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what is alcohol addiction

Signs, Symptoms and Effects of Alcohol Addiction

Mark Heather
December 5, 2022

Alcohol addiction, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a serious mental health condition in which an individual becomes physically and psychologically dependent on drinking all kinds of alcoholic drinks on a regular basis.

When a person has an alcohol dependence, they will often find themselves unable to stop drinking and continue to repeat a self-destructive cycle for extended periods of time. Over time they begin to believe that living alcohol free is something that's just not possible and as the cycle continues, they can experience long-term changes in their brain chemistry, making it difficult for them to think clearly or make rational decisions for simple daily tasks.

As with any type of addiction, signs, and symptoms can vary depending on the individual as well as the severity of their condition.

What Happens To Your Body When You Drink Alcohol?

When someone drinks alcohol, the body works to break down the ethanol molecules found in alcoholic beverages. This process causes an increase in dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure and reward. As a result of this increased dopamine release, people can experience feelings of relaxation and a sense of euphoria from drinking alcohol.

However, these pleasant effects are often followed by harsher realities as drinking persists over time. Regularly drinking large amounts of alcohol can have a lot of negative effects on the body's chemistry, leading to long-term health issues.

Alcohol consumption disrupts several important chemical processes within the body, such as electrolyte balance (potassium, sodium, and chloride levels), nerve transmission processes, and disrupts enzyme activity which helps digest foods and moves nutrients around. Additionally, regular drinking can cause an accumulation of fat in the liver due to its effect on metabolism, which can lead to permanent damage or scarring of the organ, known as cirrhosis.

Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to deficiencies in essential vitamins such as thiamine (B1) and folate (B9). These vitamins are necessary for healthy cognitive functioning, and without them, people may be more prone to mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.

In addition to these effects on your brain chemistry, heavy drinkers tend to suffer from physical symptoms like fatigue and muscle weakness due to their bodies having difficulty synthesizing proteins properly that are needed for energy production. We quote often see that heavy drinkers also tend to have poor sleep quality as alcohol interferes with REM sleep leading to daytime drowsiness or exhaustion.

Drinking too much alcohol on a regular basis has serious consequences for your body chemistry beyond just feeling hungover or tired afterward. Long-term consequences such as vitamin deficiencies or organ damage can occur if someone is not careful with their alcohol intake and understanding signs of addiction is important so that changes can be made before it's too late.

signs of alcohol addiction

Signs of Alcohol Addiction

The signs and symptoms of having a chronic drinking problem can vary from person to person, but there are some common signs that may indicate someone is suffering from Alcohol Abuse:

  • Increased Tolerance
    Needing to drink increasingly larger amounts in order to reach that same level of intoxication and feeling of euphoria.
  • Cravings
    Stronger desires or urges to drink earlier in the day or to feel as though they must have a drink as soon as they wake up.
  • Loss of control
    Not being able to stop drinking after having one glass of red wine or a schooner of beer.
  • Physical Dependence
    Experiencing withdrawal symptoms and drinking more to avoid the 'hangover' feelings.
  • Neglecting Responsibilities
    Missing school or work commitments to have more time for drinking
  • Isolation
    Withdrawing socially in order to continue with the cycle of addiction without judgment from family or friends seeing how much alcohol you consume.
  • Financial Problems
    Spending too much money on alcohol or struggling with financial issues due to excessive drinking

Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction:

The signs and symptoms experienced by those with an alcohol abuse disorder are not always physical. In addition to signs that may be visible on the outside, individuals suffering from addiction may experience psychological symptoms such as:

  • Mental Confusion
    Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things.
  • Mood Swings
    Intense emotional highs followed by extreme lows caused by intoxication or withdrawal.
  • Anxiety & Depression
    Feelings of sadness or hopelessness combined with irrational fears that may worsen when not drinking.
  • Denial & Minimization
    Downplaying or ignoring warnings about their excessive drinking habits and the impacts on their life

Long-Term Effects Of Alcohol On The Body

Heavy drinkers face numerous health risks over time as a result of their excessive consumption. The long-term effects of alcohol can include damage done to major organs such as the liver, heart, pancreas, and stomach, as well as neurological impairments such as memory loss and cognitive decline.

Also, people suffering from AUD may experience changes in their physical appearance, like rapid weight loss due to malnutrition or even seizures resulting from severe alcohol poisoning.

High Blood Pressure & Other Complications

People who drink heavily for years generally have an increased risk of blood pressure complications, which lead to other risk factors like hypertension, as the body becomes tolerant to the effects of alcohol, and more is needed to reach the same level of intoxication.

This effect then places more pressure on the person's heart and a continued increase in their blood pressure, which can become chronic and potentially life-threatening if left untreated.

Over time, people who drink heavily also lead to atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty plaques build up within the arteries, restricting blood flow and leading to further increases in blood pressure. When combined with other cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity or smoking, this could result in life-threatening cardiovascular events such as stroke or a heart attack.

effects of alcohol addict

Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Effect Relationships

Long-term effects related to AUD don't just affect an individual's body; they also have a significant impact on relationships with friends and family members. Heavy drinkers tend to become more reclusive, causing them to push away friends and family who attempt to reach out for help, and even if the person maintains contact with loved ones while binge drinking, they may become easily irritated or aggressive towards loved ones during conversations resulting in damaged relationships over time. 

This can lead to feelings of guilt or shame associated with their behavior leading them further into isolation away from potential sources of support during recovery.

Effects of Excessive Alcohol Consumption on your Career

It is well documented that people who regularly drink alcohol often suffer professionally due to lack of focus, concentration difficulties, poor performance at work along with frequent absenteeism due to hangovers or other personal health issues caused by excessive consumption. This can lead many people suffering from AUD into unemployment as employers could be unwilling to hire them for long terms positions due risk associated with potential addiction relapse. These effects compounded together can eventually cause individuals who suffer from AUD financial ruin if left untreated.

Countries With The Highest Alcohol Abuse Statistics

It is estimated that over 1.3 billion people across the world are currently suffering from AUD, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This means that one in every four adults has a drinking problem, with the prevalence being highest in Eastern Europe, North Africa, and Central Asia.

Russia has more than 18 million people suffering from excessive alcohol use, which is about 12% of the population, and it has been found that alcohol is a factor in more than half of all murders and suicides.

In Ukraine, an estimated 7 million people have a problem with alcohol, which is approximately 15% of their population needing addiction treatment. Alcohol is a factor in more than 60% of crimes and 70% of deaths from accidents.

Poland has an estimated 5 million Poles with alcohol addiction or 11% of their population. Alcohol is also a factor in more than 50% of traffic fatalities and nearly half of all homicides committed each year there.

Romania's situation is similarly dire as 27% of its population suffers from alcoholism, making it one of the most affected countries in Europe by this disease.

Meanwhile, in the United States, 17 million adults or approximately 7% of its population is reported to have an alcohol use disorder.

In addition to these individual countries, all around the world there are countless communities impacted by global burden associated with excessive drinking resulting in economic costs related to healthcare expenses, loss of productivity and other things.

living alcohol free

Looking After Your Physical and Mental Health

The residential program for addiction treatment at Miracles Asia in Thailand can help you stop drinking alcohol completely and begin a new life that's has you living alcohol free and not under the control of your addiction. By choosing to begin your recovery at the leading rehab in Thailand, you will not only have access to some of the best treatment available anywhere in the world, but you'll be able to notice the health benefits within the first week of your program.

As the program is structured to be personalized to your own situation, the positive impact and changes you will see in your own well-being won't be hard to spot. Even little things like improved sleep and being able to maintain a healthy weight is a common feedback points from clients while they are with us in Thailand.

Since opening in 2017, our primary focus has been on helping people just like you or your loved one to quit drinking safely and be able to remain sober for years after they have finished the inpatient aspect of their recovery. We want your stay with us to be the last time you ever need clinical-level care, and we will continue to support you long after you've returned home.

You can use the contact information on this page to reach out to our admissions team anytime day or night. We are always ready to assist anyone looking for help. All enquiries are completely free and 100% confidential.

Article written by Mark Heather
Mark is the founder and Managing Director of Miracles Asia. He has been in recovery for 25 years and Mark is passionate about supporting his clients and manages Miracles on a day-to-day basis. Mark always remains available to current and past clients while actively takes part in 12-step group sessions.
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