Most people who drink alcohol do so responsibly. They know when they’ve had enough, and their drinking does not cause harm to themselves or to others. Problems arise when an individual crosses the line from occasional drinking to regular consumption of alcohol. They do this in order to feel a certain way or to avoid stress.
Alcohol addiction can happen in different ways. It can happen suddenly, when someone uses alcohol to try and cope with loss, trauma or another major life event. It can happen gradually as a social drinker’s tolerance gradually increases, and he or she starts to drink more to achieve the same effects.
Alcohol affects people in a wide variety of ways. Some people become more social and talkative; others become quiet and withdrawn. Some start making jokes; others start to cry. It wakes some people up and it puts other people to sleep.
It is important to note the distinction between alcohol addiction and “problem drinking”. Problem drinking is alcohol consumption that causes problems, such as impaired driving or a propensity to become physically or verbally abusive when drunk. People who engage in problem drinking are not necessarily addicted to alcohol, although some are.
What are the signs of alcohol addiction?
It can be difficult to tell when someone has an alcohol addiction, particularly in the early stages. Most people with an alcohol addiction are very good at hiding it. They develop sophisticated ways to prevent others from finding out.
Warning signs that you or a loved one might have an alcohol addiction include the following:
- The individual gradually abandons work and family responsibilities
- The individual knowingly consumes alcohol when it is dangerous to do so, for example, prior to operating heavy machinery or driving a car
- The individual finds that he or she is having financial or legal problems as a result of drinking
- The individual drinks at inappropriate times, for example, first thing in the morning
- You discover empty and half-empty alcohol bottles in random places where you would not expect to find them
- The individual consumes alcohol with the intention of either seeking or avoiding a particular feeling
- The individual continues to drink despite knowing that it is causing problems.