Alcohol addiction

Alcohol addict pouring whiskey

Alcohol addiction

Alcoholism has no single cause, and it can affect anyone from any walk of life. Psychological, genetic, and behavioural factors can all contribute to having the disease of alcoholism, so that gender, race and socio-economic status can have a bearing on the risk-factor of being an alcoholic.

Alcoholism is a disease the causes damage to the brain and its neurochemistry. This means that someone addicted to alcohol may not be able to control their actions. Alcohol addiction, or alcoholism, can show itself in a variety of ways. Some people drink heavily all day, whilst others binge drink and stay sober for a while, whilst others are always drinking, but are still able to function to go to work and pay the bills. The severity of the disease, how often someone drinks, and the alcohol they consume varies from person to person. You can have an alcohol addiction if you only drink beer, even if you don’t drink in the morning. An alcoholic doesn’t have a particular ‘look’ but what they all have in common is an inability to stop drinking when they take the first drink.

Recovery from alcoholism requires the alcoholic to have a desire to stop drinking. It doesn’t matter how far down the road of alcoholism someone’s journey has gone, there is still the chance for them to be successfully treated, though the earlier that treatment is sought, the easier it is to treat.

Whisky glass

Symptoms of alcoholism

Alcohol addiction is not always easy to recognise. Alcohol is accepted in many cultures and is easily available. Alcohol is usually drank at social situations and at celebrations and other times of enjoyment. When drinking is the norm, it’s difficult to tell the difference between someone who likes a few drinks and someone with an alcohol problem.

There are some symptoms that indicate someone may be at risk of being an alcoholic. These include drinking more alcohol or drinking more often. An alcoholic has a high tolerance for alcohol and do not suffer ‘hangovers’. Alcoholics drink at inappropriate times, such as at work or in church. They will avoid situations where this is no alcohol and change friendships to drink with those who also drink heavily. As the disease progresses, alcoholics will avoid contact with loved one, will hide alcohol as their dependence on alcohol to function grows. They will experience emotional problems, work or legal problems leading the loss of work or arrest.

The good news is that when treated early, someone with an alcohol addiction may be able to avoid major consequences of the disease. If you want to help someone with an alcohol problem, be supportive. Avoid using shame or making them feel guilty or they will resist your help.

Health complications associated with alcoholism

Alcohol addiction can lead to health complications that lead to death. This includes heart disease and liver disease. Other physical health issues include increased risk of cancer, brittle bones, birth defects, sexual problems, ulcers, complications in diabetes, sight problems, reduced immunity. Mental impairment through drinking also increases the incidence of suicide and homicide, usually through drink-driving.

Treatment options

Success depends on the addicts wish to stop drinking. Many people say alcohol addiction is never cured, but people can manage their recovery over a lifetime.

An outpatient or inpatient rehabilitation programme is one treatment option. An inpatient programme usually lasts one month, but can be more. Rehab helps with the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and the emotional challenges of living sober. Outpatient treatment provides similar support on a daily basis, while allowing the person to live at home.

Many alcoholics join support groups like the 12-step programme of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), SMART Recovery and Sober Recovery. Other treatments are available via medication, counselling and nutritional changes.

Family and friends of people with alcohol addiction can benefit from professional support or by joining programmes like Al-Anon.

Someone with an alcohol addiction may relapse. They may binge drink once or drink for a period of time before getting sober again. But a relapse doesn’t indicate failure. It’s important that the person get back on track and resume treatment.