Any kind of addiction may not be obvious in plain sight. If you suspect a loved one suffering from alcohol addiction, here are some possible signs to look out for.
What are some obvious alcohol drinking behaviors?
Alcoholism is a progressive type of addiction. This is seen through certain behaviors in an individual, with both factors from genetics and environmental upbringing. An example of which is seen with those people who engage in compulsive drinking. People who are seen to have more instances of compulsive drinking are more prone to suffering from alcoholism.
When there is an increased use of alcohol, a person’s tolerance goes higher, making them dependent on the substance. These effects can bring physical and psychological differences in a person, and may even affect the person’s loved ones. Some physical problems include cardiovascular issues and weight gain, while psychological effects include mental health disorders.
It is possible that the problem may be purposefully hidden by the people suffering from addiction. Otherwise, there are obvious signs such as excessive drinking, changes in personality, and irrational behaviors that were previously not seen. When these signs start to develop, it is possible that alcoholism has taken over for quite some time.
Many researchers have studied alcoholic behaviors throughout the years and they have discovered a phenomenon called tipping point. The tipping point is defined as a part of the timeline where a previously functioning alcoholic may progress into a full-blown individual suffering from an alcohol addiction. The tipping point may take months or even years to progress, and usually it is in a situation where a person cannot live a functional life anymore.
There is a fine line between social drinking and alcoholic addiction. People who want to help can be sensitive to the signs of a full-blown alcoholism issue with their loved ones.
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What is alcoholism?
If you are related or friends with an alcoholic, you may notice changes with their health, appearance, or personality. Some of these obvious behaviors include the amount of alcoholic beverages that they are drinking, as well as the schedules where they indulge in this habit.
Some individuals would engage in binge drinking, alcohol abuse, or heavy drinking during social functions. There is, however, a standard guideline where you may suspect if your loved one is going over the limit of normal drinking habits.
Women who drink more than seven alcoholic beverages per week may indicate a growing addiction. Men who drink more than fourteen drinks per week can denote a problem as well. Binge drinking behaviors can be defined as those who take in four drinks within a 2-hour time frame for women, and five drinks within the same timeline for men. Those who engage in heavy alcohol drinking are people who have binge drinking episodes for more than five times within a month.
Although this criteria is not yet specifically met, loved ones should be wary for watching out for the signs to prevent full-blown alcoholism. This helps in the increased chances for recovery and prevention of long-term physical and psychological effects of alcohol addiction.
Medical professionals make use of a guide called DSM-V and DSM-IV which provides a comprehensive list of notable behaviors in alcoholism. When a certain number of criteria is met, this helps professionals arrive at a specific diagnosis.
Initial signs of an alcohol addiction
Some individuals get sucked into alcoholism when they tend to drink more than their usual in order to feel less stressed or to cope with things going on in their lives. Thus, alcoholics can tolerate larger doses of beverages due to this chronic progression. Those who develop an addiction have to drink more in order to achieve the same sensation, which eventually builds up to binge drinking or heavy drinking.
In some instances, these doses can even reach a point where the body cannot tolerate the amount of alcohol, leading to alcohol poisoning. Tolerance happens when the body processes alcohol as the liver makes an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase. When people consume more alcohol, this enzyme continually increases, making the alcohol’s effect less in the body. Thus, the typical response of the individual is to consume more in order to achieve the same degree of relaxation provided by the beverage.
Here are some possible effects of increased tolerance to alcohol:
- People who can tolerate more alcoholic beverages may be led to consume more.
- Increased tolerance may cause problems in the body, especially the liver.
- Alcoholic tolerance may also affect a person’s concentration level and mental function.
- It also paves the way to alcohol dependency when continued.
- May cause toxicity or countereffect when taken alongside with medications.
- It may pose a risk for alcoholism.
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Secondary signs of alcohol addiction
After the tolerance build-up, the second stage may come for those who start to depend on alcohol. Those who try to stop or lessen their intake may experience withdrawal symptoms. This includes physical, mental, and emotional state changes. Many people who are developing an alcohol dependency would drink in the morning to prevent uncontrollable body tremors.
The second sign of alcohol addiction comes when the person finds it hard to function without alcohol already. This is because of the constant increased tolerance which altered the chemistry of the body and the brain. Additionally, the creation of hormones such as serotonin and dopamine, which brings feelings of joy and relaxation may also become dependent on the alcohol intake.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms that you have to look out for are:
- Increased anxiety and agitation
- Body tremors caused by the brain’s dependency on drinking
- Vomiting, nausea, weakness, muscle pains, fever, and other flu-like symptoms
- Depression and inability to focus on daily tasks
Withdrawal symptoms can vary from one person to another. Some withdrawal symptoms can even be deadly, such as the delirium tremens. Delirium tremens happens to 5% of people suffering from alcohol withdrawal. It is marked by uncontrollable tremors, convulsions and confusion. When left untreated, it can cause coma and eventually death. Alcoholics are not advised to self-treat especially if withdrawal symptoms are already detected. Professional detox programs or seeking medical help is advised to prevent fatal complications.
Other issues related to alcoholism
Making excuses for alcoholic habits
One of the most difficult issues that alcoholics face that hinder them from getting help is the denial of a problem. Many of them would make excuses for their behavior, thinking that it doesn’t pose a health risk towards them. In some instances, they may cover-up their behavior, saying that it’s only a small drink, when in fact they have already consumed large amounts of beverages. They would also commonly have the mindset that they are not hurting anybody else with what they are doing.
Hiding alcohol in certain places
Aside from blatant denial or ignoring the problem, some alcoholics would tend to make a big cover-up. Some loved ones would discover alcohol hidden in certain places such as closets, under the bed, and even unexpected crevices in the house. This is part of the denial, which indicates that those suffering from alcoholism do not want to face the issue and feel ashamed about their habits.
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Defensive behaviors of alcoholics
Family members and concerned friends may try to bring up the drinking problem in an attempt for the alcoholic to face the issue. However, this may be met with defensive tactics such as anger, dismissal, changing the topic, or shifting the blame. When a person is not yet ready to face the problem, they may tend to be defensive by using statements that help them deflect the confrontation.
Other potential issues that may arise from continued alcoholism include:
- Loss of driver’s license and other issues with law enforcement due to drunk driving
- Relationship problems due to personality and health changes
- Divorce due to resistance to change of habits
- Possible jail sentence caused by violence or aggression under the influence of alcohol
- Financial problems due to lack of responsiblity on one’s job and constant purchase of alcoholic drinks
- Health complications such as liver and cardiovascular diseases
- Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts
How to get professional help
When you are a loved one is suffering from signs of alcohol abuse or alcoholism, know that you are not alone. Alcoholism is one of the most common types of addiction that can be treated through professional help.
It is important to have a medical detox for alcoholism to prevent health complications that may cost someone’s life. Do not attempt to self-treat as this may cause unexpected setbacks especially if the person already has signs of a full-blown addiction.
Aside from medical detox, professional counseling and support groups are also provided to help the individual recover from alcoholism. We offer a comprehensive, client-centered program that caters to individual needs. Alcohol addiction does not have to be a lifelong problem. It doesn’t have to hurt relationships or destroy lives. With the right treatment options, people who want to get help can eventually succeed.
We are ready to answer any questions and feel free to reach out to us so you can get the help you need.