How is Alcohol Addiction Defined?
Alcohol addiction, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD) or alcoholism, is a chronic disease that affects people from all walks of life. Many factors can contribute to someone developing an AUD including genetics, mental health disorders, and socioeconomic, however, there is not one single cause. Alcoholism is a real disease that causes changes to a person’s brain and neurochemistry, leading to a compulsive need to drink. It can show up in a variety of ways and exists on a spectrum ranging from mild to severe. While alcoholism is a life-long disease, there are ways to manage it and alcohol addiction recovery is possible.
Alcoholism is one of the most common addictions in the US. Alcohol addiction is marked by a craving for alcohol and the inability to stop drinking despite negative consequences to one’s life and health. AUD does not occur overnight; it is a slow process that only gets worse with time. When a person begins to abuse alcohol frequently, they build up a tolerance and need more alcohol to get the same effect they did at the beginning. Eventually, the body develops an alcohol dependence and needs it to function properly. They will develop withdrawal symptoms and cravings when they attempt to cut back or stop using. This physical dependence, which is the body’s physical inability to stop drinking and the presence of alcohol cravings, is what defines alcohol addiction.
Individuals with alcohol addiction may go to extreme measures such as hiding alcohol, lying, stealing, and drinking liquids with alcohol such as mouthwash, to obtain alcohol due to cravings and out of fear of withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawals from alcohol include increased heart rate and blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, hot flashes, tremors, agitation, and seizures. Alcohol withdrawals can be dangerous and life-threatening, so it is always best to seek out professional help from alcohol addiction recovery centers when wanting to stop drinking.
10 Signs it’s Time for Help with Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol use disorder exists on a spectrum and symptoms can range from mild to severe. It can be difficult to define when your drinking has become problematic and even more challenging to know you need help with alcohol abuse. As alcohol use disorder progresses, the signs that indicate a problem become more apparent and more difficult to ignore. If you are already questioning your drinking habits, having trouble cutting back on your own, and wondering if you need help, these are already signs. Some other signs that point towards having lost control of your drinking habits and needing alcohol addiction recovery help, include:
- Developing Tolerance to Alcohol. It may have only taken a drink or two to get the buzz you were looking for before, but now you find it takes four to five drinks to get the same desired effect, your body has developed tolerance. Others may comment on how much you drink without getting intoxicated. Building tolerance to alcohol is a sign your drinking has become problematic.
- Engaging in High-Risk Situations While Drinking. Alcohol can lower your inhibitions and individuals who have developed a tolerance may be overconfident in their ability to do tasks, such as operating heavy machinery or driving. Engaging in these activities while under the influence can lead to accidents hurting yourself or others or legal issues.
- Developing Withdrawal Symptoms and Cravings When Not Drinking. Experiencing alcohol cravings and withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, jumpiness, anxiety, heart palpitations, and increased heart rate are signs your body has become dependent on alcohol.
- Memory Loss When Drinking. Excessive drinking can lead to lapses in memory and blackouts. People may reference recent conversations or events that they do not remember because they were drinking to excess.
- Experiencing Financial, Social, Work, and Relationship Issues. Alcohol addiction is expensive which can lead to financial issues. Frequently drinking to excess can also lead to missing work, chronic tardiness, or a decline in your work which can cause issues with coworkers or being fired. You may miss out on responsibilities with loved ones because of your drinking causing problems in relationships.
- Drinking in the Morning or Alone. A clear warning that you may need help with alcohol abuse is drinking in the early morning. You may also be drinking heavily alone or to deal with mental health symptoms.
- Loss of Interest in Activities Once Enjoyed. Alcohol addiction will take over all areas of your life, so you will begin to lose interest in hobbies and activities you once enjoyed doing.
- Inability to Cut Back or Stop Drinking on Your Own. Unsuccessful attempts at cutting back or stopping drinking on your own, even when wanting to, are telling you that you are unable to control your alcohol intake anymore. Physical and psychological dependence causes compulsive alcohol use.
- Continuing to Use Alcohol Even When It Has led to Negative Consequences. You may have lost friendships, relationships, and your job, have legal problems and have health issues all related to your excess drinking, but even that won’t allow you to stop drinking on your own.
- Spending a lot of Time Getting, Using, or Recovering from Alcohol. Alcohol addiction will take up more of your time and you will find all your energy and day goes into drinking alcohol or recovering from it.