If you’ve been drinking high amounts of alcohol regularly for a period of time, there’s a possibility you may be suffering from alcohol dependence. Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine whether you have a drinking problem — especially when it develops gradually over time.
Alcohol dependence is a serious condition that can worsen your health and quality of life, but professional treatment at an alcohol detox center can help you overcome physical dependence and get your life back on track.
If you drink regularly, here are six signs that indicate you may need alcohol detox.
1. Developing a Higher Alcohol Tolerance
Increased tolerance is one of the top signs of alcohol dependence. Alcohol tolerance is characterized by your need to drink higher amounts of alcohol than you did before to feel its effects. For example, if at one point you only needed one or two beers to feel the effects of alcohol, but now you need at least six beers, your alcohol tolerance has definitely increased. Take note of how much alcohol you need to achieve the desired “buzz,” and compare it to the amount you were drinking weeks, months, or years earlier.
2. Experiencing Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are another top sign of alcohol dependence that occurs when you suddenly stop drinking after doing so regularly for a long period of time. The National Library of Medicine reports that symptoms of alcohol withdrawal usually begin within eight hours after the last drink.
If you drink high amounts of alcohol every day or on most days of the week, take note of whether you feel sick or experience any specific symptoms when you abruptly stop drinking.
Common signs of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shaking and tremors
- Mental cloudiness
- Mood swings
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid heart rate
Most alcohol rehab regimens involve the use of medications that reduce your withdrawal symptoms and make you feel more comfortable as you recover from alcohol dependence. Alcohol detox is usually the first stage of addiction treatment at alcohol and drug rehab centers.
3. Unable to Quit
If you’re physically dependent on alcohol, you may be delaying quitting drinking because you don’t want to go through withdrawal or experience strong alcohol cravings. This is completely normal given how unpleasant and risky it can be to go through withdrawal on your own without professional treatment at alcohol rehab.
If you’re also addicted to alcohol psychologically, you may find that quitting is difficult due to experiencing compulsive behaviors associated with addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is defined as “a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain.” You may already know that your alcohol use has harmful consequences, but you are unable to quit.
4. Justification for Alcohol Use
Many who struggle with alcohol abuse are in denial about their dependence and will often find ways to justify their alcohol use. For example, a heavy drinker may tell their spouse they deserve alcohol every night as a reward for working hard during the day. Or, they may use chronic pain or stress as excuses to drink when they want their symptoms to go away. If you find yourself coming up with reasons to justify alcohol use, you may be suffering from physical dependence.
5. Decline in Physical Health
Heavy alcohol use is associated with a countless number of health problems and is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States, reports the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
Of the 83,517 liver disease deaths that occurred in the U.S. in 2018, 42.8% involved alcohol. Of all the cirrhosis deaths that occurred in 2013, 47.9% were related to alcohol. Alcohol use also increases the risk for a wide range of cancers, including that of the mouth, liver, and breast.
If you’ve been experiencing a higher number of physical health problems since you started drinking regularly, or your existing health problems have worsened, you may need alcohol detox to overcome dependence and become healthier.
6. Mental Clarity and Overall Capacity to Function in Daily Life
Alcohol interacts with a number of hormones and brain neurotransmitters in ways that increase the risk for mental health disorders. The NIAAA reports that the most common psychiatric disorders associated with alcohol use disorder are major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and antisocial personality disorder. An estimated 30% to 40% of those who suffer from alcohol use disorder experience a comorbid depressive disorder.
If you’ve been feeling “off” since you started drinking heavily or have developed symptoms of mental illness, it’s highly likely that alcohol is the main driving factor. Many drug rehab centers offer dual diagnosis therapy to help patients who struggle with both a substance use disorder and mental illness.
The longer you allow alcohol abuse, dependence, or addiction go untreated, the more serious and severe your drinking problem could become. If you’re not completely sure whether you may benefit from alcohol detox, it doesn’t hurt to contact an alcohol rehab center like Baystate Recovery Center to learn more about your available treatment options.