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About alcohol

Alcohol dependence

While there does not appear to be a single cause of alcohol dependence, personality, environment and the addictive nature of alcohol contribute to the development of the illness. It is also thought that genetic factors probably play a part in causing dependence, and any person can become alcoholic if he drinks heavily for a prolonged period. Some symptoms can appear over a period of weeks and months, but alcohol dependency usually occurs over a period of years, sometimes decades. Symptoms fall into two categories which can include any combination of the following:

Physical symptoms

  • Bad breath
  • Confusion
  • Hangovers and headaches
  • Flushed appearance or redness in the face
  • Forgetfulness and memory lapses
  • Incontinence (pissing or shitting yourself)
  • Nausea
  • Shaking in the morning
  • Stomach or tummy cramps
  • Unsteadiness
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness, numbness or tingling in the legs and hands
  • Severe shakes, hallucinations, and convulsions may occur after the sudden withdrawal of alcohol which can be life threatening.

Behavioural symptoms

  • Secretive drinking, eg: at work
  • Aggressive, dramatic, or grandiose behaviour
  • Personality changes such as irritability, jealousy, uncontrolled anger, and/ or selfishness
  • Lying to yourself and others about giving up
  • Changes in drinking pattern, eg: changing from evening to early morning drinking, or changing from beers to spirits
  • Neglecting food and nutrition
  • Neglecting personal appearance
  • Long periods of drunkenness
  • Frequent changes of job

Unfortunately, most men who drink too much are either unaware that they have a problem or refuse to admit it. If you or someone close to you is drinking in excess, contact the family doctor or a helpline for advice. It is worth trying to reason with the person when he’s sober.

In severe cases it may be necessary to admit an alcoholic to hospital for a period of detoxification with medication prescribed to control the withdrawal symptoms. Even then, long-term treatment to prevent a return to previous drinking habits is invariably required and can include behavioural therapy and psychotherapy. Occasionally the drug known as Disulfiram is prescribed, which induces unpleasant side-effects when alcohol is taken.

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