Substance abuse experts make a distinction between alcohol abuse and alcoholism (also called alcohol dependence). Unlike alcoholics, alcohol abusers have some ability to set limits on their drinking. However, their alcohol use is still self-destructive and dangerous to themselves or others.
Common Signs and Symptoms of General Alcohol Abuse:
- Repeatedly neglecting responsibilities at home, work, school, and other areas of life because of drinking alcohol.
- Using alcohol in situations where it is physically dangerous, such as drinking and driving, operating machinery while intoxicated, or mixing alcohol with prescription medication against your doctor’s orders.
- Experiencing repeated legal problems on account of your drinking, from getting DUI’s, to being charged with drunk and disorderly conduct.
- Continuing to drink even though your alcohol use is causing problems in your relationships.
- Drinking as a way to relax or de-stress, all of the time. Many drinking problems start when people use alcohol to excessively self-soothe and relieve stress, every time they are upset.
The Alcoholism Beast Itself
Alcoholism is the most severe form of problematic drinking. This addiction involves all the symptoms of alcohol abuse, but it also incorporates another, more critically impairing element: physical dependence. If you rely on alcohol to function daily or if you feel physically compelled to drink alcohol, then you are an alcoholic.
The Two Most Common Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism
Tolerance is the first major warning sign of alcoholism. Do you have to drink a lot more than you used to in order to get buzzed or to feel relaxed? Can you drink more than other people without getting drunk? If so, these are signs that you may have built up an unhealthy tolerance. To have a tolerance means that, over time, you need more and more alcohol to feel the same effects as you once did with a lesser amount. This is a huge, early warning sign of alcoholism itself, not just alcohol abuse.
Withdrawal is the second major warning sign of alcoholism. Do you need a drink to steady the shakes in the morning? Drinking to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms is a sign of alcoholism and a huge red flag. When you drink heavily, your body gets used to the alcohol and experiences withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, insomnia and fatigue, irritability, shakes, sweating, vomiting, and more, if alcohol is taken away. In severe cases, withdrawal from alcohol can also involve hallucinations, confusion, seizures, fever, and extreme agitation.
Symptoms of alcohol abuse, tolerance or withdraw are dangerous, so talk to your doctor if you are a heavy drinker and want to quit. It is not impossible to get better. There is help, such as with the compassionate and understanding staff that we have at the Addiction Control Center of Pittsburgh. Contact us now for more information, and to start a better life for yourself and loved ones today.