Alcohol addiction can be difficult to identify, especially within yourself. Once you come to understand that you’re suffering from an addiction, it can be even more difficult to seek help. However, waiting to go to alcohol rehab can lead to a worsening addiction – and more severe effects on your mind, body, and brain. Once you seek treatment through alcohol rehab, you begin your road to recovery and to a better life.
Warning Signs of Alcohol Abuse
It can be difficult to identify whether your alcohol use is simply casual drinking or if it is a larger issue. Casual drinking can easily transform into alcohol abuse or addiction over a period of time. The difference between casual drinking and alcohol abuse lies in moderation. Drinking most nights and during the day, drinking in excess, and experiencing consequences due to drinking are signs of alcohol abuse.
Knowing the difference between casual drinking and excessive drinking in your alcohol habits can help you identify if you need to seek treatment. A few warning signs can point towards alcohol abuse, such as:
- Drinking so excessively you black out
- Experiencing a loss of libido due to alcohol use
- Waking up with unexplained injuries or illnesses
- Getting into accidents that you can’t remember
- An inability to stop drinking
- Struggling with digestive issues and a loss of appetite
- Experiencing heavy alcohol cravings and a need for a “pick-me-up” drink
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
- Battling insomnia and infections
- Experiencing hallucinations
- Facing legal problems or strained relationships due to drinking
- Regularly engaging in dangerous activities while drinking
- Spending less time engaging in activities and more time drinking
- Drinking so much that it interferes with work or school performance
You may also have an alcohol addiction if you regularly drink more than you wanted to or you feel the need to drink to relax or feel good. Feeling ashamed or guilty about drinking, as well as hiding and lying about your alcohol habits, are more signs you are battling with alcoholism.
Effects of Alcohol on the Brain, Body, and Mind
Alcohol abuse over time can lead to significant consequences for your mind, body, and brain. Excessive alcohol use over time can lead to irreparable damage, diseases, and the development of mental illnesses. At the beginning stages of alcoholism, these symptoms can be easy to ignore – but they do get worse over time. If you notice any of these effects of alcohol, seek professional help as soon as possible.
Alcohol abuse can significantly impact the brain over time. Repeated alcohol use can diminish the gray matter within your brain, which can impact your learning and memory abilities. Common consequences of heavy and chronic drinking on the brain include:
- Loss of attention span
- An inability to think in abstract concepts
- Chronic memory loss
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which causes eye nerve paralysis, impaired muscle coordination, memory and learning impairments, and confusion
- Loss of visuospatial abilities
Alcohol addiction can have other physical impacts as well, especially with prolonged abuse. Over time, alcohol abuse can result in severe physical impairments, such as the development of several forms of cancer and cirrhosis of the liver. If you suffer from alcohol abuse, you may notice physical symptoms such as:
- Unexplained injuries, illnesses, and accidents
- Redness and puffiness in the face
- The development of a red growth on the bottom part of your nose
- Severe withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking
- Stomach pain and issues with digestion
- A loss of appetite
- Unsteadiness and disorientation
- A significantly lowered sex drive
- Noticeable memory loss, also known as a blackout
In addition, alcohol abuse can impact your mental health over time. You may develop strained relationships with your friends, family, and other loved ones as a result of these psychological side effects. Common psychological symptoms of alcohol addiction include:
- Severe feelings of guilt or shame about drinking
- A need to drink as soon as you wake up to avoid withdrawal symptoms
- Feeling a loss of control with your drinking, such as drinking more than you intended to or feeling unable to stop drinking
- Hiding your drinking from those around you
- Hallucinations and insomnia
- Experiencing strong cravings for alcohol
- Delirium tremens, which can lead to seizures and hallucinations
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
If you attempt to quit drinking cold turkey or go for a period of time without drinking, you may experience alcohol withdrawal. Your body may become dependent on alcohol due to regular and heavy alcohol consumption. As a result, withdrawal symptoms occur when you take the alcohol away.
Experiencing these alcohol withdrawal symptoms is a very common and clear sign that you are struggling with an alcohol addiction. Drinking to relieve or avoid these symptoms is another red flag of alcohol abuse. If you experience any of the following symptoms after not drinking for a while, you are experiencing withdrawal:
- Severe headaches
- A loss of appetite
- Anxiety and jumpiness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shakiness and trembling
- Severe fever
If you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms after going a while without a drink, do not attempt to quit cold turkey. Heavy drinkers can experience severe medical consequences, such as delirium tremens, if they do not detox with medical supervision. Check into a rehab center as soon as possible.
Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms
One severe consequence of alcohol addiction is alcohol poisoning. This condition occurs when you drink excessive amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. Alcohol poisoning can lead to severe illness and even death, as excessive drinking affects heart rate, breathing, and body temperature.
People who abuse alcohol are at a high risk of alcohol poisoning. Any of the following symptoms after drinking excessively over a short period, require immediate medical attention. Waiting to seek help could lead to a loss of consciousness, coma, and death:
- Low body temperature or hypothermia
- Slowed breathing, or less than eight breaths per minute
- Blue-tinged skin or pale, clammy skin
- Loss of consciousness
- Irregular breathing, or a gap of over 10 seconds between taking breaths
If you or someone you are with is experiencing any symptoms of alcohol poisoning, do not wait to seek help. Alcohol poisoning is a medical emergency. Lay on your side or sit up to avoid choking on vomit, and encourage others experiencing alcohol poisoning symptoms to do the same. Call 911 as soon as possible and never leave an unconscious person alone.
Where Can I Find Alcohol Rehab Centers Near Me?
If you want to quit drinking, you should not quit cold turkey. Withdrawal symptoms and delirium tremens can be severe and dangerous without a supervised medical detox. Attending rehab is a safe, comprehensive way to battle alcohol abuse and reduce your risk of relapse. Once you’re ready to enter drug and alcohol rehab, you need to find the right recovery center near you.
If you live in the Scottsdale, Arizona area, look no further than Acceptance Recovery Center. Our comprehensive and holistic programs can help you begin the path to sobriety with a team of medical professionals ready to help. Our alcohol treatment program includes a personalized recovery plan and multiple therapy options, including music therapy, relapse prevention, and community integration.
Are you ready to seek help for your alcohol addiction? Contact Acceptance Recovery Center today to schedule your free assessment and learn more about how to enroll.
Dr. Greg Gale has been practicing and providing leadership in the field of psychiatry, substance use, and integrated care in the Phoenix metropolitan area for over 11 years. He joins us from his role as a national medical director overseeing behavioral health, substance use, and integrated care services for Humana Behavioral Health. Previously, he was CMO and VP of Clinical Services at Partners in Recovery, a not-for-profit behavioral health and substance use service organization, which operates five clinics throughout Maricopa County.