Alcohol addiction — the signs you need to know

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Alcohol addiction
The Hader Clinic
The Hader Clinic
March 2, 2020
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Common signs either you or someone you know is suffering from addiction to alcohol

Consuming alcohol is a common part of Australian life. It's often synonymous with social events and activities, like Christmas and post work drinks on a Friday. However, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1 in 6 people consume alcohol at unhealthy levels, which can often lead to alcohol addiction.

As a dedicated alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility in Melbourne, Hader Clinic is dedicated to helping patients and their families understand alcohol addiction. We offer a range of programs, from 28-Day Detox & Withdrawal to Outpatient Relapse Prevention.

As a type of drug, alcohol abuse is extremely common. 35 per cent of drug treatment episodes between 2017 and 2018 were for alcohol — making it the most commonly treated drug in Australia. But, as with most drug dependencies, those who are affected often feel ashamed, guilty, or in denial.

Is there a difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism?

There is a distinct lack of knowledge about the hard facts of what constitutes alcohol abuse versus alcohol addiction — and whether the distinction makes a difference in the long-run.

Amongst medical practitioners, the two terms can be used interchangeably. However, The Hader Clinic follows two separate definitions:

  • Alcoholism is generally used to explain a long-term and chronic dependency on alcohol.
  • Alcohol abuse is used to explain an episode, or episodes, where a person misuses alcohol.

As a specialised private hospital, we begin by helping patients detox and manage withdrawal from alcohol addiction. Then, we offer treatment plans for patients, made up of different therapies and costs. This model of care gives patients the best possible chance at long term recovery.

How to identify a person who has a dependency on alcohol

First, we need to understand exactly what makes up the definition of an 'addiction'. An addiction refers to a dependence on a substance — in this case, alcohol — which the sufferer has physical cravings and urges for.

You might be suffering from an addiction to alcohol if you:

  • Worry and obsess over when you'll be able to have your next drink
  • Get sweaty or nauseous between drinks
  • Notice shaking and tremors during extended periods of sobriety
  • Wake up with an insatiable craving to drink alcohol
  • Hide your alcohol use from others at home and work
  • Fight with your friends and family about your alcohol use

These are just the visible signs of alcohol addiction. There are also a range of physical, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual effects of the disease. Some of these may be easy to identify. Others will be growing and compounding under the surface.

  • Organ damage and higher risk of poisoning, coma, and death
  • Depression, anxiety, and decreased cognitive function
  • Anger, abrasiveness, and other mood changes when drinking
  • Withdrawal from society and loss of past interests
  • Damage to self esteem and self worth

Reversing these effects of alcohol addiction are difficult, but not impossible. The Hader Clinic holistically treats all facets of addiction, including and beyond those mentioned above. The first important step is initiating an early intervention.

woman refusing a glass of wine

Why early intervention into alcoholism is crucial

As described above, alcohol abuse manifests in many outward and inward effects. These can snowball as the abuse continues into addiction, and can lead to lasting mental and physical health effects for the user. Alcohol also leads to a loss of rational thought and inhibition, which can lead to:

  • Using alcohol dangerous, like while drink driving, or on medication
  • Poly drug use and addiction with stimulants, prescription medication, and other substances
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, home, and in social settings
  • Continued drinking despite negative effects and personal crises

These signs may not be apparent until months or even years into heavy alcohol abuse. Once the crisis point is reached, however, the user may be facing irreparable legal, financial, and social consequences.

Alcohol addiction detox and withdrawal — the hidden dangers

Severe alcohol addiction usually appears as a crippling physical dependence on the substance. The absolute compulsion to drinking day in, day out, or to binge sporadically, can result in other signs, including:

  • Increased tolerance to alcohol, and being able to "hold their drinks" by drinking more and more for the same effect.
  • Inability to quit drinking, even after an intervention from family and friends, or with medical assistance.

Finally, alcohol addicts will often experience heightened withdrawal symptoms. In serious cases, these can extend to a range of long and short term effects, including:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and excessive sweating
  • Anxiety, depression, and disturbed sleep
  • Shaking and tremors

Withdrawal can also manifest in seizures, hallucinations, and even coma. Serious addictions may also lead the addict to experience delirium tremens, which can lead to cardiac arrest. It is an extremely dangerous period for patients, and should never be undertaken alone.

The Hader Clinic specialises in managing all of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Our team of doctors, nurses, and clinical psychologists employ a multifaceted approach to beginning the treatment for addiction, setting patients up for greater long term success.

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