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It’s no secret that alcohol can have many negative effects in both the short term and the long term. One of the key long-term effects that alcohol can have is alcoholism – developing an addiction to alcohol or abusing alcohol.

However, it can be difficult to tell whether you actually have a drinking problem. Some people will be in denial about their drinking habits or make excuses for their drinking. Others simply don’t think their drinking is problematic, or could be ‘functional alcoholics’.

Knowing the signs of an alcohol problem is one of the first steps toward getting help. After all, if you can’t spot the signs, then nothing is going to change.

This is where we can help. Read on to learn more about alcohol, alcohol use disorder, and some key signs that may suggest you have a problem with alcohol.

What is An Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction is a form of alcohol use disorder. Today, most medical professionals avoid the term ‘alcohol addiction’, ‘alcoholic’, ‘and alcohol abuse’ – and instead, use the term ‘alcohol use disorder’ – which covers a range of alcohol problems.

Addiction is the more severe form of alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is categorised as either mild, moderate, or severe.

Alcohol addiction is a chronic and relapsing disease that is characterised by the lack of control over consuming alcohol – whether it be the amount you drink, when you start or drop drinking, or the frequency at which you drink.

It is considered both a physical and a mental illness – and people with AUD will typically continue drinking alcohol despite the negative effects that may occur from excessive drinking.

In England, there are around 600,000 people that are dependent on alcohol (dependent drinkers).

This equates to roughly one in 12 men, and one in 30 women showing signs of dependence on alcohol. In fact, over 14 million adults in the world have AUD, as well as over 400,000 young people in the age range of 12-17.

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Alcohol Abuse vs Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are two separate issues, although they have similar consequences and are both forms of AUD. People with a dependence on alcohol will often abuse alcohol – but those who abuse alcohol won’t always be addicted to alcohol or have dependence.

A person dependent on alcohol may continue drinking despite the adverse effects – and try/ wish to stop but struggle to, or end up relapsing.

However, a person who abuses alcohol may not necessarily have the compulsion to drink – unlike those who are dependent on alcohol.

Alcohol abuse is classed as a dangerous drinking pattern and can have a variety of negative consequences.

For example, abusing alcohol can lead to alcoholism, financial and health problems, trouble in relationships, family problems, and of course, a range of physical health issues.

Binge drinking and excessive alcohol consumption are forms of alcohol abuse. People who binge drink may only consume alcohol one or two times a week, but will consume a dangerous amount of alcohol during that time – to the point that it causes health issues.

Binge drinking can have many short-term and long-term effects – including alcohol poisoning.

This occurs when there is a dangerously high level of alcohol in the bloodstream and can affect the areas of your brain that control certain life-supporting functions such as heart rate, breathing, and temperature control.

Alcohol poisoning can be fatal and is considered a medical emergency. This is why it’s so important to know the signs of alcohol poisoning – such as:

Is It Possible To Drink Alcohol Safely?

There is no safe level of alcohol consumption – alcohol is a dangerous substance that can have many negative effects on your life, including your mental and physical health. In fact, alcohol is a causal factor in over 60 health conditions. 

A study looked at alcohol use and the effects of alcohol in over 195 countries (including the UK), and confirmed that there is no safe level of drinking.

However, drinking in moderation can protect against some negative effects such as heart disease – but not against cancer and various other diseases.

The study found that out of 100,000 non-drinkers, 914 of them would develop a health problem such as cancer. However, this figure increased by 4 in those who had one alcoholic drink a day.

Those who had two alcoholic drinks a day were more likely to develop alcohol-related health conditions – with the figure rising by 63. The figure rose by an additional 338 people in those who consumed five alcoholic drinks every day.

However, one drink per day only posed a minor risk. It is important to drink in moderation and stick to the recommended guidelines for alcohol consumption.

The NHS guidelines on drinking state that you should consume no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, spread over the span of three or more days. This equates to around six glasses of wine (175ml) or 6 pints of 4% beer. Check out our alcohol units guide to learn more.

Do I Have An Alcohol Problem: The Key Signs

Alcohol problems aren’t always obvious, and some people with an addiction can hide their problems with alcohol from their friends and family – and even themselves.

Alcoholism isn’t always obvious in the earlier stages – but as the problem progresses, the symptoms worsen and become more visible.

If you feel unable to function without alcohol, have a continuous urge to drink, or continue drinking despite the negative effects, then chances are, you have a problem.

Alcohol addiction can affect all areas of your life and has been linked to domestic violence as well as risky sexual behaviours. Addiction doesn’t just affect you – it can affect your loved ones too – for example, your friends and family.

Here are some of the warning signs for alcoholism – however, these signs and symptoms alone are not confirmation that you have an addiction.

If you think you have a problem with alcohol, speak to a medical health professional – or contact our friendly team of addiction experts to discuss your treatment options. See ‘Get Help For Your Alcohol Problem’ to learn more.

You Drink Alcohol Despite The Negative Effects

One of the key signs of an alcohol problem is drinking despite the negative effects. You may wish to stop drinking, but feel unable to or feel compelled to continue drinking.

However, some people with an alcohol problem have no desire to stop drinking and are in denial about the negative effects of excessive drinking.

Other people may notice the negative effects, or be upset about your drinking. However, if you have an alcohol problem, these concerns may fall on ‘deaf ears’, and you will continue drinking alcohol. It can affect your finances, your relationship, your family, and your job.

Alternatively, you may make attempts to stop drinking – you may detox for a few days, but end up relapsing and continuing drinking.

Addiction is a relapsing disease, and it can be hard to stop drinking without the right help. Rehab is an effective way of gaining control over your drinking – click here to learn more about alcohol rehab.

Drinking Is Your Priority

Another indication that you have a problem with alcohol is if alcohol has become your main priority. People with alcohol use disorder will prioritise drinking – and other responsibilities may become secondary.

For example, they may drink during work or instead of going to work, neglect household chores and stop attending to other commitments. You may fall behind in work or take sick days in order to prioritise alcohol.

Likewise, if you have an alcohol problem, you may stop enjoying activities or hobbies you once enjoyed – often to make time to drink. You may also stop spending time with loved ones and neglect relationships, isolating yourself.

You Can’t/ Struggle To Control Your Drinking

Alcohol problems are characterised by the lack of control of drinking – whether it be how much you drink, how often you drink, when you start drinking, or when you stop drinking. Alcohol abuse and addiction both generally involve a lack of control when drinking.

If you feel like your drinking is out of control or you’re struggling to manage your alcohol consumption, we can help. Contact us today to find the right alcohol rehab treatment for you, whether it be at an inpatient rehab centre or an outpatient facility.

You Have A High Alcohol Tolerance

There are many reasons why somebody may have a higher tolerance to alcohol – for example, their height and weight. However, another reason for this could be due to dependence or alcohol use disorder.

If you have an alcohol problem, you may have a higher tolerance to alcohol than others, as your body is used to the levels of alcohol in your system. This means that you may drink the same amount of alcohol as others, but not appear as drunk – or still appear sober.

You Experience Withdrawal Symptoms When You Stop Drinking

If you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking or lower the amount of alcohol you’re used to, this is a big indicator that you have a problem with alcohol.

You may begin to feel unwell if you stop drinking – however, this could be more than just a hangover. If this becomes a pattern and lasts longer than a day or so, you could have an addiction to alcohol.

A common withdrawal symptom from alcohol is craving alcohol – if you crave alcohol after stopping drinking, then you likely have a form of AUD. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and psychological. Some physical withdrawal symptoms can include:

You may also experience psychological withdrawal symptoms or behavioural withdrawal symptoms – for example, anxiety, trouble sleeping, alcohol cravings, mood swings, and even hallucinations.

The severity of withdrawal symptoms can vary from person to person, but a huge factor in the severity of withdrawal is the severity of the addiction – how much alcohol you’re used to consuming.

Other People Have Noticed You Have An Alcohol Problem

Another sign that you have a problem is if friends, family, or colleagues have noticed that something isn’t right with you.

Sometimes, it can be hard to see your own problems, even if they are obvious to others. If people have suggested you have a problem with alcohol, it’s important to review your drinking. There is help out there for you – read on to learn more.

Get Help For Your Alcohol Problem Today

At Help4Addiction, we can help you to get help for your alcohol problem. We are in contact with rehab clinics all over England and Wales and will listen to your story, preferences, and needs to find the right treatment plan and treatment clinic for you.

Our company was founded by a former addict that needed rehab to save his life. Since receiving the treatment he needed, he aimed to help others with addiction get the right treatment.

There are different forms of rehab – for example, residential rehab/ inpatient rehab, outpatient rehab, and quasi-residential rehab. There’s also private rehab and NHS-operated rehab. We can talk you through your options to ensure you receive treatment at the best place possible.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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