What Are The 4 Symptoms Of Alcoholism?

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Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence, is among the addiction problems of some individuals today. Although alcohol is a legal drug, it can possess a high risk of addiction, especially for regularly drinking alcohol.

In general, alcoholism can cause harmful effects on the overall health of a person. Alcohol dependence comes in 4 symptoms. These include craving, loss of control, physical dependence, and tolerance.             

If alcoholism occurs, it is essential to know first its symptoms.

4 Symptoms of Alcoholism

Craving 

The individual can have a compulsion or strong need to drink alcohol.

Loss of control 

With this symptom, one doesn’t have control to limit drinking on any occasion.

Physical dependence 

It includes withdrawal symptoms like sweating, nausea, anxiety, and shakiness. It can happen if alcohol consumption is stopped after a time of heavy drinking.

Unfortunately, severe dependence can result in life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. It may include convulsions of about 8 to 12 hours after the last drink.

DT or delirium tremens may start 3 to 4 days later wherein one becomes highly agitated, hallucinates, shakes, and loses touch with reality.

Tolerance 

With tolerance symptoms, the person needs to drink more alcohol amounts to get high.

A heavy alcohol drinker usually says he could stop if he chooses but never chooses to take action.

In addition to the symptoms above, the following are other symptoms of alcoholism.

Other Symptoms of Alcoholism

The symptoms of alcoholism are based on the physical outcomes and behaviour that may happen due to alcohol dependence.

A person with alcohol dependence may engage in these behaviours:

  • Eating less or poorly, or not eating
  • Drinking alone
  • Makes excuses to drink
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Drink lots of amount of alcohol to feel its effects ( having a high tolerance)
  • Becoming angry or violent if asked regarding their drinking habits
  • Missing school or work due to drinking
  • Inability to control alcohol consumption
  • Giving up occupational, social, or recreational activities due to alcohol use

Individuals who have alcoholism can experience physical symptoms like:

  • Tremors ( involuntary shaking) the morning after consuming alcohol
  • Memory lapses (blacking out) after a night of drinking
  • Alcohol cravings
  • Withdrawal symptoms if not drinking like nausea, shaking, and vomiting
  • Illnesses like cirrhosis or alcoholic ketoacidosis ( dehydration-type symptoms)

Alcoholism Defined

Alcohol may impact individuals in various ways. Some can enjoy a glass of wine with food and drink moderate alcohol amount in social situations without having problems.

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention stated that one or fewer drinks daily for women and two or fewer drinks daily for men is moderate drinking.  

Meanwhile, drinking too much alcohol or more often or inability to control alcohol intake can be a sign of a bigger problem. It can lead to alcoholism which is also called alcohol dependency.

Alcoholism means that an individual needs alcohol to get through on their day.

If not given immediate attention, it can lead to more severe illnesses. Alcoholism can also make some disorders worse, like osteoporosis. Alcohol intake can also result in cancers.

Additionally, alcoholism can also make it hard to diagnose other health problems like heart disease. But, again, it is because of the way alcohol impacts the circulatory system.

As such, individuals with alcohol dependence symptoms would require residential treatment for alcoholism.

This will help doctors identify any illness they have due to alcohol, and more importantly, help them overcome their addiction.

What happens if there’s a high alcohol concentration in the blood? 

If there’s a high concentration level of alcohol in the blood, it can cause symptoms like:

  • Poor concentration
  • Slurred speech
  • Risky behaviour
  • Slowing of reflexes
  • Brownouts or memory gaps
  • Reduced ability in controlling bodily movements
  • Poor decision-making abilities
  • Remains conscious but not having memory of an action, known as blackout
  • The very high alcohol concentration in the blood can lead to coma, breathing problems, or death.

A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent or higher is a sign of an alcohol overdose when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream . 

Potential Risks of Alcohol

Some people consume alcohol without ill effects. However, anyone can suffer from effects like vomiting, illness, or hangovers.

Alcohol consumption can also result in falls, accidents, fighting, drowning, and even suicide. Therefore, people who drink alcohol are not advised to operate heavy machinery or to drive.

Individuals with alcoholism can be high at risk for health problems like liver problems, cancer, brain damage, mental health problems, and weakened immune system.

Alcoholism can have long-term and short-term effects including cirrhosis, and sexual dysfunction.

Who is at risk for alcoholism?

Alcoholism can result from social or psychological factors. Some drink to loosen up in a social situation.

Some drink alcohol to cope up with stress with their daily lifestyle or psychological issues.

Those who suffer from serious trauma or life events are more likely to develop alcoholism. People who experience depression, emotional stress, loneliness, and boredom deal with their problems by drinking alcohol.

Diagnosing alcoholism blood test results

Some conditions to diagnose alcoholism is when they:

  • Cause injury or harm
  • Affect relationships
  • Have a negative effect on the quality of life

The best way to diagnose alcoholism is a blood test with the help of a professional doctor.

Alcoholism blood test results assess general health and pay attention to body areas affected by alcohol, like the brain, liver, heart, and other nervous system parts.

There is also another way to recognize alcoholism. You can use the CAGE tool. It is a questionnaire that can measure the severity of alcoholism dependency.

If CAGE questions have two or more “yes,” it is best to seek medical assistance from the experts.

4 CAGE screening questions:

  1.  Have you ever feel you need to cut down on your drinking?
  2.  Have you felt guilty or bad about your drinking?
  3.  Have others annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  4.  Have you ever had a drink early in the morning to get over a hangover or to steady your nerves?

Usually, medical specialists also ask questions from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to diagnose alcoholism properly.

These questions include the following:

  • Have you lost interest in other hobbies and activities since you began drinking?
  • Have you continued to drink even it makes you feel anxious, depressed, or adding to another health problem?
  • Have you experienced symptoms related to alcohol withdrawal?
  • Have there been situations where you ended up drinking more than you intended?
  • Have you felt a craving or urge to consume alcohol?
  • Have you gotten to situations while drinking that increase your chances of harming others or yourself? (driving and drinking)
  • Have you been in trouble with the law because of alcohol-related problems?

Why do people drink alcohol?

More people, including teens, begin to consume alcohol. However, adolescents' brains are still developing, so teens' drinking behaviour can vary from adult patterns.

Some adolescents who engage in underage drinking don’t know about the long-lasting complications of drinking alcohol.

They can drink alcohol for different reasons like wanting to have fun, experiment, or peer pressure.

Fitting in

It is a fact that some people, especially in their teenage years, lack confidence.

They want to fit in with their peers. So they may drink alcohol to feel accepted. It can give them confidence when they're with their friends. It can also lower social jitters.

Experimenting 

Since there are commercials about drinking alcohol, some teens think that alcohol consumption is acceptable. They may think that it can help them win more friends.

Escaping from reality 

Another reason why people drink is that they like to escape from reality. It is a way of coping with their problems and other stressful situations.

It helps a person relax and unwind from difficulties they face at family, school, work, and friends.

But, unfortunately, drinking alcohol can also make them happy, so they continue it until it becomes a hard-to-break habit.

How is alcoholism treated?

Treating alcoholism is essential to avoid the negative effects of alcohol consumption.

In addition, those who recover from alcoholism can abstain from alcohol since alcohol intake in moderation can be difficult for them.

Abstinence is a good way to manage the disease. In addition, some treatment for alcoholism includes helping alcoholics understand their life problems and dependency on alcohol.

Alcoholism treatment also includes a commitment to practising healthy drinking habits and staying sober. Alcohol dependence recovery may be a long process.

It also needs to learn effective skills, therapy and develop a healthy way of stress management to treat alcoholism.

Support Groups 

Professional treatment and support groups are also helpful for those who suffer from alcoholism. It can boost their chance for alcohol dependence recovery.

An example of a support group is Alcoholics Anonymous. They support individuals who recover from alcoholism.

Medication 

Another alcoholism treatment is medication. Sometimes, health professionals prescribe medications to decrease withdrawal symptoms.

Some medications help alcoholics quit drinking alcohol by blocking the feeling of intoxication or making them feel sick when alcohol enters the body. Medication is also effective in reducing cravings.

Risk Factors for Alcoholism

Even though the exact cause of alcoholism is unknown, there are some risk factors for developing the disease.

Top risk factors are:

  • A parent that has alcohol use disorder 
  • Consuming more than 15 drinks weekly among males
  • Consuming more than 12 drinks weekly among females
  • Drinking more than five drinks daily at least once a week (binge drinking)
  • A mental health condition like schizophrenia, anxiety or depression

Other risk factors include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Live in a culture or family where alcohol use is common and accepted
  • Young adults who experience peer pressure
  • Suffering from high stress levels
What are the Stages of Alcoholism

What are the Stages of Alcoholism?

To determine if an individual develops alcoholism, it is also important to know the different stages of alcoholism.

Stage 1 - The Pre-Alcoholic

In this stage, their evidence of a problem with drinking alcohol. The drinking habit is mainly social at the start of this phase.

If the Pre-Alcoholic stage progresses, there is a tendency that the drinking will continue as a way of reducing stress.

The physiological characteristic for this stage is when the person forms a tolerance for alcohol. It means that he or she can drink more while still functioning.

A person can be in the Pre-Alcoholic stage if he or she drinks alcohol to forget hurtful memories, reduce anxiety or prevent worrying.

Stage 2 - Early Alcoholic

People who experience their first alcohol-related blackout can be in this stage.

It is best described as the growing discomfort of drinking alcohol while having the inability to control consumption.

The alcohol tolerance in this stage continues to develop. A person can also be obsessed with alcohol thoughts.

Stage 3 - Middle Alcoholic

In this stage, the person's alcoholism symptoms can be obvious to family members and friends. In addition, the individual may miss social or work obligations due to hangovers or drinking.

People in this stage drink during inappropriate times like driving, while taking care of children or at work. The alcoholic can also be irritable. Some changes may occur in the Middle Alcoholic stage.

It may include stomach bloating, facial redness, weight gain, sluggishness or weight loss.

With this phase, the person can attempt to join support groups and quit drinking. They can also prefer a detox program.

Step 4 - Late Alcoholic

In the Late Alcoholic stage, the person may suffer from long-term effects of alcohol. It can also lead to serious health issues.

If hallucinations or tremors occur, it is best to consult medical assistance. The late Alcoholic stage can be helped by detoxification, therapy and rehabilitation.

Fortunately, there is confidential help available for treating alcoholism.

Alcoholism can lead to serious problems in the different aspects of a person. With this, it needs immediate action for early treatment.

But, more importantly, it is also helpful to know the avoidance of alcoholism.

By preventing alcoholism, one can enjoy his or her life without developing the negative effects of alcoholism.

Conclusion

To sum it up, the four symptoms of alcoholism include craving, loss of control, physical dependence and tolerance.

Therefore, it is important to diagnose if an individual has alcoholism. With this, early diagnosis can be solved.

Alcohol addiction is difficult to break. Fortunately, there are solutions for it. It is never too late to change your life for the better. With the help of what we discussed above, you can have an idea of your recovery aftercare plan.

Additionally, you may visit our treatment centres at Abbeycare Scotland and Abbeycare Gloucester to learn more about the symptoms of alcoholism.

Our specialists would be very much willing to listen to you and provide you with the utmost assistance.

Do you find this post helpful for your alcoholism recovery? Share your ideas in the comment section below!


About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Pete has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. To read more about Pete visit his LinkedIn profile.