Addicted to alcohol

Some who drink alcohol eventually develop an addiction. Then you have become accustomed to alcohol and it can be difficult to stop drinking. An addiction leads to complications and problems of various kinds. There are good ways to deal with an alcohol addiction.

Alcohol dependence is common. Alcohol habits and the risk of developing an addiction can be affected by various things. For example, how you feel about you, how you feel and of heredity. It is not possible to say how long and how much you must have been drinking to develop an addiction.

Signs that you are addicted to alcohol

Signs that you have an addiction may be one of the following examples:

  • You feel a strong desire for alcohol.
  • You drink more alcohol and drink for longer than you had imagined.
  • You have failed to reduce your drinking.
  • You give drinking a central role, often at the expense of something else that you think is important
  • You need to drink more alcohol than before to get drunk.
  • You feel bad when you do not get alcohol and you get so-called withdrawal problems, such as shaking, nausea or difficulty sleeping.

If three or more of the claims agree with you, you are counted as an alcohol addict according to the medical service.

Alcohol dependence can also cause a variety of injuries and illnesses throughout the body, which can cause additional symptoms.

Questions you can ask yourself

If you have concerns about your drinking, you can ask questions such as:

  • Do I have control over how much I drink?
  • Does alcohol have a big place in my life?
  • Do people in my area think I drink too much?

Many who have an alcohol addiction know that they drink too much. 

To stop drinking

First you have to decide before you want to quit. Once you have decided to deal with alcohol dependence, you must change your drinking habits. There are various types of treatments that are good and effective against alcohol dependence. 

What can I do for myself?

You can also get out of an addiction without any special treatment. Many change their habits themselves, perhaps with the support of relatives. Here are examples of some things that can help:

  • Start with a completely sober period. After such a period, it may be easier to change habits.
  • Set a goal. Determine in advance how much you can drink per occasion or week. 
  • Write down what and when you drink so you get better overview and control. Then your progress becomes clearer. 
  • Think about what situations or what kind of social interaction involves a risk of drinking too much.
  • Think about what alternatives you have to drinking alcohol at those times when it can be tempting. Have a plan, be prepared. Can you choose another drink? Find other solutions?
  • Get help from your loved ones. Say you want to drink less, or not at all, and would appreciate their help with this.

Different things work different for different people.

Seek treatment

You can get treatment to change your alcohol habits. Contact one of the following for assistance:

  • a medical center
  • an addiction reception
  • social
  • non-profit organizations , such as Al-anon and Alateen or Alcoholics Anonymous
  • occupational health care if you have a job.

You can  seek care at any health care center or reception you want  throughout the country.

All health clinics have privacy, but if you want to be completely anonymous you can contact the national  Alcohol Line .

Read more about where you can get help against alcohol addiction .

Different types of treatment

If you want professional help to change your alcohol habits, there are many options. You can choose medication or psychological treatment, both considered equally effective. You can also combine different treatments. If you do not succeed in one treatment, you can try another. Examples of effective psychological treatments are

  • motivating conversation
  • cognitive behavioral therapy, KBT
  • twelve-step treatment .

Motivating conversation

For motivational calls you get help from a therapist. The therapist helps you clarify for yourself what motives you have for or against a change in your alcohol habits. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, KBT

KBT is about being able to change your thoughts and behaviors, and to solve the problems that can arise when you make changes.

Twelve Step Program

The twelve-step program is based on the  philosophy of  Anonymous Alcoholics . It contains twelve actions that can help you change your life and live soberly.

Self-help groups

Sharing experiences with others who are, or have been in the same situation as you, is something most people find helpful. Self-help groups are found in most municipalities in Sweden and meetings are often arranged several times a week.

Drugs for alcohol dependence

It is common to combine psychological treatment with

  • drugs for alcohol dependence
  • B vitamins. 

There are drugs that make you feel bad when drinking alcohol. Other drugs reduce the craving for alcohol or so dampen the positive effects of the alcohol. 

There is a serious form of vitamin B deficiency that you can get if you drink a lot of alcohol. Therefore, it is common to also receive medicines containing vitamin B.

In alcohol addiction, anxiety, sleep problems, anxiety or depression are also common. Sometimes, therefore, antidepressant medication is needed as a supplement to other treatment. 

Read more about drugs for alcohol dependence .

wITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS

When you stop drinking, you may feel withdrawal symptoms. You can become anxious, shaky, nauseous, sweaty and difficult to sleep. Withdrawal symptoms usually go on for a week.

If you have difficulty coping with the withdrawal problems, you can get help. There are drugs that can alleviate the problems and prevent serious withdrawal. It is especially important that you seek help if the trouble comes when you are reducing your drinking.

Although withdrawal problems can be troublesome, it is always better to stop drinking than to continue. You can also get help preventing new attacks.

Serious withdrawal can be life-threatening

When you have been drinking large amounts for a long time, the withdrawal problems can become more serious and even life-threatening. You may have seizures and become unconscious.

Delirium tremens

You can also get delirium tremens , a very serious complication of long-term alcohol dependence. Signs of delirium tremens are:

  • You get a fever.
  • The pulse becomes fast.
  • It feels unsafe when you walk. ‘You get shaking and sweating.
  • You experience confusion and hallucinations.
  • You get memory loss.
  • You experience vision problems.

When and where should I seek care?

If you have easier symptoms of abstinence, you can wait a week to seek care, as the problems usually go away by themselves.

Contact a health care center if you have difficulty coping with the withdrawal problems. You can contact many receptions by logging in . If you need a medicine, see a doctor. The healthcare staff can help you during the withdrawal period.

If it’s in a hurry

If you have symptoms of delirium tremens, contact a health care center or an on-call clinic immediately .

If it is closed at the health center or on-call reception, seek care at an emergency room.

Relapse

After a period of sobriety, you may drink too much again, perhaps several times. It’s called relapse. It can feel awkward and shameful. The important thing then is to quickly get back to the sober habits again. It is good to think about how the relapse went. Was there a risk situation you could have avoided? Learn from the relapse and thus avoid future risks.

How does alcohol addiction occur?

It is usually a combination of different things that lead to an addiction. 

How long and how much a person can drink is very different. Some can drink a lot for years without developing an addiction. For others, addiction can come after a short time, perhaps after only six months.

Increased risk

Having a close biological relative who has an alcohol addiction can increase your risk of becoming addicted yourself. 

Everyone is affected by alcohol in different ways. The better you feel about alcohol, the greater your risk of developing an addiction.

Some are not so affected by alcohol and do not feel very bad the day after. This property is often hereditary and increases the risk of alcohol dependence. 

What happens in the body?

Alcohol affects virtually all organs in the body. The brain  is affected by interfering with the signal transmission in the nerve cells. Alcohol stimulates the brain’s reward system. When you drink small amounts of alcohol, the stimulating effect is most noticeable.

complications

Alcohol dependence and drinking a lot can cause or exacerbate injuries and illnesses throughout the body. In addition, intoxication can cause you to suffer accidents or end up in difficult, dangerous or violent situations.  

Some of the diseases that can be caused or exacerbated by alcohol are

  • heart disease and high blood pressure
  • mental illness
  • skin diseases
  • cancer
  • liver diseases
  • diseases of the gastrointestinal tract
  • diseases of the pancreas
  • diseases of the muscles, joints and skeletons
  • nerve damage.

Four mental illnesses are particularly strongly linked to alcohol dependence. Those diseases are

  • delirium tremens
  • alkoholhallucinos
  • alcohol psychosis
  • alcoholic dementia.

Living with alcohol dependence

You can change your drinking and find your way back to a life where alcohol does not control. You may learn to control your drinking and reduce your consumption without completely quitting alcohol. 

It is common for those who have an alcohol addiction to choose to stop drinking altogether. It may be easier not to drink at all. 

For some, addiction becomes chronic. Then you will have recurring problems with alcohol, even if you are sober or drink controlled for periods. In the case of chronic alcohol dependence, it is important to have long-term treatment, to be able to return to the same therapist during difficult periods.

Pregnancy and alcohol dependence

If you are pregnant and drinking, alcohol goes over to the fetus. It is unknown how much alcohol a fetus can handle without sustaining injuries. The safest thing for the baby is that you completely abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. 

If you have an alcohol addiction and become pregnant, it is important that you stop drinking. 

Advice to related parties

The life situation is also affected for those who are close to a person who has an alcohol addiction. Often the change happens slowly and then it can be difficult to see what is happening.

It can be hard to see how someone close to you develops an addiction. You can feel frustration and guilt over the situation.

It is common for close associates to take on a great deal of responsibility. You may be trying to facilitate the life of the alcohol addict or trying to hide the problem. Remember that anyone with an alcohol addiction is responsible for seeking help to change their behavior. You can support, but never take responsibility for, the alcohol addict’s life. You and your relatives may also need support and assistance . You as a relative can also contact the Alcohol line .

Affect and participate in care

According to the Patient Act, you should be able to participate and decide on your care. In order to be involved in the care and treatment, it is important that  you understand the information you receive  from the healthcare staff. Ask questions if you don’t understand. You can also ask for information printed so that you can read it peacefully. You have the opportunity to  get help from an interpreter  if you do not speak Swedish. You also have the opportunity to get help from an interpreter if you have a hearing impairment If you have a hearing impairment you may  have the right to get interpreting assistance .

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