According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 25% of the population in the United States will be dependent on alcohol at some point during their life. For most people, whether male or female, dependence is most common in the age range of 18-24 years. That doesn’t mean, however, that alcohol dependence is limited only to the young. Research shows that alcoholism affects about 1 in 10 people aged 55 or greater. Alcohol is ubiquitous in American society.
The NIAAA makes a distinction between dependence and addiction, though in common parlance the terms are often used interchangeably. Dependence refers to a physical reliance on alcohol whereby a person suffers withdrawl symptoms when alcohol is not consumed. This is quite different from alcoholism or addiction, which are defined in terms of behavior. Alcohol abuse need not be accompanied by dependence, but occurs any time that a person continues drinking even though doing so has adverse effects on that person’s health, work, family, or personal relationships.
Part of addressing alcohol addiction is acknowledging how common it is and recognizing that many people struggle to come to terms with drinking that is adversely impacting their lives. The other part of addressing alcohol addiction is recognizing when drinking has become problematic. Here are a few signs that everyone should take seriously regarding alcohol. If you find that any of the following signs ring true, consider seeking additional guidance, such as from Non12StepRehabs.org, where people with experience can offer you insight and assistance in coming to terms with alcohol.
CAGE is an acronym developed to help health care professionals screen for alcohol addiction. The CAGE questionnaire is comprised of four questions as follows:
. Have you ever felt the need to Cut down on your drinking?
. Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking or suggesting that it’s problematic?
. Have you ever felt Guilty about drinking?
. Have you ever felt the need for an Eye-opener to steady your nerves, get rid of a hangover, or otherwise get going in the morning?
Answering yes to two or more of these questions correlates very strongly (77%) with alcohol abuse. Answering these questions honestly can be the first step to identifying a problem with alcohol. Even a single yes should raise some concern that further investigation is warranted.
Tolerance is perhaps the easiest sign of alcohol abuse to recognize because it is quantifiable. If you find that you need more and more alcohol to achieve the same effects as time passes, then there is a good chance that you are developing a physical dependence. Your body responds to increased alcohol ingestion by producing more of the enzyme that breaks down ethanol, but only if you drink often enough and consume enough to induce such a change. Tolerance is a sign that the amount of alcohol you are consuming is excessive.
Your performance (at work, school, etc.) is another quantifiable way to assess how alcohol is impacting your life. Other people are likely to point out if your performance is suffering, so take their feedback seriously. If your performance is declining, it’s time to seek assistance.
Declining Family Life
Alcohol usually takes it greatest toll on those closest to us because they stay by our sides long after others have walked away. If your family life is suffering or friends are starting to avoid you, it may be time to look at how much alcohol is taking from you. Your family wants to support you, but you will have to meet them part way.
Declining Health and Illness
Alcohol can damage your heart, liver, and brain. From shortness of breath to memory loss, you should be aware that excessive alcohol consumption will take a toll on your health. Don’t ignore the physical signs of illness related to alcohol. Doing so can be fatal.
Recovery is possible and even probable. People do it every day of the year and that should encourage you to seek guidance from those who understand alcohol and the hold it can have over a person’s life. Alcohol addiction isn’t a character flaw, it’s a physiological response to a substance that stimulates all of the right places in the human brain. The only way to kick alcohol is to understand the physiology of depend and work with people who can help you bring your health back into balance.
Laura Richardson is a practicing psychologist. She frequently writes about her experience working with people who have addictive behavior and how to address it.