5 Telltale Signs of Alcoholism
Do You Know The Signs of Alcoholism?
Do you know what the signs of alcoholism even look like?
Let’s shine some light on it in today’s Quit Drinking Blog:
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Here are five tell-tale signs of alcoholism you should be on the lookout for.
How is Alcoholism Defined by the Medical Community?
Alcohol disorder or alcoholism is the medical diagnosis for individuals with difficulty controlling alcohol consumption. This does not refer to a one-time event. This condition involves a strong desire or physical necessity for alcohol even if it damages their life.
Binge drinking describes 5 or more drinks for men or 4 or more drinks for women within two hours. This pattern of drinking brings the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level to 0.08 g/dL. A BAC of 0.08% meets the legal definition of intoxication.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) describes heavy alcohol use as binge drinking that takes place 5 or more days in one month.
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How common are Alcohol Disorders?
Problems with alcohol disorders may be more common than you think.
In 2015, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported that 15.1 million American adults over the age of 17 had a problem with alcohol use. This represents 6.2% of the population.
National surveys also showed that 26.9 percent of adults stated that they had participated in binge drinking in the past month. Heavy drinking was reported in 7.0 percent of people 18 years and older during the prior month.
Incidence of Adolescent and College-Age Drinking
Adolescents up to the age of 25 can develop irreversible brain damage due to alcohol consumption.
The part of the brain called the hippocampus controls memory and learning. Heavy and long-term use of alcohol causes a 10% reduction in the size of the hippocampus.
This part of the brain also demonstrates sensitivity to alcohol. Thus, alcohol can destroy the nerve cells in the hippocampus.
The prefrontal lobe of the brain coordinates decision making, impulse control, language, judgment, and planning. This part of the brain undergoes the greatest change during adolescence. People who drink heavily have smaller than normal prefrontal lobes.
In 2016, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that 136.7 million Americans 12 years and older were currently using alcohol. Among the survey participants, 65.3 million reported binge drinking during the past month and 16.3 million reported heavy use of alcohol.
Studies in 2016 among young adults, aged 18 to 25, reported 57.1% currently used alcohol. This corresponds to about 19.8 million young adults.
Problems Associated with College Students Drinking Alcohol
Drinking alcohol in college has seemed a part of “college life” for ages. These actions may have unfortunate consequences.
Researchers report that each year students between the ages of 18 and 24 suffer significant alcohol-related outcomes.
- 1,825 die accidentally from alcohol-related injuries including car accidents
- 696,000 are hurt by other students who are drinking alcohol
- 97,000 experience alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape
About 1 out of every 4 college students describe school problems related to drinking and clear signs of alcoholism. These include missing class which causes them to get behind on information taught. Thus, they perform poorly on assignments and exams leading to falling grades.
What is the Difference Between Physical Dependence and Psychological Addiction?
The physical dependence on alcohol differs from psychological addiction.
Physical dependence presents in two different ways. First, the body builds a tolerance to alcohol requiring increased amounts to get the same effect. Second, if you stop drinking alcohol, the body experiences physical withdrawal.
Chronic alcohol abusers often begin drinking again to stop the withdrawal symptoms including:
- Fast heartbeat
- Nausea and vomiting
- Trouble sleeping
Psychological addiction impacts a person’s mental state. It can interfere with thinking, planning, and decision making. Many of the person’s thoughts and actions become focused on getting and drinking alcohol without regard for expected responsibilities.
Issues that May Increase Your Chance of Alcoholism
Many situations and conditions can increase the risk of developing alcoholism.
- Persons who develop an emotional attachment to alcohol
- Chemical changes in the brain, especially if alcohol use started before age 25
- Men drinking more than 15 drinks per week
- Women drinking more than 12 drinks per week
- Drinking more than 5 drinks per day at least once a week
- Having a parent or close relative who has an alcohol disorder
- Having mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia
- Exposure to peer pressure as an adolescent or young adult
- Having low self-esteem
- Frequent feelings of high-stress levels
Sometimes recognizing alcohol abuse in yourself is difficult. However, it’s important to know that alcohol disorders are easier to treat the earlier you address them.
5 Signs of Alcoholism
What signs and symptoms should you watch for in yourself or ones you are close to?
#1 Loss of control over your alcohol drinking.
Individuals begin drinking larger amounts of alcohol and do not understand when their body has had too much. Their body also needs more alcohol to achieve the same effect as when they started drinking.
Individuals may also have blackouts. This refers to a period of memory loss following a large consumption of alcohol.
#2 Participation in risky activities.
The person begins to ignore rules, regulations, and laws. They may even demonstrate a disregard for personal safety and the safety of others.
Examples of some risky behaviors and possible consequences include:
- Dangerous sexual encounters leading to sexually transmitted disease, rape, and unwanted pregnancy
- Driving while intoxicated and causing injury or death to yourself and others
- Neglect of responsibilities resulting in loss of job or relationship or child abuse
#3 Increased isolation or concealment of your habits.
Isolation can result because you push people away out of shame or annoyance when they offer help. On the other hand, people around you may leave because they do not like your behavior.
Many people with alcohol dependence try and hide their problem. They do not want their significant other or boss to know. They may be at risk of losing a license to practice, such as a doctor, lawyer, teacher, or nurse.
#4 Troubled or Broken Relationships.
When alcohol becomes the primary focus in your life, other elements get pushed to the side. This can be seen between spouses, parents and children, friends, coworkers, and clients.
Even though their life may be “falling apart”, people with clear signs of alcoholism will still keep finding a way to drink. Lack of support and failure in relationships leads to stress. Alcohol addicts turn to alcohol to cope with stress and negative emotions.
#5 You begin to look physically different.
Alcohol causes dehydration so the skin becomes dry, flaky, and more wrinkled. Alcohol also increases swelling so skin often appears puffy and red.
The changes make you look older and sick. Many people experience depression related to change in appearance, relationships, isolation, and loss of control.
How is Alcoholism Dangerous to Your Health?
Alcohol causes 200 different disease and injury conditions. It can also interfere with prescribed medications needed to treat illness or disease processes. Heavy alcohol use can cause many health problems and diseases including:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Cirrhosis (disease of the liver)
- Cancer in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract
- High blood pressure
- Nerve damage in the brain and throughout the body
- Infectious diseases like tuberculosis
- Gastrointestinal tract bleeds
Each year, 3 million people around the world die as a result of alcohol abuse.
Abuse of alcohol not only causes disease; it can also make many conditions worse. Liver disease, for example, is a very common one of the signs of alcoholism. Continued drinking worsens the condition and can lead to death.
What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
Alcohol used during pregnancy can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). This can cause significant harm to the infant for the rest of their lives.
Physical defects include:
- Facial features that are characteristic of FAC.
- Deformed joints, limbs, and fingers
- Stunted growth before and after birth
- Problems with vision and hearing
- Small head and brain size
- Defects in the heart, kidneys, and bones
Problems with the brain and spinal cord include:
- Problems with balance and coordination
- Learning disorders and delayed development as well as intellectual disability
- Problems with memory, attention and understanding information
- Trouble with problem solving and reasoning
- Problems understanding how choices relate to consequences
- Jittery or hyperactive
- Extreme mood changes
Behavioral and social interaction issues include:
- Difficulty with school
- Problems making friends
- Difficulty with change
- Problem with impulse and behavior control
- Poor concept of time
- Trouble staying focused on a task
- Trouble working toward and achieving a goal
How Does Alcoholism Affect You Financially?
In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that heavy consumption of alcohol affects our whole society. Industry, the government, and the U.S. taxpayers spend an estimated $249 billion each year on alcohol abuse related issues.
The primary cost comes from lost work time and productivity, and direct and indirect health care costs.
- Approximately $100.7 billion of these expenses were paid by state and federal governments
- Binge drinking directly cost $191 billion
- Underage drinking cost $24.3 billion
- Drinking during pregnancy cost $5.5 billion
At home, financial problems often result in lost income and increased amounts spent on alcohol. This can cause a loss of housing, malnutrition, broken relationships, and child neglect. Individuals put themselves and others in financial trouble by abusing alcohol.
Methods Used to Treat Alcoholism
Help is out there.
One method of treatment, abstinence, takes place in stages and often includes the following steps:
- Getting the alcohol out of your body through detoxification and withdrawal
- Programs to help you learn new ways to deal with stress and other emotions
- Individual and group counseling helps to address emotions and triggers that cause you to drink
- Support groups made up of former alcohol abusers provide encouragement as you work through the process
- Inpatient or outpatient medical treatment for health problems that may cause or result from alcohol use
- Medications to help control the symptoms of withdrawal and addiction
Should Alcohol Producers Take a More Active Role in Preventing Alcoholism?
Some individuals voice concerns about alcohol producers encouraging drinking to sell more product. Alcohol commercials appear prominently during sporting events. They feature groups of people having parties to watch the big game with everyone having a cold one.
The lack of regulation for nutrition labeling on alcoholic drinks also causes concern. In the U.S., producers are required to list the percent of alcohol by volume. There is no requirement to provide further nutrition information on the label.
If a company wishes to advertise their product as “low-carb”, the TTB Ruling 2004-1 states that there must be a statement of average analysis on the label.
They Don’t Make It Easy
The statement of average analysis means that labels and advertising must describe the serving size. “Per container” means the serving size is the amount in the container. If the serving size is more than what is in the container, it must specify how many servings.
The standard single serving size for malt beverages is 12 fl. oz., 5 fl. oz. for wine, and 1.5 fl. oz. for distilled spirits.
You should not assume that alcoholic drinks called “Light” or “Lite” indicate that they contain fewer calories than other drinks. Also, alcoholic drinks may not have labels stating “low carb” unless they contain less than 8 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
These names may be misleading according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The ATF considers companies who use these names as misleading if they don’t meet the required standards. Never assume that beverages with these names have value as diet aids.
Is it Possible to Recover from Alcoholism?
Once you have developed a problem with alcohol use disorder, it can be difficult to overcome. Many of the people who ask for treatment end up recovering. A strong support system often serves as a key element for complete recovery.
Whatever you decide to do, don’t waste another moment. Problems with alcohol only ever get worse, you have discovered a program that is internationally respected and rated. Give yourself the gift of a fresh start and don’t allow any more signs of alcoholism to develop – the next one could be the last.