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What signs should family members and friends look out for to spot alcohol dependency?

Q&A with Dean Gustar, Relapse Prevention Specialist

19.02.2021 - Addiction, Alcohol, Q&A

I’m going to split this into two separate groups of warning signs. Some warning signs if someone’s drinking too much, and then some warning signs over full blown dependency. So if someone’s drinking too much, it is likely they’re going to be suffering from a lot of hangovers in the morning. That’s something to spot.

They’ll probably be drinking pretty much every day, and sometimes drinking more than they set out to drink. So drinking more than they intended. It may be that they start to get a bit sick because of the alcohol consumption. Maybe they might experience some gaps in their memory, some cognitive deficits. They may be drinking alone. That’s a very sure sign that something’s not right. Neglecting their responsibilities, so they stop doing the things that they’re supposed to do; maybe they also stop doing the things that give them some pleasure in life as well. They may begin to experience some signs of withdrawal if they have a day with no alcohol. So those would be some usual signs that we could expect to see if someone’s drinking too much.

Now the signs of an actual dependency. They’re fairly similar, but they’re more accelerated. Hence it would be a complete loss of control over their alcohol use, so pretty much every day they might be drinking more than they intended. There would be a distinct change in as their behaviour may become more risky or aggressive. When I say risky, they may be doing some things that might impact their personal health, or the health of their family. They start to neglect their personal appearance, so they’ll start to be a bit unclean, a bit sloppy in their appearance and personal hygiene.

They’ll drink more, so they’ll develop a tolerance; hence they’ll be drinking progressively more and more to get the same effect. And for sure, they will feel withdrawal symptoms if, for some reason they don’t have access to alcohol. These withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe. This includes anything from sweating, shaking, nausea, loss of appetite, to even more dangerous withdrawal symptoms, which can ultimately be seizures. And they may continue to drink despite negative consequences happening all around them. So that might include stress or arguments in the family home. It may be harmful consequences to their own health. These would all be sure signs of someone falling into dependent use of alcohol.

Dean Gustar, Relapse Prevention Specialist