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Signs & Symptoms

Alcohol addiction is the result of alcohol abuse that leads to tolerance and the development of physical dependence to the substance marked by withdrawal symptoms that can be difficult to cope with or to overcome. In the most severe form, alcohol addiction can lead to alcoholism which involves both physical and psychological dependence on alcohol that causes the user to rely on alcohol in order to function, feel good or otherwise cope.

Many of the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction are present with the early use of alcohol and others may not become evident until later on when the addiction takes a real physical toll on the body. Typically, the signs of alcohol addiction include tolerance & withdrawal symptoms that cause a real physical dependence on the substance and make it actually difficult for the user to cope with day to day routines without the use of alcohol.

The first major sign of alcohol addiction is tolerance. Tolerance is the term used to describe the scenario that occurs when an individual who drinks alcohol begins to get to a point in which he or she must drink more and more alcohol in order to get the same results. If you can drink more alcohol than other people without getting drunk– you have already built up a tolerance to the substance and need to seek help. As time goes on, tolerance will continue to build and your ability to get drunk will diminish.

Withdrawal Symptoms

If you wake up in the morning and need to have a drink in order to stop trembling hands, get rid of a headache or reduce nausea that is associated with drinking the day or night before, you need some help! Drinking to avoid withdrawal symptoms is a definitive red flag that should not be overlooked. Heavy drinking leads to physical dependence on alcohol which results in the body having withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking. These symptoms can include:

  • anxiety
  • trembling hands or shakiness
  • sweating
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • hallucinations
  • confusion
  • seizures
  • fever
  • increased heart rate
  • hypertension
  • increased blood pressure

In the most severe cases, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous for the the addict and may even lead to death. The symptoms that are most dangerous, such as hallucinations, seizures or coma are rare but, should these symptoms affect you, immediate help from a doctor should be sought.

Additional Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

You may also notice other signs and symptoms in yourself or in someone you know who is addicted to alcohol. Alcohol dependence is not the result of a lack of willpower or a weakness. It is a legitimate disease that warrants the need for treatment and help. If you notice any of these signs in yourself or in someone you know who drinks alcohol regularly, there could be a problem with addiction:

  • loss of control while drinking
  • loss of control in the amount of frequency of drinking
  • a desire to quit but an inability to do so
  • a desire to cut down drinking but continued efforts are unsuccessful
  • giving up activities such as spending time with friends, family members or playing sports in order to drink instead
  • alcohol causing problems such as financial problems, legal troubles or health problems

Denial is one of the major factors that must be overcome when alcohol addiction is a part of your life or that of someone you know. Many alcoholics deny that they have a problem, mask the true consequences of their addiction and do whatever it takes to believe that their drinking is not a problematic situation that requires treatment. Unfortunately, denial is only exacerbating the alcohol-related problems that occur at work, home, school, in relationships and financially.

You, or someone you love, may deny that there is a problem with alcohol by:

  • telling others that less alcohol is consumed than what really is
  • underestimating the amount of frequency of alcohol consumption
  • downplaying negative consequences associated with drinking and making light of problems despite a real need to fix things
  • making excuses such as blaming the problem on family or friends such as saying that the drinking is the result of anger, irritation or other problems caused by others or by complaining that family or friends are exaggerating about the real problem
  • placing blame on others
  • rationalizing drinking habits and becoming defensive if others wish to discuss the problem at hand
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