Alcohol Addiction

If you are struggling with an addiction to alcohol, also known as an alcohol use disorder (AUD), you may feel unable to stop drinking even though your drinking negatively impacts your life.

Many people struggle with these feelings, and it is important to remember that you are not alone. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that more than 14 million adults in the U.S. struggled with AUD in 2019.

About Alcohol Addiction

Although alcohol is legal and omnipresent within our society, misusing it can cause consequences that are just as severe as those of illegal drugs. Alcohol affects your brain’s chemical messaging system. When you drink alcohol, your inhibitions are lowered, and you take more risks.

Some of the effects of alcohol can be enticing, which is why it is enjoyed in social settings. Many people who begin drinking socially can start to develop more of a reliance or dependence on alcohol. People who have a family history of alcohol addiction are also more prone to developing one themselves. In fact, the NIAAA reports that alcoholism is genetic in up to 60% of cases.

Signs of Alcohol Addiction

When you begin to develop an alcohol addiction, or AUD, you may start noticing certain signs, such as the following:

  • Intaking alcohol more frequently or in increasing amounts
  • Drinking to cope with negative emotions
  • Trying to curb, or reduce your intake, unsuccessfully
  • Drinking alcohol in the morning, also known as an “eye-opener”
  • Feeling guilty about your drinking, or feeling like you should hide your drinking habits
  • Feeling strains on your personal or professional relationships because of your drinking habits

Side Effects of Alcohol Addiction

The side effects of alcohol addiction can be devastating. According to the NIAAA, alcohol misuse is the number four leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

Alcohol addiction can affect many systems in the body, and it has been associated with the following medical conditions:

  • Behavioral changes
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Arrhythmias
  • Strokes
  • High blood pressure
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Cirrhosis
  • Fibrosis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Various cancers (e.g., head and neck, esophageal, liver, breast, and colorectal)

Withdrawal Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

If you have been regularly drinking alcohol and stop suddenly, your body may go through withdrawal. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, alcohol withdrawal symptoms tend to kick in within eight hours of consuming your last beverage and peak over the next 24 to 72 hours. However, sometimes symptoms may persist for weeks.

Symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol can include:

  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Tiredness
  • Brain fog
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Appetite loss
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Tremors

During withdrawal, your symptoms may be severe. The most severe form of alcohol withdrawal is known as delirium tremens, and it can cause hallucinations or fatal seizures.

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