While there does not appear to be a single cause of alcohol dependence, personality, environment and the addictive nature of alcohol contribute to the development of the illness. It is also thought that genetic factors probably play a part in causing dependence, and any person can become alcoholic if he drinks heavily for a prolonged period. Some symptoms can appear over a period of weeks and months, but alcohol dependency usually occurs over a period of years, sometimes decades. Symptoms fall into two categories which can include any combination of the following:
- Bad breath
- Hangovers and headaches
- Flushed appearance or redness in the face
- Forgetfulness and memory lapses
- Incontinence (pissing or shitting yourself)
- Shaking in the morning
- Stomach or tummy cramps
- Weakness, numbness or tingling in the legs and hands
- Severe shakes, hallucinations, and convulsions may occur after the sudden withdrawal of alcohol which can be life threatening.
- Secretive drinking, eg: at work
- Aggressive, dramatic, or grandiose behaviour
- Personality changes such as irritability, jealousy, uncontrolled anger, and/ or selfishness
- Lying to yourself and others about giving up
- Changes in drinking pattern, eg: changing from evening to early morning drinking, or changing from beers to spirits
- Neglecting food and nutrition
- Neglecting personal appearance
- Long periods of drunkenness
- Frequent changes of job
Unfortunately, most men who drink too much are either unaware that they have a problem or refuse to admit it. If you or someone close to you is drinking in excess, contact the family doctor or a helpline for advice. It is worth trying to reason with the person when he’s sober.
In severe cases it may be necessary to admit an alcoholic to hospital for a period of detoxification with medication prescribed to control the withdrawal symptoms. Even then, long-term treatment to prevent a return to previous drinking habits is invariably required and can include behavioural therapy and psychotherapy. Occasionally the drug known as Disulfiram is prescribed, which induces unpleasant side-effects when alcohol is taken.
Alcohol addiction: could the brain’s immune system be the key to understanding and treating alcoholism? | The Conversation | 11 Aug 2020↑ Back to top