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Alcohol addiction is an extremely life-threatening medical disease that requires professional, medically-assisted treatment to overcome. Alcohol addiction can present severe physical and mental health issues and can cause permanent alterations in brain functioning if not treated. Such addiction can affect more than just the individual experiencing it; it can also significantly affect friendships and family relations. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction can make all the difference in getting help. 

The Effects of Alcohol 

It is essential to acknowledge the effects of alcohol use. West Coast Recovery Center provides a list of both short-term and long-term effects of alcohol, which may be helpful in recognizing the unique factors associated with alcohol addiction. 

The short-term effects of alcohol use include: 

  • Impaired cognitive functioning 
  • Balance and coordination problems
  • Slurred speech
  • Delayed reaction times
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Loss of consciousness

The long-term effects of alcohol use include:

  • Alterations in mood and behavior
  • Heart damage
  • Increased risk of heart attack
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Liver damage
  • Inflammation of the pancreas
  • Increased risk of cancer

Warning Signs of Alcohol Addiction 

When alcohol addiction is present in an individual, they must seek professional help. Many warning signs can help assess whether or not someone’s casual drinking is developing into an addiction. Some warning signs that an alcohol addiction may be present in an individual include: 

  • Regularly drinking in greater quantities than intended
  • Thoughts are consumed by cravings to drink
  • Continued drinking, although it is causing personal or professional issues
  • Cutting back on pleasurable activities and drinking in place of them
  • Inability to stop or slow down drinking
  • Having to drink in order to feel “good”
  • Becoming overly aggressive or violent when drinking
  • Increase in alcohol tolerance/needing more alcohol to feel same effects
  • Drinking alone or secretly
  • Significant time spent obtaining, drinking, or recovering from alcohol use
  • Experiencing occasional blackouts, or periods of time that you cannot remember
  • Less time spent with family and friends and spending more time drinking
  • Legal or financial implications because of alcohol use
  • Withdrawal symptoms when drinking is cut down or stopped

Although there are many other warning signs, these create an initial framework to reflect on whether or not alcohol use is becoming a significant issue in someone’s life. Certain behaviors, such as the ones mentioned above, may indicate that a particular pattern of drinking is the result of alcohol addiction. 

Withdrawal Symptoms 

Withdrawal symptoms can come in many forms and appear as one of three stages, outlined by The American Academy of Physicians. These include: 

  • Stage 1 (mild): 
    • Headache 
    • Insomnia  
    • Anxiety 
    • Stomach disturbances 
    • Fast heartbeat
    • Uncontrollable handshaking 
  • Stage 2 (moderate): 
    • Increased blood pressure
    • Increased heart rate
    • Confusion
    • Mild hyperthermia
    • Rapid or abnormal breathing 
  • Stage 3 (severe): 
    • Visual hallucinations 
    • Auditory hallucinations
    • Seizures 
    • Disorientation
    • Impaired thinking or attention 

Each stage and symptom described may occur at a different time and vary from person to person. These variations are based on the quantity of alcohol being consumed, the duration of drinking, and possible concurrent symptoms from the presence of physical or mental health issues. Other withdrawal symptoms may include fatigue or changes in mood that could last days to months, although these symptoms could result from many other normal daily activities.

Seeking Help for Alcohol Addiction 

Help for alcohol addiction is available, and many different treatment options can help fit individualized needs. The first step is seeking a professional evaluation from a doctor or physician. This evaluation will assess all factors contributing to an alcohol issue, including experience with the substance, previous withdrawal symptoms, and medical and psychiatric history. 

Treatment for alcoholism may begin with detoxification, which defines the process of allowing the body to remove the alcohol within it. Depending on the severity of the alcohol addiction and the withdrawal symptoms present, detox may occur in an inpatient facility with the help of specific withdrawal medication. These medications make the process a bit more tolerable, as they can reduce agitation and help restore physical functioning to areas in the body that may be suffering from use.

If detox is needed, an individual may be transferred to an alcohol treatment program once detox is completed. If detox is not required, but alcohol addiction is present, an individual will still be referred to an alcohol treatment program. These programs are influenced by the level of care needed, including inpatient or residential rehabilitation, outpatient rehabilitation, behavioral therapies, and mutual support groups. The road to recovery from addiction begins with identifying problematic behaviors. Progress within recovery can look like many things, as becoming educated on recognizing what an alcohol addiction could look like is progress in itself. 

If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one showing warning signs of alcohol addiction, West Coast Recovery Centers is here to help. There are a variety of treatment options for alcohol addiction, depending on severity and location. Here in California, West Coast Recovery Center has an alcohol treatment center that offers an integrated approach to various addiction treatments. With both traditional and holistic treatment options, our professional-led programs will assist you or your loved one on the road to a healthier and sober lifestyle. We will meet you wherever you are on your journey, whether this is the first time you are receiving treatment, or you’re considering a treatment center influenced by holistic practices. There is a program for every type of substance addiction and every level of severity here at West Coast. For more information and resources about the treatment programs we offer, give us a call at (760) 492-6509.