What Does Alcohol Addiction Look Like?
Am I Addicted to Alcohol?
Before we get into the side effects, this is one of the most common questions we hear. It’s actually the wrong question to ask. A lot of people worry about things like their genes, their family history, how much alcohol they’ve been drinking and for how long. None of this really matters when it comes to understanding whether or not someone has a problem.
Here are the real questions you need to ask yourself:
- Does my drinking cause problems in my life with my relationships, school, a job, or just how I feel about myself?
- Do I drink more than I told myself I would?
- Do I regularly need to use more alcohol to get drunk compared to before (constantly costing more time and money to get drunk)?
- Do I tell myself I can stop drinking any time, but then always seem to keep drinking, even when I promised myself or others I wouldn’t? Do I constantly find new excuses as to why I don’t need to stop right now?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it’s likely you or someone you love should seek professional help. Just like anything else we struggle with in life, it could be a history of family problems, depression, anxiety, or even just not being good at math in school. For all of these situations, people seek professional help from an expert. If someone could improve on their own, without help, they would’ve done it already.
There is nothing wrong with seeking help and the entire question of asking whether yourself or a loved one is addicted is a moot point. Unfortunately, there is a lot of stigma around alcohol abuse. People have this stereotypical image of a “drunkard” living on the street, but the reality is that most alcoholics are normal, everyday people. They have jobs and families. Their use started recreationally or as a way to relax after a stressful day and then, slowly, over time, got out of control. It can happen to the best of us and there is nothing wrong with that, nothing you should be ashamed of.
When we have problems in our lives that we can’t solve on our own, the right choice is often seeking out professionals. It’s why we go to psychologists for depression and tutors when we’re struggling in school. We know experts can help us get to a better place and achieve better results than we could do on our own. This is exactly how substance abuse problems work as well.
Many people are surprised that standard doctors and psychologists don’t understand substance use and addiction, but that’s because substance abuse and addiction is actually a separate field with its own unique solutions. In 12 years of medical school, most doctors receive less than 4 hours of training on addiction! The field of psychology has also ignored addiction in their training and certifications, which is why addiction counselors and psychologists who obtain special certifications in substance abuse and addiction are the only ones qualified to treat it.
What Are the Short-term Negative Side Effects of Alcohol Abuse?
- Slurred speech
- Upset stomach
- Breathing difficulties
- Distorted vision and hearing
- Impaired judgment
- Decreased perception and coordination
- Anemia (loss of red blood cells)
Short-term side effects will generally end immediately following a sustained period of sobriety.
What Are the Long-term Negative Side Effects of Alcohol Abuse?
Binge drinking and continued alcohol use in large amounts are associated with many health problems, including:
- Unintentional injuries such as car crashes, falls, burns, drowning
- Intentional injuries such as firearm injuries, sexual assault, domestic violence
- Increased on-the-job injuries and loss of productivity
- Increased family problems, broken relationships
- Alcohol poisoning
- High blood pressure, stroke, and other heart-related diseases
- Liver disease
- Nerve damage
- Sexual problems
- Permanent damage to the brain
- Vitamin B1 deficiency, which can lead to a disorder characterized by amnesia, apathy, and disorientation
- Gastritis (inflammation of stomach walls)
- Cancer of the mouth and throat
Long-term use of alcohol can lead to alcohol addiction. People who repeatedly drink to get drunk will eventually develop a higher tolerance. They have to keep using more of it to experience the same feeling. This is how addictions develop.
Which is Worse – The Physical or Mental Side Effects?
Talk to almost anyone in recovery from alcohol and you will hear many stories about which they thought was worse. That is because the side-effects can vary from person to person and how dependent they were on alcohol. When alcoholics decide to quit drinking, they can have physical side-effects such as nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), elevated blood pressure, and sweating. However, it can be much more serious with symptoms like shaking, seizures, hallucinations, delusions, and delirium tremens. These severe mental effects are the main reason why experts recommend detoxing from alcohol with professional help. These side-effects, though they may be bad, usually subside within a few days.
However, the longer you use alcohol, the more you come to depend on it to feel better, get through the day, handle difficult life situations or memories, etc. Many users complain about slides into irritability, agitation, depression, anxiety, dysphoria, and the inability to experience pleasure. Family members, colleagues, and your average doctor are not trained to deal with these serious mental issues. While many of the physical withdrawal symptoms will subside after a few days, the psychological symptoms like anxiety and dysphoria may persist for longer periods of time and add to the risk of relapse back to heavy drinking.
How Alcohol Side Effects Can Ruin Your Life
Long-term alcohol abuse can do a lot more than just damage one’s physical health. It can have a negative effect on one’s mental health as well. Long term use of alcohol can not only raise your risk of cancers and cirrhosis, but it can create a cycle of anxiety and self-medication that is hard to break.
Alcohol abuse can also cause behavioral changes and, the longer the use continues, the harder these can be to change. It can cause paranoia, aggression, and hallucinations. These symptoms can have a negative impact on family relationships.
One of the most common complaints coming from family, friends, and colleagues of someone who is abusing alcohol is that they’ve become a different person. The loving, care-free person they remember before use started is gone, replaced by someone who seems to care more about drinking than themselves or the important people in their life.
Previous life goals, such as completing school, caring for family, or advancing in a career can be forgotten to the point that continued alcohol abuse seems to be the primary goal in the user’s life.
In actuality, the person is still the same person they were before they started using. But that old self is hidden under substance abuse and addiction. Once the addiction and any underlying problems are addressed, the person generally returns to normal.
Get Help for an Addiction
Alcohol dependency has ruined many lives. However, a quality alcohol rehab center, with compassionate, licensed clinicians, can help turn things around. Our addiction treatment programs help men recover in a peaceful environment. The natural environment up in the mountains about an hour outside of LA, and the option to have private rooms in one of our cabins give men the space they need to reconnect with nature and themselves free from the distraction of busy city life.
Oftentimes, it’s not just struggling with alcohol abuse, but underlying issues of past trauma, mental health, or just a stressful life that drive substance abuse and addiction problems. For this reason, we have all licensed counselors trained in dual diagnosis – a treatment method used to address both addiction and underlying issues at the same time to help one achieve lasting recovery.
At Serenity Lodge, our understanding and kind professionals want to help you or the important man in your life get back on the right track. Call us today at (866) 755-9043.