Alcohol Addiction: Alcohol Dependency, Alcohol Abuse and Withdrawal Symptoms

The vast majority of people drink alcohol occasionally and socially. Most of us are mildly aware of alcoholism and alcohol addiction, and society is not too sympathetic to those who develop this disease. If your understanding of alcoholism is hazy at best, then make no mistake that alcohol is a highly addictive drug that kills millions of people each year around the World. Around 6-7,000 people die each year in the United Kingdom due to excessive alcohol consumption. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these people do not attend an alcohol rehab clinic or any other form of alcohol addiction treatment.

Alcohol is addictive from a physical and psychological standpoint. In the UK alone, around 3% of women and around 9% of men will develop alcoholism. For these people, drinking alcohol is not a choice because they will suffer from deadly withdrawal symptoms when alcohol consumption is abruptly stopped. Many of these people must arrange their lives around their drinking. Simply put, without alcohol, people suffering from alcoholism are unable to function.

What is an alcohol dependency?

Alcoholism and ‘alcohol dependency’ are sometimes used interchangeably, and the two terms essentially bear the same meaning. Alcoholism, or ‘alcohol dependency’ is a chronic disease Those suffering from the illness will not be able to control how much alcohol they consume each day. This is because these people will experience a physical dependency on alcohol. This means physical withdrawal symptoms will occur when drinking alcohol is abruptly stopped.

Whilst alcohol dependency is a debilitating illness, many people with alcohol dependency will nevertheless be able to function in everyday life. This is because alcohol dependency is a progressive illness. In fact, the majority of people who suffer from alcohol dependency will be able to go on with their everyday life until they hit rock bottom.

If you are unable to relax without drinking alcohol, then you could be experiencing the early stages of alcohol dependency. If you are unable to relax in front of the TV on a Saturday night without drinking alcohol, it is likely that you are experiencing a psychological dependency on alcohol.

A psychological dependency on alcohol always proceeds a physical dependency on alcohol, so this should certainly be a cause for concern. You will know when a physical dependency on alcohol develops because you will begin to experience physical withdrawal symptoms when your blood alcohol-level begins to fall. These symptoms include nausea, sweating and experiencing tremors.

Take our alcohol addiction questionnaire to see whether or not you could be suffering from alcohol dependency.

What’s the difference between alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse?

Whilst alcohol dependency is akin to alcoholism, alcohol abuse really means binge drinking. Alcohol abuse is not considered a disease, although you do put your health in serious danger when you engage in alcohol abuse. In fact, the vast majority of fatalities from drinking alcohol are linked to alcohol abuse. This is generally because alcohol abuse is much more prevalent than alcohol dependency. If you engage in alcohol abuse and if you do not take steps to address your drinking, then you could become physically addicted to alcohol.

Both alcohol abuse and alcohol dependency negatively impact your life in many different ways. These include a failure to fulfill professional, family, and other social responsibilities, and inflicting serious damage to your physical and mental health and wellbeing. You will also begin to neglect hobbies and important relationships with others.

Another sign of both alcohol abuse and alcohol dependency is that you will need more and more alcohol in order to experience the desired effect. This is because you build up a tolerance to alcohol. You will also become more and more pre-occupied with alcohol. This is when you spend a lot of time thinking about drinking alcohol and thinking about how you may obtain alcohol or when you can drink alcohol even in situations where it is not appropriate to do so.

If you suspect you or your loved one could be suffering from alcohol abuse or alcohol dependency, get in touch with our admissions team today.

What are the signs of alcohol dependency?

If you have read this far, you may be concerned that either you or a loved one could be experiencing alcohol dependency. If so, you will likely benefit from knowing the various signs that could justify these concerns.

Here are the classic signs of alcohol dependency:

  • You consistently worry about where your next drink is coming from. You actively arrange your life around your desire to drink alcohol
  • You experience powerful cravings to drink alcohol. Once you begin to drink alcohol, you find it almost impossible to stop
  • You feel the need to drink alcohol as soon as you wake up in the morning. You regularly act on these feelings so that you do end up drinking in the morning, even before you eat any food
  • You experience a range of physical withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms stop when you drink your first alcoholic drink

If you recognise the above symptoms, you should contact Ocean Recovery Centre today. If you do not wish to go to rehab at this stage, we highly urge you to at least go and see your local GP for more advice. Your GP may refer you to your local drug and alcohol action team.

What are the key causes of alcohol dependency?

Alcohol dependency is a complex disease of the mind. Modern science has failed to pin down one definitive cause of alcohol dependency, although many hypotheses are offered up.

Potential causes of alcohol dependence include:

  • The genetic and cultural environment you were raised in
  • Experiencing traumatic events in childhood or adulthood
  • Dually diagnosed mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. People with these conditions are known to ‘self-medicate’ using alcohol
  • Having an ‘addictive personality’, although this is controversial

How does alcohol dependency affect my health?

Alcohol dependency is known to inflict damage upon your health in many different ways. Because alcohol is a toxin, it literally affects all tissues in your body that it comes into contact with. Specifically, alcohol dependency causes high blood pressure and liver failure. You also vastly increase the risks of suffering from a stroke when you develop alcohol dependency. Lastly, you also increase the risk of developing alcohol-related heart disease.

Alcohol dependency also inflicts damage on your mental health. If you suffer from alcohol dependency, you are much more likely to suffer from a range of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. These ailments arise because alcohol affects neurotransmitters located in the brain which are essential for sound mental health.

What are alcohol withdrawal symptoms?

If you are physically dependent on alcohol, you will experience a range of highly discomforting and even deadly withdrawal symptoms if you abruptly and suddenly stop drinking alcohol. These symptoms will onset within as little as two-to-three hours after the last drink was consumed.

Below, we list some of the more common alcohol withdrawal symptoms you will likely experience if you suffer from alcohol dependency:

  • Tremors – particularly in the hands
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizure/fits
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Insomnia

If you experience the above symptoms when you stop drinking alcohol for any length of time, it’s likely to engage in ‘relief drinking’. This is when you drink merely to stop yourself from experiencing the above withdrawal symptoms.

Getting help for alcohol dependency

If you suspect you or a loved one could be suffering from alcohol dependency, it is important to seek out professional help before it is too late to do so. If you experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms, it is likely you will require a medically assisted detox. This is a service we offer at Ocean Recovery Centre. To learn more about attending our alcohol rehab clinic, call us today on 0125 353 0553.