Alcoholism Help Line (24/7)

1-800-466-1872

Call the Alcohol Hotline for 24/7 Assistance with drug and alcohol abuse help. We offer assistance with treatment and recovery.

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  •  Alcoholism.org is not associated with any government organization.
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Additional Resources:

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) – 1-800-NCA-CALL (622-2255)
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – 1-301-443-1124
  • The Partnership at Drugfree.org – 1-855-DRUG-FREE (378-4373)
  • National Association for Children of Alcoholics – 1-888-554-COAS (2627)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
  • National Institute of Mental Health Information – 1-866-615-6464
  • Alcoholics Anonymous Number – 1-212-870-3400

What You Need to Know About Alcoholism

Do you ever feel weird when you’ve not had alcohol for a long time in the day? If yes, then perhaps you’re addicted to it. This addiction has got plenty of names like alcoholism, alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder.

It all starts with a drink you had to comfort yourself when you were under stress, upset, peer pressure or simply because you wanted to enjoy. When you like the feeling of being tipsy or high, you tend to take more and more. Before you know it, you’ve started drinking everyday and now you can’t live without it.

So, why is it such a big problem? You do know how alcohol makes you feel better – you’re simply out of your senses, which helps you escape reality for the time being. So, taking alcohol at regular intervals could perhaps help you escape reality for most parts of the day.

However, that also implies that you’re out of your senses most of the time. Moreover, alcohol doesn’t just affect your mind. Once it’s in your blood, it adversely affects your liver, heart, stomach, mouth, throat, breast, colon, pancreas and/or your immune system.

 

Every problem comes with a solution and that includes addiction. So, starting from what alcoholism is and how it affects you, we’ll discover the solution to it too.

What is Alcoholism?

To define it in one line, alcoholism is addiction and dependence towards alcohol consumption. You don’t drink casually or even for a reason in this situation. It’s something you think you need for survival. Your body starts craving for it when you’re sober.

You may say that you become completely dependent on alcohol for just feeling normal. In reality, our body becomes accustomed to the state it puts you in. All of a sudden, being sober feels abnormal to you.

To make it worse, your body and mental health is affected completely. The most common problems faced by an alcoholic include liver disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, stroke and cancer.

These are common problems caused by excessive drinking, even when you’re not completely addicted to it. So, how will you know whether the problem you’re going through is excessive drinking or alcoholism? What are the symptoms that draw a line between these two?

 

Well, alcoholism has got 4 stages – pre, early, middle and late. Each of them has got their own symptoms. Let’s take a look at them to know what our real problem is right now.

Signs & Symptoms of Alcoholism

There are certain warning signs that show that you are turning into an alcoholic. If you don’t get them on time and turn into one, you’ll see more severe symptoms. The more you ignore this problem, the worse it gets.

Following are the signs that indicate your drinking habits are turning into addiction and dependency:

Increase in the number of drinks you consume: You may have started drinking randomly during rough times only. However, if this gradually turns into a regular habit and you see yourself consuming at least 5 drinks a day, or 12-15 drinks a week, you’re going down a dark way.

Improved capacity to consume alcohol: You might as well observe that earlier you got tipsy in just 2 pegs and now you can handle 4 easily. The more we drink, our capacity to consume it increases. This encourages you to drink more, which in turn starts increasing your need to drink.

Prioritizing drinking over other activities: You may have started drinking during leisure time. However, if you see yourself ignoring work only to go to the bar, then perhaps something is wrong. It is an important warning that alcohol is now becoming more than just a stress buster.

Increase in blackouts and getting drunk: As you drink more and more, you find yourself in a drunken state more often. You’ll have blackouts as a result and won’t remember what you did for most parts of the day or week.

Diagnosed with a mental health problem: If you’ve been drinking regularly and are going through depression, schizophrenia or anxiety disorder already, it means you’re very close to becoming an alcoholic.

Denial when it comes to drinking: When you’re slowly becoming addicted to drinking, you first start by denying that you’ve drunk. Next, you’ll see yourself making promises that you’ll quit. However, in no time you’ll find yourself with another peg and you’ll make a thousand excuses for it. This shows how you’ve helplessly become dependent on alcohol.

If you don’t catch these early signals, then you’ll one day find yourself lost. Entrapped by your dependency towards alcohol, you’ve become a complete alcoholic if you see these symptoms following the above signs:

  • Complete loss of control towards drinking
  • Your body craving for alcohol when you haven’t had drinks for hours
  • Prioritizing drinking over everything else
  • Spending most of your money on alcohol
  • Continuous increase in blood alcohol concentration
  • Deterioration of physical and mental health
  • Complete change in your behaviour towards people
  • Drinking alone more often than ever
  • Increase in violent or angry behaviour, especially when pointed at for drinking
  • Reduction of appetite or unhealthy eating habits
  • Ignorance towards personal hygiene and appearance

Basically, you may say now you won’t be able to help yourself. however, that does not mean you can’t get external help either. Before we move on to the treatment, let’s take a look at the various stages and effects of alcoholism. This will help you know what kind of a treatment you’ll need.

Stages of Alcoholism

As we discussed above, alcoholism has 4 stages – pre-alcoholic, early alcoholic, middle alcoholic and late alcoholic. The earlier stage you are in, the easier it is to come out of it. Being able to stop is possible even in the late stage of alcoholism, but by then the damage has been done to your body.

Stage 1: Pre-Alcoholic

This is the stage from where quitting is the easiest. You’re not yet addicted to alcohol here, but your consumption does start increasing. You’ll observe two things here:

Increase in tolerance towards alcohol: You’ll observe that you can handle yourself with more drinks than you could before. Every subsequent day, you need a greater amount of alcohol to get tipsy, high or drunk.

 

Increase in consumption of alcohol: Due to increase in tolerance, you’ll naturally start drinking more at a time. You’ll particularly find yourself drinking more when you’re stressed. If you’re a man, you’ll find yourself having 5 or more drinks in 2 hours and if you’re a woman it’ll be 4+.

Stage 2: Early Alcoholic

Here, you have become addicted to alcohol. Even though it is possible to come out of it without professional help, you won’t be willing to. This is because your dependency on alcohol will increase, even though you may not like it. Following are the signs of being in this stage:

Increase in frequency of blackouts: You’ll be finding yourself going to the drunk stage more often, as a result of which you’ll have more blackouts. Your memory starts fading and you stop remembering things happening for most parts of the day or week.

Feeling helplessly dependent on alcohol: You’ll be able to observe yourself becoming an alcoholic, which is not a comfortable feeling. On one hand, you’ll feel bad about what you’ve done to yourself. On the other hand, you’ll be tempted towards drinking and won’t be able to overcome on your own.

 

Increase in false denial about drinking and obsession: When you’re turning into an alcoholic, your friends, family and colleagues won’t sit quietly and watch. That’s when you start lying to them about drinking. At the same time, your obsession towards it starts increasing.

Stage 3: Middle Alcoholic

At this stage, you are a complete alcoholic who probably needs professional help to come out. It is obvious, not just to your friends and family surrounding you, but to anyone who takes a look at you. Here are some clearly visible signs portrayed by a middle alcoholic:

Change in priorities: You’ll find yourself spending more and more time drinking and less and less time working. You might either skip going to work to go to the bar, or carry your drinks to office secretly. Drinking is now more important to you than work, relationships, hobbies and social life.

Change in behaviour: You no more lie about drinking now. Instead, you act angrily or violently when someone asks you to stop. In fact, you may act violently even for other small things that don’t happen in your favour.

 

Deterioration of health: Your body is what shows clear signals of becoming an alcoholic. Some of these include redness of the skin, bloating of the stomach, weight gain/loss and sluggishness. Your eating habits change completely, in an unhealthy way and your blood alcohol level is always high.

Stage 4: Late Alcoholic

This is the final stage, where only a professional or rather a rehab can help you quit. However, it will still be late because some of your organs are probably damaged for good. So, these are some of the things you’ll witness at this stage after going through the above 3:

Drinking every day: You’ll always find yourself with a small or big bottle – whether you’re at home, office, in the car or on a plane. You’ll be way too dependent on your drinks and will need them from time to time. You may say that drinking now is in your reflexes, over and above everything in the world.

Serious diseases: Alcohol is known to hit the brain and the liver the most. Cirrhosis of the liver is a common disease an alcoholic can have. Else, other diseases or problems you can get are paranoia, hallucination, dementia, anxiety disorder, depression, high blood pressure, stroke or even cancer.

 

This final point leads you to the most important thing you need to know about alcoholism – the final outcome of becoming an alcoholic.

Effects of Alcoholism

To understand the effects of alcohol abuse, you first need to understand what really happens when you consume it in the first place. When you consume alcohol, it is absorbed by your blood vessels very quickly.

Within 5-10 minutes of drinking, your mood changes first. This is followed by losing control over yourself, as you consume more. When it gets too much, you face a blackout. Only after the body breaks it down completely, you start feeling sober again.

Depending on the blood alcohol concentration level, here’s the immediate effect of alcohol you’ll feel:

0.03-0.12: You feel happier, more confident and less anxious. Your muscles are well-coordinated and your skin is red.

0.09-0.25: You feel lethargic, have a blurry vision, lose balance to even stand on your feet and are in the same state a sedative can put you in.

0.18-0.30: You start feeling dizzy, speak weirdly, are in a confused state and tend to puke a bit.

0.25-0.40: You’re completely out of your senses, probably unconscious and might just puke a lot.

0.35-0.80: This is the most dangerous state that could lead to alcohol poisoning or put you in a state of coma.

Normally, when you’re high or drunk, you’re a pretty embarrassing person. If you drive in such a state, there are high chances of involving yourself in an accident, along with others on the road. This is due to the lack of control you have over yourself and the blurry vision you have when you’re high.

 

Now, since alcohol is absorbed by your blood very quickly, it affects every organ of your body. The various physical and mental health issues caused by alcoholism in the long run are:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Hallucination
  • Dementia
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Stroke
  • Brain disorder
  • Cancer in the lungs, breasts, oesophagus, pancreas, mouth, throat, GI tract or colon
  • High blood pressure
  • Damage of nerve and brain cells
  • Pancreatitis
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
  • Cardiovascular disease and atrial fibrillation
  • Irregular menstrual cycle followed by early menopause
  • Bone loss
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Vision damage
  • Complications in diabetes
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Malabsorption
  • Anovulation

While the damage to your body and mind has already been done, as a result of the change in your behaviour and prioritizing alcohol over everything else, you’ll find yourself losing your jobs and losing important people in your life too.

However, things can be normal in your life again, if you treat yourself.

Alcoholism Treatment

Alcoholism can also be treated on the last stage. It may be difficult to cure the damages caused in your body, but any further damage that alcohol could cause can be prevented. Here’s how:

Counselling: This works in the earlier stages of alcoholism where the reasons behind drinking can be solved by other means.

Medication: There are plenty of medicines that doctors can prescribe to reduce your craving for alcohol and minimize its effects on your organs.

Out-patient Rehabilitation: This is more similar to counselling, where the patient learns to quit alcohol while leading a normal life.

Detoxification: This is more commonly done for alcoholics in the later stages having high levels of blood alcohol concentration. It is the first treatment provided in a rehab.

In-patient Rehabilitation: Here, the alcoholic is sent to a rehab centre for a period of 30-90 days where he or she learns to quit after getting a detox.

Maintenance: Once you’re out of rehab, you continue with the other forms of treatment like counselling so that you don’t go back to drinking again.

Getting treated for alcoholism has become easier than ever before. All you have to do is dial on 1-800-466-1872 and tell us who needs help. We’re there to help anyone addicted to alcohol to come back to normal life.