Understanding Alcohol Addiction: Causes, Signs, and Symptoms
Understanding Alcohol Addiction: Exploring the Causes, Signs, and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

Understanding Alcohol Addiction: Exploring the Causes, Signs, and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction is one of the most common addictions across the United States. In fact, according to the most recent studies in the US, one person in every six has an alcohol problem or addiction. That means that millions of American families are impacted by alcohol addiction, putting a strain on their lives, well-being, health, and happiness. Understanding alcoholism is a crucial aspect of recovery itself. Knowing the causes, signs, and symptoms can help you or a loved one overcome this dependence.

Table of Contents

What is Alcohol Addiction

We hear a lot about the heroin epidemic and the fentanyl crisis in Los Angeles and around the country, but we hear very little in the news about alcohol addiction. This lack of recognition could be because it’s a legally controlled substance, which has caused us to become numb to its dangers. Alcoholism is a chronic relapsing disease that’s unfortunately all too common, affecting over 17 million Americans each year. Seeking help at an alcohol rehab center can be the first step toward recovery.

Causes of Alcoholism

As with anything else, the causes of alcoholism are myriad. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social, and spiritual manifestations.” Addiction alters a person’s brain function, making it harder and harder to overcome because they become reliant and dependent on it. What causes a person to start having an alcohol addiction could be changes in their environment, grief, or other factors associated with mental health. One of the leading causes of alcoholism is genetics, which makes it imperative to be aware of any addiction in your family history.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

While some addictions present themselves differently depending on the person, there are some common signs of alcoholism. Someone might have an alcohol addiction if they:

  1. Have a constant urge to drink. Someone with a potential alcohol addiction might vocalize this desire or find ways to drink in secret.

  2. Once a person starts drinking, stopping may be difficult or

  3. A person might require more and more alcohol to reach their peak. This increase is because they have built up a tolerance to alcohol, so their body demands more of it to achieve the same feeling.

  4. When a person stops drinking, intentionally or otherwise, they will experience uncomfortable and painful physical symptoms due to withdrawal. These symptoms include heart racing, tremors and shaking, difficulty sleeping, and irritability or anxiety.

  5. A person might also engage in risky behaviors while under alcoholic influence, such as driving drunk or engaging in risky, unsafe sex.

Alcoholism and Mental Health

While many people experience decreased inhibition, relaxation, and boosted confidence while drinking, the consequences after consumption often outweigh any positives. After a day of drinking, a person might experience depression, anxiety, and severe mood swings. When dealing with an addiction, the brain chemistry changes, so these mental health issues can become pervasive. It is also common for people with depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders to self-medicate using alcohol. They might briefly feel a sense of relief from their despair, but since they are not getting to the root of the issue, their mental health will continue to decline.
A distraught woman at a support group for alcoholism receiving support from her neighbors

Alcoholic Neuropathy

Scientists are still searching for a successful therapy for alcoholic neuropathy, which impacts up to 66% of those who experience alcoholism. Alcoholic neuropathy occurs after chronic alcohol consumption and negatively impacts the nerves. This damage can alter how a person functions, causing walking or moving parts of the body to be difficult or even painful. It is common to feel discomfort and a burning sensation in areas with damaged nerves. This pain makes it even harder to stop drinking without help, but worsening alcohol dependence will only accelerate the neuropathy.

Recognizing Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms

When someone is addicted to alcohol, they are susceptible to an overdose – or poisoning – in similar ways to other drug users. While alcohol poisoning is unlikely to exhibit itself the same way a heroin or fentanyl overdose would, it’s still important to know the signs. A person who has alcohol poisoning might have the following symptoms:

  • Slurred speech
  • A lack of coordination
  • Rapid involuntary eye movement
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Extreme dehydration
  • Unconsciousness

If someone exhibits any of these symptoms, call 911 so that they can get their stomach pumped and get fluids to counteract the dehydration.

How to Help

Two men hugging as one makes a breakthrough in his alcohol addiction

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction, getting help is a crucial first step to recovery. The Discovery House is an alcohol detox and alcohol rehabilitation center based in Reseda, CA, serving the Los Angeles area and people nationwide. Understanding alcoholism, including the signs, symptoms, and causes, can help catalyze someone’s journey toward discovering a healthier, alcohol-free life. 

Millions of individuals battle with alcoholism every single day. You are not alone, and there are people who are willing and able to help.