The invisible addiction: How to tell if you have an alcohol problemOne or two beers or that glass of red wine in the evening – for many people, alcohol is part of everyday life. But alcohol dependence develops gradually. But how can you tell that you have lost control of your alcohol consumption??
In Germany alone, 1.6 million people are addicted to alcohol and 1.4 million people abuse alcohol (source: DHS 2021).
What is alcoholism?
Alcohol is a stimulant for many and is often not considered a health risk | Photo: Canva
"Alcoholism or better the alcohol dependence is a mental illness mental illness. In most cases, those affected develop physical, mental and social problems after several years of regular and high alcohol consumption", says Dr. Markus Stuppe, chief physician of the clinic for dependence illnesses at the Helios hospitals Schwerin.
The transition from occasional alcohol consumption as a stimulant to alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction is gradual.
Was more or less drunk during the pandemic??
We will only know exactly in months, perhaps years. According to a recent study, alcohol consumption in Germany seems to have declined for many people – but less than in most other European countries.
Alcoholism or better alcohol dependence is a mental illness. In most cases, those affected develop physical, psychological and social problems after several years of regular and high alcohol consumption.
At what point does one speak of an alcohol addiction?
There are certain criteria for the diagnosis of alcohol dependence. A person is considered to be dependent during one year three of the six criteria at the same time are present:
– Strong desire or compulsion to drink alcohol – Reduced ability to control the onset, end and quantity of consumption – Physical withdrawal syndrome, such as sweating or trembling – Development of tolerance (dose increase) – Progressive neglect of interests in favor of alcohol consumption – Continued alcohol consumption despite demonstrable harmful consequences, such as liver damage
How to recognize that I have an alcohol problem?
It is usually a Smooth transition from low-risk to high-risk to harmful drinking. Alcohol up to 12 grams is considered low-risk consumption for women. For men up to 24 grams per day. One should abstain from all alcohol consumption on at least 2 days per week. Everything beyond that is already risky consumption.
What is in a glass of alcohol?
A 0.33 liter glass of beer corresponds to about 13 g of alcohol, a 0.2 liter glass of wine to about 16 g of alcohol.
"One should become attentive and question one's drinking behavior if one drinks alcohol on a daily basis and increasingly has to increase the dose to achieve the same effect. Even those who drink alone or use alcohol to numb or forget problems should take a critical look at their behavior.", says the chief physician. The consumption of alcohol has a direct effect on the body. Can also lead to a variety of organic secondary diseases.
Common symptoms are:
– reduced general condition (patient makes a general impression that is not normally good) – lack of appetite – weight loss – reddened facial skin – increased tendency to sweat – sleep disturbance
The consequences of alcoholism
"Anyone who regularly drinks too much alcohol is at risk of serious organ damage and mental illness," says Dr. Markus Stuppe.
organic and physical consequences:
– gastritis – pancreatitis – heart damage – potency disorders – liver diseases such as fatty liver or cirrhosis (shrinking liver) – polyneuropathy (nerve disease, usually with symptoms such as insensations or pain in the feet and legs) – Wernicke-Korsakow syndrome (severe alcohol-related memory impairment) – cancer (in the liver, mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach) – injuries and accidents
– severe withdrawal symptoms – loss of consciousness (delirium) – seizures – mood swings – other addictive disorders, e. B. Other substances, illicit drugs, tobacco, gambling, behavioral addiction – personality disorder, z. B. compulsive, anxious-avoidant, dependent, borderline, antisocial – depression – anxiety disorder (post-traumatic stress disorder) – ADHD – psychoses
Treat alcoholism: Seek help
The "right" thing to do Timing of therapy for alcohol dependence is very individual and varies. Affected persons can initially Turn to outpatient help systems. These include
– Addiction counseling centers, – the family doctor's office, – addiction focus practices as well as – addiction consultation hours at clinics, but also – self-help groups and – online counseling can be the first points of contact.
"Therapy is graduated and depends on the patient's symptoms", so Dr. Markus Stuppe.
Affected persons may initially Contact outpatient help centers. To do this, they can turn to a counseling center or their family doctor's office, for example, to address alcohol dependence.
For many alcohol addicts, it is often unimaginable at the beginning of therapy to give up alcohol forever. A first step may be to stop drinking alcohol for a foreseeable period of time.
Outpatient detoxification or inpatient qualified withdrawal treatment
Patients at high risk for Withdrawal symptoms have, should do an inpatient withdrawal in a clinic. This is done under medical supervision. Can be supported by medication.
If no severe withdrawal symptoms are expected, outpatient alcohol withdrawal is also possible.
Even after alcohol withdrawal, those affected can find support in outpatient and full-day outpatient rehabilitation therapies or full-day inpatient specialized clinics. The affected person gradually becomes more and more accustomed to a life without alcohol and thus also maintains or regains his or her earning capacity.
In addition to the therapy of psychological dependence, there may also be treatment of other psychological or physical concomitant diseases. The aim is for those affected to gain new self-confidence and for the newly learned changes in behavior and experience to have a supportive effect in everyday life.
For many of those affected, the transition from outpatient or inpatient withdrawal to everyday life can be difficult. Old problems and fears can come up again and quickly lead to overstrain. "Especially in this phase, it is important that those affected can turn to addiction outpatient clinics, counseling centers or specialists. Self-help groups are also a important support, to stay dry", says the head physician in Schwerin.
Aftercare should be the physical, psychological and social stabilization serve to prevent a possible relapse. Therefore, it is important to apply what you have learned and to keep in mind what has already been achieved up to this point.
Even a relapse does not mean that everything was in vain. The important thing then is to seek help again and try once more to make it out of alcohol addiction.
prognosis: Can you stay dry?
Alcohol dependence is a Chronic illness, which can cause serious consequential damage. If it remains untreated, the prognosis is rather poor, since those affected often only become active and start treatment at a late stage. It is difficult to make a prognosis at the time of starting therapy. Because it is strongly dependent on the individual factors, which each:r ill brings along. These include pre-existing physical. Psychological damage but also the social circumstances of life.
Dr. Stuppe: "Achieving alcohol abstinence for at least one year after withdrawal treatment 30 to 50 percent of those affected. But: Even a relapse does not mean that everything was in vain.