Drinking alcohol can help people relax, especially during occasions. However, it can be a bigger problem if it leads to addiction.
According to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 17 million American adults have alcoholism or alcohol dependence.
Alcoholism or alcohol use disorder is the condition wherein a person finds it hard to control drinking.
With that, it is crucial to determine the signs of alcoholism. You may need help from a specialist who will assess your condition and suggest appropriate treatment for overcoming alcoholism.
But you can also do initial assessment of yourself or your loved ones and determine if these signs are present.
Some signs that alcoholism is getting worse include drinking alcohol in more significant amounts frequently and neglecting responsibilities at home, work, or school due to alcohol use.
Alcoholism is getting worse if a person needs alcohol to get the effect he or she wants (tolerance).
Other signs include continuing to use alcohol even it causes problems in health and relationships.
To further explain this matter, the following are the list of warning signs that alcoholism is getting worse.
Warning Signs of Alcohol Use
Diagnosing the signs of alcohol use can be beneficial to get the proper treatment. These warning signs include the following:
- Drinking more than intended or planned
- Spending excessive time thinking about acquiring alcohol, drinking, and recovering from hangovers
- Failure to do obligations at home, work, or school
- Continuing to use alcohol even it affects the financial situation, relationships, or health
- Drinking alcohol that can be physically hazardous, like driving
- Becomes socially isolated or losing interest in once-enjoyed activities
- Experiencing psychological or physical symptoms when attempting to stop drinking like nausea, depression, anxiety, sweating, insomnia, confusion, hand tremors, visual hallucinations, and seizures
- Becomes secretive, dishonest, moody, aggressive, or temperamental
- Craving alcohol like drinking first early in the morning
If these signs are observed, an individual’s alcoholism is getting worse.
Physical Signs of Alcoholism
The following are physical signs of alcoholism:
- A staggering or slow walk
- Rapid weight loss or gain
- Unexplained marks or bruises
- Inability to stay awake or sleep
- Red or glazed eyes
- Low or no energy
- Sweaty, cold palms and shaking hands
- Blushing, puffy face, or paleness
- Vomiting, nausea, or excessive sweating
- Anxious or depressed
- Deterioration of physical hygiene or personal appearance
Alcohol intoxication can also show signs like rambling or repetitive statements, slurred speech, disorientation, lack of coordination, anxiety or agitation, difficulty walking or standing up, and blank or glassy stares.
If these physical signs of alcoholism are present, it is time to seek professional help.
Short-term Effects of Alcoholism
Once a person develops alcoholism, he or she can suffer from the following short-term effects:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Impaired judgment
- Distorted hearing and vision
Long-term Effects of Alcoholism
Alcoholism also has long-term effects; it includes:
- Permanent brain damage
- Anxiety disorders
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Hand tremors
- Neurological impairment
- Chronic pancreatitis
- High blood pressure
- Sexual problems
- Compromised immune system
- Vitamin B1 deficiency
- Nerve damage
- Cancer of the throat or mouth
- Alcohol poisoning
- Intentional injuries like sexual assault, firearm injuries, and domestic violence
- Unintentional injuries like falls, car crashes, drowning, and burns
Alcoholism Non-medical Effects
Alcoholism can also have non-medical effects on a person. These are:
- Financial problems
- Legal issues
- Relationship problems with friends, family, and significant others
- Feeling shame or guilt about drinking and actions while drunk
- Drinking alone
- Needing alcohol to feel better or relax
- Issues at work like absenteeism, tardiness, and reduce productivity
- Inability to limit alcohol consumption
- Making excuses to drink
- Memory lapses
- Continuing to drink alcohol even it results in economic, social, or legal problems
- Cravings or obsessive thoughts about drinking alcohol
Effects of Alcoholism on Safety
Drinking too much alcohol can also reduce inhibitions and judgment skills. It can result in dangerous behaviours or situation and poor choices like:
- High risk of attempted or completed suicide
- Problems on relationships
- Vehicular accidents and other accidental injury types like drowning
- Problems with other substance
- Poor performance at school or work
- Legal, finance, or employment problems
- High likelihood of being a crime victim or committing violent crimes
- Engaging in unprotected, risky sex or experiencing date rape or sexual abuse
Periods of Alcoholism
Alcoholism can have symptoms of withdrawal and periods of alcohol intoxication.
Alcohol withdrawal happens if alcoholism has been prolonged and heavy and then significantly reduced or stopped. It can happen in several hours, about 4 to 5 days later.
In the period of withdrawal, an individual can suffer from signs and symptoms.
These include rapid heartbeat, sweating, restlessness and agitation, hallucinations, occasional seizures, anxiety, vomiting, nausea, hand tremors, and difficulty sleeping.
The symptoms can worsen if it affects the person’s function at work or during social situations.
Alcohol intoxication can happen if the alcohol increases in the person's bloodstream.
There will be more impairment if there's a higher alcohol concentration in the blood. In addition, it can lead to mental changes and behaviour problems.
The signs of alcohol intoxication include slurred speech, impaired judgment, inappropriate behaviour, poor coordination, and impaired memory or attention.
There are also instances when the person can experience ‘blackouts’ wherein they can’t remember events.
If there’s a very high concentration of alcohol in the blood, it can cause coma or even death.
Causes of Alcoholism
Environmental, social, psychological, and genetic factors can impact how alcoholism affects behaviour and body.
For example, drinking more amounts of alcohol can change the function of the brain areas associated with the experience of judgment, pleasure, and ability to control behaviour.
It can lead to alcohol cravings to attempt restoring good feelings and lowering negative ones.
What are the Risk Factors for Alcoholism?
Drinking alcohol can start during the teenage years, but alcoholism usually happens in the 20s and 30s.
However, it can begin at any age. The following are the risk factors for alcoholism.
Drinking at an early age
People who drink at an early age, especially binge drinking, have a higher risk of alcoholism.
Regularly drinking more alcohol can result in alcoholism and other alcohol-related problems.
History of trauma
A person with emotional and other types of trauma has a higher risk for alcoholism.
Depression and other mental health issues
Alcoholism can develop among people with mental health disorders like schizophrenia, depressions, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.
If an individual has a parent or relative who has problems with alcohol, they may also have the risk of alcoholism. Genetic factors can also influence it.
Cultural and social factors
A person who has a close partner or friends who drink more often can also have a higher risk for alcoholism.
In addition, young individuals, peers, parents, and other role models can affect the risk.
Having bariatric surgery
Research studies revealed that having bariatric surgery can also increase the risk of developing alcoholism.
In addition, it can also trigger relapsing after alcoholism recovery.
Impact of Alcoholism on Health
Too much drinking alcohol can have an impact on a person's health. These health problems may include the following:
People drinking alcohol heavily may suffer from oesophagal and stomach ulcers and stomach lining inflammation (gastritis).
It can also impede absorption like B vitamins and other nutrients.
Alcoholism can potentially damage the pancreas. In addition, it can result in pancreas inflammation (pancreatitis.)
Alcoholism can increase the fat in the liver (hepatic steatosis). It can also result in liver inflammation (alcoholic hepatitis) and scarring, and irreversible destruction of liver tissue (cirrhosis.)
Alcohol consumption may interfere with the glucose release from the liver. As a result, it can increase the risk for low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
It can be dangerous for diabetic people who take insulin to reduce blood sugar level.
Too much drinking of alcohol can result in high blood pressure. In addition, it can lead to an increased risk of stroke, heart failure, or an enlarged heart.
Even a single binge may lead to severe heart arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation.
Alcoholism can also cause eye problems. It can lead to paralysis or weakness of the eye muscle because of vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency.
In addition, heavy drinking can result in involuntary rapid eye movement (nystagmus).
Menstruation and sexual function problems
Excess consumption of alcohol can cause erectile dysfunction among men. It may also interrupt menstruation among women.
Excessive alcohol drinking can also affect new bone production. This bone loss can result in osteoporosis or thinning of bones. It also increases the risk of fractures.
Alcohol can damage the bone marrow that makes blood cells. With this, there will be a low platelet count that can lead to bleeding and bruising.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage.
In addition, it can develop fetal alcohol syndrome, which can lead to giving birth to a child who has developmental and physical problems which may last a lifetime.
Alcohol also affects a person’s nervous system, leading to pain and numbness of hands and feet, short-term memory loss, dementia and disordered thinking.
Medication and alcohol interactions
Medications may interact with alcohol and increase its toxic effects. People who drink while taking medication can reduce or increase their dangerous effectiveness.
Weakened immune system
Too much drinking of alcohol can make it difficult for the body to resist disease. It can increase the risk of different illnesses like pneumonia.
High risk of cancer
Consumption of alcohol in the long term is associated with a higher risk of cancers like throat, mouth, oesophagus, liver, breast and colon cancers.
Additionally, moderate drinking can also increase the risk of breast cancer development.
Prevention of Alcoholism
Prevention of alcoholism is important if an individual doesn't want to develop an addiction. It is also helpful to avoid the harmful effects of alcohol dependence.
Preventing alcoholism is important to determine the signs and symptoms of having a problem with alcohol.
These signs and symptoms include:
- Slurred speech, red eyes, memory lapses, and coordination problems
- Loss of interest in personal appearance, hobbies, and other activities
- Defensive behaviour and frequent mood changes
- Having problems in school or declining grades
- Changes or difficulties in relationships with friends like joining a new crowd
Other people can help teens to avoid alcoholism through the following:
- Openly discussing with their child and spending quality time together
- Setting a good example for alcohol use
- Letting them know the consequences if he or she doesn’t follow rules
Treatment for Alcoholism
Alcoholism can have many adverse effects on an individual. It can impact different aspects of one's life. With that, treatment is needed.
The first step for alcoholism treatment is detox. It is the situation wherein the individual tries to get alcohol out of his or her system. This stage can be severe or mildly annoying.
Some symptoms of early withdrawal include anxiety, headaches, nausea, shaking, and irritability.
Other symptoms of withdrawal also include:
- Muscle cramps
- Alcohol cravings
- Impaired gait
- Low-grade fever
- Palpitations or rapid heart rate
- Mood changes
- Poor dexterity with hands
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Slurred speech
Additional symptoms can also be experienced several hours up to a few days after quitting alcohol use. These include:
- Autonomic hyperactivity
- Grand mal seizures
- Increased hand tremor
- Vomiting or nausea
- Psychomotor agitation
- Transient illusions or hallucinations
Delirium Tremens (DTs)
Delirium Tremens is the most several types of alcohol withdrawal. It is described as altered mental status and severe autonomic hyperactivity, which can cause cardiovascular collapse.
DTS is a medical emergency since it comes with high mortality. Some of its symptoms include hypertension, body tremors, severe agitation, or anxiety.
It also includes fever, tachycardia, seizure, hallucinations, disorientation, and diaphoresis (excessive sweating).
Family, friends, and support groups
One way to treat alcoholism is by joining support groups that support alcohol dependence recovery.
Support from family and friends can also help a person who is trying to quit drinking alcohol.
Medications are also among the best ways for treating alcoholism. Professional doctors can recommend medication to suppress alcohol dependence.
Schedule an appointment with our Abbeycare doctors to discuss your alcoholism condition and the appropriate medication for it.
We have clinics located in Gloucester and Scotland, or you may call us directly on 01603 513 091.
Change in lifestyle
Lifestyle change is also helpful for alcoholism recovery. For example, practising discipline and controlling alcohol intake can make an individual stay sober and healthy.
Signs of alcoholism include drinking alcohol in larger amounts frequently and neglecting responsibilities at home, work, or school due to alcohol use and more.
It is important to diagnose alcoholism to engage with early and effective treatment.
How does the above change your outlook on one element of recovering from addiction? Is it helpful? Give your thoughts in the comment section below.