How to Recognize Signs of an Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol is a powerful drug. Alcoholic drinks contain the drug ethanol, which can poison the human body if taken in large quantities, or in combination with other drugs such as sleeping pills, tranquillizers, marijuana, prescribed medicines and cold remedi

It does no good to tell an alcoholic to 'pull yourself together' or 'stop drinking before it kills you'. They need professional counseling and treatment. The biggest problem faced by families and doctors is the denial by so many alcoholics that they have a problem. Unfortunately, it is not possible to force these people into treatment centers until they are well down the path of chronic alcoholism and become a danger to themselves and others. At this point, doctors and families (the law varies between states) can certify the person to be an alcoholic and they are then forcibly placed in a treatment center. Forced-entry patients never progress as well in treatment programs as voluntary patients, so, in times of sobriety, every effort must be made to convince these men and women to accept the advice of their family doctor to enter a voluntary treatment program.

Alcoholism has two stages of development - problem drinking, and alcohol addiction. Problem drinking is the use of alcohol intermittently to ease tension and anxiety. It may be associated with the use of prescription drugs to control emotional problems. Alcohol addiction is more serious.

Signs of alcohol addiction:

  • An alcoholic is someone who has three or more of the following symptoms or signs: drinks alone;
  • tries to hide drinking habits from others;
  • continues to drink despite convincing evidence that it is damaging their health;
  • disrupts work or social life because of alcohol;
  • craves alcohol when none is available;
  • appears to tolerate the effects of alcohol well;
  • blacks out for no apparent reason;
  • binges on alcohol;
  • averages six standard alcoholic drinks a day;
  • has abnormal liver function blood tests.

Alcoholism may be suspected in someone who has a flushed face, alcohol on their breath, unexplained work absences, frequent accidents and cigarette burns to their body.

Many problems can occur when an alcoholic is deprived of alcohol, and this should therefore be done under medical supervision. Mild cases may merely experience anxiety and tremor, while worse cases may become highly agitated and develop delirium tremens.

Delirium tremens develops up to seven days after alcohol is ceased but is more common in the first two or three days. The patient hallucinates, has tremors, becomes confused and irrational, may have convulsions, refuse food and water and become acutely dehydrated. It can be so severe as to cause an irregular heart beat, biochemical abnormalities in the blood, and death. Death is uncommon in hospital but may occur in up to a third of all victims who go through this condition without adequate medical care. For these reasons, hospitalization is essential in all patients withdrawing from chronic alcoholism.

Photo by Mateusz Stachowski

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