as opposed to relieving it.
If you find yourself resorting to drinking when you have problems, be they with school relationship or work, your drinking habit could have reached dangerous levels and you may be at risk of developing dependency and even addiction.
According to studies, long-term consumption of alcohol negatively alters the chemistry of the brain, as well as how it reacts to stressful situations.
The brain releases too much cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone, and this increases anxiety whenever a person is faced with stress compared to individuals who drink a little or don’t drink at all.
The heightened anxiety in response to stressful situations only ends up further perpetuating the drinking cycle to cope with the stress.
In addition, another study established that stress can reduce the desirable alcohol effects, which may make a person to drink more so as to realize the pleasurable response. This shows that alcohol and stress do influence each other.
7. Drinking Without Worrying about Consequences
Drinking is not necessarily a bad thing when you do it responsibly and in moderation. But if a person drinks without caring about the consequences, it is usually a pointer to serious alcohol problem:
• Drinking before driving is a major indication that your habits have become dangerous, because when drink-driving, you are putting not only your life at risk, but also the lives of others.
• Heavy drinking on a weeknight before you go to work or on Sunday night is a common symptom of a drinking problem that has become more troublesome.
• Also, if you have a mental or physical problem that you know can be compounded by alcohol, yet you continue drinking anyway, you could be developing alcohol dependency, and you need to seek rehabilitation before the problem gets out of hand.
• Lastly, if your drinking interferes with your relationship, hobbies, work, or is clashes with your values, but your love for the bottle continue unabated, you need to start seriously evaluating the merits and demerits of drinking.
Therefore, if you realize that you are drinking without giving a hoot about the consequences of your drinking, it’s usually a pointer that you have serious alcoholism problems. It’s important that you seek addiction alcoholism treatment before it’s too late.
One of the most common features of alcohol dependence is withdrawal symptoms. They tend to be dangerous and need to be taken as a serious warning sign that an individual is drinking too much. Know what withdrawal symptoms are, how they are caused and what to do should you experience them.
What are the main alcohol withdrawal symptoms?
If you experience any of the following after heavy drinking, chances are that you are suffering from alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
- Physical symptoms
- Hand tremors
- Visual hallucinations (you see things that are actually not real)
- Seizures which graduate to fits in the most serious cases
Psychological symptoms of alcohol withdrawal
- Insomnia irritability
Withdrawal symptoms are often quite dangerous and it’s important that you seek immediate medical attention in case you or a person close to you experiences repeated vomiting, severe trembling or hallucinations.
If you are a loved one of yours experiences withdrawal symptoms, it’s often an indicator of physical dependency of alcohol. Also called alcoholism, alcohol dependence is the most lethal form of drinking-related problems and often leads to different serious health problems. People who suffer from alcoholism may experience strong and often uncontrollable urge to drink. They feel they aren’t able to function without taking a few bottles of beer.
9. Liver Problems
Liver problems are among the most serious alcoholism symptoms. Alcoholic liver disease refers to damage to the liver as well as its functions because of alcohol abuse.
The conditions results from over-consumption of alcohol, which damages the liver and leads to an accumulation of fats, inflammation and even scarring. It is often fatal. It is one of the major causes of chronic liver diseases especially in the West.
The liver is among the most complex organs in our bodies, and has more than 500 functions.
These include storing energy, filtering out blood toxins, regulating blood sugar and cholesterol and making proteins and hormones.
Liver damage often affects the whole body. It can take time before liver damage becomes noticeable, and this is due to the fact that the liver tends can regenerate and repair itself quite effectively. In most cases, the damage is irreversible by the time it’s found.
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), there were 19,388 deaths resulting from alcoholic liver disease in 2014 in the US. Also, it estimates that all causes of cirrhosis and chronic liver disease lead to 12 deaths per 100,000 people per year.
10. Drinking Alone
If you are someone you care about tends to persistently drink alone rather than doing so in social settings, chances are that you may want to seek alcohol rehabilitation treatment because the problem is about to get out of hand.
There is a big difference between taking a couple of drinks at a party or bar with your family or friends and drinking alone.
If you realize you are drinking alone, it could be a sign of a deeper emotional or psychological issue.
Most people drink alcohol in the false hope that it will help them cope with unwanted emotions or feelings like depression, frustration, sadness or abandonment among other things.
Like in most cases, self-medication isn’t always a healthy behavior and more often than not, it only perpetuates the problem further.
11. Memory Loss and Blackouts
A complete blackout is when you forget everything from a specific period of time. When this happens, your cognition and judgment get impaired. You will only learn of what happened when you were drinking when your friends tell you but you may never be able to recall it at all.
The long and short of it is that alcohol can cause loss of memory in the short-term and also long-term. Short-term memory loss is often in the form of blackouts.
Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is arguably one of the deadliest side effects of long-term or chronic alcohol abuse. This condition has direct correlation with alcohol and loss of memory.
Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome refers to a brain disorder that often results from vitamin B1 deficiency and tends to be extremely common with individuals with alcohol use disorder. Essentially, it’s the effect of permanent brain damage, mainly those parts involved with memory. Although Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome may be caused by a few other factors, the number one cause is alcoholism. This is because alcoholic people often have poor diet and their bodies also don’t absorb vitamin B1 effectively because of alcohol.
Even where Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome doesn’t occur, heavy drinkers will often experience cognition and memory problems. For instance, in the case of alcohol and memory loss a good majority of heavy, chronic drinkers often show some degree of impairment in terms of their cognitive function. This often ranges from mild to moderate, and alcohol consumption in the long-term leads to reduced brain size.
12. Loss of Control While Drinking
A defining symptom of alcoholism is lack of control. If you or your loved says they’ll give it up but they haven’t done it, it’s always a sign of addiction. Alcoholics and addicts persist in their symptoms irrespective of what, something that leads to problems. If you are not an addict, you can very easily give up the drink for one or two weeks at least.
At stage, several people struggling with alcoholism promise themselves or even make a promise to other people to reduce their alcohol intake. But the truth is that they rarely keep this promise. It’s because they simply can’t stop drinking after reaching a certain amount. They can’t think in advance about the effects of over-drinking. Once they start to drink, they continue doing so until they are intoxicated completely.
13. Making excuses to drink
This is akin to making alcohol a top priority. If you or someone you care about tries to justify their reason for getting drunk through illegitimate excuses, it’s a symptom that alcoholism may have a hold of them. The fact that your favorite sports team has won, for instance, is not a good enough reason to drink.
Also, being surrounded with alcoholics or binge drinkers is a common social warning sign. Firstly, if you have any friendship that’s based on drinking only, know that these are not real friends and in fact you should consider the friendship. Secondly, if you are associating more with people who are frequent drinkers, stop to think. You could be having a problem developing.
There is no doubt that alcoholism is a dangerous disease. In fact, it’s one of the deadliest on the global scale. Not only is alcohol readily available to the public, but it’s also cheap. It is heavily advertised and the peer pressure certainly doesn’t help. Still, there isn’t a justification not to be sober. Abstinence is the best way to control alcoholism but if you must drink, do so responsibly.
The first step towards addiction alcoholic treatment is to recognize that there is a problem. Knowing the symptoms of alcoholism will help you or your loved one better deal with alcoholism and nip the problem before it gets out of hand.