Physical addiction to alcohol

Physical addiction to alcohol is known as alcohol dependence. Does dependence on alcohol indicate alcoholism? We review here and invite your questions about physical addiction to alcohol at the end.

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In the United States, about 18 million people have been diagnosed with an alcohol abuse disorder. Research has shown that more than 70% of people who develop alcohol dependence experience physical dependence that lasts on average 3 – 4 years.

But if you are physically dependent on alcohol, does this mean that you are an alcoholic (yes) or are you addicted to alcohol (yes)? Is alcohol an addictive drug (yes)? How are alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence related? We review here. More on physical addiction to alcohol, alcoholism, symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, and options for treatment below. Then, feel free to ask your questions or post your comments about physical alcohol addiction at the end.

Physical dependence on alcohol

Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition that can be diagnosed when the user’s drinking causes any type of problem; when a drinker either harms him/herself or the people close to him. Still, we distinguish two different forms of problem drinking. Alcohol dependence (alcoholism) and alcohol abuse.

Alcoholism occurs when a drinker manifests signs of physical addiction and continues to drink, despite the problems occurring as a result. The body and mind are both affected in this case, and the overall vitality of the alcoholic is under the red line. Additionally, alcohol dependent people can experience issues within their families, working environments, or social lives as a result of their drinking.

Alcohol abuse on the other hand, occurs when the user’s drinking leads to problems excluding the physical addiction. So, this type of user refain from alcohol as long as they wish to, unlike alcoholics, who would experience withdrawal symptoms.

Nonetheless, alcohol abusers often put themselves in dangerous situations (like driving under the influence) or have legal or social problems (such as arrests or arguments with family members) due to their drinking. In fact, both alcohol abuse and alcoholism are dangerous conditions.

Physical signs of addiction to alcohol

When alcoholics begin drinking, they have little to no control over the amount they consume. Alcohol addiction by default means that consuming alcohol has become a focus of the user’s life. Here is a list of the most common signs of addiction to alcohol:

  • continuing to drink, even when health, work, or family are being harmed
  • decrease in performance
  • loss of control
  • melancholic and indifferent behavior
  • memory lapses after heavy drinking
  • needing more and more to feel “drunk”
  • neglecting to eat or eating poorly
  • related illnesses such as chronic liver diseases
  • shaking in the morning
  • tolerance to regular alcohol’s effects
  • violent when drinking
  • withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety between drinking episodes

Treating physical symptoms of addiction to alcohol

The first step to treating physical symptoms of addiction to alcohol is admitting the fact that there is an alcohol problem. Next is choosing the best type of treatment. Treatments include:

1. Detox

Alcohol detoxification, recommended for alcohol dependent individuals, is the abrupt cessation of alcohol intake coupled with substitution of cross-tolerant drugs. This process involved medications that have effects similar to the effects of alcohol in order to prevent alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol detox is best treated when supervised by a professional because symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can become complicated.

2. Abstinence and/or harm reduction

Completely stopping the use of alcohol is the ideal goal of treatment for physical symptoms of addiction to alcohol. This is called “abstinence” and requires a strong social network and family support in order to be achieved. However, those who are not ready to pass through withdrawal or to abstain solve their issue with moderate drinking, by lowering the amount of alcohol.

3. Alcohol addiction recovery programs

Addiction programs usually offers counseling and therapy, mental health support and medical care. You may be treated as a resident in a special recovery center (inpatient), or you may attend a program while you live at home (outpatient).

4. Support groups

Support groups are self-help, peer level groups for recovering alcoholics that offer emotional support and specific steps for people recovering from alcohol dependence. The program is commonly called a “12-step” approach. They offer 24 hours help for alcoholics and therapy for their family members.

Physically addicted to alcohol questions

In case we haven’t covered everything you wanted to know when it comes to physical addiction to alcohol, you are welcome to post your questions below. We guarantee that the answer you’ll receive will be personal delivered to you as soon as possible.

Reference sources: Centers for Disease and Control prevention: Alcoholism Abuse
Medline Plus: Alcoholism Resources
NIH Senior Health: If you drink
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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