Alcohol addiction is a chronic condition that affects thousands of people in Britain every year. It causes around 9,000 deaths in the UK per year and it is estimated that over 590,000 people in the country are currently struggling with alcohol addiction. If you are one of those people then know that help is available. At Linwood House, we recognise that alcohol addiction isn’t your fault and with our support, you can break free from its grip and reclaim your life.
What Is alcohol addiction?
Alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism or alcohol use disorder, is when you compulsively seek and drink alcohol, despite negative consequences. Alcohol addiction is sadly very common both in the UK and across the world and yet there are many people who never reach out to help due to stigma, shame or denial.
There are many terms, concepts and diagnoses related to alcohol addiction including alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse. Both of these concepts go hand in hand with alcohol addiction, but they have distinct meanings:
Alcohol abuse refers to any harmful drinking habits including excessive drinking, binge drinking or using alcohol in unhealthy ways (for example, as a coping mechanism for stress, depression or other emotional distress.)
Alcohol dependence is when you need to drink just to feel “normal” and experience withdrawal symptoms if you try to stop. Dependence develops when you consistently drink too much alcohol and your body begins to adjust to its presence and you need to drink more and more alcohol to experience the same effects. Eventually this alters your brain chemistry and so if you suddenly stop, there is a chemical imbalance.
It is this chemical imbalance that causes withdrawal with uncomfortable and sometimes even life-threating symptoms, particularly if you “go cold turkey” and stop on your own without professional medical guidance and support.
What are the causes of alcohol addiction?
Like all types of addiction, alcohol addiction is rarely rooted in the substance itself. Instead, it is usually a consequence or symptom of other underlying issues, such as co-occurring mental health disorders or unresolved trauma.
Other risk factors that increase the chances of developing an addiction to alcohol include:
- Genetics, which may account for up to 50% of the risk of developing an addiction to alcohol
- Exposure to early life adversity such as childhood neglect or abuse
- Spending time with peers who misuse alcohol
- Growing up in a home with frequent episodes of alcohol abuse
- Misusing alcohol or other substances during adolescence
Many people who are exposed to these risk factors never develop an alcohol addiction while others develop addictions without ever being exposed. Yet, identifying and addressing these underlying causes is a key step in alcohol addiction recovery.
Am I addicted to alcohol?
It can be difficult to tell when you are addicted to alcohol as it can cause denial and convince your drinking is not a problem. Alcohol addiction can be equally hard to spot in loved ones who may be ashamed of their drinking and try to hide it.
Alcoholism can manifest in many different ways but some of the common signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction include:
- Frequently drinking more than you intend to in a single session
- Other people voicing concerns about your drinking
- Feeling like you need a drink first thing in the morning
- Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities in favour of drinking
- Beginning to neglect home and work responsibilities due to your alcohol abuse
- Your thoughts and time being largely occupied by acquiring and drinking alcohol
- Financial difficulties due to the costs of alcohol
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you try to reduce your drinking
- Trying to reduce or stop drinking but being unable to
If you recognise any of these signs of alcohol addiction, you should seek professional help. Remember that alcohol addiction is not a choice and you should never feel you have to hide or deny your problem, even to yourself. Instead, come to see alcohol addiction as a medical condition that requires professional care.
What are the dangers of alcohol addiction?
Alcohol addiction comes with serious short-term and long-term risks to your health, relationships and work life.
In the short-term, alcohol abuse increases the chances of:
- Alcohol poisoning
- Risky behaviour like unprotected sex
- Drink driving
- Alcohol-related violence
With time, alcohol addiction can lead to:
- Several types of cancer
- Liver disease
- Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
- High blood pressure and related illnesses
Alcohol addiction can also strain your relationships with others as well as yourself while couples where one partner struggles with alcohol abuse are more likely to experience relationship instability, dissatisfaction and aggressive behaviour.
Alcohol addiction can also cause you to lie to loved ones, neglect important responsibilities and also affect your performance and attendance at work and school until it has ultimately taken over every aspect of your life.
How can you treat alcohol addiction?
At Linwood House, our evidence-based treatment plans address the underlying causes of alcohol addiction, guiding you to lasting recovery. This usually begins with alcohol detox to break your physical dependence and then alcohol rehab programme which involves a range of treatment modalities all offered in our safe and comfortable centre. This residential environment offers the safety and support you need to fully engage with your recovery programme, taking you away from the triggers, stresses, and distractions of everyday life.
The next step
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction or abuse, contact Linwood House today. Our compassionate team is on hand to offer expert advice and answer any questions you may have. Get in touch with us and open the door to a sober future today.