About seven percent of all adults in the United States are affected by alcohol problems. Medical, mental, and social problems can all come from alcohol abuse. Knowing the warning signs for alcoholism can help bring an early diagnosis. When alcoholism is seen early, treatment can begin and the severe medical complications can be avoided.
Alcohol abuse can lead to many problems. Diseases of the liver, pancreas, gastrointestinal system, and cardiovascular system, as well as cancer, can all be caused by heavy drinking. Most of these diseases are not reversible and can lead to death. Only when the warning signs are heeded and the alcoholic is treated early enough can these problems be avoided. Depression and anxiety can accompany alcohol abuse. Loss of job, divorce, and legal problems may also occur.
Physical Warning Signs for Alcoholism
Several physical signs can be seen in an alcoholic. Look for a dependence on alcohol and withdrawal symptoms when the alcohol has been cut off or the person is trying to stop drinking. Dependence signs include anxiety, irritability, insomnia, tremors, faster heart rate, and sweating. In severe cases, seizures may occur. Delirium tremens, a deadly complication, can affect the alcoholic when no alcohol is consumed. A person who is alcohol dependent will need more and more alcohol just to feel the same effects as before.
Social or Mental Warning Signs for Alcoholism
Here are some signs of alcoholism:
- Feel a strong need for alcohol
- Can’t stop drinking once you start
- Drinking alone
- Forgetting what happened or what was said when you were drinking
- Loss of interest in any other activity
- Hiding bottles in unusual or different places
- Drinking even through it is interfering with your work or family commitments
The “CAGE” questionnaire is used by doctors to determine if there are alcoholic problems and can be used by patients who are concerned about their alcohol consumption.
If you are worried about alcoholism, talk to your doctor and ask for his help in evaluating the problem. Alcoholics are often in denial about their problem. If you notice the symptoms in a loved one, talk to your doctor about what you can do to help them. Sometimes when a patient is in the hospital for another reason, the lack of access to alcohol brings on withdrawal symptoms. If warning signs are seen, but the person is still in denial, having a doctor talk with the patient will sometimes cause them to finally accept treatment.
There are many different treatments that are available to a person with a drinking problem. Alcohol detoxification is needed when there are physical signs of dependence. Psychological counseling or support and outpatient therapy may help the person to stop drinking. Medications, that cause a patient to vomit when alcohol is consumed, can be used to help the patient avoid drinking. Alcoholism is a life-long problem. Treatment to prevent a relapse will be needed to avoid future complications.