Health A to Z


How much is too much? Learn the warning signs for this addictive disorder.

Alcoholism causes symptoms treatment

A couple of cocktails after work with the girls every once in a while is a fun way to unwind after a hard week. But if you’re noticing that one drink is never enough, you’re feeling guilty about how much alcohol you’re drinking and regularly overdoing it, you could have a drinking problem.

Alcoholism is an addictive disorder affecting an estimated four percent of Canadians. Alcoholics experience an uncontrollable desire and tendency to consume alcohol at levels that are unhealthy. The highest percentage of alcohol problems occurs in Canadians aged 20 to 24. Alcohol addiction can lead to serious health problems, including brain damage, kidney failure and liver damage.

Alcoholism causes Alcohol dependency happens gradually over time; drinking too much alcohol over a long period may change the chemical balance in the brain linked to pleasure, causing the body to crave alcohol. The risk of alcoholism is higher for people who have a parent who abused alcohol. It is also common for people with a mental health problem such as depression to abuse alcohol.

Alcoholism symptoms Alcoholism results in frequent intoxication and continuing to drink alcohol even if the timing is inappropriate, for example, right before driving. As the problem escalates, an alcoholic may continue to drink even when impaired, and drinking may start to impact work, social events and family life. It is common for an alcoholic to deny she has a drinking problem.

Alcoholism diagnosis/tests If you’re ready to get help for your drinking problem, talk to your doctor. There is no test to diagnose you as an alcoholic but she will ask you about your drinking habits to assess if you meet the criteria for being diagnosed, which include withdrawal symptoms, an increased tolerance of alcohol, overdrinking and a desire to cut back, among others. You may need other tests to determine if you have any health problems linked to your alcohol abuse.

Alcoholism treatment Rehabilitation programs and support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, are some of the treatment options. Average treatment programs last 30 to 45 days and most follow the 12-step model.

Alcoholism prevention It may not be possible to prevent alcoholism. Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned that you may be at risk for developing the disease.

Outside resources
Alcoholics Anonymous Canada
Drug Rehab Services

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