How Do I Know If I Am An Alcoholic?
No single test exists for determining if one is an alcoholic. However, alcoholism does have documented symptoms. These symptoms appear in scientific research. Symptoms may vary in frequency and intensity. Not everyone experiences all of the symptoms of alcoholism. If you’ve ever wondered, “am I an alcoholic,” then continue reading for help.
In this blog, Blue Hills Recovery delves into:
- What constitutes alcohol abuse
- Defining alcohol use disorder (AUD)
- Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal
- Treatment options for alcohol use disorder
- How to find treatment for an alcoholic
What Constitutes Alcohol Abuse?
Abuse of any kind involves excess. It might mean consuming too much. Or, it might involve consuming too often. The CDC calls this excessive alcohol use. Excessive alcohol use generally falls into one of the following categories:
- Binge drinking: 4 or more drinks at a time for women, 5 or more drinks for men
- Underage drinking: alcohol consumption by those under the legal drinking age
- Heavy drinking: 8 or more drinks in a week for women, 15 or more drinks for men
- Pregnant drinking: alcohol use by a pregnant woman
Excessive alcohol use kills over 88,000 people per year. In 2019, over 10,000 people died in alcohol-related automobile crashes. These kinds of statistics represent the consequences of unrestrained excess.
Defining Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)
Am I an alcoholic, or do I have alcohol use disorder? Excessive alcohol use does not automatically lead to alcohol use disorder. However, alcohol use disorder can become more likely when more frequent abuse does occur. Alcohol use disorder refers to a person’s inability to stop drinking. A person may experience negative consequences because of excessive drinking. However, they do not stop. The negative consequences alone do not stop the drinking.
Someone with alcohol use disorder might struggle with symptoms like:
- Alcohol cravings: a greater, stronger desire to drink or drink more often
- Inability to regulate alcohol consumption
- Anxiety or depression when not able to drink
- Memory loss
- Forfeiting previously enjoyable activities in order to keep drinking
Symptoms Of Alcohol Withdrawal
A person suffering from alcohol use disorder has become dependent on alcohol. They cannot function in life without it. Their brains and bodies need it in order to operate. If you’re unsure if someone has become dependent, then look for withdrawal symptoms. Think of dependence and withdrawal like two sides of the same coin. If deprived of alcohol, a dependent person will experience withdrawal symptoms. If one undergoes withdrawal symptoms, then they are dependent.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Sleep disturbances: inability to fall (or stay asleep)
- Anger, agitation, irritability
- Sudden changes in blood pressure
- Mood swings
- Irregular heartbeat
- Hallucinations: seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
- Delusions: thinking or believing untrue things
The Real Danger Of Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal can even be fatal. Among the worst symptoms is delirium tremens. DT affects both the brain and the body. It may lead to a genuine medical emergency. DT usually shows up roughly 48-72 hours after a person stops drinking.
Treatment Options For Alcohol Use Disorder
Treatment options for alcohol use disorder do exist. Detox might be the first step in getting help. Detox is short for “detoxification,” removing toxins from the body. In detox, a person received medical supervision while their bodies cleanse themselves. A doctor may prescribe medication to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Some medical interventions, like an IV, help prevent dehydration during withdrawal.
What About After Detox?
Think of detox like the first step of the recovery journey. It helps ease a suffering person through the pain of withdrawal. Once the withdrawal symptoms end, the person can begin long-term treatment. Some medications used in treating alcohol use disorder include disulfiram and acamprosate. Acamprosate helps the brain recovery from excessive alcohol use. Disulfiram can lessen cravings. Also, Naltrexone can help by blocking receptors in the brain that are sensitive to alcohol.
Nonmedicinal Treatment Options
Medications can become important tools in one’s arsenal. But they are only one tool. A person cannot simply medicate one’s problems away. Therefore, one must make use of medications in conjunction with other treatment options.
A person struggling with alcohol use disorder ought to seek therapeutic options as well. A series of meetings with professional counselors can help. One might consider a partial hospitalization program or an intensive outpatient program. These treatment plans can provide structured, regimented environments that help promote recovery. Those further along in the recovery journey might also look into outpatient programs.
Treatment might end. But recovery never ends. It lasts a lifetime. After treatment, one has the option of aftercare. Aftercare options include one-on-one follow-ups with a therapist or counselor. Or, they might involve group meetings. Furthermore, peer support groups like AA have helped many people.