83385944 Unhappy man with a glass of wine

Are you worried that you are drinking too much? Or perhaps you are concerned about a friend or relatives drinking? Being addicted to alcohol is quite prevalent in the UK, the NHS estimates that 9% of males and 4% of women in the UK display signs of alcohol dependence. Dependency means that the individual cannot physically and psychologically function without drinking.

Often people have the stereotyped idea of the homeless alcoholic being intoxicated on a park bench shouting at people. However alcoholism can affect anyone regardless of class, race or gender. A person also doesn’t need to drink vast amounts in order to be considered an alcoholic. If you are drinking every day for example a few pints or a bottle of wine or drinking for various emotional reasons you are starting to be come psychologically and physically dependent on alcohol. Alcohol addiction does not choose according to style, social status, religion, nationality.

Some signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction include:

  • hiding and denying alcohol use, for example trying to cover the smell with perfume, gum
  • lack of personal hygiene and grooming, the alcoholic may present as unkempt
  • lack of commitment to appointments, work and family arrangements. The alcoholic is late or doesn’t turn up
  • loss of weight and poor eating habits, many alcoholics barely eat at all
  • continuing to drink despite negative consequences to health, work, friends and family relationships
  • withdrawals shakes and sweats when they do not have a drink. This often happens first thing in the morning when the alcoholic has had a period of sleep and not been able to consume alcohol
  • drinking alone
  • making excuses to drink and blaming others for their drinking
  • aggression, and particular aggression in relation to being asked about their drinking
  • loss of being able to control their drinking or stop
  • needing to drink to get through each day

What other factors need to be considered when talking about alcohol addiction?

People who drink on a regular basis will have an increased tolerance to alcohol. This means that they need more alcohol to obtain the desired effect, they therefore will need to drink or and more to get the intoxicated feeling.

Alcoholics should not attempt to just stop drinking alone. Someone physically dependent on alcohol will be at risk of fit, seizure if they are withdrawing, if this is happening the person will need immediate medical attention.

How can alcohol addiction be treated?

In the first instance an alcoholic will need detoxification. Under medical supervision the alcoholic will be medication to cope with the effects of withdrawal, this is usually done in a residential in-patient setting, although there are sometimes options for a medically monitored detox at home.

Once a person has been detoxed they will need to start a therapeutic treatment programme, the best way of doing this is to complete both the detox and psychological treatment within a rehabilitation clinic. This means that the alcoholic is given the tools he or she needs for their on-going recovery, they will also have a chance to address underlying problem such as depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.