Alcohol Addiction Causes, Symptoms & Signs

Erlanger Behavioral Health Hospital offers high-quality services and support for adults and senior adults who are struggling with alcohol addiction. Located in Chattanooga, TN, Erlanger is a leading provider of alcohol addiction treatment.

Understanding Alcohol Addiction

Learn about alcohol addiction

Alcohol consumption in itself is not a bad thing. However, it becomes a problem when the person can’t stop themselves from taking another drink.
The clinical term for alcohol addiction is alcohol use disorder (AUD), but it’s more commonly known as alcoholism. An addiction to alcohol is extremely dangerous for both the person who is struggling and those around them. The first sign that a person might be an alcoholic is if they are unable to control the amount and frequency of their alcohol consumption. Over time, they will need to consume greater amounts of alcohol in order to achieve their desired high.
But being addicted to alcohol does not need to remain a way of life. There are treatment options available for alcoholism. Professional treatment can include time at an inpatient facility, counseling sessions, medication, and even support groups. With the right treatment and a strong support network, it’s possible to leave addiction behind and live a healthy, recovered life.


Statistics about alcohol addiction

Alcohol addiction is a prevalent problem in the United States. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

  • Approximately 15.1 million adults in the U.S. have alcohol use disorder.
  • 88,000 people die from alcohol-related deaths annually.
  • 10% of children have a parent who is an alcoholic.
  • More than 600,000 preteens struggle with alcohol use disorder.
  • Alcohol use impairs 1 in 4 college students academically.

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for alcohol addiction

Although people begin drinking for different reasons and at different ages, there are several causes and risk factors for alcohol addiction, including:

  • Having a close family member who struggles with alcohol addiction
  • You or someone in your family having a mental illness
  • Prior struggles with other addictions
  • Having a history of personal trauma
  • Feeling significant levels of stress at work or at home
  • Associating with others who abuse alcohol

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of alcohol addiction

An alcoholic can experience a wide range of symptoms at various times. Some common signs and symptoms that a person is struggling with alcohol addiction include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Not being able to go a day without taking a drink
  • Lying about the frequency of consumption
  • Consuming alcohol when it is clearly dangerous to do so, such as before driving
  • Feeling a need to drink to experience joy or lessen stress
  • Missing work or school due to alcohol use
  • Trying but not being able to stop drinking
  • Making alcohol a priority over relationships and responsibilities

Physical symptoms:

  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired balance and coordination
  • Glassy eyes
  • Red or swollen skin on face
  • Weight gain

Mental symptoms:

  • Sharp mood swings
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations/delusions


Effects of alcohol addiction

Alcoholism is an extremely dangerous addiction that can lead to irreversible consequences in a short amount of time. Left untreated, some effects of alcohol addiction can include:

  • Damage to kidneys and liver
  • Brain damage
  • Increased risk of certain types of cancer
  • Stroke
  • Malnourishment
  • Strained or ruined relationships
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Dropping out of school
  • Unemployment
  • Financial struggles
  • Social isolation
  • Arrest and other legal issues
  • Physical injuries while under the influence of alcohol
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions

Please know that you don’t have to continue to suffer from the effects of alcohol addiction, and it is possible to feel whole again. There are treatment centers and professionals who are ready and willing to help.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among people who have alcohol addiction

If you struggle with alcohol addiction, you may be more likely to also be diagnosed with one of the following co-occurring mental health conditions:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Schizophrenia

Effects of Alcohol Withdrawal & Overdose

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and the potential  impact of alcohol overdose

Effects of withdrawal: When you are addicted to alcohol, your body adapts to the presence of alcohol in its system. When you stop drinking, your body can respond violently in response to not getting the alcohol it craves. Some effects of withdrawal can include:

  • Intense cravings for alcohol
  • Sweating profusely
  • Body tremors and twitches
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation

Effects of overdose: Drinking too much and overdosing on alcohol can be fatal. If anyone exhibits any of the following symptoms after drinking, contact emergency services immediately:

  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Unconsciousness
  • Weak heartbeat
  • Irregular breathing
  • Seizure
  • Cold skin
  • Bluish tint near lips/fingertips
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