If you are concerned about whether or not you or a loved one may have a problem with alcohol addiction, you are already taking steps in the right direction. Alcohol abuse is something that is different from alcoholism. Alcohol abusers use alcohol in ways that are detrimental and even dangerous to them, but have the ability to set certain limits on their drinking. Without help, alcohol abuse can turn into alcoholism.
Alcohol abuse is a use of alcohol that damages a person’s health, relationships, and ability to work and be productive. Perhaps the most common sign of alcohol abuse is drinking to de-stress. This is one way that alcohol abuse can start. If you reach for the bottle after a stressful day, eventually you will need more and more alcohol to produce the same sedating effect. Another sign of alcohol abuse is repeatedly neglecting responsibilities. These responsibilities can be social, educational, or professional. Neglecting duties to children, skipping classes or work because you are hung over, and blowing off commitments to drink are all examples of these. Another sign is continuing drinking even when it is causing relationship issues. This includes continuing to drink even if it causes fights with family, friends, or other loved ones.
Alcohol use in dangerous situations is another sign of alcohol abuse. This includes actions such as drinking and driving or drinking while on prescription medication. Maybe one of the most severe signs of alcohol addiction is legal problems due to drinking. If you or someone you know is getting in trouble with the law for drunk and disorderly conduct, domestic disputes, drunken fights, or driving under the influence, it may be time to seek help.
Alcoholism involves all the same symptoms as alcohol abuse but with the added elements of physical dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal. Tolerance means that over time it takes more and more alcohol to produce the effects it used to. You may be able to drink significantly more than other people without showing signs of intoxication. You may also experience withdrawal in the form of anxiety, shakiness, sweating, nausea, fatigue, depression, insomnia, irritability, headaches, and loss of appetite. In more extreme cases withdrawal can include confusion, seizures, hallucinations, and fevers. In the event of these more extreme forms of withdrawal, immediate medical attention should be sought as this severe form of withdrawal may be life-threatening.
Another common sign of alcoholism is loss of control such as drinking more than planned, longer than planned, or even though you told yourself you wouldn’t. You may also have the desire to stop drinking, but find yourself unable or find yourself spending less time doing things you enjoy because of your use of alcohol. Another sign is the continued use of alcohol despite negative consequences such as health issues, damaged personal relationships, or losing your job. Many alcoholics find that they spend most of their time thinking about alcohol, recovering from the effects of alcohol, or using alcohol.
If you suspect you or someone close to you may have a problem with alcohol addiction or is “at risk” for abusing alcohol, it is important to get help. Consulting a counselor experienced in dealing with alcohol addiction can be a great way to get more information.