Alcohol Addiction — Early Signs

Alcoholism, which affects millions of people around the world, is a dangerous disease that causes physical dependency. Once addiction has taken hold, it is extremely difficult — and even dangerous — to quit drinking suddenly and without help. Although identifying alcoholism may seem simple, in its earliest stages it often appears normal.

Because denial typically accompanies alcoholism, the alcoholic himself — and even the alcoholic’s loved ones — may insist quitting at any time is possible. Do not listen to claims that quitting drinking is possible unless quitting actually takes place and is permanent. Instead, familiarize yourself with the early signs of alcohol addiction and find out what to do if your loved one needs professional help.

A Growing Tolerance

When you or your loved one first began drinking, you likely noticed that as few as one or two drinks was enough to cause mild euphoria or relaxation. As time passed, the effects once achieved by one or two drinks only became attainable after drinking four, five or more drinks. This effect is known as tolerance.

Tolerance is defined by the ability to consume greater amounts of alcohol while feeling fewer effects. This occurs because the brain adapts to alcohol. Unfortunately, when casual drinking progresses to abusive drinking and finally alcoholism, these changes have grown into serious problems.

College campuses are breeding grounds for early stage alcoholics. Students who engage in frequent drinking binges might be able to consume vast quantities of alcohol without suffering its infamous effect: the hangover.

After college, a young adult who continues drinking heavily might not notice problems at work or at home. Suggestions to slow down will be laughed at or ignored. Even at this stage, however, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between the future alcoholic and the non-alcoholic who abuses alcohol.

Understanding Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is more than simply going out to the bars every weekend. Men who binge drink consume more than five alcoholic beverages in two hours or less; for women, four drinks in under two hours defines binge drinking.

Although people who binge drink are not always alcoholics, they do abuse alcohol and those who binge drink are far more likely to develop alcoholism than their responsible friends. They are also more likely to suffer violence, sexual assault, contract an infectious disease and cause an accident.

Remember, as tolerance grows, so does physical dependency. For people who become alcoholics, making the switch from alcohol abuse to alcoholism happens quickly and without warning.

When to Get Help

As early alcoholism develops into mid-stage alcoholism, increasing evidence of lifestyle problems mount. You might notice drinking to escape versus drinking to relax with friends. Cravings for alcohol grow and intensify. Feeling agitated when alcohol isn’t available or avoiding situations when you can’t drink is commonplace. You might have an eye-opener in the morning or at other unusual times. Developing problems at work or at home, with financial issues or legal problems, and an overall sense that things are spinning out of control, grow worse.

The Biggest Myth in Substance Abuse

Many mistakenly believe waiting until rock bottom is necessary before getting help. The opposite is true: those who get help early often achieve better treatment outcomes. You don’t have to let heavy drinking define who you are — you can quit, and you can start now.