There is a key difference between socially drinking and depending on alcohol to function. But how do you know if you have a hold on your drinking versus it having a hold of you? If you begin to experience withdrawal symptoms when you either lower the amount you drink or quit altogether, this is an indicator that you have a physical alcohol addiction.1
Because withdrawal symptoms can occur physically, emotionally, and mentally and vary in severity, it's essential to seek help if you begin to feel like you can't quit drinking (even though you want to) or if you start to feel unwell when you do.
How Your Body Changes with a Physical Addiction to Alcohol
If alcohol is heavily consumed on a long-term basis, it may begin to change how your body functions. This can lead to you behaving differently, as well as health consequences. These changes are seen throughout the body, so knowing the risk of continuous dependence on drinking is crucial.
Health concerns can be found in the following areas:2
- Brain: alcohol can alter how your brain processes things, causing it to operate outside the normal. This interference can change a person's mood, behavior, coordination ability, and way of thinking.
- Heart: alcohol can damage the heart, resulting in cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, stroke, and high blood pressure.
- Liver: the liver cannot regenerate healthy cells due to prolonged drinking, producing inflammation, steatosis, alcohol hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
- Pancreas: drinking can cause the pancreas to release toxins, leading to a critical condition called pancreatitis.
- Immune system: drinking will slow your body's ability to fight off infections and pose a higher risk for contracting pneumonia and tuberculosis.
Besides these changes and physical ailments, alcohol misuse has also been proven to increase a person's chance of developing alcohol-related cancer.2 Since health concerns skyrocket with alcohol consumption, it's never too early to take the steps you need to beat your addiction.
Why is it So Hard to Quit Drinking on Your Own?
Even with knowing the long-term consequences of drinking alcohol, many people still find it impossible to quit independently. But why?
Any level of drinking causes your brain's reward center to release endorphins, which are "feel good" chemicals.3 These chemicals are released in higher amounts the more you drink, thus, giving you an increased perception of pleasure. Without the help of alcohol, many feel at a loss of how to achieve the same euphoric feeling and use alcohol as an easier way to feel normal.
Besides this, the fear of experiencing withdrawal symptoms can also cause a person to continue drinking to avoid any pain or discomfort.1 Another factor that plays into a person's inability to quit on their own is continued alcohol use; the brain can no longer process stress or think clearly as it once could.1 This means a stressful situation could have someone reaching for a drink as a way to cope or prevent them from making a thought-out decision when tempted with alcohol.
What are Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?
Suppose you have a physical addiction to alcohol. In that case, your body inherently needs alcohol to perform "normally," and without the same level of consumption, you'll experience uncomfortable, and in some cases, dangerous withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include:4
- Anxiety and depression
- Fatigue, insomnia, and nightmares
- Irritability and mood swings
- Excessive sweating
Since withdrawal symptoms will be different for everyone, you mustn't attempt to detox alone, but instead, do so in a safe environment where you can be monitored throughout the process. Spring Gardens Recovery has excellent detox services that provide a nurturing environment that encourages alcohol misuse while monitoring your vitals and providing an array of support systems.
Find Hope in Your Physical Addiction to Alcohol
Deciding you want to get help for your physical addiction to alcohol will be one of the most important steps you can take. Spring Gardens Recovery offers a hands-on approach to recovery to make your decision and the process easier.
At our facility, we have various addiction treatment programs that fit individual needs and encourage ongoing success. To hear more about these programs or what Spring Gardens Recovery can do for you, use this form to contact us or give our friendly staff a call.
Samantha Nettleton, CCTP, CMHIMP is the Chief Operating Officer and Clinical Director for Spring Gardens Recovery. After completing and receiving her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Human Services (Concentrations in Mental Health & Addiction Counseling), she became licensed for the State of Florida as a Mental Health Counselor. She has also been a recovery coach since 2012. Samantha specializes in Trauma, Personality Disorders, Substance Abuse, Process Addictions, and Other Mental Health Disorders.