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The Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism

Table of Contents


According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 88,000 people die each year as a result of alcohol-related events, including alcohol poisoning and accidents while intoxicated. These numbers make alcohol abuse the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
Alcohol abuse isn’t just an issue because it can lead to fatalities. Binge drinking and chronic alcohol consumption causes numerous problems for the person drinking and can also have a dramatic impact on their life, family, and career. For those who drink heavily, there’s usually not one single issue that leads them to alcoholism. Instead, there are often many underlying issues.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism, also known as Alcohol Use Disorder, is defined by The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as 11 general criteria which greatly help clinicians determine the severity of the AUD. In other words, a mild condition is present if the patient is experiencing two or three of the criteria for one year; a moderate diagnosis involves four or five of the symptoms; and severe is six or more.
The 11 Criteria for defining AUD is present are:

  • Drinking more alcohol, or for more extended periods than desired.
  • Being unsuccessful in cutting down or stopping drinking habits altogether.
  • Extended periods of drinking or feeling ill as a result of it.
  • Experiencing adverse effects in daily life and relationships because of drinking or feeling physically ill from drinking too much.
  • Intense cravings for alcoholic beverages.
  • Continuing drinking habits regardless of the adverse effects on relationships with friends and loved ones.
  • Decreasing hobbies and activities in order to spend more time drinking.
  • Repeatedly allowing situations that place one at risk of harm.
  • Increasing alcohol consumption to achieve desired effects.
  • Continuing alcohol use regardless of health condition or emotional harm.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when alcohol consumption is lessened or interrupted.

Alcohol withdrawal can cause severe symptoms and, in some cases, it can lead to a dangerous medical condition that needs to be adequately monitored and managed. It’s important to understand that AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder) is a disease. Just like other illnesses, the individual is not responsible for the brain’s reaction to and need for alcohol. It’s also crucial to understand that with proper treatment, recovery is not only possible but likely.
Signs of Alcoholism also Include:

  • A strong need to drink. This might be physical or emotional. Many drinkers find that they crave a drink when life is stressful.
  • Inability to stop drinking. Someone dealing with alcohol dependence issues may not be able to have just one drink with dinner or drink moderately. They may feel the need to continue drinking more than they planned or should.
  • Heightened Tolerance. As alcoholism advances, your tolerance to alcohol will grow. What this actually means is that the brain will feel less of an impact by the intake of alcohol, or it will need more and more alcohol in order to stimulate the same good feelings that you’re drinking to create.
  • Alcohol Withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can range from a headache and nausea to shaky hands and delusions.

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are serious issues that can damage the quality of your life. The good news is that there are options to help you understand the mechanics of alcoholism and to help you overcome obstacles you might face in recovery.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms and Detoxification

Those who drink heavily or frequently may have alcohol withdrawal symptoms once the alcohol starts to leave their body. If you are accustomed to having alcohol on a regular or constant basis, these symptoms can be fairly severe and require medical attention to facilitate the detox. For patients who drink every day, it’s not recommended that you try to stop on your own. You may need a medically managed detox setting to monitor your vital signs and make sure that the stress your body goes through is not more than it can handle.
Binge drinkers may still experience alcohol withdrawal, though medical monitoring may not be necessary in these cases. Experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms once makes it more likely that you will reencounter them if you continue drinking because it’s a sign of the progression of the illness.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Include:

  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Shaking hands
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

Although you may have all or only a few of those symptoms, riskier symptoms such as seizures and hallucinations which require immediate medical attention may occur. The most common and easily manageable symptoms are a headache, shaky hands, and nausea.

What are DTs?

You’ll often hear alcohol withdrawal referred to as the “DTs,” which is not precisely accurate. DT stands for Delirium Tremens, which is a serious side effect of alcohol withdrawal that only impacts a smaller percentage of people. Symptoms associated with DTs include sweating profusely, moderate to severe confusion, hallucinations, delusions, fever, and high blood pressure. It is essential to understand that all of these symptoms should be dealt with adequate and immediate medical supervision.

Alcohol Rehab vs. Medical Alcohol Detox

Every case of AUD is different. While some people only need peer support to manage their alcohol use, such as joining an alcoholics anonymous support group and going to regular meetings with a therapist, others need professional assistance.  The first step when seeking help for alcoholism is to understand first the condition and secondly the difference between available treatment programs.

Medical Alcohol Detox

When you drink on a daily basis, and you are ready to stop, it’s advisable to seek an inpatient medical detox. Alcohol detox in a full-service hospital setting provides patients with a team of medical professionals to facilitate the acute withdrawal. Furthermore, a medical detox will include monitoring of vital signs and specific medications to help ease you through the withdrawal symptoms with less discomfort and stress on your body.
When your body is dependent on alcohol, it can be physically dangerous just to stop drinking “cold turkey.”   For those in advanced stages of AUD, the elderly or those with high blood pressure, cardiac or pulmonary issues, detoxing without medical supervision is not just irresponsible, but it can be physically dangerous. Your body may not be able to handle the stress during detoxification without proper medical intervention.

Alcohol Rehab Programs

If you are a binge or a light drinker who experiences no symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and can stop drinking for long periods, you likely do not need inpatient medical detox. However, you still might benefit from other forms of alcohol rehabilitation in order to learn techniques to manage better the underlying issues that lead you to drink. Handling these issues early can significantly prevent you from suffering the long-term or debilitating effects of alcohol abuse. Binge drinking does cause health and lifestyle impairments. Just because you do not experience withdrawal symptoms, does not mean the condition should not be treated seriously.
You should not gamble on chance, as quitting alcohol can suddenly lead to seizures, which may be dangerous or even fatal.
Other risky symptoms are:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting leading to dehydration, and fever

A doctor in a medical facility can treat the above symptoms of alcohol detox while pharmacologically managing cravings.  A physician can also refer a patient to more extended treatment with therapists or a psychiatrist.
Once the person has safely detoxed from alcohol, a comprehensive therapeutic program is often the best step. These programs offer Private therapy which can further help you understand the root causes of addiction and the need to use intoxicating substances.  It can also help identify undiagnosed emotional or mental conditions that are so commonly missed by rehabs and addiction counselors.

Finding an Alcohol Detox Near me

When people search for an ‘alcohol detox near me’, they are prioritizing convenience, that might not result in the treatment they need. There are different programs for alcoholism and understanding what each one offers can make the difference of failure or success.
For those who are experiencing alcohol withdrawal when they do not drink for long periods, it’s always advisable to seek medical assistance when determining a detox option. An honest assessment of your drinking habits and duration of use, along with other medical and emotional issues, can determine the best treatment plan to start a healthy recovery.

 How Alcoholism Affects People?

Alcoholism is a disorder that affects thousands of people, but it is often misunderstood.
Alcohol is a mainstay in American society. You routinely have drinks with dinner or any social gathering. It’s used in foods and added even to certain candies. For many adults, moderate drinking is part of life. As they say, anything in moderation fine.
Having a glass of wine with dinner or two beers during a game every once in a while is not the same as having a drinking issue. Many adults can consume alcohol without ever forming a dependence or seeing any adverse effects in their life.
Some people do not see the physical ailments of alcoholism, such as withdrawal, but do show signs of alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse might include binge drinking or drinking often enough to cause problems in school, work, or family life. Issues can range from missing work due to a hangover or missing life events because you’d prefer to drink. All of these issues can also lead to a lower quality of life, though they don’t necessarily cause physical ailments. Understanding the causes, effects, and treatment options are crucial factors in finding a solution.

Waismann Method® Medical Alcohol Detox

When a person struggling with alcohol dependence decides to get help, the first step is consulting with a physician regarding dependence, health, and emotional history. Understanding how severe the condition is can also gauge the severity of withdrawal symptoms and what detox is the safest and most effective.
At the Waismann Method® patients first discuss with Dr. Lowenstein (Our Quadruple Board-Certified Director) their unique history, available options, and candidacy. The patient is admitted to a private room of a full-service accredited hospital where a team of medical professionals start with a comprehensive evaluation. Dr. Lowenstein will design the best protocol to help the individual patient safely, quickly and comfortably get through the acute detox phase.
Once medically stable, the patient is discharged to Domus Retreat for a continuation of private, compassionate and professional recovery care. The support of friends and loved ones is not just beneficial but also irreplaceable. More importantly, support cannot be confused with treatment.
Published on Dec. 12, 2018
Reviewed by Clare Waismann, CATC, Founder of Waismann Method® Advanced Treatment for Opiate Dependence
All topics for the Opiates.com blog are selected and written based on high standards of editorial quality, including cited sources. Articles are reviewed by Clare Waismann, CATC and founder of Waismann Method®, for accuracy, credibility and relevancy to the audience. Clare Waismann is an authority and expert on opioid dependence, opioid use disorder, substance dependence, detoxification treatments, detox recovery, and other topics covered on the Opiates.com blog. Some articles are additionally reviewed by one of Waismann Method®’s specialists, depending on their field of expertise. For additional information and disclaimers regarding third-party sources and content for informational purposes only, please see our Terms of Service.

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