Types of Alcohol Addiction
When people think of alcohol addiction they often think about people who drink heavily all day long. The truth is that there is more than one kind of alcohol addiction. Addiction really looks different from person to person. While some people might be daily drinkers others are binge drinkers. Even though we often think of alcoholics as the first kind it is actually far more common to be a binge drinker.
Daily drinking is exactly what it sounds like. People with this type of alcohol addiction drink almost every day. Some people drink throughout the entire day while others wait until later to start drinking. Generally, people who drink excessively every day like this have built up a tolerance to alcohol meaning that they need more and more in order to get the desired effect.
While it might seem like drinking a little bit every day after work is not a big deal, it is. There is research to suggest that daily drinking every day for six weeks is enough to become physically and psychologically dependent on the substance. This means that if you tried to stop drinking after this period of time you would have incredibly unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal. Many people don’t realize just how quickly you can become addicted to alcohol.
The far more common type of alcohol addiction is binge drinking. This is where people do not drink every day but when they do drink they drink excessively. Usually people in this category report having over 10 drinks on one occasion. One of the biggest problems associated with binge drinking is that it can cause acute alcohol poisoning which can be life threatening.
When large amounts of alcohol are consumed very quickly the liver cannot process the alcohol fast enough. When this happens it might cause vomiting, confusion, reduced breathing, and other symptoms. If you see someone who is suffering from alcohol poisoning call 911 immediately.
Alcohol Use Disorder
The DSM-5 does not separate out binge drinking and daily drinking. Both fall under the general category of alcohol use disorder. People who meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder qualify for the diagnosis of a mental disorder. What this means is that people who show these symptoms might require hospitalization or inpatient treatment for addiction.
Here are the symptoms of alcohol use disorder listen in the DSM-5:
- More alcohol is used for a longer period of time than the person originally intended.
- There are unsuccessful efforts to cut down or stop drinking.
- A lot of time is spent getting alcohol, drinking, and recovering from its effects.
- Using alcohol interferes with the ability to meet work, school, or home obligations.
- Using alcohol despite negative social or interpersonal consequences.
- Social, work, or recreational activities are given up because of alcohol use.
- Alcohol use in physically dangerous situations.
- Alcohol use continues even though there are physical or psychological problems related to its use.
- Tolerance: needing more alcohol to get the desired effect.
- Withdrawal: physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal.
The newest edition of the DSM has a diagnosis for alcohol withdrawal. Many people who are addicted to alcohol show symptoms of withdrawal when they stop taking the substance. These symptoms indicate that someone is physically and psychologically dependant on alcohol. In other works, withdrawal tells us how someone is addicted.
The type of alcohol addiction that causes withdrawal is more than just psychological desire to drink. It means that the person’s body also depends on the substance to function normally. If someone stops drinking and is addicted in this way they might shows signs of withdrawal like sweating, hand tremors, vomiting, hallucination, or seizures. If this happens it is critical to call 911. Alcohol withdrawal can be life threatening.
Alcohol Induced Psychosis
This type of alcohol addiction actually causes a person to briefly become psychotic. When we think of people who are psychotic we might think of people who are schizophrenic. While it is rare, it does happen that alcohol can actually induce these kinds of psychotic symptoms. People who having alcohol induced psychosis might have hallucination or delusions. This type of addiction can be incredibly frightening, but it is important to remember that someone will most likely return to normal once they stop drinking.
Alcohol Induced Depressive Disorder
People with this type of alcohol addiction might actually become depressed from drinking. It might seem like someone is suffering from major depression. However, the underlying issue is that they are addicted to alcohol. Like with all alcohol induced disorders once someone stops drinking they will most likely no longer show symptoms of depression.
Alcohol Induced Anxiety
Many people with alcohol addiction will tell you how common this subtype is. Anxiety might revolve around making sure that there is enough to drink or the physical symptoms might be brought on from the alcohol itself. When someone had this type of alcohol addiction they might have a racing heart or persistent thoughts of worry.
Other Types of Alcohol Addiction
The remaining types of alcohol addiction are all what are called “alcohol induced disorders” they are much like the three that are described above. As mentioned before, with these conditions once someone stops using alcohol they will not longer have these problems. Here are some of the other alcohol induced disorders, sleep disorders, sexual dysfunction, bipolar disorder, or neurocognitive disorder.
It is important to remember that these are induced by alcohol. When someone has one of these it can really be thought of as a different type of alcohol addiction. It is not a co-occurring disorder because once the person stops drinking, this other problem goes away.