Warning Signs of Alcoholism

Exploring the Warning Signs of Alcoholism

Have you ever wondered where alcohol comes from, and why people drink it? Well, we are here to tell you. Whatever your drink of choice is, whether that be wine, beer, vodka, tequila, or a mixed drink, these all have something in common, they contain alcohol. After all, it is 5 o’clock somewhere right? The question is, how does someone know they or their loved one has a substance abuse problem, and realize they need professional help at an alcohol recovery program?

When making alcohol, there are different processes are depending on what you type is being brewed. Grains, fruits, and vegetables are put through a specific anaerobic process called alcoholic fermentation, which in Latin means, “To boil.” During fermentation, yeast mixed with micro-organisms convert sugars such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose into cellular energy, producing and releasing the by-products of ethanol and carbon dioxide. For example, wine and cider are created when fruit is fermented, grain barley and rye are used as the bases to produce beer and spirits. 

Whether you drink alcohol or not, the Internet is filled with advice and mixed messages. On one side of the discussion, research states that drinking alcohol such as red wine has health benefits, and on the other side of the spectrum, we hear more often about those drunken stories and that drinking is bad for you. 

Truth is, both sides of the story are not wrong, but there is a point where moderation doesn’t exist anymore, and it becomes more than just partying, and defined as a problem. The specialists of Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare are here to help. 

What is Alcohol, and Why Do We Drink It? 

Alcohol also known as ethyl alcohol is a substance produced by yeasts that digest sugars in carbonate-rich foods, such as grapes when making wine, or grains to brew beer. Ethanol is the main psychoactive ingredient in the popular alcoholic drinks we consume and is responsible for making you feel that tipsy and drunk sensation. Many people enjoy drinking alcohol for a variety of reasons including:

  • Celebration
  • Socializing 
  • Reduce anxiety and shyness
  • Self-confidence increases
  • Taste
  • Sense of identity and belonging
  • Likes the way it makes them feel

While drinking alcohol may be a social norm and is used as a symbol of celebration or for comfort, we tend to forget that alcohol is also a form of the drug, the one most consumed worldwide. For many drinking is as much as a part of daily life as getting dressed or eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Although, since most people consume it so regularly, we don’t know what it does to us, or why it causes (some of) us to suddenly think that dancing on a bar or stripping your clothes off a brilliant idea. 

The truth is, that this social acceptance and normalcy of drinking, makes us forget and ignore the harmful effects that alcohol has on our brain and body, but most importantly, how drinking can ruin someone’s life if it becomes out of control, which it often does. 

How Alcohol Affects Our Brain and Body

 The way alcohol affects the body, and the way they act when they consume it is different for everyone. In addition to all the reasons mentioned above, people also use alcohol to reduce anxiety and to relax. Although, drinking can induce anxiety and increase one’s stress levels. 

What some people fail to realize or remember is that alcohol is classified as a depressant. In other words, when we drink alcohol, it slows down our central nervous system (CNS) along with our inhibitions. 

Our brain functioning and neural activity, meaning drinking can have extremely powerful effects on the brain and body, both neuropsychological and physiological, due to the release of GABA, the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter within the brain. GABA is responsible for controlling fear or anxiety. Functioning, behavior, mood, and mental state are affected the most, including vital functions, such as decision making, movement, reaction time, etc. 

Alcohol: A Depressant and a Stimulant

Alcohol is categorized as a depressant. But it also produces both sedative and stimulating effects. The amount of alcohol someone drinks, and how they act when they do, determines the type of effect one will experience. 

As evidence has proven, most people drink for the stimulant effect, in other words, to “loosen up,” or reduce anxiety. In other words, a few drinks can spark energy, elation, and excitement; it gives you a buzz. This proves that there is more to alcohol’s effects, and it may be defined as more than simply a depressant. 

When a person consumes more alcohol than their body can handle or their tolerance becomes higher than usual, they will become drunk. They’ll experience the other effects of alcohol (sedation), such as cognitive impairment. Alcohol produces feelings of relaxation. At lower doses, alcohol is a stimulant, producing the feeling of euphoria. It may make a person more talkative and social. 

Understanding the Effects of Alcohol

To some, it may seem normal for people to become drunk once in a while. Also, it’s natural for people to experience the stimulating effect of alcohol. But studies suggest that drinking slowly is more likely to cause relaxation and reduce anxiety. In a sedative state, drinking quickly tends to increase the effects of stimulation. This is what most people want. However, those with alcoholism, dependency issues, and substance abuse, it is the other way around. They drink to experience the feeling of relaxation/sedation or becoming drunk. 

Consuming alcohol can depress someone’s central nervous system to an extreme extent, that it results in slurred speech, stumbling, and loss of balance, disturbed perceptions, and inability to react quickly. Mentally, alcohol reduces a person’s ability to think and make rational decisions, due to distorted judgment. Drinking too much too quickly not only makes a person intoxicated but, the more a person consumes, the more they depress their CNS, which can result in severe health complications, including slowed heart rate, respiratory failure, coma, alcohol poisoning, or worse death.

Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse Disorder (AUD)

Whether you go to happy hour with your friends or co-workers, drinking at home, or going out to a bar or club, alcohol is omnipresent. Whether you are a partier or not, drinking is just a part of life. What is even truer, is that research has shown that alcohol affects everyone differently, this includes both mood and behavior. 

There is a clear difference between getting drunk most of the time when you go out drinking, and drinking excessively most days, where it hinders your ability to function. Most people when they go out like getting drunk, but there is a thing called limit and moderation. Drinking “in moderation” means having no more than one drink if you’re a woman, and no more than two if you’re a man. Unfortunately, moderation does not register in some individual’s brains, and they do not or cannot control how much and how frequently they are drinking. 

In other words, everyone has heard the saying, “Know Your Limit,” and while it is true that some people can drink in moderation or get tipsy/drunk and be able to maintain a somewhat normal demeanor, other people cannot. This is called substance abuse or alcoholism. 

What is Alcoholism? 

When a person binges drinks or cannot live without drinking alcohol, they become so dependent on it, meaning their body craves it, so much so, that it impairs their ability to function in their daily life. This is when casual drinking becomes a substance abuse issue that needs attention. Often, however, people who drink excessively may not realize they have an issue, are too embarrassed to admit they have a problem, or want to ask for help, but think they can’t afford it due to the known perception that healthcare is expensive. 

Alcoholism is also known as Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is defined as a chronic disease or addiction to drinking alcohol, specifically categorized by uncontrolled drinking habits. Addiction is a monster that controls the brain, especially those struggling with substance abuse. Those with this disorder do not know what moderation is. They drink to feel good and cope and get drunk, and before they know it, they don’t know how to stop. 

Further Information About Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is an extremely serious problem in our world today. It affects approximately 16 million adults in the United States, meaning one in thirteen adults abuse alcohol or have alcoholism. While the drinking age in the United States is 21, that is often not followed. Research shows that people who begin to drink before the age of 15 are twice as likely to abuse alcohol. They’re four times more likely to develop a dependency on it.

Having alcoholism and being dependent on it are two different things, but one leads to the other. Binge drinking alcohol leads a person to become dependent on the substance. But, in an extreme case that is harmful and starts to ruin their livelihood. So, how do you know if you or a loved one is an alcoholic? Truth is, looking out for specific warning signs and understanding the symptoms is very important. Knowing more about the effects alcohol has on the brain and body can help. 

The more people are educated on these matters, the better. It can reduce the statistics that show the increase of incidents, overdoses, and deaths related to alcohol use and binge drinking. 

What Are the Warning Signs of Alcoholism? 

Ask yourself these questions below:

  • Have you continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or contributing to other health problems?
  • Do you find yourself in situations where you end up drinking much more than you intended?
  • Do you no longer have an interest in other activities and hobbies since you started drinking?
  • Have you experienced symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal?
  • Have you felt an urge or craving to consume alcohol?
  • Do you into situations while drinking that increase your chances of harming yourself or others (i.e., drinking and driving)?
  • Has alcohol use caused you to get in trouble with the law? (i.e. DUI) 

If you or your loved one’s answers to a majority of these questions above is yes, it is time to get help. You can consult with our substance abuse specialists at Granite Mountain for information. The bottom line is how alcohol affects you. If your drinking is causing problems in your life, then you have a drinking problem. 

More About Alcohol Use and Alcoholism

It is important to note, that just because you drink, does not mean you have a problem. But it is important to know the warning signs of alcoholism, and what you can do to help or get help. Not all alcohol abusers become alcoholics, but it is a big risk factor that requires attention. 

It’s not always easy to tell when you’ve crossed the line from moderate or social drinking to problematic drinking. Drinking is very common in many cultures. Also, the effects of alcohol use vary widely from person to person. So, it’s not always easy to figure out if you have a drinking problem. 

While alcoholism is genetic, it can also develop suddenly in response to life occurrences. Some people may develop alcoholism due to stress-producing changes, including:

  • Changes at work
  • Relationship problems and breakups
  • Retirement
  • Death of a loved one

Other times, it can creep up on a person. The more one drinks, their tolerance to alcohol increases, and the body eventually continue to crave it. Those who binge drink or drink every day may be at risk for developing an alcohol use disorder. They may also be at risk of becoming an alcoholic. 

There are several warning signs to help identify if an individual has potential alcohol abuse. While many of these signs are recognizable, for some, it may be more difficult to identify. Then again, everyone and their situations are unique. 

Also, the severity of alcohol abuse may play a role in the warning signs a person exhibits. Some people try to cover the fact that they drink a lot by isolating themselves, which often makes it hard for friends or family to intervene and get them help. So, how do you know when you’ve crossed the line to alcohol use disorder (AUD)?

Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare Will Help You Recover

Alcohol is the most common form of substance abuse among those who seek help from addiction treatment centers. At Granite Mountain, our specialists help those who are struggling with alcohol use disorder. Not only do we help people quit drinking, but we also help them to develop coping mechanisms. These skills help individuals to overcome the strong desire to use again. They also enable people to build healthy relationships and prevent relapse. Most importantly, individuals can enter a life of happiness, health, and long-term sobriety.

Our alcohol recovery programs include: 

  • Stabilization Programs
  • Structured Sober Living Homes
  • Transitional Living Programs
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs
  • Dual Diagnosis (Co-Occurring Conditions)
  • Life Skills & Coping Mechanisms Development

To learn more about the warning signs of alcoholism and how to help a loved one, or help yourself become sober, contact us today at (928) 756-0694. 

References 

Article Reviewed by Gregory Struve

Gregory StruveGreg received a Master’s in Counseling from the Adler Graduate School in 2006. He trained at one of the top trauma and anxiety treatment centers in the world until 2008, when he became a faculty member at Grand Canyon University. From 2011 to 2016 he directed a program that lead the field in terms of innovative treatment of anxiety and trauma. During that time he even made several appearances on A&E’s intervention.

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