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What Are the Symptoms of Alcoholism?

a man asks his friend about the symptoms of alcoholism

Alcoholism is a term previously used to refer to someone with alcohol use issues, specifically physical dependence on alcohol. While the blanket term is no longer used medically, many people struggle with some form of an alcohol use disorder, including alcoholism, which is now called alcohol dependence. In fact, alcohol is the most used substance in the United States, with approximately 18 million U.S. adults struggling with alcohol use, addiction, or dependence. Knowing the symptoms of alcoholism and when to seek help is critical if you are worried about how much you or someone you love is drinking. To find alcohol addiction treatment, please contact Vertava Health today at 888.601.8693.

Symptoms of Alcoholism

Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, is now viewed on a spectrum, with disorders ranging from mild to moderate or severe.

Symptoms of an alcohol use disorder (alcoholism) include:

  • Being unable to limit alcohol use or use
  • A lack of interest in social activities or hobbies which used to interest the person
  • Wanting to stop drinking but being unable to do so successfully
  • Drinking alcohol while doing high-risk activities, like driving
  • Spending a lot of time or resources drinking
  • Developing a tolerance or no longer feeling the effects of alcohol unless consuming a large amount
  • Experiencing cravings when not drinking or attempting to stop
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking or trying to stop
  • Disruptions at school, work, or home due to alcohol use
  • Drinking to curb withdrawal symptoms
  • Continuing to drink alcohol even when facing negative consequences, like trouble in relationships

Not everyone with an alcohol use disorder will display all of these symptoms. However, a person who exhibits two or more of these symptoms during the same 12-month period is considered to have an alcohol use disorder.

What Is Alcoholism? Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder

When someone is discussing alcohol use, they may use several key terms, such as alcohol use, alcohol addiction, and alcohol dependence. The use of alcohol can occur in a number of ways, the two most common of which is binge drinking and heavy alcohol use. Knowing what each of these terms means can become critical when discussing the topic with your loved ones.

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that results in a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 g/dL. Though there is no set rate for this BAC to be reached, it typically occurs with four drinks for women and five for men in about two hours. People who binge drink may have an alcohol use disorder if they have binge drank at least one day per month in a 12-month period.

Heavy Alcohol Use

A person may struggle with heavy alcohol use if they binge drink at least five days a month. Someone with a heavy alcohol use disorder may drink heavily several days a month for several consecutive months.

Alcohol use, such as binge or heavy drinking, puts a person at an increased risk of developing alcohol addiction or dependence.

Alcohol Addiction

A person with an addiction to alcohol becomes mentally reliant on it. They may become preoccupied with drinking alcohol, begin experiencing cravings for it or believe they cannot feel good or happy without it. Some people become addicted to alcohol after first using it to self-medicate certain feelings or conditions, like anxiety or depression.

Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol is one of the few substances that can also cause physical dependence. When a person drinks alcohol, it causes a chemical reaction within the brain while producing feelings of calm and relaxation. With continued use, a body gets used to these feelings, so much so that the body and brain adjust to having alcohol to produce feelings of happiness.

Once the body is used to having alcohol to feel happy, the brain will convince the person they cannot feel good without it. At this point, withdrawal symptoms occur, such as tremors, headaches, nausea, and vomiting, if a person tries to stop drinking alcohol. Withdrawal is what often causes a person to keep drinking in order to abate or avoid the symptoms.

Effects of Alcoholism on the Brain and Body

Alcohol affects the brain and body in many ways. Whether a person drinks a lot on one occasion, on multiple occasions, or long-term, the effects of alcohol can be far-reaching.

The more a person drinks and the longer they struggle with alcohol use, the more at risk they become for adverse effects. However, research shows that even moderate drinking done over a long period of time can have consequences on a person’s health.

Short-Term Effects Of Alcoholism

Short-term effects of alcohol use may put a person at risk for harmful behaviors due to the effects produced by alcohol and worsen pre-existing health conditions.

The effects of alcoholism may include:

  • Injuries or accidents due to drinking and engaging in high-risk activities like swimming, driving, or working with fire
  • Violent activities or outbursts, such as physical fights with a partner
  • Committing a violent crime or act, such as homicide, suicide, or sexual assault
  • Engaging in the risky sexual behavior, like unprotected sex, which puts a person at risk for contracting sexually transmitted or communicable diseases
  • Miscarriage, stillbirth, or other birth and developmental defects for children born to pregnant women who drink alcohol

Not every person who uses alcohol will experience these effects. Alcohol affects each person differently depending on a number of factors. These factors include how much and how often they drink, how fast their body metabolizes alcohol, if they have eaten at the time they drank, body fat percent, and if the person has developed a tolerance to alcohol.

Why Should You Consider Alcohol Addiction Treatment?

If you are struggling with symptoms of alcohol addiction or dependence, it is important to consider professional help. Alcoholism is a serious disorder that can lead to a number of negative consequences, including:

  • Job loss
  • Financial instability
  • Legal problems
  • Relationship issues
  • Health problems

Treatment for alcoholism may include detoxification, behavioral therapy, and medication. Detox is the process of allowing the body to rid itself of alcohol. This can be done in a medical setting to ensure safety and comfort. Behavioral therapy can help a person change their thinking and behaviors related to alcohol use. Medication may also be prescribed to help with symptoms of withdrawal or to reduce cravings.

Seek Treatment at Vertava Health

If you are struggling with alcoholism, please know that you are not alone and there is help available. Vertava Health offers individualized treatment programs that are designed to meet your unique needs. We understand that addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease and our goal is to help you achieve long-term recovery. To learn more about our treatment options for alcoholism, please contact Vertava Health today at 888.601.8693.