Be it a big celebration or a small get together with friends; consuming alcohol in some form or the other is deeply woven into our culture. One might not even realize that the habit of drinking occasionally, may turn into an addiction. Alcoholism is one of those habits that sneaks up on you, and then spirals out of control, causing havoc in your life, and those around you. However, for those who are already in the grip of this addiction, all is not lost. Knowing the symptoms of addiction, and getting help on time, can help one come out of the clutches of alcoholism.
What is Alcoholism
The step to identifying an alcoholic is to understand what is alcoholism. To be characterized as one who is suffering from alcohol addiction, one must show the following defining symptoms:
- Craving: Craving refers to a strong and continual need to drink.
- Tolerance: The individual becomes increasingly immune to the amount of alcohol he drinks. He progressively moves on to higher amounts of alcohol to satisfy his cravings.
- Physical Dependence: A person experiences physical symptoms, like, anxiety, nausea, and sweating if he refrains from drinking for long (these are known as withdrawal symptoms).
- Loss of Control: As one graduates to higher levels of alcohol consumption, he finds it difficult to control his drinking habit.
These changes in one's behavior widely encompass the other more explicit signs of addiction that will be discussed in greater detail in sections to follow. However, since we are trying to understand what alcoholism is about, it becomes important to realize that, although quite often, both are used interchangeably, alcohol abuse is different from alcoholism.
While alcoholism is more about physical dependence on alcohol, one is supposed to be a victim of alcohol abuse when he risks legal complications, physical injury, relationship problems, and missing commitments at home, school or office, due to the drinking habits. The confusion between the two terms arises mainly due to the fact that there is a very thin line between alcohol abuse and alcoholism. An alcohol addict most often shows signs of alcohol abuse.
Symptoms of Addiction
Common addiction symptoms of physical nature are:
- Weight loss
- Red eyes and puffy face
- Slurred speech
- Excess sleep or insomnia
- Upset stomach
- Abdominal pain
- Rapid heartbeat
- Pale appearance
- Loss of appetite
- Increased emotional outbursts
- Difficulty in thinking in clear terms
- Memory lapse
- Lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
Other than the physical or psychological symptoms, there are certain behavioral patterns that are seen in those, who are addicted to alcohol. Such individuals would refrain from commitments. They would avoid places, where they wouldn't get a chance to drink. Alcohol addicts may skip school, work, or other responsibilities, so that they could drink. Even though an addict tries to quit the habit, he doesn't seem to be able to do that. The worse thing is that, when questioned about their addiction, they tend to become defensive or volatile. All these changes in a person would take a toll on his relationships. But he still won't be able to kick the habit.
One of the pronounced stages of alcohol addiction is when an individual suffers from its withdrawal symptoms. This refers to those symptoms that an addict experiences, when he doesn't drink for long. These include:
- Loss of appetite
- Trembling of limbs
Some view alcohol addiction as a medical condition. If the addiction is viewed in such a light, then medications may be prescribed to treat the condition. Various medications aim at dealing with cravings for alcohol, and to reduce the withdrawal symptoms. Antabuse, temposil, acamprosate, benzodiazepines, valium, and librium, are some of the drugs used for the withdrawal treatment.
Other than drugs, alcohol detoxification is also another treatment option for alcoholism. There are also several rehab programs and centers that help the addicts to get rid of their addiction. However, once the person has come off the addiction, there is no guarantee that he would not tread the path again. These people need to be monitored closely, especially by their family members, as even little stress can make them slip back to being their old selves.
If you have seen any of the above signs of addiction in your loved ones, it is best to get acting right away. Sitting over the matter, expecting the individual to take charge of his life, usually doesn't work. Timely intervention can be of great help in the direction of addiction recovery.