How to identify alcohol dependence and withdrawal

Alcohol dependence and withdrawal are obvious signs of an alcohol problem. How can you spot them? Read on for more information on how to identify alcohol dependence and withdrawal here.

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Identifying alcohol dependence and withdrawal

Identifying alcohol dependence and withdrawal early is extremely important. The earlier a person is able to get treatment for their addiction, the high the odds of successful treatment.

After alcoholism is identified and before a person can enter into alcohol treatment, he or she must first admit to themselves and others that they do in fact have a problem. Unfortunately, denial is a common defence mechanism that many alcoholics have. By denying that they have a problem, alcoholics won’t have to admit that something is wrong with them. Breaking through to an alcoholic in need can be tough, but it’s well worth the time and effort in the long run.

How can you tell if a person is alcohol dependent?  We review more about how to identify addiction or drinking problems here. Then, we invite your questions about alcohol dependence and withdrawal at the end.

How to tell if someone has alcohol dependence and withdrawal

Similarly to the indications for illicit drug dependence, an alcohol dependent person will also exhibit a set of obvious signs and symptoms. A medical diagnosis of alcoholism, however, can only be made by a licensed physician or addiction professional. This usually involves a complete physical examination, which can sometimes include a blood alcohol test and a liver function test. A series of questions will also be asked, including questions about a person’s family history of alcohol use as well as their own alcohol use.

But if you’re looking to tell if someone has developed alcohol dependence, look for these signs of alcohol withdrawal. Symptoms that occur when an alcoholic does not have access to alcohol include:

  • clammy skin and sweating
  • intense cravings for alcohol
  • mood swings and irritability
  • nausea and vomiting
  • nervousness, anxiety, or depression
  • rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • shakiness and tremors

Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms are also reported in some cases, and are referred to as delirium tremens. Signs of this include hallucinations, confusion, fever, and seizures. In severe cases, it can even lead to coma or death.

Identifying alcohol dependence and withdrawal

Once it has been established that a person is suffering from alcohol dependence and withdrawal, the next step is treatment. The important thing to remember about this step is that a person must be ready and willing to enter treatment on their own; otherwise it may not be successful.

1. Plan an intervention.

If a person denies having a problem, an intervention may be necessary. During an intervention, a group of loved ones – usually family and friends – meet with an alcoholic in an effort to try to make them realize that they have a problem.

2. Meet with an addiction specialist.

Once a person is ready to enter treatment, they will first usually need to meet with an addiction specialist. A treatment care plan is usually created at this time, which usually includes what type of treatment is best, including medical detox when necessary. Not every alcohol treatment program is created equal, and what’s right for one person may not always be right for another. Inpatient treatment programs, for instance, may be best for alcoholics who need intensive treatment. Outpatient alcohol treatment programs, on the other hand, may be better for individuals with mild alcohol problems or those who are unable to dedicate months to residential rehab.

3. Support your loved one in sobriety.

During the course of alcohol treatment, a person should also have a strong support system. This usually requires a great deal of communication and encouragement from loved ones, particularly family. Without a strong support system, the temptation to drink again will be so much stronger, making treatment even harder for a recovering alcoholic.

Help for alcohol dependence and withdrawal symptoms

Seeking help for alcohol dependence and withdrawal is difficult. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you’re not alone. Not only do you have loved ones to support you throughout the process, but we’re also here to help.

If you have any questions about getting help for alcohol dependence and withdrawal symptoms, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments section below. We look forward to helping each of our readers move toward sobriety.

Reference Sources: Medline Plus: Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
Medline Plus: Alcohol withdrawal
USDA: Alcohol Abuse and Dependence Alcoholism in the Workplace: A Handbook for Supervisors
Rethinking Drinking: What are symptoms of an alcohol use disorder?
tooSMARTtoSTART: Warning  signs of a drinking problem
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: Substance Use
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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