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Alcohol abuse - how does it affect tolerance?

Published 03/09/2008

Has the following thought ever occurred to you? "I've had a few drinks, but I don't feel drunk - so my drinking habits must be safe."

Nothing could be further from the truth, says Sue Allchurch, research director at Linwood Group. "Needing a lot of alcohol to get drunk suggests that you are already drinking too much, too often," she warns.

The longer a person lives with alcohol addiction, she explains, the greater the level of tolerance they develop to the substance. This means that, over time, the alcoholic will need to drink more in order to get the same effects.

As a result, alcohol tolerance can lead someone with a dangerously high consumption to be falsely reassured that as long as they don't feel drunk, they will be fine. But eventually, they become physically dependent on alcohol and must drink a significant amount just to function and avoid withdrawal symptoms.

The physical effects of alcohol withdrawal can range from mild symptoms like sweating, anxiety, and flu-like reactions to more serious effects in some cases: hallucinations, fitting, even heart attack. This is why it's essential that an alcohol detox regime is carried out under medical supervision, says Allchurch. Both the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal occur because the body is responding to losing a substance it has adapted to.

Sadly, many people with alcohol addiction problems become dependent on alcohol long before they are able to acknowledge that such a problem even exists. But drinkers need to bear in mind that, if they have developed a tolerance for alcohol, they can no longer trust their body's signals to tell them when they've had enough. And if they find it impossible to cut down on their drinking, says Allchurch, it's time to get professional help and support.

If you or someone you know needs alcohol abuse help contact Linwood Group for confidential advice and information.


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