One of the questions most frequently presented to alcohol detoxification centres up and down Great Britain is that of the difference between heavy drinking and alcohol dependency. Contrary to popular belief, there is a significant difference between alcohol dependency and outright alcoholism. The difference being that according to the NHS, close to 10% of all men and 4% of all women in the United Kingdom demonstrate certain signs and symptoms of alcohol dependence. Whereas alcoholism is classified as a dangerous and potentially deadly illness, alcohol dependency simply means not being able to function or live any given aspect of your life without alcohol.
Alcohol dependency takes a great many forms and every case tends to be entirely unique. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t necessary to drink copious amounts of alcohol on a constant basis to develop an alcohol dependency. Instead, any time alcohol becomes an important part of a person’s life which they cannot imagine getting by without, this qualifies as alcohol dependency.
A Wide Spectrum
What most fail to realise is the way in which alcohol dependency works on an extremely wide spectrum. In the case of mild alcohol dependency, such individuals include those who absolutely cannot conceive the idea of a weekend without a sufficient amount of alcohol to facilitate their enjoyment. Right on the other end of the spectrum come those for whom there is literally nothing more important in their lives than alcohol – their families, jobs and previous priorities taking a back seat.
One of the biggest problems of alcohol dependency is the way in which the more you drink, the more you end up having to drink to achieve the same effects. Which over time can lead to extremely heavy and dangerous drinking habits. Which is precisely why as far as the experts are concerned, any signs or symptoms of alcohol dependence should be acknowledged and addressed as quickly as possible, rather than overlooked or ignored.
Why people develop alcohol dependencies
There are infinite reasons why any individual may develop alcohol dependence. It has the potential to run in families, it can manifest due to our choices with regard to social circles and it has also been associated with depression, anxiety and a wide variety of other common health problems. In some instances, what starts out as a random drinking binge that ends up going on longer than expected can spiral into full-blown alcohol dependence.
Once again, in all such instances the key to successful treatment/recovery lies in identifying and addressing the problem at the earliest possible stage.
Signs and symptoms of alcohol dependence
Which begs the question – what signs and symptoms should you be looking out for, when it comes to alcohol dependence? How can the average individual draw the line between a heavy drinking habit and real dependence on alcohol?
- One of the most characteristic signs of alcohol dependence is when you find yourself planning any aspect of your life exclusively around alcohol. If you find yourself in a position where you cannot imagine doing X or Y without alcohol being involved, this is classified as alcohol dependence. Likewise, if you find yourself genuinely worried about when and where you’ll get your next drink or become anxious when alcohol isn’t available, you may have a problem to address.
- Losing control each and every time you start drinking is also a common sign of alcohol dependence. More often than not, alcohol dependent individuals find themselves drinking compulsively, without there really being any justification for doing so. And once they start, they may find it extremely difficult or even impossible to stop.
- Another characteristic sign of alcohol dependence is turning back to alcohol the morning after to get over the effects of the night before. It’s one thing to occasionally reach for the ‘hair of the dog’ after an unusually heavy night out. However, it’s something else entirely to routinely rely on alcohol to make you feel better when suffering the effects of the alcohol already in your system.
- It is also important to be on the lookout for the kinds of withdrawal symptoms that may kick in 24 to 72 hours after your last drink. Quite different from hangovers, alcohol withdrawal symptoms include shaking, sweating, nausea, fatigue, disorientation and mood swings that often do not present until a while after your final drink. If at any time you believe you may be experiencing these or any other withdrawal symptoms, you should seek professional advice as soon as possible.
Most cases of alcohol dependence can be overcome – it can be a case of bringing them to the attention of the right people at the right time.