Someone with an alcohol addiction has an irresistible urge to drink, which dominates every aspect of their lives. Craving and alcohol withdrawal symptoms are the distinguishing factors in alcoholism and alcohol abuse. The latter term refers to regular excessive alcohol without these symptoms. Drinking problems are more prevalent in men, especially between twenty and forty, but in recent years the abuse of alcohol by youth between the ages of thirteen to seventeen, has increased considerably. Besides the damage to the liver and brains, which is caused by drinking, excessive drinking is also damaging to a drinker’s mental health, family and social life as well as career.

What causes alcoholism:

Alcoholism is often the result of a combination of factors. In some families, alcoholism is more common, partly because children grow up in an environment where a lot of alcohol is consumed and partly by genetic factors. People who are shy, anxious or depressed, may be alcohol dependent. Occupations where they come into contact with alcohol, such as working in a cafe, increase the risk of addiction. Stress and stressful events may turn a moderate drinker into an alcoholic. Alcohol inhibits the inhibitory psychological functions.

Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse:

Alcoholism can develop after several years of moderate to heavy drinking. The symptoms include:

  • Compulsion and the inability to drink the hand-held amount;
  • Increased tolerance to the effects, leading to increased consumption for the desired effect;
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating and trembling, a few hours after use has stopped.

In alcoholics, often withdrawal seizures may occur. After a few days without alcohol the drinker can develop life-threatening delirium tremors, with fever, shivering, seizures, disorientation and hallucinations (seeing many creatures). Symptoms take three to four days, usually followed by a long, deep sleep. In extreme cases, the drinker can enter a coma, which can result in death.


Long term addiction to alcohol is the most common cause of liver disorders (alcohol-related liver disease), pancreatitis (acute pancreatitis) and gastritis (gastritis).

Heavy drinkers often eat poorly, leading to vitamin B1 deficiency and eventually to dementia or in rare cases, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome may result. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a serious brain disease that causes confusion and memory problems and can result in a coma and even death. When alcohol is consumed excessively and over a long period of time, there may be life-threatening damage to the vital organs.

The psychiatric disorders in alcoholism include agitation, anxiety, depression and suicidal behaviour (suicide attempts or suicide). In general, the alcoholic becomes introverted, he loses his focus on family and friends and puts his job on the line or in extreme cases, can no longer maintain it.

The diagnosis

The person will often be persuaded to seek help. A doctor will often be informed about the drinking and watch for signs of addiction. Blood tests may be carried out to check for any damage to the liver or other organs.


Gradual cut back is rarely possible. The patient needs to stop cold turkey. If the patient’s addiction is not too serious, this can happen at home. Anxiolytics (anxiety-reducing drugs) such as benzodiazepines may be prescribed for a short time, to reduce agitation and other psychological effects of abstinence.
If heavy drinking is suddenly stopped, withdrawal symptoms may occur such as delirium tremors. This can be life threatening. Supervision in a rehab or in a hospital is needed. Withdrawal symptoms are usually treated with anxiolytics.

The treatment of physical symptoms caused by prolonged alcohol consumption include anti-ulcer (Medicines for an ulcer) and vitamin B1 injections. If withdrawal symptoms are treated, the person can be given drugs that reduce craving for alcohol. Assistance prevents a relapse. Counselling or group therapy can help with the problems that have contributed to the addiction.

What Now?

Recognize the problem and accept assistance, will improve the chances of recovery. To join a murad of self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) a person will reduce the risk of relapse.

In about 20 percent of cases where delirium tremens develops and is not treated, death is likely to occur.