- Heart disease, heart attack, or stroke
- Digestive issues or conditions, including some cancers
- Liver damage, scarring, cirrhosis, and failure
- Brain damage, cognitive issues, or memory loss
- Depression or other mood disorders
- Worsening anxiety
A person who has been drinking large amounts of alcohol regularly and is seeing these issues develop may find excuses to keep from connecting the problems to the alcohol use. On the other hand, the person may simply ignore the connection. However, if physical and emotional issues are known to be connected to drinking, and the person still cannot control alcohol use, alcoholism could be the reason.
Do I drink in risky situations?
As mentioned above, people with alcohol use disorders often spend more time drinking than is appropriate, and this may involve drinking in situations where it can be dangerous. This includes drinking before driving, when using dangerous machinery, or before participating in a risky sport or activity.
Alcohol consumption relaxes a person’s usual inhibitions, making it more likely that the person will participate in activities that would normally be avoided. The result can be injury, illness, or even death as a result of drinking alcohol and taking undue risks on a regular basis.
Have the effects of drinking alcohol diminished over time, or is more alcohol required to have the same effect as before?
Regular and heavy substance abuse over time can result in a condition called tolerance, where the effects of alcohol do not seem to be as strong as they were when the person first started drinking. This may manifest as the person needing to have more alcohol to feel the same euphoric effects that used to occur with just one or two drinks.
Tolerance means that alcohol use has begun to disrupt the brain’s chemical pathways, a sign that the brain is beginning to become dependent on the presence of alcohol for those pathways to function. This, in turn, is a precursor to alcoholism, and it can continue to occur to a degree after alcoholism has developed.
Do I have cravings or urges to drink alcohol?
Many of the above behaviours follow a key symptom of alcoholism: cravings. When the person is not engaging in alcohol use, urges to drink may become uncontrollable, leading the person to seek out an opportunity to drink. Sometimes, these cravings may be triggered by certain situations, such as stress or being with people who encourage heavy drinking. Whether the triggers are positive or negative, they result in an uncontrollable urge to drink.
Cravings are also the strongest contributor to relapse when the person tries to stop drinking. Often, cravings that arise from unrecognised triggers are most likely to keep the person from being able to maintain long-term sobriety.
If I stop drinking, do I experience uncomfortable physical and mental symptoms?
Cravings are not the only symptom of alcohol withdrawal – Other symptoms include:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Stomach upset, nausea, or diarrhoea
- A headache and body aches
- Inability to focus
- Heart palpitations
The longer a person has been drinking heavily, the more severe these withdrawal symptoms can be if the person tries to stop drinking. The most severe withdrawal symptom is called delirium tremens, a condition that can result in confusion, delirium, fever, seizures, coma, and death.
These symptoms feel like a hangover, but they can be much worse. If the individual feels these symptoms whenever an attempt is made to quit drinking, alcoholism is incredibly likely. Treatment should be sought immediately to prevent the potential for severe symptoms to occur. Individuals should not attempt to quit drinking on their own as the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening; medical assistance is required.
If this questionnaire has unveiled the possibility that even a mild alcohol use disorder is present, it is important for the individual to seek out a treatment professional for a thorough diagnosis and assistance in managing the disorder. Because the risk of a more severe disorder can lead to any or all of the risks described above, professional assistance is mandatory. Getting help early can prevent the individual from experiencing severe consequences of drinking or disrupting the lives of loved ones.
Research-based, individualised treatment is most likely to help the person manage this chronic condition and minimise the potential for relapse in the future. The result can be a return to a more productive, healthy life and a future free from the disruption that alcoholism can cause.