The Blurred Lines Between Alcohol Use and Alcohol Addiction
About 15 million American adults struggle with an alcohol use disorder. And thanks to COVID-19, most of them are struggling with how to cope with the stress of staying safe in the current state of quarantining and social distancing, but not isolating themselves. Isolation puts those who struggle with alcohol use at a greater risk fueling the flames of addiction.
It’s overwhelming – and many people are turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism. But how can you tell when alcohol use becomes an addiction?
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive disease which is characterized by compulsive alcohol use, the inability to control the amount of alcohol consumed, and a negative emotional state that occurs when not using/consuming alcohol.
Most people who drink don’t start off at this stage. Alcoholism is more of a gradual progression that coincides with various factors that can increase your risk of developing an alcohol use disorder, such as a genetic predisposition, gender, and the way your body physically processes alcohol. Alcoholism often coincides with some other mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, putting you at greater risk for addiction. Other risk factors include early onset of drinking at a young age, steady drinking over time, and spending time around people who drink.
It’s important to know what to look for if you suspect you or someone you love has a problem with alcohol. Since drinking is so common, it can be easy to overlook a problem when you “need a drink” to destress, relax, cope or to have a good time, particularly amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s some signs to watch for:
- Knowing when – or how – to stop. Have you ever had a hard time knowing when it’s time to stop? Does one drink turn into three? Does three turn into eight?
- Spending more money than you should on alcohol.
- Trading in enjoyment for drinking. Are you giving up social activities and/or isolating from the personal relationships that normally bring you joy because you’re putting drinking first?
- Having strained relationships with loved ones. Are tensions running high? Have you said and done things that have upset friends and family – even when you don’t remember?
- Not meeting obligations. Have you had trouble meeting your obligations because of drinking? Have you been late to work because you had a hangover? Have you missed work or assignments?
- Feeling physical repercussions when you don’t drink. Have you ever experienced signs of withdrawal when you don’t drink, such as sweating, shaking, or feeling nauseous?
If you’ve answered yes to one or more of these questions, it may be time to talk to a professional.
Trying to manage alcohol use on your own only strengthens the addiction’s grip and prolongs the collateral damage. Regardless if you are the person drinking too much or suspect a family member is, drinking affects the entire family – not just the person drinking it.
Since we are spending more time at home as we observe COVID-19 safety measures, such as #StayAtHome orders in many states, alcohol-related problems may be more pronounced. Living in closer quarters can make it possible to pay closer attention to evaluate your loved one’s behaviors. Or you can use the time to evaluate your own relationship with alcohol.
Dangers of Detoxing Alone
The physical withdrawal symptoms from alcohol dependency are painful and can be dangerous. Delirium Tremens (DTs,) seizures, and extreme nausea and diarrhea can be fatal, which require medical supervision and possibly medically assisted treatment. Your doctors will evaluate the progression of your disease, its effect on your body, and your medical history to create an individualized plan. Through psychological therapy you’ll begin to understand the issues that have caused you to get to this point. You’ll learn life-long strategies to help you prevent relapse and achieve long-term recovery.
Now is the Time
There’s no better time than now. Our everyday pace has slowed as global leaders make big changes to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to improve world health. Use the time to invest in your health and get professional help to get sober safely – without the fear of missing out.
If you or a loved one are battling an alcohol use disorder, or you want a “sounding board” and more information, reach out to us at Caron. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to keep our doors open to help you and your loved one’s access high quality care and exercise an abundance of cautionary measures to keep patients and staff healthy.
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