Understanding Alcohol Addiction

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What is alcohol addiction?

Alcohol use disorder (which includes a level that’s sometimes called alcoholism), defined by the Mayo Clinic is a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect, or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking. Alcohol addiction is the inability to control how much alcohol is consumed or stop drinking.  In addition, alcohol users may need to consume more alcohol in order to get the same “high” effect.  Withdrawal symptoms occur when drinking has stopped and can include shaking, excessive sweating, nausea and anxiety.  Most often patients spend a lot of time drinking and recovering and give up activities that formerly brought joy.  Alcohol abuse also strains relationships and can cause health problems.

What are the signs of alcohol abuse?

According to the Mayo Clinic signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse can include:

  • A sense of euphoria or feeling “high”
  • A heightened sense of visual, auditory and taste perception
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Red eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased coordination
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Increased appetite
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Paranoid thinking
  • Decreased mental sharpness
  • Poor performance at school or at work
  • Reduced number of friends and interests

What does excessive alcohol abuse do to the body?

Because alcohol addiction damages the brain, it can cause changes in mood and behavior, debilitate clear thinking and coordination.  Long term alcohol abuse can also cause heart problems such as cardio myopathy, arrhythmias, stroke and high blood pressure.  Research also links alcohol abuse to the development of coronary heart disease as well as high blood pressure and stroke. It is well known alcohol addiction negatively impacts liver function and can lead to steatosis, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.  Long term alcohol abuse can lead to problems with the pancreas as well and has even been linked to cancer in the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver,  and breast.  In addition, alcohol addiction can weaken your immune system and your body against diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis.

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