Alcoholism is a kind of severe chronic illness of toxicomania, characterized by addiction to alcohol with mental or physical dependence on it.
Many people drink alcohol time by time and in their original way. Someone drinks only on holidays; someone — a little each day and someone drinks each and every day and in large quantities. How can one determine whether he/she has an addiction to alcohol, or can easily do without it? How to realize on time that your obsessive desire to drink is a disease called alcoholism?
To cure alcoholism at an early stage, it is important to recognize it in time. To do this one needs to know the characteristic symptoms of alcoholism. Knowing the signs of the disease will help to distinguish it from inebriety. Each person has an individual course of the disease, so not all of the symptoms of alcoholism may occur exactly according to the signs described below. The diseased may never realize some of the symptoms himself, or they could appear differently. Therefore, the symptoms described in this article are common and most characteristic of this disease. As practice shows, such signs are perceived as addiction to alcohol, leading to disease.
Cardinal or core symptoms of alcoholism are its main signs that occur even at the early stages of the disease. They come along throughout the whole progression of the disease, becoming worse at each further stage.
Pathological craving for alcohol
Or alcohol craving, as alcoholics say. This attraction is the earliest sign of alcoholism and at the same time, the most permanent. Attraction to alcohol does not occur suddenly — it is formed gradually. One may not realize the fact that he/she craves for alcohol. People may explain their booze by holidays, traditions, meeting friends, problems in life, etc. But there’s a poor excuse when the holidays came to an end, troubles went away…and drinking still continues.
Alcohol craving is subjective and difficult-to-see symptom. Its presence can be set indirectly. For example, its signs are frequent and sufficient reasons for drinking. If before, when drinking alcohol was still at the level of inebriety, friends had to beg a man to drink; now he becomes the initiator. If up to this day one met with friends to hang out, now communication is losing its charm without a bottle of vodka.
Such drink-lovers have a constantly growing number of buddies, and among them are people who also love to drink. With abstainers one finds not interesting to communicate, unlike with drinkers, with whom one easily finds common interests and unveils new dignities in them.
At home such a person always has a hoard of alcohol. He motivates his purchase by the possibility that guests can suddenly come and it will be impolite, if there isn’t anything to treat them. Offering to drink for appetite to his family, the beginner alcoholic makes it to find an excuse for his own drinks.
Drinkers often invite new friends into their house and drink with them, explaining that it is embarassing not to stand a drink with a new friend. That is, at this stage of alcoholism the reasons for drinking are veiled under generally accepted norms and traditions, and alcoholic explains his addiction to alcohol as the desire to relax and have fun. But in fact, his real desire is to reach a state of intoxication.
Another indirect sign of craving for intoxication is a change in behavior before the upcoming drinking. One considerably cheers up, perks up and all shows his anticipation of pleasurable sensations. Drinking man has a negative attitude to everything that prevents him from taking alcohol. He aggressively responds to criticisms of his wife, makes scandals and goes away to his drinking buddies blaming his wife in a quarrel.
Indirect signs of early stage of alcoholism is also a positive assessment of the state of intoxication and mental comfort of the person in this condition. Man finds many excuses for his own drunkenness; he argues that alcohol is useful for the body because it reduces fatigue, increases efficiency and dulls the pain.
Gradually, the alcoholic gets through a reassessment of the moral and social values. He appreciates everything associated with alcohol and drinking, and negatively evaluates everything that prevents this.
He’s annoyed with his family, work, responsibilities, that is everything that prevents drinking. But he is denying his disease and the fact that alcoholism has a negative impact on his life.
Loss of control over the amount of alcohol drunk
This is the second core symptom of alcoholism that occurs at early stage of the disease and is present during all its course. The diseased is not able to stop at a certain dose of alcohol. One loses control at the bare smell of alcohol, and forgets about his intentions to drink a little.
Why is this happening? Because alcoholic wants to achieve a certain degree of intoxication. But each dose of alcohol acts only for a limited time, and then its strength weakens. To maintain the level of intoxication, alcoholic drinks again and again. In addition, the intoxicated man feels a secondary attraction to alcohol, which is more intense than the primary, and which an alcoholic is no longer capable to overcome. This craving for alcohol is a sign of transition from the first stage of alcoholism to the second.
Secondary attraction occurs when the «critical» dose of alcohol is exceeded. For each person it is individual and depends on the stage of alcoholism — the more long-standing the illness is, the smaller is the critical dose of alcohol.
The loss of the gag reflex after a large number of drunk alcohol
This symptom of alcoholism is very important. If the craving for alcohol and loss of control of the amount of drunk alcohol is often difficult to ascertain, the absence of gag reflex after a large amount of consumed alcoholic drinks is an objective symptom of alcoholism.
Why the protective gag reflex gets lost? Large doses of alcohol are poisonous for the organism, and the organism tries to defend itself with the help of vomiting. While this mechanism works, pulling poisons out of the stomach, it protects the body from damage caused by toxins. But the more a person drinks to the point of vomiting, the faster this protection breaks down. The bodyis forced to adapt to the constant toxic effects. An alcoholic will not vomit even being drunk to coma. This surely indicates already formed alcoholism.
Vomiting, which arose in the morning after an evening of drinking, does not apply to this symptom. It indicates either metabolic disorders, or diseases of the stomach.
Increase of tolerance to alcohol
A person suffering from alcoholism, has an increasing adaptation to alcohol. It is called tolerance to alcohol. It is known that the higher is an alcohol «term» and the more a person drinks, the more he can drink. This is because his body is more trained in terms of alcohol doses.
There exist physical and acquired tolerance to alcohol. Physical tolerance is a parameter, which is individual for each person. The initial tolerance to alcohol depends on the age, weight, gender, constitutional features of the body, the condition of the nervous system and health in general. Physical tolerance is a tolerance to alcohol prior to starting drinking alcohol. When a person begins to drink often and in large quantities, his tolerance of alcohol increases. Such a tolerance to alcohol is acquired. At the stage of inebriety it often exceeds the physical tolerance in 2-2.5 times.
However, while the gag reflex is saved, the growth of alcohol tolerance has its limits. When inebriety drops into alcoholism, the gag reflex is no longer active, and the alcoholic can drink much more dose of the alcohol. From the viewpoint of diagnostics of alcoholism, the multiplicity ratio of acquired tolerance to alcohol to the physical tolerance is important. For example, early in life a man could drink 100 grams of vodka, and now is able to consume 500 grams. Dividing 500 by 100 makes 5. So, his tolerance to alcohol had increased by 5 times, which indicates the alcoholism. This disease is diagnosed by increased tolerance to alcohol compared with the initial at 3-5 times.
The growth of tolerance to alcohol also indicates the transition from drinking low-alcohol beverages to a strong alcoholic beverages, because previously taken doses of alcohol do not provide the effect of intoxication anymore, which is the state wanted to be achieved by an alcoholic.
It is another feature of alcoholism. If one began to drink alone and in secret from others, this means that inebriety has turned into a serious illness.
Abstinence or withdrawal syndrome is the term referred to physical symptoms that occur when an alcoholic is at the condition of sobriety. The diseased may experience nausea, sweating, wiggling, when there’s no alcohol in his blood.
Short-term memory lapses
Heavy drinkers often do not remember what they said or promised to do while taking alcohol. This is another symptom of alcoholism.
Drinkers- non-alcoholics often have symptoms similar to those that are inherent in alcoholism. But if a person is abusing alcohol, but is not completely dependent on it, he may not have a need to drink more and more often. Such a person may not experience the state of abstinence, but alcohol abuse can cause very serious problems. In most cases, one who is abusing alcohol can not stop drinking without help. And it’s only a step from such a habit to the real alcoholism…