We’re also going to tell you what the alcohol addiction treatment process looks like, so you and your partner know what to expect from treatment.
What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?
Alcohol use disorder, often shortened to AUD, is a medical condition that involves the lack of control over drinking alcohol.
People with AUD will typically continue to drink alcohol despite the adverse consequences – for example, the negative effects on relationships, finances, and of course, the negative physical and mental effects.
It is considered a chronic and relapsing brain disorder – and can be categorised as mild, moderate, or severe. Some forms of AUD include alcohol addiction, alcohol dependence, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism (the colloquial term).
A national survey showed that roughly 14.1 million adults aged 18 and over had AUD in 2019. Likewise, over 414,000 young people between the ages of 12 and 17 had AUD in 2019. [i]
Alcohol addiction is informally referred to as alcoholism – and people with alcohol addiction or alcohol use disorder and informally referred to as alcoholics.
However, in 2022, medical professionals steer clear of the terms ‘alcohol abuse’, ‘alcohol addiction’, ‘alcoholic’, and ‘alcohol dependence’, and simply refer to all of the above as alcohol use disorder.
It is a widely recognised mental and physical illness characterised by the urge to drink alcohol, despite the significant amount of negative effects that can occur as a result.
Over two billion people around the world enjoy alcohol – but 76 million people around the world are affected by alcohol use disorders (e.g alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse). [ii]
Although everybody may have different drinking habits, some people abuse alcohol more than others. But how much alcohol counts as excessive drinking or alcohol abuse?
Well, according to the NHS and UK Government, we are not supposed to consume more than 14 units of alcohol per week, spread across three or more days. This equals around six pints of 4% beer or six medium glasses of wine.
Sticking to these guidelines is important. Although no amount of alcohol consumption is considered 100% safe, sticking within these guidelines is less likely to cause alcohol-related damage to your health. When drinking alcohol, it’s important to drink in moderation, and drink mindfully. [iii]
Alcohol abuse or problem drinking is a dangerous drinking pattern that often involves binge drinking. It is a form of AUD – a medical condition characterised by a lack of control over alcohol consumption despite the negative effects.
Some people who abuse alcohol may only drink alcohol a couple of times a week but will consume a dangerous amount during a short period. This can cause negative health effects, putting people at a higher risk of physical health problems – in both the short term and long term.
Signs That Your Partner May Be An Alcoholic
Some people with alcohol addiction can successfully hide their negative drinking habits both from themselves and their loved ones. However, there are some signs to look out for that may suggest your partner, husband, or wife has a drinking problem or is dependent on alcohol.
Alcoholism may not be obvious in the early stages of the addiction but can progress and display worse and worse symptoms. If your partner is unable to function with alcohol, then they most likely have alcohol dependence.
Alcohol addiction has been linked to risky sexual behaviours [iv] as well as domestic violence, and it can be difficult to watch any loved one get affected by alcohol addiction.
Here are some more of the warning signs for alcoholism. However, these warning signs alone are not confirmation that your partner is an addict – and if you think your partner has a problem with alcohol, it’s best to speak to a medical professional and get professional medical advice.
They Prioritise Drinking
If you’re worried about your spouse’s drinking, see if they prioritise alcohol. A key sign that your partner has an addiction to alcohol is if they prioritise drinking. Drinking becomes the most important thing in an alcoholic’s life or at least one of the most important things.
A person addicted to alcohol may stop enjoying activities or hobbies they once enjoyed, or fail to keep up with commitments such as work in order to prioritise drinking.
They may fall behind in work or take sick days in order to drink alcohol. Likewise, they may stop spending time with loved ones and begin to isolate themselves.
They Continue To Drink Despite The Negative Consequences
One of the main ways of knowing if you or your partner has a problem with alcohol is if they continue to drink alcohol despite the negative consequences that may occur, whether it be for themselves or loved ones.
After all, alcohol addiction doesn’t just affect the person with the addiction – it can also have negative effects on those around them. Your partner may be aware that their drinking is negatively affecting their health, finances, and even your relationship – but still, continue to drink.
They may wish to stop drinking but struggle to – or they may even try to detox and manage for a few days before relapsing. Alcohol addiction is a relapsing disease, and it can be difficult to stop without the right help.
They Experience Withdrawal Symptoms
People with alcohol dependence typically experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking or lower the amount they usually drink.
If you notice your partner feeling unwell after drinking, it is most likely a hangover. However, if this becomes a pattern and lasts longer than a day or so, it may be a sign of addiction.
Part of withdrawal involves craving alcohol – if your partner begins to crave alcohol, then they could have an addiction.
Symptoms of withdrawal can be both physical and psychological – here are some of the main physical withdrawal symptoms to look out for:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Changes in appetite
- Tremors (in hands)
- Stomach ache
- Red face
And some psychological withdrawal symptoms or behavioural withdrawal symptoms include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Alcohol cravings
- Other mental health problems such as depression or intense mood swings
The nature of alcohol withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the addiction as well as other personal factors. The length of time that withdrawal lasts can also vary from person to person.
They Struggle To Control Their Drinking
If you notice that your partner struggles to control when they drink, how often they drink, how much they drink, or when they stop drinking, then they could have an alcohol problem.
However, it may be difficult to tell the difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction when checking for these signs alone. This is because alcohol abuse typically involves a lack of control when drinking – drinking too much, too often, or for too long.
If your partner is showing signs of struggling to stop drinking once they start – whether it be on the same evening or the morning after, they could be addicted. [v]
They Have A High Tolerance
Another sign to look out for if you think your loved one may be an alcoholic is their tolerance – people with alcohol dependence will typically have a higher tolerance to alcohol as their body is used to it.
They may appear sober after drinking a large amount or be able to ‘handle’ their alcohol a lot better than other people. However, this can also depend on personal factors such as height and weight.
What Is A High Functioning Alcoholic?
A high-functioning alcoholic is somebody who has an addiction to alcohol but is able to keep it hidden and go about their normal life.
For example, they may still keep up with commitments such as going to work and paying the bills, or not experience relationship issues.
However, heavy drinking and abusing alcohol will catch up with you eventually – and ‘high functioning alcoholics’ may be in the early stages of addiction, or simply be in denial.
In 2022, the term ‘high-functioning alcoholic’ is generally outdated – it can be considered offensive to those struggling with AUD. This is because it suggests that some people handle alcoholism better than others, and this can prevent people from seeking help.
Instead of ‘functional alcoholic’, the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) established the term alcohol use disorder – which covers a variety of alcohol-related issues such as alcohol dependence, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism.
People with AUD may be able to keep a relatively normal or unchanged life – even if they meet more than two of the DSM-5 criteria for AUD.
Substance Abuse Treatment Process Explained
If you think your partner is an alcoholic, you don’t have to go about it alone – there is help out there, and you can seek treatment. Sometimes simply attending support groups isn’t enough, and a stronger treatment plan is needed.
At Help4Addiction, we can take the time to listen to your partner’s story, requirements, and preferences to find the right rehab centre for them. We are in contact with professional treatment facilities all around England and Wales.
Whether they require outpatient treatment at an outpatient rehab facility or rehab on an inpatient basis (inpatient rehab) at a residential rehab facility, we can find the right place for them to receive alcohol/ substance abuse treatment.
Taking the first step toward treatment can be daunting, but we’re here to explain the process to you. The first stage of alcohol rehab is detoxification.
During alcohol detox, they will have no access to alcohol so their body can free itself of the substance, essentially breaking the physical addiction.
The length of alcohol detox can vary from person to person, depending on a variety of factors such as the addiction history, height, and weight.
During this period, your partner may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes, people are given detox medication to ease the symptoms.
After completing alcohol detox, your partner can move on to the second stage of alcohol rehab – alcohol therapy treatment. Different rehab centres offer different treatments and types of therapy – however, most rehab clinics will offer CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy).
Some other therapies that may be offered in alcohol rehab include DBT (dialectical behavioural therapy), family therapy, interpersonal therapy, counselling, and group therapies.
At private rehab clinics, your partner may be offered holistic therapies (for example, art therapy or sports therapy), as well as mindfulness/ meditation.
The aim of therapy in rehab is to not only build their confidence but provide a firm understanding of their addiction – for example, addiction triggers or the root causes of addiction.
Therapy isn’t just for those with existing mental health disorders – it’s for those who want to become a better version of themselves.
The transition from rehab back to normal life can be difficult, and the recovery journey isn’t always linear. However, many people attend secondary treatment, also known as aftercare.
The aim of aftercare is to ease the recovery process and prevent relapse – so your partner can live an alcohol-free life, and you don’t have to worry about your partner’s drinking.
Aftercare can come in many forms. Some people attend support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, whereas others prefer to continue counselling or therapy on an outpatient basis. Some people benefit from group therapy, whereas others prefer one-to-one therapy.
At Help4Addiction, we can find the right rehab for your loved one, whether it be for alcohol addiction, prescription drug addiction, or illicit drug addiction – for example, cocaine addiction or heroin addiction.
Call our friendly team today to get the ball rolling and discuss the treatment options available – having an alcoholic partner can be tough, but we can help.