Learn About Ailments | Alcoholism


Alcoholism is a physical dependence on alcohol which results in cravings and continued drinking despite the associated problems and interference this causes to personal and work life. Chronic consumption of alcohol can result in physiological and psychological disorders.

In This Article
Did you know? Causes of alcoholism
Symptoms of alcoholism Diagnosis of alcoholism
Related terms

  • 50% of all accidents on the road involve alcohol
  • 1 in 10 people who drink will go on to become alcoholics
  • Alcohol addiction is highest among adults aged 18-29
  • Alcohol is one of the leading causes of death among teenagers
  • 1 in 20 people can't get through a day without a drink

Alcoholism is separated into two categories: dependence and abuse. Alcoholism is a powerful craving for alcohol - it can be uncontrollable and the need to drink alcohol is as great as the need for water or food. The causes of alcoholism are varied and typically involve psychological or social triggers such as stress, depression, family problems, peer pressure or low self-esteem. However, a person may be predisposed to alcoholism and the condition has been linked to genetic make-up. A family history of alcoholism increases the risks of someone developing the disease.

Alcohol abuse does not present an overriding craving for alcohol nor is there a loss of control or dependence on the substance. Alcohol abuse is a pattern of drinking that leads to a break-down in personal and professional responsibility including actions such as drinking when driving, aggression while drunk and continual drinking even when it causes problems with relationships. Alcohol abuse can lead to alcoholism as a person develops the need for alcohol to function.

Binge drinking is a severe drinking behaviour. It has become an escalating problem particularly in the UK where 40% of hospital admissions to A&E are due to alcohol-related illness or injury from excessive drinking in one session. Binge drinking is defined as eight or more units for a man and six or more for a woman and can be a precursor to alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

There are four symptoms to alcoholism:

Cravings – An overriding compulsion, desire or need to drink.
Loss of control – Inability to control the amount of alcohol consumed
Physical dependence – Physical symptoms from withdrawal of alcohol e.g. shakes, nausea and anxiety (having stopped drinking after a heavy period of use.)
Tolerance – Developing a high tolerance to the effects of alcohol and therefore needing more to get the sensation of pleasure from drink.

Many people suffering with alcoholism can appear to function and perform day-to-day activities but inevitably performance will become impaired and relationship problems can ensue.

There are some physical signs to look for when someone is suffering with alcoholism or alcohol abuse:
  • When drunk, speech becomes slurred and a person becomes unsteady or clumsy.
  • Passing out or blackouts.
  • Weight loss (from neglecting to eat).
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Digestion problems.
  • Flushed cheeks.
  • Numb or tingling hands and feet.

The mental signs to look for include:
  • Confusion.
  • One drink leading to another.
  • Drinking when in an unsafe environment i.e. driving.
  • Feelings of irritability, anger, agitation - perhaps leading to violence.
  • Only being involved in activities that include the chance to drink.
  • Overly emotional or uncontrollable crying.
  • Inability to commit to anything.
  • Absence from work.
  • Difficulty sleeping.

For a successful diagnosis of alcoholism the individual must recognise their problem and seek confirmation and help. Your GP can help you by a physical examination and also asking some pertinent questions about your drinking habits.

There are a number of physical diagnostic tests that can be carried out such as:
  • Blood count
  • Toxicology screen (this test will only determine that alcohol is present in the blood but does not confirm alcoholism itself)
  • Folate test
  • Uric acid test
  • Liver function test
Should a GP diagnose you as suffering with alcoholism they will refer you to a psychological specialist to help with your mental issues and if need be a specialist to help with any physical conditions that have resulted from excessive drinking.

  • Addiction
  • Alcoholism
  • Alcohol
  • Alcoholic
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Cirrhosis
  • Binge Drinking
  • Denial
  • Detox
  • Liver disease

Therapies to consider
Acupuncture Ayurvedic Medicine Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
Counselling Detoxification Energy Healing
Hypnotherapy Life Coaching NLP
Nutrition Psychotherapy Reflexology


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