Alcohol dependence – signs, causes & recovery

For many people, the occasional “one for the road” is a pleasant way to relax. I mean, let’s face it, after a long, stressful day at work, a glass of wine or beer may be the best option to unwind. But what many don’t know is that could be the beginning of alcohol dependence for some.

If you fall in the category of moderate drinkers, it’s always wise to try your best to keep it that way, or alternatively quit before it’s too late. The recommended alcohol consumption for women is not more than one drink a day, and as for their male counterparts, anything more than two drinks, is toxic to the body. 

Alcohol addiction in its entirety is a complex topic that may not be clear at its onset, especially to a victim or those surrounding them. Most people remain in denial and this has the potential of preventing a person from realising that they have a drinking problem. It gets worse if the problem ends up ruining their financial and/or social lives or destroying their relationships and can of course, cause major health problems. More often than not, only a small fraction of patients with a drinking problem seeks help or treatment. Read the latest statistics here. The thing to know, is if you or someone you know are experiencing such difficulties, you are not alone. 

In this article, we look at the major causes of alcohol dependence, the signs, and what the recovery options are.  

1. Causes of Alcohol Dependence

As mentioned earlier, a lot of people don’t realise that they have an alcohol problem until it becomes more difficult to treat. How it starts and how it becomes a full-blown addiction is not so difficult to understand - from early exposure to the ordinary stresses of life, there are various causes of alcohol dependence, but first, it’s important to start by defining what alcoholism actually is.

What is Alcoholism?  

By definition, alcoholism is the excessive use of alcohol, often characterised by the patient’s inability to manage their drinking habits. It is also referred to as alcohol use disorder (AUD) and can be categorised into mild, moderate, and severe. In each category, symptoms and effects may vary from one individual to the other. 

Alcohol dependence may cause an individual to feel as though they cannot objectively function without alcohol in their system. It’s at this point when patients suffering from this condition require psychological help and support or in some adverse scenarios, medical intervention. Ricardo Santiago from AION Recovery, says that alcohol dependence is a disease that requires getting help with alcohol addiction through rehab, support from family and friends, and post-treatment monitoring to prevent relapse. Relapse is when a patient fails to fight their withdrawal symptoms and starts drinking again after quitting or treatment in a rehab facility. And since treatment for alcoholism also focuses on the major contributing or risk factors, here are some of the most common causes of alcoholism.

  • Working or living in stressful environments

  • Starting to drink at an early age

  • Health problems, such as depression and psychiatric disorders 

  • Family history

All the same, the true cause of alcohol use disorder is not clearly known. However, it all stems out of the pleasurable feelings the victim gets after consuming alcohol and when the effects subside, they feel the urge to drink more to fight the withdrawal symptoms.

2. Effects of Alcoholism

We are all created differently, which is why the effects of alcohol may vary from one person to the other. While some can limit their drinking, some may find it extremely difficult to control their alcohol consumption habits and patterns. Additionally, many other factors can determine the impact of alcohol abuse in an individual. For instance, effects may vary from mild to severe, depending on the amount of alcohol consumed in a single sitting, for how long, and how frequently this is done. Some common effects of alcohol abuse may include:

Short Term Effects  

Depending on the amount of alcohol consumed in a single sitting, individuals can experience short term or long term effects. Assuming that an individual has a normal alcohol tolerance, they may experience mild effects that may affect their lives on a short term basis. These effects may include injuries, accidents, engaging in unprotected sex, violence, loss of personal belongings, and work-related inconveniences.

Long Term Effects  

Long term alcoholic effects may be a result of many years of uncontrolled alcohol consumption. Long term consumption of alcohol has been associated with a variety of long term health issues as well as social problems. These may include:

  • Health problems – high blood pressure, liver diseases, depression, stroke, pancreatitis, dementia, and infertility to mention but a few. 

  • Long term social effects of alcoholism – family break ups, divorce, domestic violence, unemployment, financial problems, and homelessness.  

3. Signs of Alcoholism


While it may not be easy to identify the signs of alcoholism in the early stages, it can be easier to tell if you have an alcohol problem after prolonged use of alcohol. When caught in the early stages, patients have higher chances of recovery. Some of the most common signs associated with alcoholism include:

  • The inability to control alcohol consumption

  • Alcohol cravings

  • When the need to drink is placed above personal priorities and responsibilities

  • Spending too much on alcohol

  • Personal behavioral changes after alcohol consumption

4. Treatment

ADU or alcohol use disorder is a condition that refers to the inability to control alcohol consumption. As a matter of fact, doctors describe this condition as a mental problem more than a physical condition. This is because, once you’re hooked on alcohol, it changes how the brain functions, thus making it hard for you to quit. Dealing with this problem on will power alone may prove unfruitful and it may not be enough trying on your own. This may be possible for individuals who aren’t dependent on alcohol. But to those who are dependent, it's best to undergo a treatment programme. There are a variety of treatment options for patients which include:

  • Detox

  • Consulting counselors and therapists

  • Medication

  • Rehab

  • Attending support groups

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism, it may seem hopeless at times - but you do not need to suffer alone. Involve people you consider allies or family to help you out. Nevertheless, you must show the willingness to change and display a need for it. Most importantly, overcoming alcoholism is a time-consuming process that requires total commitment and support. More than half of individuals who start treatment relapse after a short while. But with professional help, alongside support from close friends and family, it can be done. 

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