What is alcohol addiction?

From a quiet drink with friends to a glass of wine over dinner with family, consuming alcohol is a part of daily life for many adults, and most people are able to enjoy a drink without consequence.

Many people use alcohol recreationally, perhaps enjoying a beer or two after a long work week. As we all know, alcohol’s inebriating effects can allow you to tune out life’s pressures for a while, to relax and experience a lowering of inhibitions. Sometimes viewed as a social lubricant, alcohol can easily become an enticing avenue of escape from the stresses of daily life.

But when you begin seeking refuge in drinking, you can become vulnerable to the dangers of alcohol addiction. This condition is defined by an inability to control your drinking, and while it can take many forms, drinking to excess has serious, long-term consequences and can even be fatal if left untreated.

When your mind and body become dependent on alcohol, you will soon find that you cannot function without it. Over time, you will require more of the substance to keep uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms at bay. 

What causes alcoholism?

As is the case with all kinds of addiction, it is hard to pinpoint a single cause for alcoholism. Rather, it seems most likely that there are a variety of culminating factors that might lead you to develop the condition. While experts continue to explore the physiological side of addiction, it has become well accepted that alcoholism has both environmental and genetic components.

So what puts someone at increased risk for developing alcoholism?

Having a close relative like a parent or sibling who struggles with problematic drinking may put you at a heightened risk for developing alcoholism. This may be due to the hereditary components of substance misuse, buy may also be tied to early exposure to heavy drinking in the home which has normalised this behaviour as an acceptable means of coping with stress.

Additionally, if you struggle with untreated mental illnesses, you may be at an increased risk for developing alcoholism. Mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression can cause significant suffering, and can greatly impair your ability to function in life. Without the proper supports, you may attempt to self-medicate with alcohol, which will only serve to worsen your mental and physical well-being over time.

Could you spot a drinking problem in your own home? Explore our latest interactive campaign, the hidden signs of alcoholism.

What are the risks associated with alcohol addiction?

Alcoholism is a progressive disease, meaning that without professional treatment, it will not fade away on its own. Without support, those who are battling an addiction to alcohol may face a wide range of damage to their physical health, including

  • Liver damage, including cirrhosis of the liver
  • Heart problems
  • Interruptions in brain functioning
  • Complications with the pancreas
  • Weakened immune system
  • Increased risk of cancer

Additional problems caused by alcoholism

Aside from the many physical risks associated with continued alcohol misuse, if you continue to drink to excess you may endure a number of other hardships. Employment stability, financial security, mental and emotional well-being and friendships, marriages and other important relationships can all eventually become compromised when drinking becomes the focal point of your life.

Much misinformation continues to persist around the topic of alcoholism, leading some to deny the truly problematic nature of their drinking. But if you or someone you care about feels compelled to drink just to function throughout the day, or to get through certain uncomfortable situations, it is time to seek out professional help.

Fortunately, there are many options for treatment for those suffering from alcohol misuse, and here at the Priory, we can provide you with comprehensive, personalised care to help you get your life back on track. In choosing us, you can rid your mind and body of alcohol in safety and comfort under the supervision of our highly qualified clinical staff.

For further details on how Priory can provide you with further assistance regarding the signs and symptoms of addiction, please call 0800 840 3219. Or complete our free addiction assessment. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here.