Alcohol is a killer that lives right out in the open. One we welcome into our homes, sporting events, celebrations, and more.
It’s among the most, if not the most widely accepted substance we have in our society and it’s notoriously deadly; the third-leading cause of preventable death in the United States as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) points out.
The jarring stats don’t end there though. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that over 24,000 people died from alcoholic liver disease in 2019 and the number of alcohol-induced deaths (excluding accidents and homicides) was over 39,000.
The NIAAA adds that as recently as 2019, 14.5 million people aged 12 and older had an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Alcohol abuse is very much a real problem in the country and knowing the warning signs of alcoholism is imperative to saving the life of a loved one.
Prior to getting into the signs and symptoms, it’s instructive to define what alcoholism is in the first place.
For starters, the official name for alcoholism is alcohol use disorder or AUD and the NIAAA defines it as such:
“Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. It encompasses the conditions that some people refer to as alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, and the colloquial term, alcoholism. Considered a brain disorder, AUD can be mild, moderate, or severe”.
That there at the end is a critical point to understand, that alcoholism is a brain disorder in the same way drug addiction is. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) takes it a step further and sheds some light on the disorder concept, noting, “it is considered a brain disorder because it involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control”.
Warning Signs of Alcoholism to Look Out For
As mentioned, alcoholism exists on a spectrum – mild to moderate to severe – and where that person you care about lands is based on how many of the following criteria they meet:
- Consuming more alcohol than anticipated or for longer than expected
- Wanting to quit or at least cut but weren’t able to
- Spending an inordinate amount of time drinking or being hungover
- Cravings for a drink so bad that you can’t think of anything else
- Drinking, being sick from drinking, or recovering from it gets in the way of your responsibilities to family, friends, school, work, etc.
- Carrying on drinking despite problems it creates with family and friends
- Skipping or going less often to activities you once enjoyed in order to drink instead
- Finding yourself in dangerous scenarios while drinking like getting behind the wheel, being in unsafe areas, unprotected sex, etc.
- Drinking despite the fact that it makes you depressed or adds to other health problems
- Building a tolerance to alcohol so you need to drink more to get the same effects
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms – trouble sleeping, nausea, sweating, seizure, etc. – when the drinks wear off
Mild AUD would be meeting 2-3 of those criteria.
Moderate AUD would be 4-5.
Anything over 6 is considered severe AUD.
How to Get Someone Help With Their Alcohol Addiction
Quitting alcohol and beating addiction is a tough battle to face on your own and your loved one doesn’t have to go that route.
Getting help for someone with an addiction to alcohol is possible and readily available. The key to increasing the odds of success is making sure that person – your brother, mother, father, sister, uncle, friend, etc. – are truly aware that they have a problem and accept the help and dedicated treatment they need to overcome it.
An intervention is something that can create that awareness and be the inciting incident they need to change their lives for good.
If you want to learn more, need advice or information, reach out to us today at Footprints of Serenity.