It is normal to enjoy a beer or a glass of wine when you are attending social occasions. However, when the alcohol consumption rate increases a person is more likely to form a disorder known as an alcohol use disorder (AUD). The alcoholic person has trouble controlling their alcohol consumption, and end up increasing their intake just to feel the same as they did the last time they drunk. This raises their tolerance and causes them to keep increasing their intake every time they drink. This leads to withdrawal symptoms that cause them to keep taking the alcohol to work at their optimum.
Have you ever heard of problem drinking? This is a strong uncontrollable urge to drink. People who suffer from this urge will often put alcohol before all their obligations such as work and family. Most people confuse alcoholism with “harmful drinking”. Harmful drinking is a drinking pattern that is occasional and can damage a person’s health. Occasional drinking could transition to alcoholism if the person does not monitor their drinking.
After a long night of drinking and partying, you are likely to feel terrible the next morning. Most people term this feeling as a “hangover”. The general misconception is that after a night of heavy drinking, if you wake up in the morning and you have a terrible hangover then drinking a few shots is the best cure. This misconception is the beginning of alcoholism. It increases the person’s dependence on alcohol by relaying to your body that alcohol will make your body function normally. After some time of continuously trying to subdue your hangover symptoms with this technique, you will create a dependence leading to alcoholism. This technique just postpones the hangover and makes it worse than it would have been before the additional drinking.
This dependence makes the person experience withdrawal symptoms every time they fail to take alcohol. This read will shed some light on the various withdrawal symptoms you are likely to encounter and the modes of handling such a situation.
Withdrawal Symptoms of Alcohol Dependence
Withdrawal symptoms come about when the person fails to take their regular alcohol consumption amount. This includes not consuming alcohol or consuming it in limited fractions. The body has already become dependent on alcohol and thus needs a specific amount of alcohol in the system to perform its normal functions. There are a number of reasons that could cause a person to stop or reduce their alcohol consumption abruptly. They include:
1. The person or their loved ones could be trying to wean them off their addiction by restraining them from consumption. This includes isolating the person in a controlled environment until the person’s urge subsides. This extreme measure could be detrimental to the health and life of the addict. Alcohol addiction is very powerful and it should be handled with the greatest care. Does abrupt alcohol limitation not only negatively affect the addict’s health and life but also increases the chances of relapsing. The best way is to wean them off slowly until they are able to stop without having severe withdrawal symptoms.
2. The person could lack the funds to sustain their addiction. This is the most common reason for experiencing withdrawal symptoms. The loved ones of the addict could restrict his or her finances in a bid to restrain them from drinking. Alternatively, the person could have used all their finances on alcohol. Since withdrawal symptoms are very painful and uncomfortable, the person is likely to do anything in their power to get the finance. This includes stealing or selling prized possession to fund their addiction.
Below are the common withdrawal symptoms you are likely to experience if you abruptly cut off your alcohol intake. Some of these symptoms may resemble those of a hangover, thus you might want to examine your loved one for a period or even look at other factors of their life to conclude on whether they are alcoholics or not. Essentially, excessive alcohol intake makes the body performance dependent on the alcohol. Thus, all these symptoms initially begin developing when the person becomes an avid consumer. Then they escalate when the person stops the consumption.
• Irritability: The person feels uncomfortable and as long as they do not consume any alcohol, they are prone to feel worse. This feeling may escalate into agitation and even rowdy behavior that could cause harm to the immediate property or people within their surroundings.
• Auditory, tactile, or visual hallucinations: Alcohol affects brain performance making it harder to see or coordinate the body. This is why staggering occurs when a person has overindulged in alcohol. Additionally, it affects speech causing the person to slur when they speak or become incoherent. Since the body is dependent on the drug to become more
• Vomiting or nausea: Excessive drinking leads to a gastric intestinal complication that entails inflammation of the lining of the stomach. This leads to the development of acid reflux and ulcers causing feelings of nausea and severe stomach cramps.
• Trembling or twitching: Alcohol is poisonous to the body’s nerve cells and heavy drinking causes nerve damage resulting in a numb or pins and needles sensation within one’s extremities. It causes other nerve-related problems such as incontinence, constipation, and muscle weakness.
• Insomnia: This possible symptom owes its inception from the other symptoms. It will get uncomfortable and difficult to sleep when your heart is pulsating faster than usual; you are sweating profusely, trembling, depressed, anemic, hallucinating, and even prone to developing a seizure. All these destabilize the normal sleeping pattern making it unbearable to rest. This worsens some of the symptoms such as visual hallucinations. Some addicts tend to turn to prescription medicine to sleep. This leads to dependence on another drug worsening the drug addiction spectrum.
• Heart pulsating faster than normal. This is because alcohol dehydrates the body. It reduces the water level in the blood. This makes it harder for the heart to pump the blood. When there are elevated alcohol levels in the blood, this can affect blood vessel dilation and constriction eventually leading to chronic changes such as high blood pressure. Heavy drinking increases the risk of platelets clumping together resulting in blood clots which can cause strokes or heart attacks. It also weakens the muscles of the heart resulting in cardiomyopathy
• Sweating: Numerous reasons could cause sweating including anxiety and high blood pressure.
• Anxiety and depression: Most people use alcohol as a get way drug to get away from their stresses in the real life. However, every time they sober up and come back to their senses their problems are still present and sometimes even worse than before. Since alcohol affects their judgment, it could alter their thoughts and make them think and dwell more on their issues. This makes them feel caged and trapped. Without proper care and attention, such a person is a potential suicide risk.
• Dementia: Heavy drinking accelerates the brain’s shrinking with age leading to dementia, cognitive problems, and memory loss. It can also reduce one’s ability to make judgments, plan, or solve problems. Chronic drinking problems can cause a pattern of physical dysfunction and memory loss because of a thiamine deficiency, also referred to as Wernicke- Korsakoff Syndrome.
• Anemia: The reduced numbers of red blood cells, which transport oxygen around the body, indicates the development of this disease. Symptoms of anemia include lightheadedness, dizziness, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
• Seizures: Seizures can happen because when one withdraws from alcohol because the pathways in the brain affected by drinking will be affected.
What Are The Factors That Lead To Alcoholism?
The risk factors for developing drinking problems can come up from various interrelated factors. They include:
• Emotional health: Emotionally unstable people are prone to indulge in excessive drinking to try to escape their negative thoughts. This escape plan does not last as the person sobers up eventually. This makes them keep drinking causing the formation of dependence on alcohol.
• Social environment: The people around you play a very essential role in how you behave. You are likely to take up their characteristics over time. Thus, if you hang around with people who are excessive consumers of alcohol then you will become one. Alternatively, they can influence you to become an alcoholic. Peer pressure does not apply only to adolescents. It is a growing concern in adult relationships too. People who are not assertive end up being influenced into alcoholism by their loved ones. On the other hand, some people drink to be able to fit into various social settings. Thus, if they are constantly exposed to an environment that they find uncomfortable, they will consume some alcohol to help them get by (“Liquid Courage”).
• A person’s upbringing/ how someone was raised: If a person is raised around alcoholics or alcoholic drinks, they are less likely to watch their alcohol content when they get younger. Their mind is wired to view excessive alcohol intake as normal. This makes them likely to overindulge when exposed to alcohol.
• Genetics: People with alcoholism within their family history or those with a close association with heavy drinkers have a higher likelihood of developing drinking problems.
• People suffering from mental health problems like bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety are also at risk of using alcohol as a means of self-medication.
• Not all people who abuse alcohol can become alcoholics but it plays a significant role. At times alcoholism can develop in an individual because of stressful life changes such as loss of a loved one, retirement, or a breakup. It can creep up as your alcohol tolerance increases gradually. You are at a greater risk of becoming an alcoholic if you binge drink or drink daily.
• For High functioning alcoholics, the risk can be affected by peer influence, high-stress jobs, abusing other substances, trauma, or drinking from an early age, in addition to the above-mentioned risk factors.
For men, heavy drinking entails the consumption of at least two alcoholic beverages on a daily basis or taking fifteen servings of alcohol or more within a week. On the other hand, women drink heavily when they consume at least one alcoholic beverage on a daily basis or at least eight servings of alcohol weekly. Thus, if you feel the need to take alcohol examine the above data, regulate, and limit your drinking.
Are you suspecting that your loved one has become an alcoholic? Before you approach them, you have to be sure that they are exhibiting signs of alcohol dependence. Examine their behavior over a period of two weeks and if they exhibit the following signs, approach them and talk to them about the dangers of alcoholism and the treatment options:
• The person can go through periods during which he or she abstains from alcohol resulting in negative physical reactions such as feelings of discomfort, elevated heart rate, sweating, anxiety, nervousness, or irritability. All these are withdrawal symptoms.
• The person usually wakes up without a hangover after drinking heavily the night before because their body is dependent on it to perform its functions. However, take note that just because you fail to experience a hangover it does not necessarily mean that you are at risk of becoming an alcoholic.
• The person substitutes their food with alcohol making them replace most of the daily meals with it.
• The person believes that he or she can control their drinking. Thus, they will be angered or irritated when you express that they are exhibiting signs of alcoholism.
• The person drinks when alone or anytime during the course of the day. He or she is likely to go about their daily responsibilities when drunk.
• The person tends to hide their drinking behaviors because they do not want their loved ones to restrict their consumption.
• The person uses alcohol to build confidence or relax when faced with a foreign environment or event. Alcohol is their remedy for everything.
• The person may be or have faced in the future some legal issues because of alcohol. This includes getting a DUI.
• The person is regularly late or misses work and appointments. This includes missing classes and family events because of excessive consumption causing blackouts.
• They are normally defensive about their drinking habits making them get irritated whenever it becomes a topic of conversation. This could be the case regardless of if the conversation is favoring them or not.
• The person can deny adamantly about having a drinking problem when asked about their drinking habits. High functioning alcoholics usually believe that they do not have a drinking problem since they are capable of functioning properly in society
• The person usually experiences blackouts during which he or she cannot remember specific events that occurred and they seem to lose chunks of time. This is the case regardless of not seeming intoxicated at the time or demonstrating a high tolerance.
• They never want to leave any alcohol behind after a drinking spree. This makes them indulge in alcohol consumption when they wake up. In fact, this behavior has become common nowadays especially with the misconception that hangover symptoms can only be prevented by the consumption of alcohol.
• The person usually wants to keep drinking or get one more drink even when not everyone else wants to.
It is very hard to convince an alcoholic that they have a problem. Thus, you might want to calculate how you would approach such a person to help them get over their addiction. This is because if the person feels attacked they might become more stressed and this might increase their alcohol intake. The first goal of the treatment should be to make the person’s mentality focus on curing themselves of alcohol. This is because if a person still wants to keep drinking, then the treatment methods will not work. This is why some people go to rehab and once they are, out they dive right back into drinking alcohol. The following are some of the recommended ways you can use to treat alcoholism:
1. You can start out by calling an intervention that is filled with people who the person considers his or her close friends. Then proceed to explain to the person that all the people in attendance are worried and concerned about the health of this person. Most of the time, this does not work, but it does let the person know that he or she still has a support system even though they are in denial at the time.
2. Alternatively, you could seek the aid of the internet and get an alcohol self-assessment platform. The person can then take the test themselves to help them come to the realization that they are addicts.
3. Seek the help of a professional. The professional might decide to take up the case of helping your loved one. Alternatively, this specialist might suggest the approach and professional that you might want to apply or consult. The professional might help your affected loved one know and learn about anonymous alcoholic groups. This will help the alcoholic come to terms with their current situation. Such mutual help groups promote accountability and support from other people who have recovered and others who are in the process of recovering.
4. You could seek the aid of a doctor or medical practitioner to help you diagnose alcoholism. The doctor will make sure that within a minimum period of a year the person has exhibited at least three of the following elements:
• Continuation of drinking even when it is clear that it is deteriorating their health. An example of this is an instance where a person develops liver cirrhosis and continues to drink with complete disregard for their health.
• Focusing wholly on the consumption of alcohol and totally disregarding their alternative pleasures such as talents, jobs, relationships, and even hobbies, among other things
• The person should have built up a tolerance for alcohol within a minimum span of a year.
• The person should develop withdrawal symptoms when they reduce or try to stop drinking.
• The person should be unable to control their urge of drinking
• The person should have a strong urge to drink
5. Detoxification is another option. It entails the person completely stopping their drinking for their body to adjust to their new lifestyle of no alcohol. Take note that during this time the person experiences severe withdrawal symptoms. This is supplemented by ongoing treatment. Ongoing treatment here caters to three main camps, which are:
• Psychosocial – This could involve some counseling to help the person understand their situation in a bid to alter the attitude they have towards drinking.
• Psychological – This could involve some counseling to help the person understand their situation in a bid to alter the attitude they have towards drinking.
• Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This helps in altering the negative thought process of the alcoholic that keeps leading them back to drinking.
• Take note that detoxifying is not as easy as it sounds especially to people who are already addicted to alcohol. You will need to slowly wean yourself out of the normal drug abuse routine. This is because suddenly changing your normal routine will negatively affect your system and you might end up more addicted than you were before. Relapsing is a great risk at this stage. Start out by reducing your drug or alcohol intake until it reaches a point that your body system does not react negatively if the drug is not introduced into the body.
• Additionally, you could incorporate an addiction treatment plan into your detoxification plan. A good example of an addiction treatment plan is a medication-assisted treatment. This treatment involves the use of buprenorphine and methadone to help the addicted person cope with the side effects and helps them reduce their urge of indulging in the alcohol.