How Do I Know If I Need Help For My Drinking?
Author: Krystina Murray
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When To Get Help for Drinking
Cravings: A Consequence Of Drinking Too Much
One way of determining if you may be drinking too much and in need of help is by noticing any cravings for alcohol. Cravings and withdrawal symptoms can affect people who drink heavily, binge drink, or have an alcohol use disorder. These cravings can occur at any hour, day, or night. Unfortunately, these desires often encourage people to continue drinking or even relapse.
Like withdrawal, cravings occur due to alcohol’s impact on the brain. Heavy drinking alters the brain’s chemistry, making quitting alcohol hard. A study by Rutgers University suggests binging and heavy drinking can affect a person’s genes over time. Repeated exposure to alcohol “can change someone’s DNA,” making it difficult for them to avoid cravings as time passes.
Withdrawal: An Effect Of Drinking Too Much
Someone can see how their drinking has become a problem if they experience mood swings or alcohol withdrawal. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal depend on how many drinks someone consumes and the timeframe in which they drank, but withdrawal typically occurs in binge drinkers or heavy drinkers. Often withdrawal occurs when someone has a physical alcohol dependence, and the symptoms are noticeable. Withdrawal symptoms can be mild and last a few hours, days, or weeks depending on several factors (combined drugs, frequency, other health conditions, mental health conditions).
If someone endures a hangover and vomiting because of being drunk, these are generally mild symptoms that can dissipate over a few hours. However, you may need help for drinking if you experience the following symptoms, as withdrawal indicates a tolerance, a dependence, or an alcohol use disorder:
Delirium Tremens (“DTs”) is a rare but severe side effect of excessive alcohol abuse that includes hallucinations, fatigue, fever, and seizures. People experience those 3 days after ceasing drinking.
Signs Of Problem Drinking: Noticing Red Flags And Patterns
Problem drinking is not the same as an alcohol use disorder; however, identifying if your drinking is out of control can help you stop it before it worsens. Binge drinking can become a problem if not controlled as it increases someone’s alcohol tolerance. Binge drinking is drinking 4 or more drinks in a 2-hour timeframe for women and 5 or more in a 2-hour timeframe for men.
Despite binge drinking being considered a low-risk problem, it can encourage heavy drinking according to some sources. Taking a personal inventory of drinking habits and realizing when you begin binge drinking and how often can help you curb your drinking. Moreover, your drinking is most likely out of hand if:
- You’re needing to drink more than usual.
- You need stronger types of alcohol to feel its effects.
- Drinking too much impacts your job or family life.
- You combine alcohol with other chemicals.
- You’re blacking out (chemically induced amnesia, “lost time.”)
- You’re behaving dangerously to yourself or others.
- You’re violating laws (drunk driving).
- You experience cravings.
- You experience withdrawal.
Self-Awareness And Things To Consider
Discovering that you have a drinking problem can take time. For some, deciphering if their alcohol consumption is typical may be challenging if they are also battling mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. Some of the effects of long-term drinking range from damaged vital organs, mood dysregulation and withdrawal symptoms just to skim the surface. Alcoholism affects millions of people and easily transitions from casual drinking to regular heavy drinking.
One of the easiest ways to know if your drinking is a problem is if family and friends have expressed concerns about your habits. Outsiders can be more objective and observant with evaluating those who may have drinking problems. Have relatives or friends questioned your drinking? Have those around you told you to slow down when drinking? Have friends, family, and coworkers expressed frustration or worry that you may have an alcohol use disorder?
Additionally, the inability to control how much you drink can indicate that a drinking problem is occurring. Moreover, increasing the number of drinks needed to feel a buzz can also signify your drinking is out of control. Using alcohol as a crutch to soothe difficult emotions can indicate an alcohol dependence and transition into heavy drinking. At this stage, getting help from a professional for drinking is highly recommended by medical professionals.
How Treatment And Detox Can Help
If you decide to get treated for excessive drinking, recognize this is the first step in taking control of a potentially dangerous addiction. Going cold turkey from alcohol can only encourage drinking to cope with the challenges of stopping drinking, and it can also be quite dangerous. For example, when someone drinks to lessen anxiety, they feel relaxed. If they drink over the long-term, develop a tolerance to alcohol, and then choose to stop, they can suffer anxiety and depression, which tempt them to drink again. Such cycles reflect a need to heal underlying mental health or emotional challenges in a healthy manner. Detox and one on one counseling in rehab can help.
Detox rids the body of the effects of alcohol on the brain, making withdrawal safer and more comfortable. Patients receive antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, along with other drugs to flush the system. During detox, monitoring is available for support during challenging experiences. Detox and medications are available in both inpatient and outpatient treatment centers. However, those in outpatient treatment won’t be on campus and medically monitored as long as those in inpatient programs. Those in inpatient programs can benefit from having peer support and dietary meal plans with daily activities. Those in outpatient rehab still access peer groups but have the freedom to continue their daily responsibilities.
Take Control Of Your Life
Alcohol abuse can cause extreme discomfort, isolation, and feelings of shame. Don’t allow those emotions to stop you from living a healthy and happy life. Get help today. Contact a treatment provider today to discuss treatment options.
Author: Krystina Murray | Last Edited: October 5, 2021
Medical Reviewer: Deborah Montross Nagel