Alcohol Abuse & Addiction Signs, Effects & Symptoms

Acadiana Addiction Center helps individuals struggling with alcohol addiction build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Louisiana, Acadiana is the premier provider of alcohol and drug abuse treatment for adults.

Understanding Alcohol Addiction

Learn About Alcohol Abuse & Addiction

Alcoholism, also called alcohol dependence or alcohol addiction, is a chronic and usually progressive disease that includes a destructive pattern of alcohol use that controls an individual’s life. With the inundation of alcohol in our society as synonymous as “letting loose,” it can be a real challenge to determine when drinking socially becomes a problem. When alcohol prevents an individual from fulfilling work or scholastic obligations and interpersonal relationships begin to crumble, an alcohol problem is in the making. When thoughts of drinking, obtaining more alcohol, and spending most days recovering from the effects of drinking have become a way of life, alcoholism may have developed. When the individual continues to drink in spite of the negative consequences it has caused in their life, this is alcoholism.

Alcoholism involves physical dependence, or a need to drink more alcohol to obtain the same effects and withdrawal symptoms when alcohol use is abruptly discontinued. Rather than being considered a weakness or character flaw, alcoholism is considered to be a disease.

Through much research, five stages of alcoholism (and drug addiction) have been identified. The knowledge of these stages can make it easier to identify when drinking has crossed the line into alcoholism. Stage I occurs when an individual has access to alcohol, while stage II involves experimental or occasional usage of alcohol. Stage II may also include binge drinking – a pattern of drinking large quantities of alcohol in a short period of time. Stage III shows an increase in the frequency of alcohol use, including buying alcohol or stealing to obtain alcohol. In Stage IV, alcohol users have established regular consumption of alcohol and are preoccupied with getting drunk. In this stage, many individuals begin to experience problems in their social, occupational, family, or interpersonal life as a result of alcohol use. The most serious stage, Stage V is defined by an individual only feeling normal while drinking. Stage V also involves risk-taking behaviors and recklessness.

While alcoholism is a very serious disease that can be fatal if left untreated, many individuals successfully recover from alcoholism with the help of a recovery detox program. Rehab can help individuals safely detox from alcohol and provide the necessary therapies needed for an individual to stay sober.

Statistics

Statistics for Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse affects approximately 10% of women and 20% of men in the United States, mostly beginning during the mid-teens. Nearly 2,000 individuals under the age of 21 will die in car accidents in which underage drinking is involved; nearly half of all violent deaths in the teen years will involve alcohol.

In the US alone, over 14 million individuals are affected by alcoholism. Alcoholism also costs over $165 billion dollars each year due to lowered productivity and early deaths. Fortunately, there are treatment options available that can help individuals struggling with an addiction to alcohol overcome their compulsion to use alcohol.

Causes & Risks

Causes & Risk Factors of Alcohol Addiction

There are numerous factors that may interplay to form alcoholism in one individual while another may be able to curb their drinking. Alcoholism is thought to be caused by a number of factors that work together. These may include:

Genetic: Individuals who have a relative, especially a first-degree relative such as a parent or sibling, with alcoholism are more apt to grow up to develop problems with alcohol or other substance addictions.

Biological: When individuals drink steadily over a prolonged period of time, they may develop a physical dependence upon alcohol; meaning that their body has become dependent upon the substance to function.

Environmental: Individuals who grow up in a home that is ruled by addiction are more likely to grow up to develop a problem with addiction. In addition, individuals who begin to abuse drugs and alcohol at younger ages are at higher risk for developing addiction later in life.

Psychological: Individuals who struggle with underdiagnosed or untreated mental health issues are more likely than others to develop a problem with substance abuse and addiction, including alcoholism. Many individuals report beginning to drink as a means to overcome low self-esteem and self-image as drinking bolsters their feelings about themselves.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

Just as every person is a unique individual, the symptomatology of alcoholism can run the gamut. Most common symptoms of alcoholism include the following:

Mood symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Anger
  • Irritability

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Often neglecting responsibilities at work and home due to drinking
  • Drinking in spite of the negative consequences
  • Drinking alone to hide problem drinking from others
  • Stashing alcohol in many locations throughout the home, car, and office
  • Irritation when alcohol is not available
  • Mounting legal problems
  • Using alcohol in dangerous situations such as drinking and driving or mixing medications and alcohol
  • Using alcohol to reduce stress or a bad mood
  • Changes in behavior – may be passive one moment and argumentative the next
  • Neglected personal hygiene
  • Violent behaviors
  • Reckless, risk-taking behaviors
  • Inability to quit drinking despite desire
  • Loss of control over drinking
  • Withdrawing from activities once found pleasurable

Physical symptoms:

  • Smelling of alcohol
  • Tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms when alcohol use is ceased
  • Alcohol dependence
  • Glazed or bloodshot eyes
  • Flushed skin
  • Liver disease
  • Heart disease
  • Nerve damage

Psychological symptoms:

  • Delusions
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Memory loss

Effects

Effects of Alcohol Abuse

The effects of long-term alcoholism can impact nearly every facet of an individual’s life. Virtually no aspect of an alcoholic’s life is untouched by this chronic, relapsing disease. Some of the effects of alcoholism may include:

  • Domestic violence
  • Aggressive and negative thought patterns in children of alcoholics
  • Worsening depression
  • Decline in cognitive abilities
  • Changes in brain structure and function
  • Burden of caretaking for drinking falls to friends and family
  • Divorce
  • Organ system damage
  • Heart disease
  • Irreversible brain damage
  • Other substance abuse
  • Job loss
  • Financial ruin
  • Homelessness
  • Social isolation
  • Cirrhosis
  • Suicidal thoughts, behaviors, and attempts

Withdrawal Effects

Effects & Symptoms of Withdrawal from Alcohol

Many individuals who have become physically dependent upon alcohol experience withdrawal symptoms when alcohol use is abruptly stopped. The symptoms of withdrawal can be managed through proper detox under the careful eye of medical professionals and may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Extreme sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Intense irritability
  • Hallucinations
  • High fever
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Agitation

Many individuals who have problems with chronic alcoholism also suffer from undermanaged or undiagnosed mental illnesses. Some of these co-occurring mental disorders may include:

  • Additional substance abuse
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Social phobia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Depressive disorders

Take a Free Online Assessment

An assessment is an important first step toward treatment of and recovery from addiction and co-occurring mental health issues.

My wife let herself slip into alcoholism. What started as a glass or two of wine at dinner turned into a bottle or two.. almost every evening. I was worried. She admitted into the addiction program at Acadiana, though she was extremely resistant at first. Over time though, Acadiana helped her see that Alcohol isn't the right way to cope with her feelings and she doubled down on committing to her sobriety. Now our marriage is saved and she is sober. Thank you Acadiana

– Brandon D.