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Symptoms of Alcoholism - how do you know when enough is enough?

Published 07/05/2009

According to The Alcohol Needs Assessment Research Project for England 26% of adults (aged 16-64) have an alcohol use disorder.  This is equivalent to approximately 8.2 million people in England.  Twenty one percent of men and nine percent of women are binge drinkers and 3.6% of adults in England are alcohol dependent; which equates to 1.1 million people.

With so many people in England misusing alcohol, how can you tell if you are drinking too much, or if it is becoming a major issue in your life?  Government guidelines for safe drinking suggest that 21 units for a man and 14 units per week for a woman are safe and these should be spaced over a week and not consumed in one or two sessions.  The measurement of a unit of drink is suggested as being half a pint of beer, a glass of wine or a pub measure of spirits (however, be aware that a half pint of beer can contain 3.5 units of alcohol in special beers). 

For those concerned that they, or a loved one, are frequently overstepping the recommended guidelines for safe drinking, then here are the symptoms of alcoholism to look out for.  Alcoholism, or alcohol dependence, will begin with early signs of a problem, such as frequent intoxication, or a pattern of heavy drinking.  Other early signs can include black-out drinking or a dramatic change in a person's behaviour when they drink.

Sue Allchurch, director of Linwood Group, a leading provider of alcohol treatment facilities, comments: "As alcoholism is a progressive disease, those prone to frequent bouts of heavy drinking are likely to move to the next stage in the illness and begin to show signs of alcohol abuse.  When a person's drinking reaches this stage, they will continue drinking even if it causes them recurring problems.  These will range from not being able to do their job or necessary responsibilities to getting in trouble with the Law, due to their alcohol fuelled behaviour.  The next stage on from this is full blown alcoholism, or alcohol dependence." 

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, when a person reaches the alcohol dependence stage, they can expect to experience at least three of the following seven alcoholism symptoms:  

  • Neglect of other Activities: Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use;
  • Excessive Use: Alcohol is consumed in larger amounts over a longer period than intended;
  • Impaired control: Ongoing, unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol consumption;
  • Persistence of Use: Alcohol consumption is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely caused or exacerbated by alcohol;
  • Large Amounts of Time Spent in Alcohol Related Activities: A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain, use or recover from the effects of alcohol;
  • Withdrawal: Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking;
  • Tolerance: The need for increasing amounts of alcohol in order to feel its effects.

So, if you recognise yourself, or a loved one in the alcohol abuse or dependence stages of the disease and want to know what to do to change this destructive pattern, why not call the Linwood Group to talk through alcoholism symptoms?  Call free on 0800 066 4173 (or if you are calling from a mobile phone or from overseas, call 01226 698 054) for professional, confidential advice on those vital first steps on the road to recovery.

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