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When Does Alcohol Become an Addiction – Things to Know


For most people, alcohol is a substance to be enjoyed socially. It is a huge part of modern society and is available at most social functions. It is for this reason that many individuals view it as a harmless substance. However, although the majority of people can enjoy alcohol in moderation, there are some for whom alcohol becomes a major problem. In fact, according to charity Alcohol Concern, more than nine million people in England alone drink more than the recommended daily guideline amount. If you are at all concerned about your own alcohol intake, you may be wondering when is alcohol an addiction or simply something that you need to cut back on? If this is the case, the following article will provide some useful information about the signs and symptoms of an alcohol addiction and if or when you should consider reaching out for help.

When Social Drinking Becomes a Problem

In the UK, the guidelines for safe alcohol consumption state that adults should consume no more than fourteen units of alcohol per week. This allowance should be spread over the whole week with a number of days kept alcohol-free. Nevertheless, it should be noted that even staying within these guidelines poses a risk to health. There are many illnesses linked to alcohol consumption, and even moderate drinking increases the risk.

Those who drink within the guidelines are at a low risk for addiction but there are many people in the United Kingdom who drink to excess; an estimated 7.5 million individuals are unaware of how their drinking could be causing damage to their health.

Moderate drinking is considered safe by many experts, but when does social drinking become a problem? There are some who only ever drink alcohol when out with family or friends and who would never drink enough to get drunk. Nonetheless, there is many people across Britain who regularly drink – and drink far more than their recommended daily allowance.

Alcohol becomes a problem when the individual builds up a tolerance to the effects. This means that their body becomes used to the presence of alcohol and adapts so that fewer ‘feel-good’ chemicals are released. The person may then find that he or she needs a larger amount of alcohol in order to achieve the desired effect. The more the person drinks, the more likely he or she is to develop a physical dependence as their body will begin to expect alcohol and will crave it when not getting it.

How to Tell If You Have an Alcohol Problem?

Spotting the signs of an alcohol problem is rarely easy for the individual. In most cases, alcohol addiction occurs gradually, over time. It is never the case that a person goes to bed one night and then wakes up the following morning with an alcohol addiction.

Alcohol addiction is a progressive illness and that makes it harder for the affected individual to notice the signs. However, friends and family members often notice that something is amiss long before the person with the problem does.

Here at Addiction.org.uk, we often get calls from the loved ones of individuals with alcohol problems. They can see that alcohol has begun to consume their family member or friend and are unsure of how to address the situation.

If your loved ones have raised concerns about your drinking, it may be time to consider the possibility that you need help. Your first reaction may have been to angrily deny the suggestion that you do not have no control over your drinking. But if you take a long hard look at your alcohol consumption, you may be forced to admit the truth. This often turns out to be the case.

An alcohol addiction is not something that can be diagnosed with a physical examination or a blood test. There may be symptoms that could indicate a problem, particularly in the later stages – such as liver damage – but the most obvious way to diagnose a problem is to take a look at the individual’s drinking habits. Below are a few questions that you should ask yourself in order to tell if you should consider getting help:

  • Are you regularly drinking more than the recommended allowance of fourteen units per week?
  • Do you regularly get drunk?
  • Do you often drink more than you had planned to?
  • Have you taken unnecessary risks while under the influence of alcohol, such as driving a car?
  • Do you have periods where you cannot remember anything due to being intoxicated?
  • Do you do things under the influence of alcohol that you later regret?
  • Do you feel guilty about your drinking or try to hide your consumption from loved ones?
  • Have you tried to quit or cut back on your drinking but been unable to?
  • Do you find that you need more alcohol in order to achieve the desired effects?
  • Do you get irritated when others want to go home but you want to continue drinking?
  • Do you continue to drink even though you know that doing so will cause negative consequences for you or your loved ones?

If you have answered yes to one or more of the above questions, it could be the case that you need help. You may not have an addiction yet, but if you continue drinking the way you are, it will undoubtedly not be too long before you lose control.

Is Alcohol Causing Harm to Your Life?

You may believe that you do not have a problem because you are still functioning. You are still getting up in the morning and going to work. Even if you are drinking more than you should be, it is not a major problem because it is not severely affecting your daily life – yet!

You might not be aware of the damage that regular alcohol consumption is causing, particularly to your health. The more you continue to drink, the more likely you are to go on to develop a physical dependence, which would almost certainly begin to negatively affect your day-to-day life. But underneath the surface, problems are likely occurring.

Your drinking could already be causing damage to your internal organs, and it may not be until later down the road that these issues become evident. Alcohol affects almost every cell in the body and it is linked to hundreds of health problems. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to issues with the heart, liver, nervous system, brain, kidneys, and reproductive system. It is also linked to high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, liver disease, and some forms of cancer. It is also a contributory factor to many mental health problems including anxiety, depression, and dementia. So, while you may not notice anything at the moment, you could be increasing your risk of many health problems in later life should you continue in this vein.

When Does Alcohol Become an Addiction

It is important to remember that not everyone who drinks alcohol will go on to develop an addiction. The question of when is alcohol an addiction is one that is often asked. The truth is that there is no single cause of alcohol addiction, and the reality is that two people may drink the same type of alcohol and the same amount with only one going on to become an alcoholic.

What we do know is that there are several contributing factors that make alcohol addiction more likely for some individuals than others. These include:

  • Genetics – A family history of addiction makes it far more likely that an individual will develop an addiction than someone with no history of addiction in their family. In fact, those with an addicted parent are around four times more likely to have a problem themselves than those who do not.
  • Traumatic Experiences – Trauma is a major contributing factor when it comes to addiction. Traumatic experiences increase the risk for all types of addiction, including alcohol addiction. Events that can be classed as traumatic include all types of abuse, being bullied, domestic violence, the death of a loved one, or living with a mentally ill close relative.
  • Environment – The experiences an individual has while growing up can impact on his or her risk for addiction. For example, those who live in an area where alcohol or drug consumption is the norm may be more likely to follow suit. Family life, friendships and relationships with others can increase the risk.
  • Mental Health – Those with mental health problems such as anxiety or chronic depression are more likely to use chemical substances such as alcohol or drugs for relief. They are also more likely to go on to develop a physical dependence and subsequent addiction.
  • Early Exposure – The earlier an individual is exposed to alcohol, the more likely that he or she is to have problems in later life. The majority of alcoholics will have started drinking before the age of eighteen.

It is worth noting that even those with every single risk factor are not guaranteed to become alcoholics. While the above factors do mean an increased risk, they do not indicate that the individual will definitely develop an addiction. There are some people who will go on to become alcoholics without having any of the above risk factors. The reality is that there is just no way of knowing who will and who will not be affected. What is more certain is the fact that anyone who drinks alcohol is capable of allowing their consumption to get out of control.

How to Tackle the Issue of Alcohol Addiction?

If you are at the stage where you have little or no control over your alcohol addiction, it is time to get help – and fast. While there is no cure for alcohol addiction, it is an illness that can be treated; you can put your days of substance abuse behind you if you are ready to make changes to your life.

Here at Addiction.org.uk, we want to do everything we can to help those affected by alcohol addiction. We understand that reaching out for help can be tough but admitting that the problem exists is the first step on the road to recovery.

Once you are ready to make the necessary changes to your life, we can help. We will assess your situation and put you in touch with a suitable treatment provider where you will get the help you need to overcome your illness once and for all.

Alcohol addiction is typically treated with a programme that includes a physical detox followed by therapeutic treatments such as individual and group counselling. For more detailed information on what this entails, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us today.

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