Know the basics
What is alcohol addiction?
Alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism, is a condition characterized by the habitual intake of excessive amounts of alcohol. It occurs when you drink so much that your body eventually becomes dependent and addicted to alcohol. When this happens, alcohol can cause changes in the brain that can make a person lose control of their actions. A person can drink excessively all day or can have episodes of binge drinking, which is a pattern of drinking where a person consumes about 4 to 5 drinks within 2 hours. Alcohol addiction can cause significant stress on your body and lead to serious health problems. It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect you or your friend may have a problem with alcohol abuse.
How common is alcohol addiction?
Alcohol addiction is common that can affect both men and women at any age. People with alcohol addiction will continue to drink even when drinking causes negative consequences, such as losing their job. They may know that their alcohol use can negatively affect their lives, but it’s often not a strong enough reason to make them stop drinking.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of alcohol addiction?
Alcohol addiction is sometimes hard to recognize when drinking alcohol is widely and socially accepted as an act of enjoyment and linked to celebrations. Here are some common symptoms that can help you identify alcohol addiction as real problem:
- Heavy use of alcohol, increased quantity or frequency of use;
- High tolerance for alcohol;
- Drinking at inappropriate times (in the morning or at work);
- Changes in friendships;
- Emotional changes, such as depression and lethargy;
- Dependence of alcohol to function daily;
- Avoid contact with loved ones;
- Slurred or incoherent speech;
- Poor balance and clumsiness;
- Delayed reflexes;
- Withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, including shaking, nausea, and vomiting;
- Tremors (involuntary shaking) the morning after drinking;
- Lapses in memory (blacking out) after a night of drinking.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you or a friend have any concerns about a symptom, please consult with your doctor for more information.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Significant hangovers that increase during recovery from alcohol use.
- Withdrawal symptoms when unable to consume alcohol, such as sweating, confusion, hallucinations, insomnia, nausea, shaking, etc.
- Regular inattention to personal and professional responsibilities.
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
Know the causes
What causes alcohol addiction?
Just like most mental disorders, alcoholism has no single cause and is not directly passed from generation to generation in families. Rather, it is the result of a complex group of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for alcohol addiction?
There are many risk factors for alcoholism, such as:
- Anxiety or depression;
- Having parents who drink a lot;
- Antisocial behavior;
- Being physically or sexually abused as a child;
- Drinking at the early age.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is alcohol addiction diagnosed?
Your doctor may ask you some questions regarding your drinking habits:
- Have missed work or have lost a job as a result of your drinking.
- Need more alcohol to feel “drunk” when you drink.
- Have experienced blackouts as a result of your drinking.
- Have tried to cut back on your drinking but could not.
Typically, a diagnosis of alcoholism does not need further tests. However, your doctor may perform a blood test to check your liver function. Your liver is responsible for removing toxins from your blood. When you drink too much, your liver has a harder time filtering the alcohol and other toxins from your bloodstream. This can lead to serious liver disease and other complications.
How is alcohol addiction treated?
Treating alcohol addiction is a mentally challenging task that requires a lot of support from family and friends. Along with emotional support, medication therapy can help with managing alcohol addiction. There are many programs that can help treat alcohol addiction. Most programs will follow the steps below:
- Detoxify and withdrawal from alcohol to completely get rid of alcohol from your body.
- Rehabilitation to learn new coping skills and behavior.
- Counseling to address emotional issues.
- Attending support groups continuously to prevent relapses and manage lifestyle changes.
- Treatment for health problems and mental health problems associated with alcoholism.
- Medications to help control addiction.
Some medications can help with alcohol addiction by managing your cravings and withdrawal symptoms. These may include the following:
- Naltrexone (Reviaâ, Vivitrolâ). This drug may decrease cravings for alcohol by blocking the opioid receptors that involves the euphoric effects of drinking alcohol.
- Acamprosate (Campralâ). This drug acts on the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor to reduce withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, restlessness and dysphoria. This drug can be used together with therapy.
- Disulfiram (Antabuseâ). This is a drug produces physical discomfort (such as flushing, palpitations, nausea, vomiting, and headaches) any time the individual consumes alcohol. It works by interfering with the breakdown of alcohol, leading to a buildup of acetaldehyde.
Treatment options for alcohol addiction depends on the severity of your condition. You should discuss with your doctor the most appropriate treatment option that are best suited for you.
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage alcohol addiction?
You will need to make lifestyle changes to manage your alcohol addiction. This may include the following:
- Consider changes in your social life. Make it clear to your friends and family that you are quitting alcohol. This will help your build a strong support for your recovery. Try to avoid friends that just want to drink alcohol and party.
- Develop healthy habits. While changing all your bad habits, you should create and maintain healthy habits. This can include developing a good sleep routine, regular physical activity, healthy well-balanced diet and healthy ways to manage stress.
- Engage in non-alcoholic activities. This means you should find hobbies that do not involve drinking alcohol such as painting, cooking, reading a book, or go to the movies.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (Alcohol Use Disorder). http://www.medicinenet.com/alcohol_abuse_and_alcoholism/page3.htm. Accessed June 12, 2016.
What Is Alcoholism? http://www.healthline.com/health/alcoholism/basics#Overview1. Accessed June 12, 2016.
Alcohol Addiction Signs, Symptoms and Effects. http://www.timberlineknolls.com/alcohol-addiction/signs-effects/. Accessed June 12, 2016.
Alcohol Addiction. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/pharmacotherapi-1. Access June 12, 2016.
Alcohol use disorder. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/basics/definition/con-20020866. Accessed June 12, 2016.
Review Date: August 13, 2016 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019