According to statistics, alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States: 17.6 million people or one in every 12 adults are diagnosed with an alcohol abuse disorder and millions of more individuals engage in risky behaviors such as binge drinking that can potentially lead to alcohol abuse disorder. Drinking to forget your problems, blacking out, frequent hangovers, alcohol cravings, binge drinking, drinking games, and spending too much money on alcohol are all common behaviors that are associated with heavy drinking. However, how do you know when your drinking habits are turning into an addiction? Below are some common alcohol abuse symptoms:
Alcohol abuse symptoms
Alcohol, like any other addictive substance, can re-wire your brain to create strong physiological and psychological cravings. Often times, you may be the last person to recognize that you have a substance abuse addiction with alcohol because you may change your lifestyle to conform around your addiction. Alcohol abuse can ruin relationships, create financial burdens associated with job loss, lead to illegal activity such as drinking while under the influence and even lead to violent outbursts. At the end of the day, it is up to you to seek treatment for your disorder. Fortunately, there are many resources in your community that can provide you with help however you must first be willing to admit that you, in fact, do have an alcohol addiction.
The following are common questions to ask yourself if you think you have an alcohol addiction:
- Have you ever tried to stop drinking for a week or longer but only lasted a couple of days?
- Has your drinking ever caused you trouble at home?
- Has your drinking ever caused you trouble with your job?
- Have you ever felt the need to have a drink in the morning to curb shakiness?
- Do you have “blackouts”? A blackout occurs when you have been drinking for a period of time and you cannot recall any events.
- Do you drink when you are stressed out, disappointed or are in a fight with someone?
- Have you ever had withdrawal symptoms from alcohol? These can include a racing heart, nausea, vomiting, tremors, or seizures.
- Have you ever operated a motor vehicle while under the influence?
- Have you ever tried to hide your drinking habits from your friends or family?
- Has anyone close to you expressed concern about your drinking?
- Do you often find yourself in a hurry to have your first drink of the day?
- Do you ever feel disappointed or uncomfortable if alcohol is not available in a social setting?
Seeking treatment for alcohol use disorder
Alcohol abuse can result in many medical complications and can also occur with other mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders creating an increased risk for suicide. Seeking professional treatment for your alcohol abuse disorder is imperative as quitting alcohol without any type of medical intervention can lead to severe withdrawal seizures and even death. Understanding the underlying triggers that are driving you to drink is one of the most important aspects of treatment. Are you stressed at work? Undergoing extreme financial burdens? Are you unhappy in your marriage? Depressed? Did you lose someone you care about? There are many reasons that may drive you to drink and many people do not even acknowledge their emotions or the reasons. Treatment initially aims to ease the withdrawal symptoms by close monitoring and prescribing a slow taper of benzodiazepines. Once the acute withdrawal phase is over, treatment aims to identify these underlying triggers resulting in alcohol abuse behavior. The goal of treatment is replacing negative coping skills and patterns with positive cognitive behavioral skills and coping skills that work for you.