Content Medically Verified by:
Dr. Patricia Sullivan MD MPH on 10/07/2021
Are You an Alcoholic?
If you are still on the fence about it, you can start by asking yourself some questions. If you honestly answer yes to one or more of these questions, you may want to consider reaching out to an addiction specialist for your Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).
In the past year, have you:
- Increased your alcohol intake or drank for more extended periods than you meant to?
- Tried to stop or cut down drinking but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time recovering from heavy drinking?
- Had alcohol cravings?
- Notice that drinking or recovering from drinking has prioritized your relationships, employment, or responsibilities?
- Kept drinking even when alcohol caused problems within your relationships?
- Gave up things you enjoy doing to drink instead?
- Found yourself involved in risky behaviors after drinking? (such as driving or swimming)
- Kept drinking even after noticing signs of depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts?
- Had to drink more than usual to feel the effects?
- Have you noticed withdrawal symptoms such as shakiness or trouble sleeping after not drinking for a while?
You are likely to have answered yes to one or more of these questions. Though this is not the extent of alcoholism, these are strong indicators of an AUD. The more you answered “yes” to these questions, the more likely you will have an Alcohol Use Disorder or alcoholism.
What That Means for You
Depending on how long you’ve struggled with alcoholism, there is a significant likelihood that your body has suffered some collateral damage.
Here you will learn about how alcoholism can have detrimental effects on the body’s heart, brain, liver, and pancreas. Additionally, some physical signs and symptoms can help to determine your progression of alcoholism.
According to the American Dietary Guidelines, “excessive drinking” is defined separately for men versus women due to natural hormonal differences. Excessive drinking for women is eight or more drinks a week, whereas men can have 15 drinks a week before it’s considered excessive.
Depending on your progression of alcoholism, you may consider cutting down your drinking by using a drink tracker. As a simple concept, keeping a personal tally on the number of drinks you have is a great way to be mindful of your drinking habits.
There are daily, weekly, and monthly templates to choose from and can be found online for free.
However, since untreated alcoholism cases can be fatal, you may want to consider getting treatment sooner rather than later. The Middle and late stages of alcoholism come with increased health risks that can cause irreparable internal damage.
Therefore, you are encouraged to reach out to an addiction specialist as soon as you recognize the signs of addiction.
“What Are the Stages of Alcoholism?”
There are three stages of alcoholism, each with signs and symptoms that can worsen as they evolve. It is also essential to remember that each person reacts differently to alcohol, meaning that some people can go straight from early-stage to late-stage alcoholism, skipping over the middle stage entirely.
Levels of Alcoholism: The Early Stages
It’s not easy to detect if you are in the early stages of alcoholism, as most signs and symptoms are physical and easily dismissed. However, even some physical signs can indicate a potentially growing problem.
One of the first signs of early alcoholism is when you turn to alcohol to find relief from your problems. In the same regard, coworkers often “grab a beer after work,” that end of the day relief comes from alcohol, instead of going home to put your feet up.
Further down the list are people who experience “blackouts.” When someone “blacks out,” they cannot remember things that happened or blocks of time are mentally missing. Blacking out is typically preceded by hiding or sneaking drinks, drinking more to feel the effects, and craving alcohol.
Levels of Alcoholism: The Middle Stages
Worsening levels of alcoholism are easier to spot but are also the most challenging time to reach someone who may be struggling. In this denial phase, most alcoholics dismiss middle-stage symptoms as “the price to pay to get through the day.”
By not admitting they have a drinking problem, alcoholics tend to view warnings as challenges or insulting their character. Defensive, irritated, or aggressive reactions to concerned loved ones are common in this stage.
Moreover, excessive drinking that increases in both volume and frequency are clear indicators of your progression of alcoholism. Mood swings and personality changes are also likely to occur in this stage, as alcohol addiction is beginning to rewire your brain chemistry.
Alcohol cravings will worsen, and you will find yourself willing to exert extra effort to drink more alcohol than before. The middle stages of alcoholism often produce withdrawal symptoms such as tremors and an inability to focus after not drinking for a while.
If you can successfully reach out to an alcoholic about their drinking problem, this stage is the opportune time to encourage alcohol addiction treatment.
Levels of Alcoholism: The Late Stages
In the most advanced alcoholism stages, withdrawal symptoms are impossible to ignore. Delirium tremens (DTs) are also referred to as “morning shakes.” The need to drink as soon as you wake up demonstrates an explicit bodily dependency on alcohol.
In this stage, an alcoholic has lost control of the situation. Relationships, employment, assets, and mental health have all been forsaken or destroyed due to alcoholism. The urge to drink has become an obsession, and addicts are likely to become desperate to scramble enough money together for a drink.
Though many addicts claim to be “functioning alcoholics,” what you don’t see of their life is dedicated to alcohol. By willpower alone, some people can keep their jobs or relationships. However, in most cases, they are hanging on by a frayed thread.
It is vital to remember that no one is beyond help. Even in the late alcoholism stages, treatment options, resources, and a rehab team are available to help you recover.
The Risks of Heavy Alcoholism
Though responsible drinking can have health benefits, excessive or binge drinking has none.
Alcoholics are at a higher risk of developing life-altering medical complications such as certain cancers, pancreatitis, heart muscle damage, stroke, liver disease, and brain damage.
Furthermore, as alcohol travels through your bloodstream, most bodily entries and exits for liquor are likely to suffer the consequences. Mouth, throat, esophagus, and liver cancer are high-risk cancers that can be fatal if left untreated.
As alcoholism progresses, these health risks increase significantly. If you have been dismissing pains in your abdomen, chest, mouth, and throat, or head, consider getting help for your condition. Untreated alcoholism can kill you, and it may not be from bodily deterioration over time.
Sudden death is a possibility if an alcoholic has cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, after drinking too much, death is possible, as alcohol increases the chances of putting yourself in harm’s way. Drunken slips and falls, driving drunk, or going swimming while drinking is all potentially fatal occurrences, whether you are an alcoholic or not.
Mental health concerns such as thoughts of suicide, self-harm, or harming others are an emergency that must be brought to an emergency room as quickly as possible.
Intrusive thoughts can be incredibly dangerous and should not be taken lightly. Alcohol promotes turning ideas into actions, making dark thoughts a danger to themselves and everyone around them.
No One is Beyond Help
Like any other disease, alcoholism requires medical treatment to recover. No matter how dire your situation, there are always treatment options available to you. You are never a lost cause, and you are worth saving.
Suffering from alcoholism is terrible. Everything someone holds dear is taken away, piece by piece. Alcohol cravings can begin taking over your life, and by the time you have a moment to catch your breath, you may have lost everything.
Amidst the fears, anxieties, and painful experiences, there is always hope. It is never too late to decide to get healthy, and there are rehab teams that are ready to start working with you. Specialists, medical experts, and therapists create an all-encompassing team whose sole job is to help you in any way that you need.
Legal issues, family and individual therapies, and so many more resources and assistance programs are available to you. Rehab centers are addiction experts and are aware of how existential addiction can become. Therefore, it’s only natural that to truly help someone, all of their struggles need consideration and assessment to give patients a truly fresh start.
Author: Annalise Baare
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