Alcohol addiction is defined as the continuously excessive or compulsive consumption of alcoholic beverages. It is a serious condition and a chronic illness that has many negative consequences on one’s personal, psychological and professional life and can lead to other medical conditions, such as liver disease, depression, eating disorders, etc.
Alcoholism manifests differently from one person to another. While some people may have the tendency to be regular heavy drinkers, others may choose to binge-drink heavily for certain periods, followed by a period of abstinence. While the signs of alcoholism may not always be apparent at first, there are a number of early indicators for this type of addiction.
Some of the warning signs for alcohol addiction include the following:
- Consuming increasingly high quantities of alcoholic drinks or a change in the frequency with which an individual chooses to drink;
- Developing high tolerance to alcohol (to some this may appear as the symptoms commonly associated with hangovers);
- Developing odd or uncommon and inappropriate drinking patterns such as very early in the day;
- Intentionally choosing social settings where alcohol consumption is possible or encouraged or avoiding situations where this is not an option;
- Hiding alcohol and hiding from loved ones in order to drink;
- Changing one’s social circle or neglecting friends and family;
- Displaying a neglectful appearance;
- Asking for money or going into debt due to spending too much on drinking.
These are just some of the early signs of alcohol dependency. Please keep in mind that excessive alcohol consumption can differ from one individual to another and what may be perceived as an early sign of alcoholism may, in fact, be categorized as temporary binge drinking in effect of a traumatic personal event (divorce or separation) – an issue that may only determine the individual to resort to alcohol as a coping mechanism temporarily – and which should be addressed accordingly, by seeking proper support from a mental health specialist or qualified therapist.
Early identification of alcohol abuse is crucial. The symptoms presented above should not be ignored, even if they do seem unimportant or harmless at first. While drinking is common for many people, having a few drinks is inherently different from altering one’s lifestyle in order to accommodate the consumption of an ever-increasing quantity of alcohol.
In many cases, alcoholism is diagnosed using a set of questions that can help place the patient on a spectrum. The eleven criteria typically used to diagnose the disorder are the following:
- Consuming alcohol in larger quantities or for longer periods of time;
- The desire to reduce the amount of alcohol and displaying the intention to cease drinking but being unable to do so;
- Spending a considerable amount of time purchasing, consuming and recovering from heavy alcohol consumption;
- Craving alcohol consumption becomes a pressing matter;
- Not managing to follow through with the school/work/home responsibilities because of alcohol consumption;
- Giving up social or recreational activities because of alcohol consumption;
- Continuing to drink even if it has already caused problems in relationships;
- Continuous alcohol use even when the behaviour has put the individual’s life in danger (driving, using machinery, etc.);
- Continuing use even when the individual has or develops a psychological problem as a result of alcohol abuse;
- Not experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms anymore (tolerance to alcohol).
Experiencing more than two of these symptoms is a cause of concern. Seeking immediate professional help for treating alcohol addiction becomes increasingly urgent the more of these symptoms are displayed by an individual.
Undiagnosed and thus untreated alcohol addiction has a tendency to degenerate, causing negative, long-term medical and non-medical effects.
A few examples of the medical conditions that are associated with alcohol addiction are the following:
- Lethargy, depression and other emotional issues;
- Short-term memory loss or blackouts;
- Liver damage, alcoholic hepatitis;
- Chronic pancreatitis;
- Hand tremors;
- High blood pressure;
- Sexual impairment;
- Brain damage;
- Alcohol poisoning;
- Mouth and throat cancer.
Apart from these medical conditions, alcohol addiction can also cause unintentional personal injuries such as vehicle accidents, slip and falls, burns. There is also an increased degree of intentional injuries such as assault or violence injuries inflicted by the intoxicated individual.
Non-medical issues that can be associated with alcohol abuse include:
- Strained relationships with family and friends;
- Financial issues;
- Decreased work productivity, absenteeism and even the loss of one’s job;
- Legal issues (such as when the individual is involved in personal injury accidents caused by driving under the influence).
The first step for recovering from alcohol addiction is to seek qualified medical help and undergo an alcohol medical detox programme.
At Castle Health residential programmes, this lasts between 3 and 14 days. All our patients are assessed on admission and based on this medical and psychiatric evaluation, they receive a personalised treatment plan for their alcohol addiction.
This means that, in addition to the detox phase, our approach also includes evidence-based therapies that address the underlying issues of addiction such as depression, anxiety and others. Moreover, our residential rehab treatment centre also provides on-call physicians and nurses, thus allowing for complete, 24/7 medical monitoring, as needed by patients who suffer from alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
We offer a comprehensive approach to recovering from alcohol addiction and every patient is treated individually. Contact us for more information on admission, funding and our addiction treatment plans.