Do I Have An Alcohol Problem?
Alcohol is everywhere we look these days. Whether it’s featured in our favourite TV shows, sold in every supermarket or served in the multitude of pubs and bars across the UK, it’s clear to see that the vast majority of people enjoy a drink from time to time.
But when does enjoyment of alcohol become an addiction? This article details the warning signs and symptoms of an alcohol use disorder as well as the risk factors and treatment options for anyone struggling with an addiction to this popular substance.
What are the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction?
While it may be possible to hide the initial symptoms of alcohol addiction, over time the physical, psychological and behavioural signs can become apparent especially to those closest to the affected individual.
There is no shame in becoming dependent on alcohol, but this disorder must be addressed as soon as possible in order for the individual to have the best chance at long-term recovery.
If you are concerned that you, a friend or a family member may be struggling with alcohol addiction, keep an eye out for the following warning signs.
Common physical symptoms of alcohol addiction include:
- Needing to drink larger amounts of alcohol in order to experience the same effects
- Appearing dishevelled, unkempt and with a lack of personal grooming and hygiene
- Frequent headaches
- Noticeable weight loss or weight gain
- Redness in nose and cheeks
- Extreme tiredness and fatigue
- Frequent skin infections and sores
- Regular bruises and other injuries consistent with bumps and falls
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when unable to consume alcohol
- Suffering from insomnia and nightmares, having trouble falling and staying asleep
Common psychological symptoms of alcohol addiction include:
- Increased anxiety and depression
- Low self-confidence and self-worth
- Depending on alcohol to ease feelings of sadness and stress
- Unable to function at work, school or throughout daily life without consuming alcohol
- Feeling irritable and agitated over seemingly small things
- Extreme cravings for alcohol
- Frequent mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of paranoia
Common behavioural symptoms of alcohol addiction include:
- Unable to perform well at school or work
- Drinking alcohol at unusual times and in inappropriate situations, such as during working hours or early in the morning
- Making alcohol a priority, even overwork and family
- Becoming withdrawn and secretive
- Lack of interest in hobbies, activities and events that were previously enjoyed
- Having the desire to stop drinking alcohol but being unable to
- Lying and being dishonest regarding alcohol use
- Spending a large amount of time thinking about, obtaining and drinking alcohol
- Experiencing negative consequences directly relating to alcohol use
- Becoming defensive when confronted or challenged over alcohol use
- Drinking alone on a regular basis, often to the point of becoming unconscious
As alcohol is so accepted in our current society, understanding whether you have a problem or simply enjoy a drink can be confusing.
Thankfully, there are a number of official guidelines that can help us to gain a greater knowledge of healthy behaviours around alcohol and potentially spot the signs of addiction in a more timely manner.
How much alcohol should I be drinking?
It can often be difficult to keep track of the amount of alcohol you are consuming, particularly when it is sold in a number of different measurements from brandy snifters to champagne glasses.
However, it is important to be aware of your alcohol intake and personal limits in order to ensure your physical safety while potentially lowering your risk of developing alcohol addiction.
The easiest way to understand how much alcohol you are drinking on a regular basis is to educate yourself on units, which is the quantity of pure alcohol in a single drink. Studies have shown that most adults can process roughly 8ml of alcohol per hour, so as a result, this amount equates to a standard unit.
Both men and women should avoid drinking over 14 units of alcohol over the course of a single week, according to the official NHS guidelines.
It is also recommended to spread these units out over a number of days as opposed to drinking all 14 units in a single session, and aim to have at least two alcohol-free days a week. 
Some drinks contain more units than others. A single shot of spirits may contain around 1 unit of alcohol, while a large glass of wine can have up to 3 units. This is why it is not recommended to match the pace of others, particularly when they are drinking different types of alcohol.
What is binge drinking?
The act of drinking a large amount of alcohol in a single session is known as binge drinking, and this behaviour can be highly dangerous.
Classified as drinking over 8 units of alcohol for men and 6 units of alcohol for women in a single session, many binge-drinkers are consuming alcohol purely as a means to become intoxicated and are therefore putting themselves at risk of physical and emotional harm.
It’s common to suffer an accident such as a head injury or serious fall while binge-drinking, and consuming large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis can affect the areas of your brain that control your memory and mood.
In severe cases, binge drinking can result in serious mental health conditions and maybe a slippery slope towards developing alcohol addiction.
Many people who binge drink notice that they have trouble stopping after one or two drinks, and this is a warning sign that they have become addicted to this substance.
Am I at risk of developing an alcohol addiction?
While anyone who drinks alcohol is at risk of developing an addiction, there are a number of factors that can increase the risk for certain individuals.
Addiction does not discriminate, but conditions such as mental health disorders and low self-esteem as well as genetics and home environment can play a huge role in the potential development of a dependency. 
Common factors that can increase the chances of developing an alcohol addiction include:
- I have one or more close family members with a history of alcohol addiction
- I regularly drink more than the recommended weekly amount of alcohol
- I associate with friends, colleagues or family members who pressure me to drink alcohol
- I struggle with low self-esteem and self-confidence
- I think of myself as an impulsive person who regularly takes risks
- I have been exposed to alcohol use on a regular basis from a young age
- I have a mental health condition such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or depression
- I am dealing with a large amount of stress in my life, from relationship problems to a high workload
It’s important to note that even if you do not relate to any of the above statements, it is still possible for you to develop an alcohol addiction. Alternatively, you are certainly not destined to become dependent on alcohol if you exhibit one or more of the above factors.
What support can I receive if I am struggling with alcohol addiction?
Becoming aware of the fact that you or someone you know is struggling with an alcohol addiction can leave you feeling overwhelmed, alone and even angry.
You may not know where to begin in your search for treatment, but there can be some comfort in the knowledge that these feelings and worries are completely normal.
Our team at Rehab Recovery are available to talk you through your options and provide guidance on your first steps towards recovery. Call our helpline today and speak to one of our friendly and non-judgemental team members for advice or simply a listening ear.
There is a wide range of treatment programmes and rehabilitation centres across the UK specialising in alcohol addiction treatment, and it’s important to select the right one to fit your needs.
In some cases, a long-term inpatient stay may be the most effective option, while other people may benefit from an outpatient programme.
No matter which type of treatment you select, the majority will follow a similar process involving medically-assisted detoxification and in-depth psychological counselling to tackle the physical and mental aspects of addiction.
What happens after alcohol addiction treatment is completed?
The period of time immediately after completing treatment for alcohol addiction and beginning to reintegrate back into daily life can be one of the most difficult and challenging times for the individual. In fact, the chances of relapse during this time can be as high as 40-60%. 
As a result, the majority of treatment programmes and rehabilitation centres have implemented detailed aftercare plans to be closely followed when the patient has completed the detoxification and counselling process.
This can help them to feel safe and supported as they navigate life after treatment, and helps to increase the chances of long-term recovery.
Near the end of treatment, patients will meet with their medical team and discuss any potential triggers and stumbling blocks that may occur in their daily life.
With this information, they will create a personalised aftercare plan designed to guide them through this time.
Common aspects of an aftercare plan include:
- Alumni programmes
- Sober living homes
- AA and 12 Step meetings
- Local support groups
- Ongoing counselling
When devising an aftercare plan, the medical team will take a number of factors into account including the patient’s home environment, whether they require housing and which services they will have access to.
An aftercare plan is not a foolproof way to avoid relapse, but it does help to decrease the chances. However, it’s important to remember that relapse is simply a bump in the road on your way to recovery as opposed to the end of the journey.