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Understanding Alcohol Abuse & Dependence

Alcohol abuse and dependence are at two different stages in the addiction progress.

Alcohol abuse and dependence are at two different stages in the addiction progress.

Signs and symptoms of a drinking problem can often go unnoticed until the real dangers and consequences begin to set in. It’s not always easy to recognize when your drinking has passed the point of fun and social to dangerous and troublesome. For some, moderate social drinking quickly leads to dependence while others may be able to drink socially for an indefinite length of time without ever really suffering the wrath of addiction.

Alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence, though interconnected, are not one in the same. Alcohol abuse is actually the contributing factor to alcohol dependence and it’s a starting point for any drinker who becomes addicted to alcohol. Unfortunately, many people don’t see the warning signs of alcohol abuse until the damage has already occurred and alcohol dependence has begun to set in.

Warning Signs of Alcohol Abuse

In the early stages, alcohol abuse is a seemingly minor problem or it may not even seem like a problem at all. The individual may neglect personal responsibilities while drinking or as a result of being hung over after a night of drinking, but this neglect isn’t an “all the time” occurrence. In fact, alcohol abuse may only have warning signs when the individual is actually drinking and the aftermath or effects of the alcohol consumption are unlikely to stick around for long once the drinking stops.

Common warning signs of alcohol abuse include:

  • Drinking alcohol under dangerous or risky circumstances
  • Suffering more than one legal problem in a 12 month period as a result of alcohol use
  • Drinking despite problems caused in relationships, financially, legally or otherwise
  • Drinking as a sole method of relaxing or alleviating stress

Warning Signs of Alcohol Dependence

The early warning signs of alcohol dependence are actually evident in an individual who abuses alcohol, potentially showing up long before the physical dependence sets the stage for alcohol addiction. Tolerance is the first major warning sign of alcohol dependence but this is typically followed quickly by withdrawal and a loss of control over otherwise controllable drinking habits.

Other common signs of alcohol dependence include:

  • Suffering from a desire within yourself to quit drinking but an inability to do so on your own
  • Avoiding people who don’t drink or giving up activities that do not involve drinking
  • Drinking despite serious problems such as illness, family upset, depression or other serious conditions
  • Denial that there is a problem or that help may be needed

Getting Past Denial

Denial is a serious side effect of alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. In fact, both alcohol abuse and dependence have denial very much in common. There are many ways that an alcoholic or troubled alcohol abuser may deny that there is a problem. Some of the most common methods of denial include:

  • Downplaying the problem or making jokes about the seriousness of consequences associated with drinking
  • Dramatically underestimating the amount of alcohol that is actually consumed or not even realizing that it is as bad as it really is
  • Pinning the blame onto others such as blaming family members for your drinking or for making the problem a “bigger deal than it really is”

How Alcohol Rehab Centers Can Help

Fortunately, alcohol rehab centers can provide effective treatment for those suffering from either alcohol abuse which occurs before physical dependence sets in or from alcohol dependence. Even severe alcohol dependence can effectively be treated to reduce symptoms and provide an improved quality of life for the recovering addict under the right circumstances.

Alcohol rehab centers provide a number of treatment options to help patients get sober and stay that way. Some of the most common options for rehabilitation available to those suffering from alcohol addiction include:

  • Inpatient rehabilitation
  • Outpatient rehabilitation
  • AA groups
  • Other 12 step groups
  • Support groups
  • CBT & other behavioral therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling

Talk with a rehab adviser about the methods of treatment which may be most suited to you—it really can help!

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