Health

Warning Signs of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

The statistics of alcohol abuse in the United States are staggering. While the majority of US citizens have no problems with consuming alcohol in moderation, almost 17.6 million are alcoholics or engage in alcohol abuse. Alcoholism is an addiction that has the following features:

  • Craving for alcohol
  • Unable to control drinking
  • The physical dependence on alcohol
  • High tolerance to the effects of alcohol

No one sets out to become an alcoholic. Without alcohol, they experience physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms such as shakes, sweats, nausea and vomiting, and even delirium tremens (DTs), which consist of hallucinations and convulsions and may be fatal. For severe alcoholics, detoxing from alcohol is best done under the guidance of medical professionals and addiction therapists.

Signs of Alcoholism

The telltale signs of an alcoholic or one who is on the path to alcoholism are listed below.

  • Drinks in secret or alone
  • Cannot limit how much alcohol they drink
  • Blacks out or can’t remember what happened while drinking
  • No longer interested in activities they used to enjoy
  • Keeps alcohol in unusual places around the house
  • Drinks to get drunk
  • Has problems with relationships, employers, and/or finances
  • Needs many drinks to feel intoxicated

Risk Factors for Alcoholism

A person who drinks steadily over time risks becoming physically dependent on alcohol. By consuming over 15 drinks a week if one is a man or 12 drinks a week if one is a woman, a person increases their risk of developing alcoholism. Other risk factors for alcoholism include:

Age of Drinker

People who begin drinking at the age of 16 or younger are at a greater risk of becoming an alcoholic.

Genes

A person’s genes may make them more susceptible to alcoholism.

Gender

Men are at a greater risk of becoming alcoholics.

Family History

Those who were raised among alcoholics have a greater risk of alcoholism.

Emotional Problems

Those who are depressed or have anxiety or attention deficit disorder are more likely to become alcoholics.

Alcohol Abuse and Health Risks

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can have damaging and irreversible effects on a person’s health. Over time, an alcoholic may develop one or more of the problems listed below.

Liver Problems

Heavy drinking causes alcoholic hepatitis, which is an inflammation in the liver leading to appetite loss, nausea, stomach pain, and yellow skin. Eventually, alcoholic hepatitis develops into cirrhosis, irreversible destruction of the liver tissue.

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Alcoholism may result in an inflammation of the stomach, which interferes with the absorption of nutrients. Alcohol abuse also damages the pancreas, which produces the hormones and enzymes that help digest food.

Heart Problems

Alcohol abuse leads to high blood pressure and damages the heart, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Sexual and Reproductive Function

Alcoholism causes erectile dysfunction in men and irregular menses (periods) in women.

Birth Defects

Alcohol use while pregnant can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, an irreversible birth defect with both physical and cognitive symptoms.

Neurological Problems

Alcohol abuse affects the nervous system and may put one at greater risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Cancer

Alcohol abuse has been linked to a higher risk of developing cancers such as throat, liver, colon, and breast cancer.

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