Causes and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

Some who drink alcohol develop an addiction and it can then be difficult to stop drinking. Not being able to control your drinking has negative consequences both for health and for close relationships. There are good methods for successfully changing one’s behavior.

What is alcohol addiction?

Being dependent on alcohol is known in healthcare as having alcohol dependence syndrome. This means that you cannot control your drinking. You may feel cravings for alcohol and find it difficult to stop drinking once you start. Some feel physically unwell when they don’t drink and often the drinking spills over into the rest of their lives when it takes priority over other important things.

Alcohol dependence syndrome was formerly called alcoholism, and the person addicted to alcohol is sometimes called an alcoholic.

Cause of alcohol addiction

The risk of developing an alcohol addiction is influenced by various things, for example how you feel and how you are around you, but also by heredity. Difficulties in your life situation, such as a divorce or separation, can trigger alcohol addiction. It is also easier to develop an addiction if alcohol is easily available.

How much you need to drink or how long you must have been drinking to develop an addiction cannot be answered, it is different from person to person.

Alcohol – risky use

Risky use is a word used when someone drinks so much or so often that it means an increased risk of having negative consequences physically, psychologically or socially.

The limit for risky use is set slightly differently in different contexts. In healthcare, it is recommended to stick to less than ten standard glasses a week and less than four glasses per occasion to have a low-risk consumption. That limit is the same for women and men. They point out that there is an increased risk with increased consumption and that there is no completely safe limit.

Another line of demarcation that is often used is that it becomes risky if:

  1. A man drinks more than 14 standard glasses per week or more than 5 standard glasses on the same occasion.
  2. A woman drinks more than 9 standard glasses per week or more than 4 standard glasses on one occasion.

A standard glass is anything that contains around 12 g of alcohol:

  1. 1 glass of red or white wine (10-15 cl)
  2. 4 cl hard liquor, for example, vodka or whiskey
  3. A bottle (33 cl) of strong beer
  4. A local beer or cider (50 cl)

A bottle of wine contains 6 standard glasses, and a bottle of spirits of 70 cl contains 18 standard glasses.

Regardless of which boundary is drawn, it is clear that the less alcohol, the better for the body.

Pregnancy and alcohol dependence

If you are pregnant and addicted to alcohol, it is important that you stop drinking, as the fetus may suffer permanent damage.

Symptoms of alcohol addiction

It is common to deny one’s alcohol problems and hide one’s drinking from others. If you recognize yourself in three or more of the following statements, you are likely addicted to alcohol.

  1. That you often feel a strong desire for alcohol.
  2. That it is difficult to drink in moderation, and you find it difficult to stop drinking once you have started.
  3. That you have tried to drink less, but failed.
  4. That you developed tolerance, can tolerate more alcohol, and therefore have to drink more to get the same effect.
  5. That you can’t stop drinking, even when it comes at the expense of other things that are important to you.
  6. That you get withdrawal if you don’t drink, for example feeling sick, shaking, getting anxious and having trouble sleeping.