Alcohol addiction is the inability to control drinking because of an emotional and physical need to consume alcohol. Researchers estimate that 14.4 million adults suffer from alcoholism, including 9.2 million men and 5.3 million women.

If not treated, alcoholism can become worse and lead to a multitude of health complications. Below you will find an overview of alcohol addiction signs, causes, symptoms and treatment options.

What is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction, often referred to as alcohol use disorder, is the inability to control drinking habits. This condition can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe. Each category includes symptoms of varying degrees, and all can cause major health consequences.

If you are struggling with alcoholism, it can feel as though you are unable to perform basic everyday responsibilities without alcohol. Over time, alcohol use can have a detrimental impact on work and personal relationships. Serious health complications can also develop if dependence is left unmanaged.

What Are the Signs of Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction can be difficult to identify because those who abuse alcohol are often good at camouflaging their actions. Unlike other substances that can result in addiction, alcohol is widely used and socially accepted in most cultures. In the U.S., alcohol is also widely available and used frequently by both men and women.

However, there is a significant difference between consuming alcoholic drinks occasionally, either socially or for special events, and alcohol dependence. Even though it can be difficult to recognize, some common signs of alcohol addiction may include:

  • Drinking alcohol in higher quantities or more frequently
  • Increased tolerance for alcohol
  • Consuming alcohol in the morning or at inappropriate events
  • Declining invitations to events where no alcohol is present
  • Difficulties in maintaining friendships
  • Avoiding contact with family members
  • Hiding alcohol consumption
  • Increased tiredness, depression, or anxiety
  • Professional issues or legal problems as a result of alcohol use

This is not a comprehensive list of the signs of alcohol addiction. Addiction often manifests itself in distinct ways that can vary depending on the individual.

Several people participate in a group therapy session for alcohol abuse treatment.

What Are the Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal?

If you suddenly stop drinking alcohol after a prolonged period of heavy consumption, you will experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Some symptoms may be minor, but others can be serious. Mild symptoms can surface as soon as six hours after your last drink. These symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Vomiting

More serious withdrawal symptoms often surface up to 24 hours after you last consumed alcohol. Serious systems may be life-threatening and include hallucinations and seizures. In severe cases of withdrawal, hospitalization may be required.

What Are the Causes of Alcoholism?

The causes of alcoholism are often unclear. Researchers have identified several potential causes of addiction, but it’s difficult, if not impossible, to clearly pinpoint a specific cause for most individuals.

Researchers know that chemicals and hormonal balances in the brain tend to change after prolonged alcohol abuse. Your desire to consume alcohol often increases the more you drink. Abuse of alcohol can start in adolescence but usually escalates in early adulthood. While there is no reason to know exactly why some people abuse alcohol, the risk factors include:

  • Genetics and family history: You may have a higher risk of developing an alcohol addiction if you have a close family member who also struggled with addiction.
  • Mental health problems: If you have a mental health disorder, you may have an increased risk of developing problems with alcohol.
  • History of trauma: People with a history of abuse or another type of emotional trauma may be at an increased risk of addiction.
  • Social factors: If you have friends or a partner who regularly consumes a lot of alcohol, you may be at risk of falling into the same pattern.

Other societal and cultural factors may also contribute to your likelihood of developing a problem with alcohol.

What Are the Health Consequences of Alcohol Addiction?

Prolonged alcohol abuse can lead to many serious health conditions. The most common problems that result from alcohol abuse involve heart and liver disease. Other health problems include:

  • Birth defects in pregnant women
  • Learning and memory problems
  • Digestive issues
  • Ulcers
  • Vision issues
  • Bone loss
  • Decreased immune function

While you certainly put your own health at risk when you consume too much alcohol, you also put others at risk. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 28 people are killed every day in drunk driving accidents.

A counselor leads a group therapy session for patients in an outpatient rehab program.

Are There Treatment Options for Alcoholism?

Treating alcoholism can be challenging. Treatment for alcohol abuse is not a short process. For many, sobriety is a lifelong endeavor. However, seeking treatment and support is the first step in freeing oneself from addiction.

Initially, many people choose to attend an outpatient rehabilitation program. These programs involve daily support including counseling and support groups to help you get sober. The amount of time spent in rehabilitation is different for each person.

People who are healthy enough to leave a rehabilitation program often seek the help of programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Sober Recovery. These groups provide support and encouragement to help you stay sober.

Other treatment options include drug therapy, ongoing recovery counseling, and nutritional changes. No matter which type of treatment option you pursue, it is important that you have a support system. Whether it is a trusted friend or family member, you need someone in your corner who is going to help keep you accountable and offer support when needed.

Contact High Focus Centers for Alcohol Addiction Treatment

If you are ready to seek help for your alcohol addiction or you have a family member or friend who is struggling, contact High Focus Centers today. We offer a wide range of specialized alcohol addiction treatment options including in-patient and therapy programs. Contact our team today to discuss the best treatment for your situation.