Alcohol addiction is a chronic disease that causes your body to become dependent on alcohol. You may be unable to control how much you drink, in-spite of the fact that alcohol may be causing serious problems with your relationships, health, work and finances.
Alcohol addiction is different from “alcohol abuse.” Alcohol abuse is when a person has a problem with alcohol, but does not display all the characteristics of alcohol addiction. In “alcohol abuse,” you engage in excessive drinking that causes health or social problems, however you are not dependent on alcohol. Also, you have not completely lost control over your use of alcohol. Although many people don’t realize it, alcohol addiction is a treatable disease. Medications, counseling and self-help groups are among the treatments that can provide ongoing support to assist your recovery from alcohol addiction.
Alcohol addiction: what are its symptoms?
Alcohol addiction is characterized by denial of and a drinking problem. Other signs of alcohol addiction and alcohol abuse include:
- Drinking alone or in secret
- Being unable to control how much alcohol you drink
- Forgetting commitments or conversations, which is sometimes called “blacking out”
- Making a habit of having drinks before, with or after a meal and becoming disturbed when this habit is interrupted or questioned
- Losing interest in activities and hobbies that previously brought pleasure
- Feeling a need or compulsion to consume alcohol
- Irritability when your normal drinking time approaches, especially if alcohol is not available
- Storing alcohol in unusual places at home, at work or in the car
- Gulping drinks, ordering doubles, becoming drunk on purpose to feel good or drinking to feel “normal”
- Encountering legal problems or problems with relationships, work or finances
- Getting used to alcohol so that you need an increasing number of drinks to feel alcohol’s influence
- Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms, including nausea, sweating and shaking if you refrain from alcohol consumption.
Alcohol addiction and alcohol abuse share and can be recognized by many of the same signs and symptoms. However, alcohol abusers don’t feel the same need for alcohol and usually don’t experience physical withdrawal symptoms when they don’t drink. Alcohol addiction, a dependence on alcohol, also creates a tolerance to alcohol and the inability to control your drinking.
If you are curious if your own alcohol consumption has become abuse or alcohol addiction, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you need a drink first thing in the morning?
- Do you feel guilty about your drinking?
- Do you think you should lower your alcohol consumption?
- Do you become annoyed when people comment on or criticize your drinking behavior?
If you answered yes to two or more questions, it’s probable that you have a problem with alcohol, though not necessarily an alcohol addiction. Even one yes answer may indicate a problem.