What is alcohol dependence?
Alcohol dependence is the loss of control over the use of alcohol. Despite negative consequences (work, social contacts and physical) the person continues to use alcohol.
In the medical / psychiatric world, one speaks of alcohol dependence when you meet 3 or more of the following 7 symptoms:
- Tolerance (having to drink more to apparently get the same ‘desired’ effect)
- Suffer from withdrawal symptoms, such as sweating, poor sleep , shaking, feeling restless
- Use more often and more than you intend
- Failed attempts to control use
- Spend a lot of time on use or recovering from use
- Limitation of hobbies, social activities or work
- Continuous use even though you know it causes damage
How does alcohol dependence arise?
On average, it takes 7 years for an alcohol dependence to develop fully. A number of stages are passed during this time:
- Drinking for the effect At this stage people drink to achieve a desired effect. This step is crucial for the development of alcohol dependence. So people no longer drink for socializing, but to relax, to reduce fears or to prevent gloom. The ultimate goal for the drinker is to change the mood.
- Getting used to alcohol In this phase the tolerance arises; the body gets used to alcohol and needs more and more to achieve the same effect.
- Getting blackouts People now forget about events that took place during their use. In the beginning people are quite shocked by this. If these ‘blackouts’ occur more frequently, people are no longer frightened. He gets used to these effects of alcohol. This is very serious because now the negative effects of alcohol are no longer seen.
- The emergence of problems associated with alcohol In this phase there are complaints that are caused by alcohol consumption. Not only do physical complaints arise, but also complaints at and about work, loss of social contacts due to arguments and absenteeism.
- Getting withdrawal symptoms If you stop drinking, withdrawal symptoms occur such as sweating, shaking, poor sleep and feeling restless. These usually disappear after alcohol intake.
- The drinking maintenance itself
Due to all the above aspects, drinking behavior continues. A vicious circle is now emerging. This vicious circle can again be divided into four cases.
- 1. Pharmacological withdrawal symptoms are again combated with alcohol.
- 2. Psychologically, because of the shame and guilt of drinking, people start drinking more to forget these feelings, which only increases their feelings.
- 3. Social problems and arguments with friends or acquaintances arise. Often absenteeism at work leads to serious problems and possibly unemployment. This isolation is often another reason to drink more.
- 4. Cerebral due to the excessive use of alcohol, brain damage can occur, which means that people can offer less resistance to not drinking.
It is often seen that alcohol dependence occurs more often in some families. A study has also recently been carried out which showed that there are indeed certain genes that can partly cause the excessive use of alcohol. But furthermore, the personality, the expectations of the effects of the alcohol, stress and so-called life events are causes for the development of alcohol dependence.
Is it serious and what can you expect?
If you are alcohol dependent, this is indeed serious. Physical disorders such as liver damage, nerve damage, heart disease , high blood pressure, vitamin deficiency, stomach and pancreas problems, esophageal cancer or bleeding, colon and rectal cancer, brain diseases such as Korsakov or dementia can occur . Also depressions, anxiety disorders and psychoses.
In addition, excessive alcohol consumption goes hand in hand with bad food. Because of this poor eating, vitamin deficiencies can occur, which can cause a so-called polyneuropathy. This is a nervous disorder especially in the legs / feet. If someone stops drinking excessively, these symptoms are partly reversible.
Not everyone who is dependent on alcohol develops all these effects, but they do have a clearly increased chance of it.
When to the doctor?
If you feel that you no longer have control over your alcohol consumption, or if you think you are dependent on alcohol, it is advisable to visit your doctor. He or she can check with you whether there is indeed alcohol dependence and look for suitable treatment together with you.
The general practitioner has a number of medicines at his disposal to facilitate the withdrawal. For example, there are medicines with the substance chlorodiazepoxide , which can suppress a large part of the withdrawal symptoms. There are also means such as Antabus and Refusal , which ensure that you feel very bad if you drink alcohol anyway: you get a red face, thumping headache, nausea, vomiting and a fast heartbeat. Thirdly, the doctor can choose drugs such as Campral or Revia : drugs that can reduce the ‘craving’ for alcohol.
What can you do about it yourself?
An obvious answer to this question is of course “drink less”. Unfortunately, this is precisely the problem with this condition. What you can do yourself is to recognize and acknowledge the problem. Then you can find a solution together with your doctor. It is especially important to look at the function of your alcohol consumption in yourself. Do you drink for socializing, or do you really need to relax?
To prevent dependence, it is important that you do not try to drink daily and if you drink do not drink more than three units. For example, the chance of an alcohol dependence is less.
You can be supported by a self-help program on the internet when reducing alcohol consumption.
General advice and precautions
Generally it is advised to drink in moderation. That is, drink no more than two units per day on average, do not drink every day and if you drink do not drink more than three units at a time. If you adhere to these standards, the chance of developing alcohol dependence is smallest.
If you think you have an alcohol problem, it is wise to trust someone (for example your doctor) about this and to find a solution to the problem together. A second person can often look more objectively at your use.
By the way, it is unwise and sometimes even dangerous to immediately stop drinking without supervision. Always look for help, or gradually complete it yourself.
Source : dokterdokter