June 23, 2007
Symptoms of Alcohol Dependency
If you are alcohol dependent you have a strong desire for alcohol. Sometimes the desire is overwhelming. You have great difficulty in controlling your drinking. In addition, your body is so used to lots of alcohol that you start to develop ‘withdrawal’ symptoms 3-8 hours after your last drink, as the effect of the alcohol wears off. So, even if you want to stop drinking, it is difficult because of the withdrawal symptoms.
The withdrawal symptoms include: feeling sick, trembling, sweating, craving for alcohol, and just feeling awful. Convulsions occur in a small number of cases.
As a result, you drink alcohol regularly and ‘depend’ on it to prevent these symptoms. If you do not have any more alcohol the withdrawal symptoms usually last 5-7 days, but a craving for alcohol may persist longer. The severity of dependence can vary. It can develop gradually and become more severe. You may be developing alcohol dependence if you:
- need a drink every day.
- drink alone often.
- need a drink to stop trembling (the shakes).
- drink early, or first thing in the morning (to avoid withdrawal symptoms).
- often have a strong desire to drink alcohol.
- spend a lot of you time in activities where alcohol is available. For example, if you spend a lot of time at the social club or pub.
- neglect other interests or pleasures because of alcohol drinking.
If you are alcohol dependent you are usually ‘tolerant’ to the effect of alcohol. This means that you need more alcohol to notice any effects and to become drunk. This can make things worse as it tends to make you drink even more.
If you are alcohol dependent you may get drunk regularly. However, you may not get drunk. You may drink small amounts regularly to keep the withdrawal symptoms away. You may then be able to ‘hide’ your problem from others. However, you are still at serious risk of developing conditions due to heavy drinking (liver damage, cancers, etc).
Delirium tremens (‘DTs’)
This is a more severe withdrawal reaction after stopping alcohol. It occurs in about 1 in 20 people who have alcohol withdrawal symptoms about 2-3 days after their last drink. Symptoms include: marked tremor (the shakes) and delirium (agitation, confusion, and seeing and hearing things that are not there). Some people have convulsions. Complications can develop such as dehydration and other serious physical problems. It is fatal in some cases.