Drinking alcohol is quite common, which is why many might miss it when they have a serious problem. If you’re worried that you or a loved one might have an alcohol addiction, it’s important to know the signs, especially if drinking habits are severe. If you or your loved one fit these criteria, it’s crucial to get help right away.
What Alcohol Addiction Looks Like
Alcohol use disorder is quite common, affecting a total of 14.1 million people, according to a 2019 survey. That number has likely gone up after Covid-19, as some studies have reported a rise in alcohol use. Since it’s become so common, it’s become more important than ever to learn the signs of alcohol addiction. How severe an addiction you have depends on the criteria met and the severity of the symptoms. For example, a score of 2-3 is mild, 4-5 is moderate, and six or more is severe. The DSM-5 lists the following criteria:
In the past year, have you:
- Drank more or longer than intended?
- Tried to quit drinking but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking, or recovering from drinking?
- Wanted to drink so badly, it was all you could think about?
- Found that drinking has interfered with school, work, or family?
- Cut back on things you used to enjoy to make time for drinking?
- Continued to drink even though it caused problems with family or friends?
- Gotten into dangerous situations, such as drunk driving, swimming, or unsafe sex while intoxicated?
- Drank despite the physical or mental effects, such as depression, anxiety, or blackout?
- Found that it takes more than the usual amount of drinks to feel the effects?
- Experienced symptoms of withdrawal such as shaking, trouble sleeping, nausea, racing heart, or seizures?
Other Signs That Might Not Be Obvious
Sometimes it’s harder to tell that someone has a problem if they are hiding it. It’s common for people with Alcohol Use Disorder to conceal their addiction out of fear or shame. This pattern might be valid for a loved one if they—out of character— begin isolating themselves. Other examples might include hidden bottles and cans. A person might also be trying to hide an addiction to alcohol if they lie about their whereabouts. They may also spend more time at the office or at a bar on the way home while saying they were somewhere else. Those who hide their addiction might be in denial about the seriousness of their disorder, ashamed of their addiction, or afraid of taking steps to get better.
How Alcohol Harms the Body
Drinking too much for too long can have adverse effects on the brain and body. Alcohol has been directly linked to kidney and liver disease, heart disease, and various cancers. Alcohol has also been linked to causing memory problems and raising the risk of dementia. Excessive alcohol use can also affect your immune system, which could spell disaster in this age of Covid. Alcohol can affect the lungs and cause respiratory damage over time, which is dangerous for a virus that affects the lungs specifically.
The Dangers of Quitting Cold Turkey
Based on the information above, you might have realized that you or your loved one has an alcohol addiction. While you might want to quit right away, that isn’t always the safest option. Many might not know that some of the withdrawal symptoms from stopping alcohol can be extremely serious. You might need a medically supervised detox if you have a severe addiction, as quitting alcohol can cause tremors, seizures, and even death.
Additionally, withdrawal symptoms from substances like alcohol can last a lot longer than expected, leading to a higher chance of relapse if the person addicted tries to go it alone. This unfortunate truth is due to a phenomenon called post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS. PAWS can last anywhere between six months to a year, with symptoms including cravings, irritability, and mood swings.
The dangers associated with PAWS are why many treatment centers recommend more extended stays after detox. A therapist and a healthcare professional can help you through these symptoms at a treatment center without risking a relapse. Many treatment centers hire professionals who have also experienced addiction and treatment themselves and know exactly how you feel.
How to Get Help
If you can’t quit cold turkey, what are you supposed to do? If you have an addiction, it’s essential to get help right away. What treatment you try depends on how serious the addiction is. If the addiction is moderate to severe, detox is the best first step. Afterward, a detox center can refer you to a treatment and recovery center, like Villa Oasis.
Drinking is very normalized in our culture, but many don’t realize how dangerous and addictive alcohol can be. It’s essential to know the signs of alcohol addiction before they become unmanageable. If these symptoms are present in yourself or your loved one, then it’s time to reach out and get the help you need. There are services available for you to help you get back on your feet. Addiction is a serious condition and can upend your life.
Villa Oasis in San Diego specializes in alcohol addiction, and we take it seriously. Our staff is trained to help you, and many have been in your shoes. You are not alone. If you would like to know more about our alcohol rehab program in San Diego, call us today at (323) 739-8673. Help is just one call away. Please don’t wait until it’s too late to get the help you need.