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People with substance use disorders usually struggle with both physical and psychological addiction symptoms. Physical dependence produces uncomfortable and painful body sensations without the substance. Psychological dependence is the emotional and motivational factors that play into the mental desire to use drugs or alcohol. Though there are differences between physical and psychological dependence, they are intertwined and feed off each other. This is one reason why it’s so difficult for people with substance use disorders to quit using drugs or alcohol. If a person continues the pattern of drinking heavily to reach a familiar level, eventually, they will begin to not feel ‘normal’ without some alcohol. This is known as a psychological addiction because the act of drinking alcohol becomes habitual and they need it in order to feel good or like their normal selves.

physical dependence of alcohol

Chronic, heavy alcohol use also wreaks havoc on the brain’s reward system, which can alter the way the brain perceives pleasure and limit a person’s ability to control his or her behavior. Over time, these changes, along with the effects of tolerance and withdrawal, can create a vicious cycle of dependence that keeps the person hooked on alcohol.


This steady increase in what is consumed can lead to abuse and addiction. The best way to prevent AWS is to avoid regular heavy drinking. If you already have alcohol use disorder, it’s important to seek counseling and medical care as soon as possible. The goal is to safely and gradually decrease your dependence on alcohol so that you can resume your daily life.

physical dependence of alcohol

But even if you’re able to succeed at work or hold your marriage together, you can’t escape the effects that alcoholism and alcohol abuse have on your personal relationships. Drinking problems put an enormous strain on the people closest to you.

What Makes Alcohol Addictive?

If you’re a binge drinker or you drink every day, the risks of developing alcoholism are greater. When people use the term “dependence,” they are usually referring to a physical dependence on a substance.

physical dependence of alcohol

Repeated use of alcohol interferes with your responsibilities at work, home, or school. You have blackouts and memory lapses after drinking too much. You have a drink in the morning to get yourself going after drinking too much the night before. You are Sober living houses unable to perform at work or home when you are drinking. You have more than 7 drinks per week or more than 3 drinks per occasion . Britannica Explains In these videos, Britannica explains a variety of topics and answers frequently asked questions.

By keeping you from looking honestly at your behavior and its negative effects, denial also exacerbates alcohol-related problems with work, finances, and relationships. Substance abuse experts make a distinction between alcohol abuse and alcoholism . Unlike alcoholics, alcohol abusers have some ability to set limits on their drinking. However, their alcohol use is still self-destructive and dangerous to themselves or others.

When you drink heavily, your body gets used to the alcohol and experiences withdrawal symptoms if it’s taken away. It’s not always easy to tell when your alcohol intake has crossed the line from moderate or social drinking to problem drinking. Drinking is so common in many cultures and the effects vary so widely from person to person, it can be hard to figure out if or when your alcohol intake has become a problem. However, if you consume alcohol to cope with difficulties or to avoid feeling bad, you’re in potentially dangerous territory.

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If your home environment is not supportive for staying sober, talk with your doctor. Your doctor may be able to connect you with shelter programs for people recovering from alcohol addiction. Binge drinking is the most common form of heavy drinking. For women, it’s defined as four or more drinks in one sitting. For men, it’s defined as five or more drinks in one sitting. Excessive drinking excites and irritates the nervous system.

physical dependence of alcohol

Some medications interact with alcohol, increasing its toxic effects. Drinking while taking these medications can either increase or decrease their effectiveness, or make them dangerous. Get cost-effective, quality addiction care that truly works.


The concept of inveterate drunkenness as a disease appears to be rooted in antiquity. The Roman philosopher Seneca classified it as a form of insanity. The term alcoholism, however, appeared first in the classical essay “Alcoholismus Chronicus” by the Swedish physician Magnus Huss. If you find it hard to focus on anything other than the next drink, reevaluate your relationship with alcohol.

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No one sets out to become an alcoholic, but regular, heavy drinking can result in alcohol dependence and alcoholism. You will also find information on spotting the signs and symptoms of substance use and hotlines for immediate assistance. Alcohol abuse can have harrowing and hazardous side effects physiological dependence on alcohol at every phase; however, each stage of alcohol abuse is treatable. Even if certain chronic conditions cannot be reversed, abstinence can help to better manage them. Achieving sobriety is always a win for a person’s health and wellbeing whether treatment occurs in the early, middle, or end stage.

Alcohol Use Disorder

Integrated treatment methods are customized to each patient’s particular needs. Many positive results have been attributed to the treatment strategy. When a patient is struggling with issues relating to both a mental health condition and an alcohol addiction, medical attention for both cases must be received at the same time. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, we can help. There will come the point where, because of the alcohol consumption a person engages in, the body will build a tolerance to alcohol. Just as is the case with certain medications, your body gets used to have alcohol in its system. As this tolerance grows and builds, the body requires more and more alcohol to get the desired euphoric effects.

As a voluntary facility, we’re here to help you heal — on your terms. Our sole focus is getting you back to the healthy, sober life you deserve, and we are ready and waiting to answer your questions or concerns 24/7. We know the struggle, which is why we’re uniquely qualified to help. If you’re otherwise healthy and can stop drinking and get treatment, the outlook is usually good. However, sleep disturbances, irritability, and fatigue may continue for months. People who have an addiction to alcohol or who drink heavily on a regular basis and are not able to gradually cut down are at high risk of AWS. Excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure and increases your risk of an enlarged heart, heart failure or stroke.

Many mental health problems make it more difficult for people to avoid drinking, whether for one night or for an extended period of time. Addiction to alcohol and other risky drinking habits, such as binge drinking, are more likely as a result of this. On the other hand, alcohol exacerbates the effects of many mental health disorders, brings them on earlier and more often, and prolongs their length. There is some evidence that alcohol addiction can cause some mental health problems, especially depression, but these findings are debatable.

physical dependence of alcohol

Some risk factors have to do with a person’s environment, such as peer pressure or time spent in jail. Others are inherited through genetics, including a family risk of alcohol or drug addiction. When a person is physically dependent on alcohol, they need the substance in order to function. Over time, many people need increased amounts of alcohol in order to get the same reaction (called having a “tolerance”). People may begin to have intense cravings or lose the ability to control how much they drink. Heavy or frequent alcohol use can result in physical dependence. When this happens, a person’s body requires the drug in order to function properly.

In the UK the NHS estimates that around 9% of men and 4% of UK women show signs of alcohol dependence. Alcohol abuse, also called alcohol misuse is a serious problem. You may be suffering from alcohol abuse if you drink too much alcohol at one time or too often throughout the week. It also is a problem if you can’t stop drinking and it harms your relationships.

In this case, addiction is demonstrated as both a mental, or psychological, and chemical, or physical, affect in the brain, thus providing evidence that addiction is both psychological and physical. Your call is confidential, and there’s no pressure to commit to treatment until you’re ready.

Misuse of alcohol is the deliberate, excessive, and harmful drinking on special occasions, for the purpose of celebration. This category includes binge drinkers who drink heavily at social gatherings. Such drinkers are open to risks of having an accident or getting into a brawl or argument, and they are also likely to become alcohol addicts when their indulgence crosses the limit. Blood tests can only reveal very recent alcohol consumption. They cannot tell whether a person has been drinking heavily for a long time.