Alcohol Addiction

What is alcohol addiction?

There are numerous definitions of what constitutes an addiction to alcohol. These range from the number of drinks you have and how regular you drink to the effect of drinking alcohol has on your behaviour.

Addiction to alcohol is often described as having a physical dependency which generates cravings and urges for alcohol.

Constant use of alcohol leads to changes in the brain which can result in physical withdrawals for someone who decides to stop drinking.

One of the more simpler tests we apply at 21Renew is

“It does not matter what you drink, when you drink or how much you drink, it is what happens when you drink.”

If you cannot guarantee your behaviour before you pick up a drink then you need to seriously consider seeking professional assistance.

There is no one size fits all definition of what determines if a person is an alcoholic. At 21Renew we prefer to look at the outcomes of someone’s drinking not so much on the quantity of alcohol consumed. We assess their drinking habits in conjunction with what if any effect their use of alcohol has on their family and personal relationships as well as their performance at work. We assess any mental or physical deterioration that can be attributed to the regular use of alcohol.

We also look to categorise each client into one of the four categories below.

  1. Mild abuse
  2. Medium abuse
  3. Heavy abuse
  4. Addiction

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For other clinical definitions see  Alcohol Rehab guide

What are the signs to look out for;

  • being unable to limit or control the amount you drink.
  • having urges or cravings for alcohol.
  • seeking alcohol to the detriment of your personal, family or work responsibilities.
  • spending money on alcohol that should have been spent on other living expenses.
  • altered behaviour after drinking.
  • constant thinking about your next drink.
  • hangovers including sweating, nausea or insomnia.
  • the need to drink more and more to have the same effect.
  • needing a drink in the morning to get started.
  • hiding your drinking.
  • fighting with friends and family about your drinking or going out.
  • continued drinking despite frequent attempts to give up or reduce the quantity of alcohol you consume.


Short-term effects include:

  • bad vision
  • blackouts
  • seizures
  • depression
  • malnutrition
  • anxiety
  • paranoia.

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Long-term effects include:

  • permanent damage to the brain including korsakoff syndrome
  • high risk of stroke and heart failure and increased blood pressure.
  • liver disease including cirrhosis of the liver
  • increased risk of mouth and throat cancer
  • weakened immune system. Excessive alcohol use can make it harder for your body to resist disease.


Detoxing from alcohol is often the first step in the process. If someone has become dependent on alcohol and suddenly stops drinking, they might develop withdrawal symptoms and these might be;

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Excessive sweating
  • The shakes especially in the hands.
  • Hallucinations, when you see or hear things that aren’t there
  • Problems sleeping
  • Shakiness, especially in your hands
  • Unstable changes in blood pressure and heart rate
  • Agitation  and irritability
  • Fear
  • A fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • The DT’s (Delirium tremens) (DTs), is a life-threatening condition that can cause you to be restless, upset, and confused and experience hallucinations, and seizures


There are four stages of dealing with a client’s alcohol abuse issues.

  1. Detoxification
  2. Treatment
  3. Maintenance following treatment
  4. Creating a life plan

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The Cycle of Change for Alcohol Related Issues

1.  Pre-Contemplation

People in pre-contemplation do not recognise they have a problem with their use of alcohol.

Dealing with people who are in pre-contemplation can be frustrating so it is best to seek professional assistance if you want to move the person into taking some action.

2.  Contemplation

At this point in the cycle the person is considering making some change to their drinking habits.

Encouragement is always the best way to move people forward into taking action with their alcohol issues.

3.  Planning

In this stage of the cycle of change the person has made the decision they want to change and is actively putting together a plan on how they intend to achieve this.

The best help you can give someone in this stage is to be supportive, positive  and try to understand their plan and help them implement it.

4.  Action

In this stage the person will be putting their plan into action and the best help you can give them is to be supportive and understanding.

In the early days of putting the plan into action the person may have mood swings. When these occur it is best to remain calm and not react either way

5.  Maintenance

The final phase in the cycle is Maintenance. The person has implemented their plan of action and are now following through with the plan.

Implementing the plan will often involve changes in routine in the persons home and family life and if not handled correctly can cause disruption and hostility. For example not being home for meals due to their plan. This is why communication is so important.

At 21renew we ensure the client’s pathway through these five stages is conducted with the utmost professionalism and where necessary in conjunction with qualified medical practitioners.


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