Alcohol abuse – Symptoms and treatment
International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (The International Classification of Diseases – ICD) defines addictions as a disease (ICD: Chapter V, Block F, F 10.2).
In order to diagnose alcohol addiction, at least three of the following symptoms should be observed over a course of 12 months:
Alcohol cravings are defined as an urge to drink alcohol – this urge is characterised by a strong and unpleasant sensation resembling “hunger” or “thirst.” Alcohol cravings are often associated with anxiety or panic attacks when no alcohol intake is possible. These symptoms can be alleviated through addiction therapy.
Changes in alcohol tolerance
The need for steadily alcohol increases. In addition to that, a build-up in alcohol tolerance is observed – greater alcohol intake is needed to be able to “loosen up.” One beer is no longer enough – you need two or more. At the same, the rate of consumption increases dramatically as well. People suffering from alcoholism often deny their problem with statements such as: “I have built a resistance to alcohol”, or “I can handle it.” As the disease progresses, this alcohol “tolerance” is in fact reversed and only a small amount of alcohol suffices to get intoxicated. Addiction treatment is now a must.
Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS) in alcoholism
If alcoholism is involved, abstaining from alcohol or reducing its intake may result in Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS). The syndrome is characterised by irritability, anxiety, tremors or shivers, intense sweating, torsions, vomiting, insomnia or even awareness disturbances. In addition to that, delusions are not uncommon if AWS was preceded by severe binge drinking. The matter is further aggravated when an addicted individual discovers that the AWS symptoms can be alleviated by “hair of the dog.” Alcoholism treatment – involving a proper alcoholic detox – can effectively overcome any Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms symptoms.
“Loss of control”
A worrying symptom of alcoholism is the inability to completely abstain from drinking. Some alcoholics can postpone drinking for short periods of time – once the drinking starts again, however, it is impossible to stop it. The loss of control in drinking is one of the most significant signs that addiction treatment is needed.
Focusing only on alcohol
Another important symptom of addiction is when life starts to revolve around alcohol only. The addict devotes a tremendous amount of time to organising drinking events, finding alcohol or mitigating the unavoidable effects of heavy drinking. Without access to alcohol, the addicted person experiences anxiety and irritability. Maintaining relationships with non-drinkers becomes of no importance. Some addicts start their day by thinking about the evening drinking – this “exciting” thought overshadows everything else. Any alternative passtimes are already considered unattractive. All the above constitute a clear sign of addiction.
Drinking despite the awareness of risk factors
With time, many addicts develop awareness that abusing alcohol is harmful. Many understand that drinking not only causes their own life dissatisfaction and negatively affects their mental health, but also hurts their family environment and careers. Nevertheless, they are unable to stop drinking which becomes obvious to people around them.
The above list is based on the guidelines of The State Agency for the Prevention of Alcohol-Related Problems of the Republic of Poland
Dr. Woronowicz Checklist – Am I addicted to alcohol?
Please ensure that you have answered every question on the following list. Next, sum up your points.
This checklist will help you find out if you need to go through a professional addiction treatment.
If you have an addiction problem, take the decision now to free yourself from it!
- I have experienced memory loss („blackouts”) following getting drunk /1 or 0 points/
- The way I react to to alcohol has changed: „I have built up tolerance”, „I have a diminished tolerance” /1 or 0 points/
- It has happened to me to drink alcohol on an empty stomach (before the first meal of the day) /2 or 0 points/
- It happens to me the day after heavy drinking and especially in the morning to experience nausea or vomitting /1 or 0 points/
- On occasions, drinking disrupts my professional work /1 or 0 points/
- I think it might be necessary to limit my drinking /2 or 0 points/
- When getting sober or once sober I experience anxiety or discomfort /2 or 0 points/
- I find it difficult to stop drinking after the first few drinks /2 or 0 points/
- If I stopped drinking, my family atmosphere would improve /1 or 0 points/
- I experience tremors and shivers the day after heavy drinking /1 or 0 points/
- I get annoyed when other people comment on my drinking /2 or 0 points/
- It happens to me on occasions that I sweat heavily the day after heavy drinking /1 or 0 points/
- At times, I promise my family members of friends that I will stop drinking /1 or 0 points/
- It happens to me at times that I feel guilty or remorseful because of my drinking /1 or 0 points/
- It happens to me on occasions that I drink whenever I am angry or anxious to calm myself down /1 or 0 points/
- Everytime I am intoxicated, the tremors are gone and my mood improves /2 or 0 points/
- If I stop drinking, I get tremors (alcohol induced epilepsy) /2 or 0 points/
- It has happened to me on several occasions that I would go on drinking binges lasting at least two days in a row /2 or 0 points/
- I have been hospitalised due to alcohol abuse /2 or 0 points/
- I have drunk at times alcohol not meant for human consumption (for example, denatured alcohol, solvents, etc.) /2 or 0 points/
The checklist summary:
Between 5 and 10 points
The warning phase – You might be able to stop your addiction on your own with a good deal of self-control and restraint.
Between 11 and 19 points
The critical phase – You are an alcoholic and encouraged to seek professional treatment.
20 points and above …
… are typical for individuals who suffer from chronic alcoholism. You are urged to seek help immediately. Given your condition, the only alternative to treatment is death.