All about alcohol addiction

There's a big difference between enjoying a casual drink and alcohol addiction. Knowing what the signs are can be helpful in preventing the harmful effects that alcohol addiction can have. It can also be treated, so it's worth finding out where to get help if you need it.

This might help if:

  • You want to know more about alcohol addiction
  • You or someone you know might be suffering from alcohol addiction
  • You want to know signs of addiction

What is alcohol addiction?

As discussed in this fact sheet on addiction, addiction  is basically a compulsion to use a certain substance or participate in certain behaviour in order to feel good (or to avoid feeling bad). Having an addition to alcohol means that a person does this by drinking. It's perfectly fine to enjoy a drink now and then, but it's definitely a problem when someone feels they have to drink.

Signs of alcohol addiction

Alcohol addiction is a complex problem that can be hard to notice, particularly in Australia where drinking a lot is socially acceptable. However, if you drink heaps of alcohol on a regular basis or experience some of the signs listed below, you could be running the risk of developing an alcohol addiction or dependence.

Some of the signs of alcohol dependence include:

  • Worrying about when you’ll be able to have your next drink

  • Sweating, nausea or insomnia when you don’t drink

  • Needing to drink more and more alcohol to get drunk

  • Drinking alcohol, or wanting to, when you wake up in the morning

  • Consuming alcohol regularly on your own, or trying to hide your drinking

  • Relationships with friends or family are affected by it

What are the negative effects of alcohol addiction?

Alcohol addiction affects people in different ways, having both physical and mental effects. Some of the dangers of alcohol addiction include:

  • Bad vision

  • Blackouts

  • Seizures

  • Depression

  • Malnutrition

  • Anxiety

  • Paranoia

Long term effects include:

  • Permanent damage to the brain
  • High risk of stroke and heart failure
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • High risk of mouth and throat cancer
  • Suppressed immune system

Getting help

Recognising the problem is the first step in getting help for addiction. No one can force another person to undergo treatment for a problem they don’t believe they have.

Many people think they can go cold turkey and give up alcohol on their own, but that’s a really difficult way of going about it and often not the most successful. Talking to someone, whether it is a friend, teacher, parent or doctor, and seeking support from others can be a really great way of figuring out next steps. It can be hard to know where to find the right support you need. ReachOut NextStep is an anonymous online tool that recommends relevant support options based on what you want help with. Try ReachOut NextStep to learn about the support options available for you.

If you think you might have a problem with alcohol, check out our fact sheet I think I might have a drinking problem.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 29 April, 2016
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