Alcohol Addiction is the consumption and preoccupation with alcoholic beverages to the extent that this behaviour interferes with the alcoholic’s normal personal, family, social, or work life. The chronic alcohol addiction can result in psychological and physiological disorders.
Alcohol addiction causes the individual to drink at times and in amounts that are damaging. The secondary damage caused by an inability to control one’s drinking manifests in many ways. It is common for a person suffering from alcohol addiction to drink well after physical health effects begin to show themselves. The physical health effects associated with alcohol addiction include cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, nutritional deficiencies, polyneuropathy, alcoholic dementia, heart disease, increased chance of cancer, sexual dysfunction, and death from many sources.
Why do some people fall into alcohol addiction?
There is no easy answer for this. Why do some people drive too fast? Why do some people smoke or take drugs? Why do some people enjoy adrenaline sports? We are all different and make choices in our lives - some good some not so good which are the result of various factors. These include our background, family upbringing, lifestyle, genetics, environment etc. There may be family history of alcohol addiction. If for example either of your parents or grandparents was an alcoholic then this is a risk factor.
If you suffer from a mental illness such as anxiety, depression or manic depression then you may use alcohol as a way of coping with your illness. It can also be a form of escapism. If you work in an environment which has a ‘drinking culture’ then this is another risk factor. Also, stressful life events such as divorce, bereavement or moving house can all trigger alcohol addiction. It is difficult to say when social drinking becomes a problem which eventually leads to alcohol addiction. However the first step for these people is recognising that their drinking is out of control.
How do you know if you have an alcohol addiction or drinking problem?
The signs of a drinking problem or ‘alcohol addiction’ are:
- Unable to stick to one drink
- Guilt or feeling ashamed about your drinking
- Lying to family and/or friends about your drinking
- Having a need to drink in order to relax or feel confident
- Finding that you drink more than is good for you
- Experiencing ‘blackouts’ or forgetting what you did when drunk
- Your family and friends are worried about your drinking
- Need a drink to get through the day or to cope with your illness
The journey from problem drinking to full blown alcohol addiction happens over a period of time. However if detected at an early stage then alcohol addiction can be prevented. Having a problem with alcohol doesn’t mean that you will automatically become an alcoholic but it does increase the risk of that happening. What happens is that you develop a tolerance to alcohol over a period of time, which is a sign that your body is becoming used to alcohol and demands it in order for you to function normally. It can start off by a few drinks several times a week, then drinking every day or ‘binge drinking’ which can result in alcohol addiction.
Alcohol abuse is a self-destructive condition and one that many people consider to be alcohol addiction, but there is a minor difference between the two. Someone who abuses alcohol is causing damage to both their mental and physical health but they still retain the ability to curb their drinking. However this is likely to be dependent upon their mood at the time. Alcohol addiction doesn’t happen overnight: it is a gradual process in which the drinker passes through three stages to get to this point. The three stages of alcohol addiction are:
- Stage one: no obvious signs of damage yet. The drinker is still in control but is gradually developing a tolerance to alcohol.
- Stage two: problems have started to occur. The drinker is experiencing physical and mental effects of their habit and has developed alcohol abuse.
- Stage three - Alcohol Addiction: this is the final stage in the journey. The drinker has fallen into full blown alcohol addiction and is unable to stop drinking.