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Alcohol Dependency – What It Means To Be an Alcoholic

Lisa Taylor
Lisa TaylorAddiction Counsellor

Diagnosing and treating clinical alcoholism often starts with comparing a person's drinking habits with something known as the Alcohol Dependency Scale. The scale was developed as a means of screening people with drinking problems in order to assess the risk of current or future alcoholism. It is not 100% accurate, but it does provide a fairly clear picture of the severity of a problem drinker or alcohol abuser.

The trained counsellors who staff our 24-hour helpline use the scale as well as a number of additional screening tools to provide comprehensive evaluations to our clients. If you were to call and speak to one of our counsellors, you would be asked a series of targeted questions intended to measure how far up or down the scale you are. The higher your score, the greater the likelihood that you are an alcoholic.

What does it mean to be an alcoholic? It means that your body and mind have become alcohol dependent. In other words, your body's systems have become so used to having a certain amount of alcohol in the blood that they have trouble functioning normally should the level of alcohol begin to decline. An alcoholic experiences certain withdrawal symptoms between drinking episodes due to this dependence.

Common withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol dependence include:

  • headaches, nausea and vomiting
  • feelings of anxiety and restlessness
  • increased heart rate and body temperature
  • mild to severe tremors, especially in the hands
  • mild to severe insomnia
  • cravings for alcohol.

A person who experiences these symptoms several hours after drinking is likely an abuser or alcoholic. The symptoms further confirm alcohol abuse if subsequent drinking alleviates them.

Dependence Affects Every Area of Your Life

There are a lot of things about alcohol dependency to be concerned about. Suffice to say that alcohol dependence affects every aspect of a person's life. Ignoring a drinking problem doesn't help either; it only makes an already difficult problem worse. Over time, it can eventually lead to death.

A person diagnosed as dependent on alcohol is likely to experience problems in the following areas:

  • Physical Health – Long-term alcohol abuse damages the body in numerous ways. Alcohol dependence can lead to liver disease, heart disease, cancer, and a long list of additional problems. Some of the damage done may eventually be irreversible.
  • Mental Health – Alcoholics are frequently diagnosed with additional mental problems, including depression and anxiety. This is due to the way alcohol affects the brain. Developing these additional problems only makes treating alcoholism more difficult.
  • Relationships – The partners and children of alcoholics can only tolerate so much. In almost every case, the alcoholic's personal relationships are destroyed by his or her drinking habits. Relationships with extended family members and friends are also at risk.
  • Finances – Sustaining an alcohol habit costs money. It is not unusual for alcoholics to develop financial problems because they are spending so much money on drinking. Matters are made worse if the alcoholic loses his or her job as a result of drinking.

Ultimately, alcohol dependence can lead to premature death. There are no hard and fast statistics we can cite to clearly define how many people die as a result of alcohol dependence every year, but experience tells us that the number is far too high. The most agonising thing about it is that it doesn't have to be this way. There are treatments available to overcome all kinds of substance abuse and addiction issues.

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3 Things the Alcohol-Dependent Person Should Know

You should now have a fairly good idea of what it means to be dependent on alcohol. We want to close this guide by giving you a little information pertaining to treatment. Please be aware that alcoholism is a mental and psychological condition that is virtually impossible to overcome without professional treatment.

In light of that, here are three treatment-related things every alcohol-dependent person should know:

1. Physical Detox Is Unavoidable

Some alcoholics would like to believe that they can recover from their dependency without the need to go through detox. It is not true. The very definition of dependence dictates that the alcoholic's body relies on alcohol for daily functioning. It is impossible to return the body to normal without removing alcohol altogether. This is the purpose of detox.

We understand that detox can be a scary thing. But please know that detox is medically supervised in this day and age. Patients are continuously monitored for any complications and, where appropriate, given prescription medications to help reduce the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms.

2. Rehabilitative Counselling Is Unavoidable

Among those addicts who are considering physical detox, there are some who believe that detox alone will cure their alcoholism. Nothing could be further from the truth. The number of alcohol-dependent patients who achieve permanent sobriety without rehabilitative counselling is very small.

Rehabilitative counselling does for the mind what detox does for the body. The mind must also be separated from alcohol consumption and all its implications if future relapses are to be avoided.

3. Residential Rehab Is Your Best Bet

Lastly, a residential rehab programme is your best bet for alcohol dependency treatment. Residential programmes offer patients concentrated care, bespoke treatment plans, the help of experienced therapists and clinicians, and a calm and relaxed environment that is conducive to recovery.

The average residential programme lasts between three and 12 weeks, depending on need. In your case, a therapist would compare your circumstances to the Alcohol Dependency Scale in order to come up with a treatment plan that would provide the most favourable results. It would include physical detox followed by several weeks of counselling as designated in your plan.

Treatment Is Your Only Hope

Are you visiting our website today because you are concerned you drink too much? If so, let us provide a comprehensive evaluation of your circumstances based on proven screening techniques used by therapists and doctors the world over. Our evaluations are completely free and absolutely confidential. Should the evaluation suggest you are alcohol-dependent, we can then walk you through the full list of treatment options in your local area. You will ultimately get to decide whether or not you want treatment and, if you do, from whom you will obtain it.

Remember that the higher you are on the Alcohol Dependency Scale, the more likely it is that you are an alcoholic. Being an alcoholic means that alcohol controls almost every aspect of your life. It means that you live to drink and drink to live. Know this one final thing: nothing good can come from ignoring alcohol dependence. If you are alcohol-dependent, you need treatment right away, before your drinking habits destroy everything that is important to you.

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