Alcoholism is a complex disease that doesn’t always fit the stereotypes society gave it. Generally, many struggling with substance abuse have a job, go to school, and have a loving family. There’s no way they can be addicted to alcohol. Well, alcoholism takes on many shapes and degrees, and sometimes it can be a lingering problem hidden under everyone’s noses. Let’s find out how to know if you’re an alcoholic and what you can do.
Casual Drinking vs. Alcohol Abuse vs. Alcoholism
Unlike most illicit drugs, alcohol is widely accepted in society. Alcohol is so ingrained in our culture that sober people or those who refuse to drink for religion or health manners experience bullying or rejection by alcohol-drinking peers. To understand alcoholism better, let’s break it down for a minute:
- Casual Drinking: A couple of drinks on social occasions or a glass of wine with dinner.
- Alcohol Abuse: A pattern of excessive drinking despite adverse consequences.
- Alcoholism: A full-blown alcohol dependence or addiction.
However, to understand alcohol abuse and alcoholism, you also have to know the difference between binge drinking and excessive or heavy drinking:
- Heavy Drinking: Drinking two alcoholic beverages per day or more than 14 per week.
- Binge Drinking: Drinking more than four to five drinks within two hours.
What is Alcoholism?
Unlike other disorders, alcoholism is a chronic disease with diagnosis criteria by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
Alcoholism, in particular, refers to a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling drinking. People with alcohol use disorder are preoccupied with alcohol, continue their use even after consequences, and need to drink more to get the same effect they once felt. Also, they’ll experience withdrawal symptoms when they decrease or stop their drinking habits.
Warning Signs of Alcoholism
Many warning signs point to someone struggling with alcohol use disorder. It’s paramount to keep an eye on these warning signs for early intervention.
- Drinking alone and in secrecy
- Losing interest in other activities
- Alcohol cravings
- Prioritizing drinking over other behaviors
- Alcohol withdrawal symptoms
- Mood swings and irritability
- Feelings of guilt associated with drinking
- Continuing to drink despite health, family, and personal problems
- Inability to stop or control alcohol consumption
Types of Alcoholics
To figure out if you’re an alcoholic or someone you love is struggling with alcohol abuse, you have to learn more about alcoholics. Although, not all of them resemble the classic stereotype of a homeless person on the streets or the party-goer who never stops drinking. Here’s a complete breakdown of the types of alcoholics.
- Young Adults Subtype: They make up almost 31% of the alcoholic population in the US. Although they drink less frequently, they’re more likely to engage in binge drinking when they do.
- Young Antisocial Subtype: Close to 54% of them have an undiagnosed antisocial personality disorder and may also struggle with other substance use disorders.
- Functional Subtype: Almost 62% of those in this category have a full-time job, and over 26% hold a college degree. This group makes about 19% of the US alcoholic population.
- Intermediate Familial Subtype: Often, they’re over the age of 35 and have a full-time job. Additionally, close to 50% have a family history of alcohol use disorder and struggles with depression.
- Chronic Severe Subtype: Very rare, only 9% of the alcoholic population in the US. Often middle-aged individuals who started drinking early. In general, they have the highest rate of having a co-occurring psychiatric disorder and 80% of family history with alcoholism.
How to Know If You’re an Alcoholic
Over the years, various organizations created different self-assessment questionnaires to help people self-identify an alcohol use disorder. Overall, these tests are still considered accurate and are used in tandem with a professional diagnosis.
- CAGE: A straightforward, 4-questions assessment test that can help you identify an alcohol abuse problem.
- MAST: The Michigan Alcohol Screening Test is a self-scoring test from 1971 that includes 22 yes/no questions.
- AUDIT: The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test by the World Health Organization asks 10 multiple-choice questions to detect alcohol problems within the past year.
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Remember, these self-assessment quizzes are merely a guide. The idea is not to self-medicate or self-diagnose; alcoholism is a very complex disorder. Thus, having an addiction specialist diagnose the condition is critical for choosing the right treatment, you can always ask them to medically review your quiz results.
Alcoholism Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcoholism begins with dependence. Beyond the various warning signs of alcoholism, the most critical alert is experiencing withdrawal symptoms. When these occur, your body has already developed a dependency on the substance and needs it to function correctly.
Some symptoms of alcohol abuse withdrawal include:
- Mood swings
It may take a few hours to a couple of days to experience withdrawal symptoms. It’s vital for those looking to go through alcohol detox to seek medical attention to ease withdrawal symptoms. Also, alcohol detox helps to prevent any medical complications.
Treatment Options for Alcoholism
If after taking the quiz on how to know if you’re an alcoholic you believe you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism, please know there are treatment options. Alcoholism treatment needs to be looked at on a step-by-step case because there are different types of alcoholics and levels of severity.
In most cases, the first stage in alcohol addiction recovery is detox. People should always seek help from medical professionals because withdrawal symptoms can be potentially dangerous. Many detox programs also include medication-addiction treatments to ease the painful side effects of withdrawal.
To treat alcoholism, patients can choose inpatient or outpatient rehab programs. Inpatient programs are generally more intensive and require patients to check into a treatment facility. On the other hand, outpatient rehabs allow more flexibility, and patients come in and out of the facility, allowing them to continue with their daily life.
Talk with an addiction specialist therapist to find the best treatment route for your needs. It might help to ask about dual-diagnosis programs for those with a drinking problem also struggling with their mental health.
Alcoholism recovery is a long term journey that generally doesn’t end with the completion of a rehab program. Long-term sobriety also requires ongoing therapy. Additionally, many therapists recommend support groups, counseling, and enrolling in aftercare programs to help people maintain abstinence.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use disorder, please don’t hesitate to call. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our alcohol addiction treatment programs offer a comprehensive plan that incorporates therapy, counseling, and life skills that support ongoing and long term sobriety. Contact us to learn more about our programs and start your path to recovery today.