Signs of alcoholism
According to the definition by Magnus Huss, alcoholism is a chronic continual drinking or periodic consumption of alcohol, which is characterized by impaired control over drinking, frequent episodes of intoxication, and preoccupation with alcohol and the use of alcohol despite adverse consequences.
Signs of alcoholism may vary in dependence of the stage of the disease. The dependency develops gradually as the body biochemistry changes.
The warning signs of alcoholism include the following:
- Compulsive desire/urge/craving to drink alcohol;
- Alcohol tolerance: a person has to drink larger amounts of alcohol to reach the desirable condition;
- Loss of control while drinking, inability to stop drinking;
- Drink-seeking behavior;
- Drinking in risky situations or an unsafe environment;
- Drinking alone, in the morning, for a long period of time without a break or in a secrecy;
- Self-justification while drinking;
- Increased tolerance to alcohol and the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol than before to reach the desirable effect (increased dosages);
- Denial: a person is lying or hiding the fact that he/she was drinking;
- Problem denial;
- Repeated withdrawal symptoms, including shakiness, nausea and sweating, when a person hasn’t drunk alcohol for a while;
- Relief or avoidance of withdrawal by further consumption of alcohol beverages;
- Low self-esteem;
- Inability to fall asleep without having a drink;
- Regular blackouts or short-term memory loss after being drunk;
- Avoiding social activities that are not connected with alcohol and irresponsibility;
- Breaking the laws;
- Other medical conditions that develop due to alcohol abuse.
The early stage is also known as a stage of psychological addiction. It may last from 1 up to 6 years.
A person experiences a compulsive wish/desire to consume alcohol, his/her thoughts are often connected with alcohol. Tendency to self-justification is common.
Alcohol tolerance increases in 2 or 3 times. Vomiting doesn’t occur even in case of severe intoxication, while episodes of memory loss called palimpsests are typical.
Withdrawal symptoms are not common.
Argues and family problems arise acutely and later contribute to divorces.
See also: Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis
At this stage the physical dependence is formed.
Denial of having a potential alcohol problem is often present at this stage. Despite the obvious addiction a person is sure that he/she is healthy and able to stop drinking whenever he/she wishes.
The main feature of physical addiction is alcohol withdrawal syndrome that develops within 12-24 hours after the drinking cessation.
Unconscious body reactions are seen when something remains a person about alcohol: he/she is smiling, the saliva production increases.
An affected person spends copious amounts of time engaged in alcohol related behavior and is unable to work, learn, concentrate, etc.
Social disadaptation develops, in some cases affected persons tend to break the laws while being drunk. Personality changes are also typical. Emotional reactions are impaired and inappropriate, the person appears anxious and exaggerated.
On the end stage encephalopathy develops and alcoholism affects a person physically, socially and mentally. Opposite to the previous stages at the third stage tolerance to alcohol decreases.
The CAGE screening questions
The CAGE questionnaire is an easy tool to measure the severity of a drinking problem. If you answer “yes” to two or more questions, you should seek medical help.
- Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
- Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
- Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
- Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get over a hangover?