Alcohol problems, Clean & Sober - Clean & Sober

Alcohol problems, Clean & Sober


  • Alcohol problems span different degrees of problems that one can have with the use of alcohol
  • Alcohol dependence is a condition where you no longer feel that you have control over your alcohol consumption. This means that you have become accustomed to a large consumption of alcohol and that you get very unpleasant symptoms if you try to stop drinking
  • Alcohol addiction can lead to many different illnesses, both physical and mental, and this has serious social consequences
  • Alcohol addiction is an expression of a neurobiological disease with changes in the brain's signaling substances developed due to alcohol consumption in interaction with hereditary factors


What is an alcohol problem?

Alcohol problems can have varying degrees of severity.

A large consumption of alcohol (heavy consumption)

i.e. a consumption of more than 10 items per week
can lead to more than 200 physical and mental illnesses and is often called risky consumption
Harmful consumption is:

an alcohol consumption that is so great that it has resulted in an alcohol-related injury
It could be, for example, drink driving or health problems
When you are addicted to alcohol

you have no more control over your consumption of alcohol
involves, among other things, unpleasant and, in the worst case, life-threatening symptoms (withdrawal) when you try to stop drinking
affects relationships with one's family, friends and colleagues and leads to loneliness
Alcohol addiction has many social consequences, with the risk of losing a job, getting divorced and leading to poor finances.

Most people can develop alcohol dependence if alcohol consumption is heavy and lasts for a long time.

How much and how long you have to drink before you become addicted varies from person to person. Heredity plays a role in how quickly you develop addiction and perhaps also in how severely addicted you become.

What characterizes a person with alcohol problems?

Alcohol dependence is characterized by:

  • Loss of control: Alcohol addicts typically cannot stop drinking again as soon as he/she has had a few drinks. How much alcohol is needed before one no longer has control over alcohol consumption (the so-called 'critical point') varies from person to person. People who are not addicted, on the other hand, may decide to consume a certain number of substances and limit themselves to this, or stop drinking on their own when they feel that the limit has been reached
  • The person gets used to alcohol, i.e. it takes more to induce the same effect or experience of alcohol in the blood, the more and the more frequently you drink alcohol. It is also called 'tolerance development'
  • You get withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop drinking. Such symptoms are seen, for example, in the morning when you wake up because you have not consumed alcohol during the night
  • "Repair urge": Many alcohol addicts need to drink alcohol in the morning due to withdrawal. Alcohol makes the body feel normal again. That the body only works "normally" after drinking alcohol is a very serious symptom
  • Constant focus on alcohol: The alcoholic is very aware of alcohol and of having alcohol available. It is both about preventing abstinence, but also about the fact that changes have been created in the brain so that it has become extra focused on alcohol
  • You drink even though you know it's wrong. The alcoholic drinks even though he knows full well that it is wrong and risky

What are the symptoms of alcohol addiction and what should you pay particular attention to?

If you have had at least 3 out of the following 6 symptoms within the past year, there are signs of addiction:

  • A strong urge ("craving") to drink
  • Decreased ability to control how much you drink (loss of control)
  • Withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking or drink again to eliminate or avoid withdrawal
  • It takes more and more alcohol to get drunk (tolerance)
  • Alcohol plays a bigger and bigger role in terms of prioritization and time consumption
  • Even though you know it is harmful, you continue to drink

How is the diagnosis made?

The doctor or alcohol therapist makes the diagnosis by asking thoroughly about the symptoms above. In addition, the doctor asks about alcohol-related diseases. They also ask if there are psychological and social damages.

Why do many people develop an alcohol problem?

Heavy consumption often starts as a bad habit, which over time can lead to alcohol damage (harmful consumption). Alcohol addiction develops because you get used to drinking in certain situations or in particular moods, and the brain's signaling substances get used to being under the influence of alcohol.

Since alcohol is a solvent and a toxin, the brain tries to correct the effects of alcohol. The brain thus prepares itself for alcohol to always be present, so that after a while it is experienced as 'abnormal' if alcohol is suddenly not present. This means that you get withdrawal symptoms and a strong craving for alcohol.

Is alcohol addiction contagious?

No, addiction is not contagious. But the use of alcohol is largely determined by the environment you live in and the expectations you have of alcohol. If you have a circle of friends where a lot of alcohol is drunk, and if alcohol has a central place in your perception of quality of life, you have an increased risk of getting harmed by alcohol and an increased risk of developing addiction. Easy access to alcohol also makes it easier to develop an addiction, and this means that, for example, certain occupations are more exposed than others.

If you drink a lot on a daily basis, it is also easy to drink even more if you feel stressed, depressed or similar for a period of time. A large daily consumption of alcohol is therefore risky, because it does not take long to develop addiction.

Is alcohol addiction hereditary?

Some people have an easier time developing addiction than others, and today it is known that more than half of the reasons for developing addiction are hereditary factors. A childhood and upbringing characterized by parental alcohol problems increases the risk of developing addiction in the children, and this applies regardless of whether you grow up in a rich or poor home.

How is the treatment?

What can I do myself, including possibly practical everyday advice?

The best thing you can do to prevent alcohol problems and addiction is to keep an eye on how much you drink, both on a daily basis and on special occasions.

If you drink below the recommended limit of 10 drinks per week, and if you also never drink 4 drinks or more on a single occasion, then the risk of developing addiction is small.

In general, it is wise never to drink more than 1-2 items on one occasion, and it is also wise not to drink alcohol daily.

So only drink alcohol on special occasions – and never drink more than a few items when you do drink.

Pay attention to the percentage of alcohol in what you consume:

Note that both wine and beer can fluctuate greatly in strength, and that you should drink smaller amounts if the alcohol percentage is high.

Drink water at the same time as you drink alcohol, so that you use the water to quench your thirst and only drink alcohol to enjoy the taste.

When should I seek help?

You must seek help if you do not feel that you can lower your consumption yourself, even if you decide to do so.

If family, friends or colleagues express concern about the way you drink, this is also a sign that you should cut back and perhaps seek help. If you wonder if you're drinking too much, you usually do too.

Concern about oneself is therefore also a good reason to cut back and to seek help.

What can the doctor or another practitioner do?

You must seek help if you do not feel that you can lower your consumption yourself, even if you decide to do so.

If family, friends or colleagues express concern about the way you drink, this is also a sign that you should cut back and perhaps seek help. If you wonder if you're drinking too much, you usually do too.

Concern about oneself is therefore also a good reason to cut back and to seek help.

What can the doctor or another practitioner do?

If you seek help at an early stage, when alcohol consumption is high but has not yet caused damage, the doctor or alcohol therapist will offer guidance on how you can reduce consumption. In some cases, medical treatment for a shorter or longer period can also be helpful, especially if you suffer a lot from cravings for alcohol.

If you have developed an alcohol addiction, treatment typically involves several steps:

  • Acute treatment of withdrawal
  • A long-term treatment that aims to reduce alcohol consumption in the future, or be completely abstinent from alcohol.

The acute treatment for withdrawal consists of medication that you are taken off of within a few weeks. The longer-term treatment typically takes place as an outpatient treatment course in an alcohol treatment institution, where you train yourself to find out when there is a danger of starting to drink again and how to tackle these situations.

You will also learn how to cope with cravings for alcohol, which often only last a few minutes before they wear off again, and you can get help to re-establish social contacts if you need it.

The long-term treatment will also focus on any psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety, if there is a need for it, and there will be an opportunity to involve the family in the treatment. The long-term treatment can also be supplemented with medical treatment if needed. This applies especially if the experience of craving for alcohol is strong.

Aid organizations such as AA and Blue Cross can provide help and offer a social network that can be useful in getting out of the alcohol problem.

What are the long-term effects and what can alcohol abuse lead to?

Social adverse effects

Many people with alcohol problems lose contact with friends, colleagues and family because a long-term alcohol problem erodes the social network. If the alcohol addiction is very severe, you can end up being lonely and isolated.

Alcohol dependence can also affect the ability to attend to one's work and lead to unemployment.

Diseases linked to alcohol

When you drink alcohol, the alcohol is distributed throughout the body's fluid, that is, in all organs, and the alcohol damages these to a greater or lesser degree. The liver, heart and brain are most at risk.

The liver will first respond to heavy alcohol consumption by growing, and you then get a so-called "fatty liver". It is usually a completely benign condition that disappears again when you stop drinking. A smaller proportion, however, risk getting an inflammatory condition in the liver - so-called "fatty liver inflammation" - which can lead to chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.

If the heavy consumption continues, more and more liver cells will perish, and you end up with more and more scar tissue in the liver. In the end, you get so-called cirrhosis, which goes beyond all the functions that the liver has. The symptoms of cirrhosis are not felt until late - when 90% or more of the liver has died. Therefore, it is important to stop drinking long before it has reached this point. If you stop drinking, the function of the liver will improve again, even in very advanced liver disease.

A large alcohol consumption also increases the risk of a number of cancers - especially in the upper part of the stomach and intestine, and the risk of breast cancer in women is increased even with a relatively small alcohol consumption. Heavy alcohol consumption can also cause high blood pressure.

The effects of alcohol on the brain are also many. The immediate effect on the brain is that you get a "slower" thinking and reflexes as well as poorer judgment because you are drunk. Long-term heavy alcohol consumption affects the brain's activity, so that one can talk about the development of actual damage to the brain, where the brain changes and permanently adapts to the presence of alcohol. This brain damage can make it extra difficult to stop drinking alcohol, and the brain damage contributes to experiencing a strong craving for alcohol. In some people, long-term heavy alcohol consumption leads to memory problems and dementia.

A large and continuous consumption of alcohol can also lead to the development of various psychological symptoms. The most frequent illnesses are depression, anxiety and difficulty sleeping, but other more serious mental illnesses are also related to heavy alcohol consumption.

If you have repeatedly experienced withdrawals in connection with stopping alcohol consumption, the withdrawals will get worse and worse each time and eventually develop into so-called delirium tremens. This is a serious condition that causes hallucinations and can be fatal if left untreated. If you experience withdrawal, it is therefore important to seek treatment as early as possible.

Advice for relatives of alcohol addicts

  • Don't take responsibility for the drinking. Set limits on what you want to get into
  • Take care of your own mental and physical health. Remember to do things that make you happy
  • Make sure you have a good social network. It is easy to get lonely as a relative of someone who is addicted to alcohol
  • Try to talk to your drinking relative in an even, non-judgmental way
  • Offer your help, - including help in seeking treatment
  • Seek advice from your doctor or from the alcohol treatment center.
  • It does not help to store the alcohol or pour it down the sink

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