Recognizing The Signs Of Alcohol Addiction

Recognizing The Signs Of Alcohol Addiction

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Alcohol use disorder (AUD) affects 29% of the US population. Although alcohol is a legal and commonly used substance, alcohol dependence develops frequently, especially when people engage in binge drinking. In fact, alcohol is the substance with the highest rate of misuse, which brings up the question of how addictive is alcohol?

Of course, there is no cut and dry answer, as alcohol affects everyone differently and a large factor in determining when alcohol consumption becomes alcohol abuse comes down to each individual’s brain chemistry. Since endorphins are released when people drink alcohol, long term alcohol use can cause changes in brain function.

Heavy drinkers will go through the three stages of the addiction cycle, which include the binge/intoxication stage, the negative effect/withdrawal stage, and the preoccupation/anticipation stage. During the binge/intoxication stage, individuals will experience rewarding effects from drinking alcohol, such as euphoria, reduced anxiety, and easier social interactions.

Once they have reached the negative effect/withdrawal stage, individuals will experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms when they are not consuming alcohol, causing them to drink more to relieve these. There is also diminished activation in the reward systems, along with increased activation of the stress systems. In this stage, drinking does not occur to receive pleasurable effects, but rather to escape negative effects.

In the final stage, the prefrontal cortex is affected which causes reduced ability to organize thoughts, manage time, and make decisions. The individual becomes preoccupied with alcohol and how to get more of it, looking forward to their next period of alcohol consumption. Once in this stage, cognitive function is decreased and the brain prioritizes alcohol, marking the height of the addiction.

There are many signs that an individual may be abusing alcohol, and recognizing these signs is an important part of determining whether they should seek treatment. The DSM-5 lists 11 signs of alcohol use disorder (AUD), and in order to be diagnosed, the individual must meet 2 of the following criteria within a 12 month period. Depending on how many are met, alcohol use disorder may be ranked as mild, severe, or moderate.

These signs include:

  • Feeling powerless to control one’s level of alcohol use
  • Declining to engage in social activities or hobbies that used to be of interest
  • Having a desire to stop or decrease drinking but being unable to do so
  • Using alcohol in high-risk situations, such as while swimming or driving
  • Devoting significant time and resources to drinking
  • Developing a tolerance for alcohol (i.e., needing more alcohol over time to match the feelings from earlier use)
  • Experiencing cravings for alcohol when not drinking
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking (such as cravings, sweating, shaking, and nausea)
  • Facing problems at work, home, or school because of alcohol use
  • In reaction to the discomfort associated with withdrawal, having to drink to feel better
  • Continuing to use alcohol even when it is leading to social, physical, relationship, and personal problems

If you or someone you know experiences any of these signs listed, then an addiction treatment program may be needed. At Fusion Recovery, you can begin alcohol detox and outpatient treatment to get on the path towards sobriety. The effects of alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Fusion can help you stop drinking in a safe and comfortable environment that facilitates lasting recovery.

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If you or a loved one are struggling with an alcohol use disorder or addiction, you may need rehab for alcohol addiction, and our treatment center is here to help. Contact us 24/7 with any questions or concerns. Our staff is here to help you during this difficult time.

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