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Signs of alcohol dependence

There are ways to tell if you're dependent on alcohol

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health

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If you find that you’re no longer able to relax or enjoy yourself without a drink, or you tend to start drinking when you’re feeling anxious or low, then you may have a dependence on alcohol.

What is alcohol dependence?

Alcohol dependence is another way of saying someone has an addiction to alcohol, also referred to as alcoholism. Some people may enjoy having a drink, but for others, they feel that they need to drink. If you have a dependence on alcohol, you’re no longer in full control of your drinking.

There can be varying degrees of alcohol dependence, and it doesn’t always mean drinking excessively in every sitting. For some, it might just mean having a few drinks every evening to unwind and not feeling like you can fully relax without it, or going for a few pints after work most nights a week.

Signs of alcohol dependence

There are a number of physical and psychological signs that you may be dependent on alcohol.

Physical Signs

  • Tolerance: if you need to drink more alcohol to have the same effect than you used to, this means you’ve built up a tolerance to alcohol. The more your tolerance goes up, the more alcohol you’ll need to drink to get the same effect.
  • You have a physical craving for alcohol
  • You experience withdrawal symptoms when you don't drink, such as shaky hands, sweating, feeling nervous or nauseous
  • You can’t go to sleep unless you have a drink

Psychological Signs

  • You feel like you can’t relax without alcohol
  • You can’t have fun unless you’re drinking
  • You have a compulsive need to drink, and you can’t stop once you’ve started
  • You use alcohol when you’re feeling nervous or anxious
  • You drink when you’re feeling low
  • You want to stop drinking, but you feel that you can’t
  • You drink when you feel overwhelmed or you’re faced with negative thoughts
  • You use alcohol as a way of coping
  • You’re always planning your next drink, and all of your social events revolve aorund alcohol

How does alcohol dependence happen?

There are a number of reasons why a person might become dependent on alcohol

Family attitude and genetics

Sometimes alcohol dependence can run in the family and it can be down to genetics. This doesn’t mean you’ll definitely become dependent on alcohol, but it does make it more likely.

Your family’s attitude towards alcohol, or the environment that you grew up in, can make it more likely that you will become dependent later in life.

The age you start drinking

Starting to drink at a young age puts you at a higher risk of becoming dependent on alcohol.

Using alcohol as a coping mechanism

Using alcohol as a way to cope with mental health issues like anxiety and depression can result in alcohol dependence.

This can begin by starting to drink following a tough period in life like losing a job or a loved one, and continuing to drink heavily.

Preventing alcohol dependence

The best way to prevent alcohol dependence is to take regular breaks from drinking to prevent your body from building up a tolerance to alcohol, and always drink in moderation. Try not to turn to alcohol if things are getting tough. Reach out and talk to someone instead so you can get the help you need.

Getting help for alcohol dependence

If you think you or someone you care about might have a dependence on alcohol, there are a number of places you can turn to for help.

Learn more about support services for alcohol dependency.

Find out more at

Feeling overwhelmed or want to talk to someone right now?

If you are a customer of the 48 or An Post network or cannot get through using the ‘50808’ short code please text HELLO to 086 1800 280 (standard message rates may apply). Some smaller networks do not support short codes like ‘50808’.

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Published Octo­ber 13th2017
Tags alcohol drugs mental health
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