Signs of Alcoholism

It is not always easy to tell when someone has crossed the line into an alcohol addiction. When it becomes apparent that the consumption of alcohol is disruptive to a person’s health, relationships and ability to work it is time for that person to seek help. It is important to know the warning signs of alcoholism, so that you can recognize them in yourself and those around you.

When a person has developed alcoholism, there will be many non-physical signs that they are no longer functioning properly. Some of these include:

  • Neglecting responsibilities and performing poorly at home, work, or school.
  • Using alcohol while driving, operating machinery or mixing alcohol with illicit substances even though they are aware of the dangers of these activities.
  • Receiving multiple arrests or running into legal problems because of the influence of alcohol.
  • Continuing to drink despite loved ones advising that you stop or despite the strains that it causes in your relationships.
  • Using alcohol as a relaxation technique or using intoxication as an escape from a stressful day.

Symptoms of Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a severe disease that can lead to major health complications if left untreated. The most prevalent symptom of alcoholism is the body’s physical dependence on alcohol.This means that without the alcohol, the body will not function properly and it will constantly crave it. There are several warning signs that people can look for when trying to identify alcoholism in themselves, a friend or a family member. Those warning signs are:

Tolerance: When you have to drink a lot more than usual in order to feel the same effects, your body has built up a tolerance to alcohol. Having a high tolerance to alcohol is an early sign of alcohol abuse or alcoholism.

Withdrawal: Withdrawal symptoms are the physical consequences of abstaining from alcohol for even a short period of time. Suffering from alcoholism requires a person to drink in order to relieve or avoid these physical symptoms. Some withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Tremors, convulsions, or uncontrolled shaking
  • Sweating, even in cold conditions
  • Extreme agitation or anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

Withdrawal from alcoholism can also involve hallucinations, confusion, seizures, fever, and agitation. Withdrawal is an important step in the treatment process, but can be dangerous. Undergoing withdrawal should always be done under the supervision of a doctor or rehabilitation center.

The physical signs and symptoms of alcoholism can be visible depending on the amount and frequency of drinking. Some of these visible signs are:

  • Slurred or incoherent speech
  • Poor balance and clumsiness
  • Delayed reflexes
  • Stomach pains, vomiting or nausea
  • Loss of consciousness or blacking-out
  • Redness of the face during or after periods of consumption
  • Hallucinations

Health Risks of Alcoholism

Alcohol impairs judgement, coordination and reaction time. The more alcohol that is consumed, the greater effect on bodily functions. Every organ of the body is affected when drinking alcohol.

  • Brain: Alcohol interferes with brain communication pathways and can change mood, behavior, cognition and coordination.
  • Heart: Drinking can damage the heart and cause cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, strokes, and high blood pressure.
  • Liver: Alcohol can cause dangerous complications to your liver including inflammation, steatosis, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis.
  • Pancreas: Pancreatitis is common in alcohol abusers. The pancreas produces a toxic substance when faced with too much alcohol that leads to inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels.
  • Immune System: Excessive alcohol consumption can weaken the immune system leading to pneumonia, tuberculosis and hinder the body’s ability to ward off infection.

Treatment for Alcoholism

There are several treatments that are effective in altering drinking patterns. Behavioral treatments such as counseling by a professional aim to identify and change the behaviors and environmental factors that lead the person to drink heavily. Working with the counselor, patients can set goals and work to avoid triggers. There are currently three medications available that are approved to help people reduce drinking and prevent relapse. They can only be prescribed by a physician and are best used alongside another form of treatment. Support Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) use a 12-step program to combine professional counseling with peer support. Group members get rewards for reaching sober milestones and are allowed to remain anonymous. Having a support system of friends and family is the best way to stay on track and avoid relapse. The transition to a sober lifestyle can be wrought with anxiety and having a support team can make the process easier. All decisions regarding medications and therapy treatments should be discussed with a doctor or medical professional.