Alcohol is a drug, which means it has the ability to alter the drinker's brain functioning and behavior. Those who abuse alcohol often make decisions they would not ordinarily make. Because alcohol abuse has such a negative impact on culture, government agencies, and health insurance companies try to assist alcoholics by helping them quit and become more physically and mentally healthy.
What is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism is often recognized as a mental health disorder. There is no specific number of drinks per day that one would have to consume to be considered an alcoholic. The term alcoholic is generally used to refer to someone who compulsively or excessively drinks alcohol, even after the drug has proven to have a negative impact on the drinker's life. A person will keep drinking, even after their work and school performance is negatively affected. An alcoholic may lie or alienate himself or herself from loved ones.
There are many reasons why a person chooses to drink. Some turn to alcohol as a way to deal with other underlying problems, such as the death of a loved one. Some alcoholics have other mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorder or depression. This complicates symptoms and makes it even more difficult for the alcoholic to quit abusing alcohol. For instance, a person with severe anxiety disorder may drink to relax or forget other problems. However, alcohol is never a solution. Instead, alcohol presents another challenge.
Physical Symptoms of Alcoholism
Those who abuse alcohol may become physically ill. The severity of the physical symptoms varies depending on the length of time drinking and the number of drinks per day. In general, someone who drinks multiple times per day over a period of years will experience the most severe physical symptoms. Some physical signs of alcohol abuse include the following:
- Headaches, especially after attempts at quitting drinking
- Sweaty or clammy feeling
- Red eyes
- Trouble with coordination
- Slurring or difficulty speaking
- Upset stomach
- Losing consciousness
The above symptoms are among the most common. However, it's essential to realize that some people show more aggressive traits. For instance, some alcoholics may become aggressive or become irritable.
Those who drink large amounts of alcohol over time will experience changes in their internal organs. Some have liver damage, kidney failure, or ulcers. In extreme cases, a person who drinks too much alcohol at once can experience alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal.
Mental Symptoms of Alcoholism
People who abuse alcohol experience a change in brain functioning. One telltale sign of an alcoholic is that he or she cannot stop drinking, despite attempts to quit. People who drink too much at once might experience lapses in memory. They may also blackout and be unable to remember what they did while they were drinking. Those who drink a lot over time might eventually damage the grey matter of the brain, which means they may struggle to focus or think clearly. Problem-solving skills are also impaired.
Because alcohol is so damaging to a person's mental and physical health, quitting is essential and can even save a person's life. However, stopping abruptly can cause physical symptoms that make it even more challenging to stay sober.
There are several common symptoms that you can look for to determine if a person is experiencing alcohol withdrawal. Among the most common symptoms are as follows:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shaking hands
- Jittery or anxious feeling
The above symptoms are the most common. Specific behavioral symptoms coincide with those listed above. For instance, even while experiencing the above symptoms, the alcoholic will still have a strong desire to drink. He or she may overthink about obtaining the next drink. The drinker may have to drink more significant amounts to achieve the same effect.
However, in more severe cases, an alcoholic will experience insomnia, extreme sweating, and terrible nightmares. In the worst cases, a patient will need medical help to treat confusion, hallucinations, delusions, or fever. Other severe but uncommon signs include a racing heart and elevated blood pressure.
Delirium tremens is another withdrawal symptom to look out for. People with delirium tremens will act confused and display anxious behavior. Seizures and high fevers also occur in those with delirium tremens. People who have the condition should seek immediate medical help.
It is important to remember that withdrawal symptoms can range from very mild to extreme. If you only drink occasionally, meaning less than 2-3 drinks per week, your chances of experiencing withdrawal symptoms are low. However, those who drink multiple drinks per day over months or years are likely to have withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit.
Withdrawal symptoms can arise just a few hours after a person's last drink. This is especially true for heavy drinkers who are used to continually having alcohol inside their bodies. Most alcoholics will know they are in withdrawal just based on the symptoms listed here. However, a physician will usually ask about your drinking habits and signs to make a professional diagnosis.
When to Seek Help for Withdrawal Symptoms
If you have tried unsuccessfully to quit alcohol abuse, then you should seek help from a rehab center. Such rehab centers employ licensed professionals with experience helping patients detox. Detox is the process of getting the alcohol out of your system.
Addiction therapists can recommend the best detox treatments. They can also help you treat your withdrawal symptoms. If you are experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, such as high fever, heart palpitations, hallucinations, or delusions, then you should not wait to seek treatment. Seek emergency treatment as soon as possible for extreme withdrawal symptoms.
Treatment for Withdrawal Symptoms
Professional therapy for withdrawal usually involves a combination of drugs and behavioral therapy. Professionals at an inpatient clinic will monitor the patient's symptoms for signs of a health crisis. They will also help the patient detox and provide therapy sessions to help prevent the patient from relapsing.
The most successful patients are those who follow the plan prescribed by medical professionals. Those who refuse help and fail to make behavioral changes are at higher risk of relapse. Failure to recognize warning signs of relapse can also have a negative impact on the patient.
As stated above, the most common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include sweating, anxiety, headaches, and shakiness. More severe symptoms should be treated by a medical professional, and they include hallucinations, difficulty breathing, and delirium tremens. There is no cure for alcoholism. However, some drinkers have been able to quit drinking either on their own or with the help of a treatment facility. While there is always the possibility for relapse, some drinkers prevent relapse by learning to cope with stress responsibly. They also learn to avoid triggers and damaging behaviors.