So often, the family, friends, and loved ones of those who suffer from alcoholism wish they had realized when the problem originated so they could have helped to prevent it from taking hold. But, unfortunately, alcohol use disorder can often cause everyone in the family to live with the nightmare it becomes.
Sometimes the alcoholic themself don’t even know how to pinpoint precisely when social drinking turned into a harmful drinking addiction. However, recognizing the signs of alcoholism and negative drinking patterns could help stop you or someone you love from falling prey to alcohol use disorders’ life-altering grasp.
Warning Signs of Alcoholism
A myriad of factors often come into play when dealing with alcohol use disorder. Things like the age when the individual starts drinking, medical diagnosis, mental health issues, socioeconomic factors, and genetics can all either work separately or in unison to lead someone down the destructive path to crippling alcoholism. Making yourself aware of the stages of the disease can assist you or someone you love in realizing help is needed before the problem becomes out of control.
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Understanding the Stages of Alcoholism
A progressive disorder, alcoholics typically will go through five distinct stages, provided the disease does not take their life first. Recognizing these stages of alcoholism and the signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse is the key to prevention.
Stage 1: Pre-Alcoholic
In this stage, the drinker is not an alcoholic yet. This stage is hard to notice, even for the drinker. They may have a drink in their hand more often than the “average” person. However, here they begin to think that alcohol intoxication might be the answer they have been looking for to “fix” different areas of their life. They see the effects of heavy drinking as good for numbing physical and mental pain, relieving stress and anxiety, and making them feel better about themselves as people in general. When the person consciously determines that time drinking could be the panacea they have been searching for, it is a short trip to alcohol dependence and stage 2 of alcohol abuse.
Stage 2: Early Alcoholic
This stage is where the problem starts to become noticeable to others. Because the drinker has opted to use liquor as a coping mechanism, they begin craving alcohol more often and more each time they drink. Consumed with thoughts of their next drink, they often think of nothing else. You will notice the person start to get “black-out drunk” more often, binge drinking until they lose their memory of the events of the night (or day) and passing out. Usually, the drinker will drink as fast as possible to feel the effects of the alcohol quicker because they are starting to build a tolerance to alcohol. When confronted with the negative consequences and symptoms of alcoholism they display, their instinct is to deny the problem and deflect the issue. They become defensive and often belligerent.
Stage 3: Middle Alcoholism
In this stage, the drinker’s problem drinking habits are evident to almost everyone around them, and alcoholism is starting to harm their lives and those around them. Side effects like missing work, forgetting about critical daily activities, getting into dangerous situations, relationship problems, and constantly displaying a short temper are likely to be a part of their new everyday life. In addition, things like alcoholic face changes (especially old age wrinkle and redness of the nose and face), weight gain, and constant fatigue will begin to manifest physically. Another physical issue that can start to show up at this point is diarrhea due to alcoholism. Excessive binge drinking causes health conditions like the stomach lining and lining of the intestines to thin, making this a symptom that can follow alcohol abusers through the illness. At this stage of alcohol dependency, therapy intervention is still a viable option to prevent the alcoholic from moving to stage 4.
Stage 4: Late Alcoholic
At this stage of a drinking problem, drinking is the only important thing in the life of the alcoholic. Jobs, relationships, family members, and even their health and well-being take a backseat to liquor. Drinking is no longer a psychological need. Alcohol use has now become a physical need. The alcoholic will probably need medical assistance at a treatment center to cope with ending the alcohol abuse. A provider of medical detox treatment programs can help with the physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms due to years of drinking in severe excess.
Stage 5: Recovery
Once the alcoholic has made the conscious decision to seek treatment and detoxification is successful, required maintenance is imperative to ensure that they remain on the path to sobriety. Continued therapy and Alcoholics Anonymous support groups are ways to achieve this goal.
With the support of family and friends, the recovering alcoholic will feel the freedom and empowerment that accompanies breaking the bonds of this powerful alcohol addiction.
Physical Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Identifying the physical signs of alcoholism will help someone suffering from the health effects of alcohol use disorder. Point out to them that they have health problems and need assistance.
Some material changes to look for include:
- Inability to sleep or stay awake
- Slower gate than usual
- Change in facial skin coloration – usually red nose and face
- Unusual or unexpected bruising – alcohol thins the blood, making bruising much easier
- Chronic fatigue
- Red, glassy eyes
- Unusual perspiration or excessive sweating
- Complaining of nausea
- Unusual or unidentifiable depression or anxiety
- Personal appearance changes – looking haggard, ill, or face sunken in
If you notice your loved one exhibiting any of these physical changes in addition to displaying the signs of alcoholism, the sooner you can intervene and encourage them to seek addiction treatment and rehab help, the better.
The Long Term Dangers of Life With Alcohol Addiction
Chronic alcoholism causes severe detriment to the body. In addition, the dangers of prolonged alcohol consumption will affect the alcoholic long after they decide to end the abuse. Thus, reinforcing the need to intervene and seek treatment sooner rather than later.
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In the United States, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the American Psychiatric Association publish health information that states that there are many chronic illnesses and mental disorders that can be traced directly back to drinking, a substance use disorder, and a family history of alcoholism. The greater the alcohol intake, the faster they kill themselves from the inside out.
While the effects of alcohol use disorder that causes brain damage are widely varying, it is undeniable that it can cause the brain to suffer greatly. Depending on the amount consumed over the time of consumption, the damage can be immediate or take years to manifest. Often, alcoholics who have been drinking for many years will have early-onset dementia. Sometimes this issue will occur with heavy drinkers even if the person hasn’t drunk in some time.
Liver Damage and Failure or Cirrhosis
Because the liver is the body’s filter system, being an alcoholic puts that filter system in overdrive. As a result, the liver rejuvenates, but excessive drinking causes the liver to produce scar tissue from the constant attempt to heal itself. This causes blood flow to struggle, thus causing cirrhosis. Typically found in those suffering from end-stage alcoholism, cirrhosis is a deadly illness that causes the sufferer to die a slow, painful death.
Eventually, this will cause the liver to fail. Unfortunately, it can also lead to liver cancer. In addition to liver cancer, those excessively drinking alcohol run a higher risk of getting mouth, esophageal, and colorectal cancer, as well.
Immune System Issues
Because alcohol slows the body’s systems down, it can cause one’s immune system to become suppressed. Due to this, chronic alcoholics will often suffer from flu and pneumonia more often than those who do not have a compromised immune system.
While these are simply a few of the long-term dangers caused by alcohol use disorder, these factors should serve as a deterrent to anyone in the early stages of alcoholism.
Getting Treatment for Alcoholism
Regardless of the stage, you find yourself or your loved one in; it is not too late to receive treatment and improve the quality of life for all involved.
Finding a Reputable Detox and Substance Use Disorders Treatment Center
If the alcoholic is in the last stages of the disease, they will need to detox from alcohol. Detox can be difficult and often leave the alcoholic feeling sick. Because of this, it is good to get them to a treatment center to help them through this phase. By doing this, they will already be connected to a treatment center to help them with the withdrawal symptoms.
If they do not need to detox, it is still a good idea to find an in-patient treatment center to offer the alcoholic 24 hours a day support through the infancy phase of their recovery. Make sure to check on things like what insurance they accept and what to do if the person doesn’t have insurance and what type of aftercare they offer for continued support once the patient is released.
Treatment for Family and Friends Showing Signs of Alcoholism
For anyone who has ever lived with an alcoholic, the experience can be very traumatic, and it is typically advised that those close to the alcoholic receive ongoing treatment, as well. The treatment will help them personally and help them know how to best support their loved ones in recovery.
Alcoholism is a mental health disorder that affects millions the world over. While countless factors can contribute to alcohol problems and becoming an alcoholic, they often become one without noticing until the disease is full-blown. However, suppose people become aware of the symptoms and signs of alcoholism. In that case, it is possible to intervene early enough to prevent the drinker from getting to the final stages of alcoholism. In addition, stopping alcohol abuse can prevent numerous physical and mental issues that accompany excessive drinking. This will also keep family and friends from being forced to suffer alongside the alcoholic. If you notice yourself, a family member, friend, or loved one binge drinking more and presenting any signs of alcoholism, calling Better Addiction Care and have us assisting them with getting help sooner rather than later.