IT'S often been said that the UK is a nation of boozers.
And, Brits took third spot among the world's most prolific binge drinkers, in a recent survey.
But there is a point after which a few drinks after work or a night out becomes harmful to your health, especially if you begin to become dependent on alcohol.
Alcoholism – medically known as alcohol addiction, misuse or dependence -is characterised by the strong, often uncomfortable urge to drink, despite suffering negative consequences from the habit.
These could be negative effects on your health, according to alcohol support charity Drinkaware, or you could experience ramificationsto your personal, social and work relationships.
There isn't a one size fits all definition of what an alcoholic is and how someone suffering with an addiction to booze behaves.
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In fact, according to the US-based Desert Hope Treatment Center, alcoholism is a complex disease and there are five different types of alcoholics.
1. Chronic severe alcoholic
According to the addiction treatment centre, people who are chronic severe alcoholics "are generally middle-aged men who started drinking young" and have problems .
This subtype is "likely what people think of when they think of alcohol addiction", experts from the Desert Hope Treatment Center said.
"People battling chronic severe alcoholism likely have difficulties functioning in everyday life, are often unable to hold down jobs, may lose their homes and families, suffer from multiple health issues, and have many behavioural, interpersonal, and social issues related to alcohol abuse."
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They might also have a family history of alcohol abuse and at the same time be suffering problems with their mental health, such as depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder and abuse of other substances.
2. Functioning alcoholic
It's also possible to be addicted to alcohol while keeping up appearances that your life is in order and not suffering the same overt consequences as the above subtype.
A functioning alcoholic someone who is dependent on alcohol but is still able to function relatively effectively in their daily life.
They can hold down a job, play a role within a family and to most people, appear to be coping.
But there are a few red flags that they may have a growing problem with alcohol, including:
- having cravings for alcohol
- drinking instead of eating
- displaying uncharacteristic actions and behaviours while drinking
- suffering blackouts
- becoming unable to control the frequency and duration of drinking episodes
- having a doctor tell them to stop or cut back on drinking
- spending an exorbitant amount of money at bars or liquor stores
- hiding bottles of alcohol in the car, around the house, or at the office
- doing few activities that don’t involve alcohol or sneaking alcohol into them
3. Young adult alcoholic
Young adult alcoholics are people who are around the age of 24 who have battling alcohol addiction since the age of 20.
"This subtype may not drink as often as the other subtypes of alcoholics; however, when they do drink, they consume alcohol in a binge pattern," Desert Hope experts said.
The NHS defines binge drinking as "drinking heavily over a short space of time", though you can also think about it as ‘drinking to get drunk’.
The practice can be dangerous, putting you at risk of accidents, alcohol poisoning and other short- and long-term health issues.
Drinkaware says drinking more than eight units of alcohol in a single session is a binge for men, while for women that's six.
Young bingers rarely have a family history of addiction and don’t usually suffer from mental health issues at the same time, Desert Hope experts said – they also rarely seek help for alcohol abuse.
4. Young antisocial alcoholic
These individuals are typically in their mid-20s and might have begun struggling with addiction earlier than other alcoholism types.
"About half have a family history of alcoholism, and about three-quarters also smoke cigarettes and abuse marijuana," Desert Hope experts said.
They also claimed that half of young antisocial alcoholics also suffer from antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), which regularly co-occurs with alcohol abuse and addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
ASPD is characterised by impulsive, irresponsible and often criminal behaviour, NHS guidance states.
Someone with antisocial personality disorder will typically be manipulative, deceitful and reckless, and will not care for other people's feelings, it added.
5. Intermediate family alcoholic
While they often begin drinking when nearing young adulthood, intermediate familial alcoholics typically won’t struggle with alcohol-related issues until their mid-30s.
They often have a familial link to alcoholism.
3 RED FLAGS YOU MUST NOT IGNORE
It can sometimes be tricky to know you're addicted to alcohol.
According to Drinkaware, doctors will often look out for three keys signs.
One is that you have impaired control over alcohol use. This means you might not be able to control how long a drinking session is, how much booze you down and how frequently you drink.
You might also be unable to stop drinking once you start or drink at inappropriate occasions or places.
Giving increased priority to booze is a second red flag.
This means you might give precedence to drinking over other daily activities and responsibilities.
It might also mean that drinking is more important to you than looking after your health, or you carry on drinking despite negative consequences for your health or life.
Finally, experiencing unwanted affects on your physical or mental health from drinking is a key sign you might be suffering from alcohol addiction.
For example, you might notice you need to drink more to feel the effects of alcohol or you're experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
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You might also catch yourself sneaking a drink to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Adele recently revealed she was a 'borderline alcoholic' for a lot of her twenties.
How to cut back on drinking
If you’re concerned about your drinking, a good first step is to see a GP
They'll be able to give advice and support on how to manage your drinking habits and cut back safely.
This might involve counselling, medicines or detox services.
There are many charities and support groups you can join or speak to, as well as helplines:
- Drinkline national alcohol helpline on 0300 123 1110
- Alcohol Change UK
- Alcoholics Anonymous helpline on 0800 9177 650
- Al-Anon Family Groups helpline on 0800 0086 811
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