Physical Signs of Alcohol Addiction
By the time a person begins to display the physical signs of alcohol addiction, a permanent change in the brain may have already taken place. Though alcohol is the most widely accepted drug in the world, it is often one of the most damaging. Both the mental and physical effects of alcohol consumption vary greatly depending on a person’s age, sex, environment, and other factors.
Alcohol abuse and addiction can also arise at unpredictable times in a person’s life, so identifying if you or a loved one has an alcohol abuse problem is paramount. We can help you to find treatment in your area. Please call 623-263-7371 for more information.
- Unintended Consequences of Binge Drinking
- Alcohol Addiction Develops Over Time
- What Drives a Person to Drink?
- Get Specialized Treatment for Alcoholism
- Get Help for Alcoholism Today
Unintended Consequences of Binge Drinking
How Alcohol Affects The Body
When you consume alcohol, it is absorbed through the lining in your stomach and the small intestine. It then travels through the bloodstream to your brain and all-around your body to the liver, muscles, heart, and other organs. Alcohol affects each organ in a unique and profound way. Because alcohol is a toxic substance, your body treats it as such. As more alcohol is taken into the body the liver begins to break it down using special enzymes. This process both speeds up alcohol’s effects on the body and begins to get rid of it through the urinary tract.
Because alcohol influences the body within minutes, it can be difficult to learn how to tell if someone is an alcoholic. The feeling of being drunk is a result of alcohol preventing chemical communication between neurons and neurotransmitters in the brain. This also causes all of the regularly seen symptoms of alcohol intoxication like slurred speech, slow reaction time, erratic behavior, low memory formation, and more. The process of removing the alcohol from the body is thought to cause hangovers which can cause dehydration, nausea, headache, and more.
Depending on weight, sex, and other factors, it takes the liver about one hour to process an alcoholic drink like a 12-ounce beer or a 1.5 ounce shot of liquor. When a man drinks five or more alcoholic beverages within a two-hour timeframe, it is considered binge drinking; for women, it’s four or more.
Since the body can only process so much alcohol at once, binge drinking leads to many serious and harmful outcomes. Initial bodily effects of alcohol intoxication can include vomiting, diarrhea, sleepiness, memory loss, headache, and much more. Although binge drinking results in many of the same physical signs of alcoholism, it’s important to note that many binge drinkers do not have severe drinking problems. Nonetheless, bingeing is associated with the following risks:
- Injury from accidental falls, vehicle crashes, or drowning.
- Unprotected sex and sexually transmitted infections.
- Unplanned pregnancy.
- Violence committed by intimate partners.
- Sexual Assault.
- Blackout or, the complete loss of memory during intoxication despite being fully conscious.
- Alcohol poisoning.
It should be noted that alcohol poisoning can necessitate hospitalization and even lead to death. If you notice any of the following signs in a person who has been drinking heavily, please call 911:
- Pale or blue-tinged skin
- Low body temperature
- Nausea and vomiting
- Slow or erratic breathing
Alcohol is one of the most commonly abused drugs in America, coming in second place only to tobacco. While some people may be more likely to abuse alcohol based on a variety of factors including genetics and environment, the severity of such use can vary hugely from person to person. Chronic abuse of alcohol, however, reliably produces physical signs of alcohol addiction.
Alcohol Addiction Develops Over Time
It can be difficult to determine whether or not you or a loved one has a problem with alcohol. Alcohol addiction and dependency are complicated diagnoses that are not defined by a person merely deciding to drink too much. A true alcoholic is someone who has developed a preoccupation with drinking and regularly fails to control the amount of alcohol that is consumed on any given day. Structures in the brain have shifted and more and more alcohol is required to fight off stress and other depressive feelings.
The physical signs of addiction to alcohol sometimes look like psychological changes, but both reactions are the result of physical damage to brain structures. But what are the physical signs of alcohol addiction? How to tell if someone is an alcoholic includes looking for these markers:
- Strong or uncontrollable cravings for alcohol.
- Drinking excessive amounts or for longer than you planned to.
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that you used to enjoy.
- Needing to consume more and more alcohol to achieve the same level of intoxication.
- Difficulty quitting or cutting back on drinking even though you really want to.
- Continuing to consume alcohol even though it makes you ill, sad, or anxious.
- The development of withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, exhaustion, nausea, headache, vomiting, and more.
Further physical signs of alcoholism include long-term damage to vital organs and nerve systems. Some of these conditions can be reversed or stopped after quitting alcohol abuse while others will persist for life.
The lining in the stomach and digestive system is gradually thinned by alcohol, which can lead to ulcers and weakened blood sugar regulation. Alcohol can also impair the digestion and absorption of healthy nutrients in the gut, possibly leading to nutrient deficiencies or anemia.
Alcohol abuse has been linked to stroke, blood clots, high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy (stretched or weakened heart muscles), and irregular heartbeat.
Alcohol-induced production of excessive pancreatic fluids can lead to inflammation of the pancreas, known as pancreatitis. This condition can hinder normal digestion.
Continued drinking over time leads to a deficiency in vitamin B1. Without this chemical, the brain can develop a disorder called Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome. Symptoms can include learning impairment, difficulty forming new memories, confusion, and coordination problems.
Excessive alcohol consumption can hinder the production of vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D aids in the process of calcium absorption, an essential function needed to build strong bones. Because of this, a prolonged lack of vitamin D can lead to the painful condition of osteoporosis.
Because the liver works to remove alcohol from the body, long term abuse places a heavy burden on it. The repeated scarring and inflammation of the organ can lead to the development of cirrhosis, alcoholic hepatitis, fatty liver, fibrosis, and even liver cancer.
Alcohol addiction will also begin to affect the social aspects of your life. Your relationships with family and friends may begin to suffer, and you might also struggle to perform school or work responsibilities.
What Drives a Person to Drink?
While there are many different reasons that a person decides to drink alcohol, a few common characteristics for alcoholism do exist. Genetics factor in when determining predisposition for alcoholism, as it seems to pass through familial links. Children of alcoholics are more likely to turn into alcoholics than children of nondrinkers. Studies also show that children who were labeled as impulsive at age 3 were twice as likely to develop alcohol addiction as those who were identified as being well-adjusted. Links between conditions like ADHD and higher rates of alcoholism later in life have been found in teenage boys.
Alcohol abuse in teens has also been tied to suicidal ideation. One study found that a whopping 37% of eighth-grade girls who engaged in excessive drinking said they had attempted suicide, versus 11% of those who didn’t consume alcohol.
Parental attitudes also impact the chances of alcoholism in children. For instance, kids who reported having close relationships with parents were far less likely to drink than those who described a lack of parental support and communication. Likewise, poor monitoring, rigid discipline practices, and outright parental rejection of children have all been linked to a greater probability of teenage alcohol abuse.
For adults, meanwhile, the most frequent starting point for alcohol addiction is stress. People with particularly stressful lives or jobs such as firefighters, EMTs, and social workers can develop post-traumatic stress disorder over the course of their careers, which then leads to self-medication through drinking. Culturally, people with high-stress jobs are taught to handle job-related pressure with a round of drinks at the bar, and the fact that it’s socially accepted only increases the chances of the development of alcoholism.
Get Specialized Treatment for Alcoholism
There are many ways for you and your family to address the mental and physical signs of alcohol addiction. Sometimes an intervention is the best way to start. Though much of mainstream media has cast interventions in a negative light, it is a great opportunity for friends and family members to air grievances and for the alcoholic to see why they might need help.
An intervention involves the gathering of an alcoholic’s family and friends to help them face their demons and ask that they seek treatment. The group will often take turns recounting how the alcoholic’s behavior has hurt them and how it is affecting their relationships. The hope is that the alcoholic can recognize the seriousness of their actions reflected in their family’s words, and will begin to think about how much damage they have caused. If the alcoholic agrees to go to treatment or to seek help in some fashion, a variety of options are available to assist. These treatments include:
Medication:There are three medicines currently approved for treating alcoholism in the US: Antabuse, Naltrexone, and Campral. All three address different aspects of the psychological and physical signs of addiction to alcohol. These medications are only dispensed by a doctor or licensed professional, usually in concert with other forms of therapy.
Behavioral Treatment:Cognitive and behavioral therapies remain the most popular and effective ways to treat many types of substance addictions. These types of therapies are designed to retrain the brain and body to focus on, identify, and modify feelings and actions that can lead back to alcohol abuse.
Get Help for Alcoholism Today
When someone is struggling with alcohol addiction, complete physical and mental changes can take place. People can end up unrecognizable to their families, friends, and even themselves. If you find yourself asking, what are the physical signs of alcohol addiction, know that you are not alone. We can help you find a way to address problems with alcohol head-on. If you or a loved one need more information on alcohol addiction or treatment, please reach out to us at the number below.
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