There are more than 23 million Americans trying to recover from past alcohol and drug addiction problems (1). These people have either left their addiction behind, or are still battling alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol addiction is dangerous and often life-changing, and affects people from all walks of life. With millions of Americans affected every year, the dangers of alcohol clearly aren’t being communicated well enough to encourage people to curtail their drinking before it becomes problematic.
Alcoholism is defined as somebody who has more than 15 drinks a week on a regular basis. People can still exhibit alcoholic behaviors if they drink smaller amounts, however, and alcohol abuse can always grow into an alcohol addiction.
How do people develop an alcohol addiction?
As well as the signs of alcoholism, it is worth looking out for behaviors that may explain why somebody is turning to drink in the first place. Low mood, being unable to relax, being stressed or anxious, and being irritable can all be signs of alcoholism. Many alcoholics started drinking to avoid or cope with a certain problem. Whether your friend or loved one regularly goes out binge drinking with their friends, or always seems to have a drink nearby when they are at home, there are signs that the drinking is turned into alcohol abuse.
The major signs of alcoholism is if a person develops a tolerance to drinking. Whether they drink rum, vodka, beer, whisky, or wine, if you notice that a person’s drinking has increased, this is a sign that they are no longer getting the same buzz as they used to. The more the tolerance to alcohol strengthens, the heavier the drinking will become. This is alcohol abuse which, while different to alcohol addiction, can often be a symptom of it. Other signs of alcoholism:
Neglecting or avoiding responsibilities due to being drunk or hung over. This could include failing to pick up the kids from school, or regularly calling in sick for work because of a hangover.
Continued drinking even if it is causing tension. Perhaps you’ve already mentioned that you are concerned about your spouse’s drinking to them. If they continue to drink, despite knowing that it will cause arguments and upset, this could be a sign that they are addicted to alcohol.
Dangerous drinking. For example, is your friend or loved one drinking even though they are prescribed medication which must not mix with alcohol?
Getting into legal trouble because of their drinking. Has the person in question ever driven whilst drunk, or been arrested for an alcohol-related offence?
Exhibiting alcohol withdrawal symptoms when there is no drink in the house. Does the person become angry, anxious, irritable, depressed, or physically ill if they have not had a drink?
Underestimating their drinking, or shifting the blame. Alcoholics often believe that friends and family are simply exaggerating the extent of their drinking, play down alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and deny the need for alcohol abuse treatment (2).
Getting alcohol abuse treatment for a friend or loved one
If you believe a friend or relative needs alcohol abuse treatment, call Steps to Recovery today for free advice and support. You cannot force them to undergo treatment or enter into alcohol addiction rehab, but there are ways you can impress upon them the severity of their drinking problem. One such way could be to stage an intervention – which we can help you with – that will allow you to convince the alcoholic of the damage they are doing to themselves and their lives. Once they have admitted the need for treatment, there are inpatient, outpatient, and partial hospitalization programs available. We can help them battle their alcohol withdrawal symptoms and give them all the support they need to become, and stay, sober.
Image Credit: By Nik Frey (niksan) [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons