We are conditioned to accept alcohol as an acceptable part of our daily lives and social settings. Restaurants have wine menus on the table and almost every event features alcohol as an essential element.
Just think about the last wedding you went to, what’s a wedding without Champagne? What about last Christmas or New Year’s Party? Alcohol is everywhere and we are all being constantly encouraged to “drink up”, “take a shot”, or “enjoy a drink”.
What Is Alcohol Dependency?
Alcohol dependency is just another term for alcohol use disorder (AUD). Although a typical miscomprehension is that alcoholism means you can not function without consuming alcohol at least once a day, this is not the actual definition.
Alcoholics are not defined by how much alcohol they consume or whether they can work and continue to live a normal life. Alcoholism refers to a dependency on alcohol, which has become out of your control.
We spoke to Danielle Bryant, Treatment Director and Co-founder of Step by Step Recovery, residential rehab in Essex, about when to seek treatment for alcohol addiction.
“Alcohol addiction can often go unchecked as alcohol is such a socially acceptable substance, which makes abuse harder to recognise.
I would urge anyone with concerns about alcohol addiction or even how much alcohol they consume to seek advice, even if they don’t think they need addiction treatment.”
What Is a High-Functioning Alcoholic?
Misuse of alcohol can present itself in various ways. You might need to drink alcohol every time you socialise to relax and enjoy yourself or drink to relieve stress or help you get to sleep.
When alcohol has become a necessary part of your life, yet you can continue functioning and fulfilling daily responsibilities, you are classed as a high- functioning alcoholic.
Alcohol addiction can easily creep up on you. Before you realise it, one could be consuming alcohol daily and quickly becoming more and more reliant on it, so it is easy to be in denial about problem drinking.
Alcoholism, now medically referred to as “Alcohol Use Disorder”, is not defined by a reliance on alcohol that can range from moderate to severe, and simply means that alcohol has become an essential part of a person’s life.
Signs of Excessive Drinking
Excessive drinking does not mean you get drunk every time you consume alcohol or binge drink and wake up with a hangover. Five signs of excessive drinking include:
- Driving under the influence
- Denying and hiding how much alcohol you consume
- Forgetting what has happened or blacking out when drinking
- Choosing to drink despite the concerns of friends and family
- Drinking alcohol every day
- Dreading the thought of going a day without a drink
What Causes Addiction?
People addicted to an activity or substance will find ways to access their addiction, regardless of the consequences. This is not just due to a lack of willpower; addiction causes actual physical changes in the brain.
When a person takes part in a pleasurable activity, the brain releases dopamine. However, when you consume either an addictive substance or take part in an addictive activity, the brain releases more dopamine and becomes trained to trigger a craving for whatever releases the highest amounts.
The consequence is that the brain can’t produce a regular release of dopamine when you take part in healthy activities.
Instead, it prioritises behaviour that releases a surge of dopamine and makes you feel good, and the increase in dopamine changes the brain’s neural activity. This is why you feel irresistible cravings and a lack of control.
The desire to consume substances, such as alcohol, or take part in activities such as gambling and drinking, to feel pleasure or to be able to cope with everyday life, is a sign of addiction.
Getting Help for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)
Alcohol Use Dependency (AUD) can cause issues at work, put your relationships under strain, and destroy your mental and physical health. Alcohol overdose can also cause seizures, irreversible brain damage, and even death if not treated in time. Below are several organisations that offer help, advice and support if you are concerned about your alcohol consumption.
Step by Step Recovery has residential rehab centres and outpatient treatment programs and provides information and free advice to help you beat alcohol and drug addiction permanently.
The NHS can arrange treatment and therapy. More information is available on the NHS website.
If you’re interested to find out more about addiction treatment visit The Hader Clinic.
Alcohol Change UK provides help and support for alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Families Anonymous provides groups across the UK to support friends and family who know people struggling with substance use disorder(SUD).