Alcohol Addiction: Definition, Common Signs & Options For Help

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Are you worried that somebody you love is partying a little too much? Maybe you’ve noticed that it takes more alcohol to feel the effects lately or that you have a few too many empty bottles in the trash.

Determining when alcohol use crosses the line into addiction isn’t always easy to notice.

You are not alone! Alcoholism is one of the most common types of addictions, and some people are excellent at hiding it.

Fortunately, learning the basics of alcohol addiction empowers you to take control. Read on to find out about treatments and how you can support someone as they overcome alcohol addiction.

What Is an Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol dependency follows the basics of addiction in that it’s a chronic disease that makes people compulsively drink alcohol. Even if they experience detrimental side effects, like hangovers, memory loss, and vomiting, addicts keep chasing the high of the loose, out-of-control sensation that can accompany an alcoholic drink.

Do Alcohol Addiction Urges Go Away?

Alcohol addiction urges may never go away, depending on the severity of the dependence. People who drink a lot of alcohol for many years will have more trouble giving up something that they’ve physically and mentally depended on for so long.

Attending addiction therapy with a professional can help people understand the reason behind their addiction and find healthy ways to avoid alcohol and move ahead.

Forms of Alcohol Addiction

There are different types of alcohol addiction. Understanding the types and how they present can help you identify a problem in yourself or others.

  • Functional Alcoholic: A functional alcoholic depends on alcohol to get through the day or reward themselves. They may drink a lot, but they still go to work and handle their responsibilities.
  • Closet Alcoholic: A closet alcoholic sneaks alcohol into every beverage instead of being obvious about pouring a drink or having a beer. They want to hide their alcohol dependency.
  • Social Alcoholic: Social alcoholics may only drink when they’re out with others, but they depend on alcohol to make them feel more comfortable and fun in public.
  • Severe Alcoholic: A severe alcoholic has a heavy dependence on alcohol and drinks any chance they can. They often drink to cope with life, though their addiction leads to more problems than a drink can alleviate.

Alcohol Addiction Statistics

While understanding alcohol addiction helps you see the danger of this condition, statistics hit home the concept that this dependency is detrimental to your health and well-being.

  • More than 11% of adults have alcohol addiction issues, but less than 10% of them seek professional help.
  • Underage drinking remains a problem with 70% of teens reporting that they’ve had at least one alcoholic drink before their 18th birthdays.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that over 140,000 people in the United States die from excessive alcohol use annually.
  • A study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 9.8% of pregnant women consumed alcohol while pregnant because they couldn’t stop.
  • An average of 40 to 60% of people relapse when they attempt to recover. However, 25% of people who complete rehab successfully cut their alcohol intake after release, showing that addiction support groups work.

What Are the Signs of an Alcohol Addiction?

Compared to drugs, alcohol is relatively easy to access, more affordable, and socially acceptable, so you might not recognize when it becomes a problem. Try watching for these signs of alcohol addiction in yourself or your loved ones.

Memory Loss

When you drink, the alcohol prevents your brain from saving new memories. You might wake up after a night of drinking and only remember certain blips of time from your intoxicated period.

Some people drink so much that they black out. Instead of allowing the brain to transfer memories from short-term storage to long-term, they’re forgotten completely. In addition to memory loss, drinking heavily five or more days in a month can cause drastic brain damage.

Mood Swings

Alcohol can cause people to lose control of their emotions, meaning they might react to a neutral statement with extreme anger. The overreaction could lead to a physical fight or they might burst into tears for no clear reason, simply because they don’t have the ability to think rationally and adjust their emotions to suit the occasion.

It’s possible to start drinking to unwind and feel pleasantly relaxed before experiencing a drastic mood swing with your next drink. Intoxicated people can plummet from highs to lows within one night, which isn’t emotionally healthy for them or anyone around them.

Making Excuses

People overly dependent on alcohol will make excuses to drink at any time, like relieving stress after a long day or celebrating a good day. They could even make the excuse that they just need a drink to feel normal after something happens.

If you or a loved one seem like drinking is a central focus of any gathering, you might have an addiction. Try to get together with friends or go out without ordering a drink and making excuses. If you can’t, you can get help for your dependency.

Drinking Alone

While some people make excuses to go out drinking, others do it in secrecy. They hide alcohol around the house or in their office and take sips to get through the day. Even if you start drinking in social situations to feel more at ease, it can quickly progress to a crutch you need to feel good even when you’re alone.

Types of Unhealthy Alcohol Behavior

While these signs can imply someone is experiencing alcohol addiction, there are other unhealthy behaviors that can help you understand what’s happening.

People who drink to cope with life display an unhealthy dependency on alcohol. They might want to feel more excited about something fun or need to relax to get through a stressful situation, but coping isn’t a good reason to drink.

Another unhealthy alcohol behavior is drinking while still doing everyday tasks. For example, some people drink during lunch at work or even sneak sips from their desk. Others might go out for drinks and drive home after, which endangers them and everyone else on the road. The drinker, however, might not realize how intoxicated they are before driving.

What Is the Main Cause of Alcohol Addiction?

The concept of inheriting alcoholism is debated, though most studies find that children who grow up with alcoholic parents are more likely to become addicted. However, it’s unclear if the addiction happens due to genetics or because they have ready access to alcohol from their parents’ supply.

Since addiction is a chronic disease, it’s possible to inherit the gene from your parents. While the gene alone won’t cause addiction, it can contribute to the problem. Growing up with alcoholics also makes that addiction more likely to be a learned behavior, causing you to partake simply because it’s what you know.

Regardless of genetics, one main cause of alcohol addiction is stress. People who face trauma or struggle to get through their days appreciate how alcohol can help them unwind and forget their troubles, though it’s a temporary solution.

How Alcohol Addiction Affects the Brain

Alcohol interrupts the standard way your brain communicates with other body systems. When you drink, you might notice that you have trouble forming coherent thoughts. You might slur certain words or have trouble keeping your balance. These behaviors are direct results of alcohol.

What Is the Personality of an Alcohol Addict?

As you learned, there are different types of alcohol addicts. Some appear as normal functioning citizens, doing their jobs and caring for families without showing outward signs of dependence. Others might constantly talk about alcohol or sneak sips throughout the day.

Is Alcohol Addiction a Mental Health Issue?

Yes, alcohol addiction is a mental health issue categorized by the American Medical Association. It’s not the result of making bad choices or acting out with bad behavior, but rather a chronic brain disorder. Many people who become alcohol addicts also experience insecurity and impulsivity and drink to try and dull these sensations.

What Mental Illnesses Go Hand in Hand With Alcohol Addiction?

People can have various mental illnesses and try to cope by drinking alcohol. However, you might experience a few disorders due to your alcohol addiction.

  • Depression: People who drink too much may sleep poorly, wake up feeling sick, and have trouble enjoying life without a drink in their hands. Alcohol abuse can cause depression, which leads to more alcohol consumption in a vicious cycle.
  • Anxiety: Some people drink alcohol as a way to unwind and put their anxiety at ease. Since alcohol dulls emotions and brain activity, they may feel more anxious when they can’t drink.
  • Antisocial Behavior: Alcohol addicts may isolate themselves from others because they want to drink in peace or don’t trust themselves to react appropriately. They may know others don’t approve of their drinking and avoid them.
  • Mood Disorders: Alcohol changes the way people react, so a neutral situation might cause an addict to react with anger or tears when it’s not an appropriate response. It’s easier to lose control of their emotions with or without alcohol, based on the severity of their addiction.

How Do I Stop My Alcohol Addiction?

Knowing you need help quitting alcohol is the first step in a positive direction. By admitting you have a problem, you recognize the impact it’s having on your life and that you cannot stop alone. Though it can feel impossible to overcome your need to drink, finding professional support is your best option.

If you need help managing your alcohol addiction, you can call SAMHSA’s National Helpline. SAMHSA is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, so they have nationwide access to resources about addiction, along with information on addiction rehab.

SAMHSA’s hotline remains open 24 hours per day, 365 days a year with trained professionals available to help. You don’t have to pay anything to call for help.

Can Alcohol Addiction Ever Be Cured?

Professionals classify alcohol addiction as a chronic disease, meaning there is no cure. However, it’s possible to learn how to manage the addiction with proper support and work.

Without interfering, the condition will worsen, but it’s possible to treat it. The alcohol recovery process requires diligence to manage your sobriety and prioritize your health and well-being above anything else.

What Is the Most Common Treatment for Alcohol Addiction?

The most common treatment for alcohol addiction is detox, typically handled in a rehab facility with professionals. When you’ve imbibed alcohol in great quantities over a long time, going without can lead to painful withdrawals. When you’re in the middle of this stage, the urge to have a drink is incredibly strong, so professionals help you get past it while staying sober.

While you’re in rehab, you’ll have one-on-one and group therapy sessions to talk about your addiction and other issues in your life that facilitate your addiction. You’ll also learn proven methods to avoid alcohol and prevent yourself from getting into a situation where you drink again.

What Can I Replace Alcohol With?

Instead of drinking alcohol, you can drink soda water with lime, water with berries infused, or juice. Some people order mocktails when they’re out with others, but having a drink similar to your favorite cocktail might be a trigger, so tread carefully with this approach.

Frequently Asked Questions

You’ve learned the signs of alcohol addiction, along with common treatment options. If you need more information, these answers to frequently asked questions might clear things up.

What is the leading cause of alcohol addiction?

The leading cause of alcohol addiction is stress. Many people who feel like they can’t handle their daily life turn to alcohol to unwind. Since it’s socially acceptable to drink, and alcohol is easy to access, it’s easy to start drinking too much and become dependent on the sensation.

Who is most at risk of alcoholism?

Family and upbringing have a great impact on alcohol addiction. People exposed to alcohol abuse as young children are more likely to follow the same path, putting them at the most risk. They might also start drinking before reaching the legal drinking age since they have access to alcohol at home.

Additional Addictions to Be Aware Of

While alcohol addiction is a major concern, you should also know the signs of other addictions. Identifying these issues can help you or your loved ones get help and change your life in a timely manner:

  • Drug Addiction: A drug addiction means the person compulsively seeks and consumes drugs despite knowing the detrimental effects. Getting treatment is crucial for a healthy life.
  • Love Addiction: Love addiction might not seem as harmful as consuming substances, but people are still unhealthy due to this romantic obsession.
  • Opioid Addiction: Opioid addiction is a life threatening condition that requires professional intervention. In this case, the addict is dependent on drugs, like oxycodone, codeine, morphine, or fentanyl.

Wrapping Up

Now you know the signs of alcohol addiction, so you can notice them in yourself or a loved one. You have the necessary information regarding how to help someone with an addiction, so you can support them while they change their life and get healthy.

Alcohol addiction is something you can overcome with treatment, so take a step in the right direction today.

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