Early signs of alcoholism

Early signs of alcoholism, Statistics, Causes, Effects on the Body & Treatment Options

What is alcoholism?

We are used to hearing about Alcoholism quite often, we even lightly use the term most of the time to refer to someone who just likes to drink, but alcoholism is a really serious disease and should not be taken lightly. In the scientific article ‘The Definition of Alcoholism’ Morse RM, Flavin DK, published on Jama Network Journal, a 23-member multidisciplinary committee of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the American Society of Addiction Medicine conducted a 2-year study of the definition of Alcoholism.

Therefore, the committee agreed to define Alcoholism “as a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial. Each of these symptoms may be continuous or periodic.” In this article, we’ll be addressing the early signs of alcoholism along with its causes and risks.

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in the United States

According to the 2019 NSDUH, 14.5 million people ages 12 and older had AUD. This number includes 9.0 million men and 5.5 million women. This problem threatens a big number of young people too, as stated by the same source, an estimated 414,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 to 177 had AUD. This number includes 163,000 males and 251,000 females. 

An estimated 95,000 people, approximately 68,000 men, and 27,000 women die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States. The first is tobacco, and the second is poor diet and physical inactivity.

Early signs of alcoholism
Early signs of alcoholism: Social or moderate drinking is defined as no more than one to two drinks per day for most people.

Causes of Alcoholism

It is common to think this condition arises from a person who simply does not know how to control their alcohol consumption and is trapped in a vicious circle, but according to the scientific piece ‘The many causes of Alcoholism’ Cohen, S. Published on the Drug Abuse & Alcoholism Newsletter,  there are three main causes of this disease: biological, physiological, and sociocultural.

  • Biological causes may be:
    • Genetic: “inherited susceptibility to alcohol’s acute effects, impaired ability to catabolize ingested alcohol, or difficulty in dealing with anxiety, frustration, and depression”. 
    • Biochemical: sensitivity to insulin, episodes of spontaneous hypoglycemia, or adrenal insufficiency.
    • Or endocrine: persistently low levels of androgenic hormones.
  • Among the psychological causes of Alcoholism are:
    • Need for tension relief and anxiety control
    • Personality disorders
    • Psychodynamic factors 
    • Learning: tension reduction from drinking provides a positive reinforcement to continue drinking
    • Role modeling: peer example or occupational pressures
  • Culture-specific drinking traditions, and those stresses and conflicts experienced by certain subcultures also contribute to overindulgence in alcohol

6 Early signs of alcoholism

1. Drinking Excessive Amounts of Alcohol

Social or moderate drinking is defined as no more than one to two drinks per day for most people, depending on body weight and gender. Social or moderate drinking can be problematic if it causes undesirable side effects.

When people have five or more drinks in a day, it’s considered binge drinking. Many alcoholics eventually drink far more than this. It’s not uncommon for individuals with advanced alcoholism to have a dozen drinks or more each day. However, problem drinking often begins slowly and many drinkers find that they need to drink increasing amounts to feel the original effects of alcohol consumption.

2. Loss of Control While Drinking

At some point, many people who struggle with alcoholism make a promise to themselves or another person that they will cut back on their drinking. However, they are rarely able to keep this promise. They cannot stop drinking when they have reached a certain amount. They don’t think ahead about the consequences of drinking too much. Once they start drinking, they keep going until they are completely intoxicated.

Early signs of alcoholism
Early signs of alcoholism: Getting a DUI or receiving divorce papers may not be enough to make an alcoholic change their life.

3. Persistent Use of Alcohol Despite Awareness of Problems

Getting a DUI or receiving divorce papers may not be enough to make an alcoholic change their life. Alcoholics are often made aware of the problems caused by their drinking. They may feel powerless to change. Other individuals may be so caught up in their denial that they don’t understand the full impact of these consequences. Their downward spiral continues because they lose control and perspective. It may be increasingly difficult to face the problems caused by drinking, but it is possible to heal, no matter how severe the problems have been.

4. Lots of Time Spent on Alcohol-Related Activities

Alcoholics spend a great deal of time engaged in alcohol-related activities. They also may neglect nearly everything else that matters to them. Family commitments, job requirements, financial obligations, hobbies, home, and property care – all of these activities go by the wayside. An alcoholic will often defend his or her actions by saying they need to unwind or that no one understands their problems.

5. Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms develop when a heavy drinker suddenly stops all alcohol use. Some physical symptoms include nausea, vomiting, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, sweating, headaches, and tremors. A person may also feel fatigued, symptoms of depression, difficulty concentrating, irritability, or anxiety. Anyone with severe withdrawal symptoms such as fever, blackouts, hallucinations, or convulsions should seek immediate medical help.

6. Increased Tolerance of Alcohol

After drinking excessively for some time, a person’s body develops a tolerance for alcohol. This occurs when drinkers need to consume more alcohol to feel the same effect that they once felt. Many alcoholics think they don’t have a problem because they don’t always feel drunk when drinking. They still do a lot of damage to their body despite a lack of feeling impaired or intoxicated.

Alcohol’s Effects on the Body

The effects of a drink of alcohol can vary a lot from one person to the next, but it usually takes about an hour for your body to metabolize one drink. Alcohol stays in the body for different periods depending on how much you drank, your body weight, and your sex. Factors that influence how quickly alcohol leaves the system include your age, height and weight, and amount of food in your stomach at the time you drink.

Early signs of alcoholism: Alcoholism can affect multiple organs of the body, including the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and even the immune system.

  • Brain: alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination. 
  • Heart: drinking a lot over a long time or too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing problems including:
    • Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle
    • Arrhythmias – Irregular heart beat
    • Stroke
    • High blood pressure 
  • Liver: Heavy drinking takes a toll on the liver, and can lead to a variety of problems and liver inflammations including:
    • Steatosis, or fatty liver
    • Alcoholic hepatitis
    • Fibrosis
    • Cirrhosis
  • Pancreas: alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.
  • Immune System: drinking too much can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease.  People who drink chronically are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink too much.  Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections – even up to 24 hours after getting drunk.
Early signs of alcoholism
Early signs of alcoholism: The effects of a drink of alcohol can vary a lot from one person to the next, but it usually takes about an hour for your body to metabolize one drink.

Treatment for alcoholism

When it comes to Alcoholism treatment, it is normal to think of 12-step programs or 28-day inpatient rehab, but it becomes difficult to think of more options of treatment for this condition. There are a variety of treatment methods currently available. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are three types of treatment: 

  • Behavioral Treatments for alcoholism: are aimed at changing drinking behavior through counseling. They are led by health professionals and supported by studies showing they can be beneficial.
  • Medications for alcoholism: Three medications are currently approved in the United States to help people stop or reduce their drinking and prevent relapse. They are prescribed by a primary care physician or other health professional and may be used alone or in combination with counseling.
  • Peer-Support Groups for alcoholism: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step programs provide peer support for people quitting or cutting back on their drinking. Combined with treatment led by health professionals, mutual-support groups can offer a valuable added layer of support. Due to the anonymous nature of mutual-support groups, it is difficult for researchers to determine their success rates compared with those led by health professionals.
Early signs of alcoholism
Early signs of alcoholism. Behavioral Treatments for alcoholism are aimed at changing drinking behavior through counseling. They are led by health professionals and supported by studies showing they can be beneficial.

Reclaim Your Life From The Early Signs of Alcoholism

If you found just one bit of truth in this article, you may want to consider how drinking is affecting your life.  We Level Up California can provide to you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from alcohol addiction with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.