Alcohol addiction

Many adults drink alcohol socially in moderate amounts and enjoy doing so. However, sometimes people can drink more than the recommended amounts and this can affect both their physical and mental wellbeing.

Alcohol addiction is a dependence on drinking which can often lead to drinking more than the recommended limits of alcohol. A person who is addicted to alcohol will find it difficult to control their alcohol intake and will often continue to drink even when alcohol has a damaging effect on their body or their mental wellbeing.


When a person is addicted to alcohol they have a strong compulsion to drink, they have less ability to control how much and how often they drink, they organise their life around drinking and they may drink shortly after waking up because it can reduce the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Short-term effects of alcohol use can include:

  • slurred speech
  • loss of coordination
  • impaired judgement
  • poor attention span
  • unsteadiness (when standing or walking)
  • loss of inhibition
  • sleep

Long-term symptoms of alcohol addiction can include:

  • cirrhosis (damage) of the liver which can lead to liver failure or liver cancer and death
  • impotence
  • numbness of feet and hands
  • loss of balance
  • tremor (shaking)
  • blindness
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • increased risk of heart attack or stroke
  • damage to the brain which can lead to anxiety, depression, confusion and dementia


How alcohol misuse is treated will depend on how much a person is drinking. Treatment can include:

  • detoxification: drinking less alcohol or stopping completely (this may take place in a clinic if you are dependent on alcohol)
  • counselling: self-help groups and talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • medication: which can help reduce the cravings for alcohol

Advice and support

If you are concerned about your drinking, or someone else's, a good first step is to visit your GP. They will be able to discuss the services and treatments available.

There's more about support services on this NHS Choices link.

Find out more about addiction in this short film:

Website Design by ConsultSMB