Cravings, impaired control, alcohol tolerance, and alcohol withdrawal symptoms are the four primary symptoms of alcoholism.
Defined by the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) as alcohol use disorder (AUD), the medical condition affects approximately 14.1 million individuals across the globe .
Signs And Symptoms Of Alcoholism
Symptom 1: Cravings
The first symptom of alcoholism is an increased and intense compulsion to drink alcohol .
Cravings are also expressed as a mental preoccupation with acquiring alcohol for consumption, e.g. obsessing about alcohol, and how or when the next drink will be acquired.
This symptom of alcoholism was added to the most updated version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in 2013, and has since become one of the chief criteria for alcohol use disorder .
Alcohol cravings are caused by:
Symptom 2: Impaired Control
Loss of control is the second leading symptom of alcoholism .
Loss of control is characterised by:
Symptom 3: Alcohol Tolerance
Alcohol tolerance is defined by the need to increase alcohol intake to achieve the desired physical and psychological effect--or the same effect alcohol once provided .
Alcohol tolerance occurs not only from excessive drinking but also because of the physical changes alcohol abuse triggers .
These alterations are separated into two categories: Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic.
Pharmacokinetic alcohol tolerance refers to alterations that occur on the enzymatic level and lead to accelerated alcohol clearance.
Pharmacodynamic alcohol tolerance involves the physiological adaptation to alcohol: The more alcohol that is consumed, the more the body becomes reliant on it to function.
If interventions are not made at this point in the progression of alcohol use disorder, this reliance on alcohol leads to alcohol dependence--a precursor to the final primary symptom of substance abuse, alcohol withdrawal symptoms .
Symptom 4: Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms arrive after the cessation--or significant reduction--of alcohol consumption .
Alcohol affects nearly every vital organ in the body, from the brain to the heart.
Accordingly, experiencing withdrawal symptoms is unpleasant and distressing--and felt on mental, physical, and psychological levels.
The severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms runs the gamut from mild to severe:
Additional Warning Signs Of Alcoholism
Additional symptoms of harmful drinking outside of the four primary symptoms identified above include:
Consequences Of Symptoms Of Alcohol Abuse
If alcohol addiction is not treated, it has the potential to result in several health problems:
Risk Factors For Experiencing The 4 Symptoms Of An Alcohol Problem
There's a higher risk of alcohol addiction among those who have a genetic predisposition to problem drinking, such as a parent or a close relative with alcohol use disorder.
In fact, genetics increase the risk of substance use disorder by 60%.
Additional risk factors include:
Secondary risk factors for alcohol use disorder include chronic high stress, low self-esteem, and living in an environment where heavy drinking is the norm.
How Are The 4 Symptoms Of Alcoholism Assessed?
A medical professional will use a criteria scale and specialist tests to determine the level of alcohol use disorder: