Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

If you drink a lot of alcohol, you might become dependent on it

If you drink a lot of alcohol, you might become dependent on it
beginning of content

Alcoholism at home

4-minute read

Alcohol is used more than any other addictive drug in Australia. If you suspect that you drink too much, or someone you live with might have a problem, then it might be helpful to know the warning signs and where to find help.

What is alcoholism?

If you drink a lot of alcohol, you might become dependent on it to make you feel good. Your drinking behaviour could tip over into alcoholism, a type of substance abuse.

The signs of alcoholism

You or someone you know might be drinking too much if they:

  • have a strong urge to drink
  • cannot control how much they drink
  • feel physical effects like nausea, sweating, shakiness and anxiety if they stop after a period of heavy drinking
  • need to drink more over time to get the same good feeling
  • drink while alone, or hide alcohol from members of the household
  • struggle with work, education or relationships for no obvious reason
  • lie about how much they drink
  • drink early in the day or are anxious about when they will be able to drink
  • forget what they said or did while they were drinking

Effects of alcoholism

If you drink too much alcohol, you are at increased risk of illnesses such as heart disease and liver disease, cancer, diabetes and damage to the brain.

It can also have a bad effect on those around you as it is a key player in car accidents, family violence and crime.

Are you at risk?

Find out if you're at risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes or kidney disease using our Risk Checker.

Although it seems to make you feel good, alcohol can increase the risk of depression and anxiety and also can make these worse if they are already present.

If you are a family member or friend living with an alcoholic you are likely to feel upset, angry, anxious, guilty, stressed, disappointed and helpless at various times.

If you are a carer, carers associations in your state or territory can provide counselling and help to organise respite care. Visit the Carer Gateway website or call 1800 422 737 (Monday-Friday, 8am-6pm) for more information.

Treatment for alcoholism

The most important starting point for treatment is to talk to your doctor about how to control your alcohol consumption. You can search for a doctor in your region here.

Treatment options depend on the strength of alcohol dependence. For low level dependence, your doctor might discuss the problem with you and suggest changes you can make or recommend counselling.

Stronger dependence will need different treatments to manage the effects of alcohol withdrawal. The treatments might include:

Preventing alcoholism and harm

Becoming familiar with the Australian guidelines for low-risk drinking habits can help guard against alcoholism. If you have children, you should talk to them about drugs, alcohol and mental health, including binge drinking.

Being a good role model can also help.

ReachOut.com has information about addiction and mental health for teenagers.

 

More information

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: March 2018


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Signs you might have a drinking problem | Alcohol | ReachOut Australia

Worried that you might have a drinking problem? Read about the warning signs and symptoms of alcohol dependence that suggest you could have a drinking problem at ReachOut.com.

Read more on ReachOut.com website

Alcohol - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Alcohol is a depressant drug, which means it slows down the messages traveling between the brain and the body.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

Ageing with alcohol - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Alcohol use at the older end of the life span receives little attention, and we have limited information on the factors that influence alcohol consumption in older people.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

Alcohol addiction | ReachOut Australia

Alcohol addiction or alcoholism refers to the physical or emotional dependence on alcohol. Find out the signs of alcohol addiction, the effects and treatment here.

Read more on ReachOut.com website

Alcohol - Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre

Read more on Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet website

Alcoholism - Lab Tests Online AU

Site map of article content

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Home detox supporting patients toovercome alcohol addiction - NPS MedicineWise

Alcohol is the most dangerous addictive drug in the world and kills 15 Australians every day

Read more on Australian Prescriber website

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) describes a range of physical, cognitive, developmental and emotional deficits attributable to alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

Preventing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

There is a clear causal link between heavy consumption of alcohol and FASD. However, the link between low-level alcohol exposure and the risk of harm to children developing in the womb is yet to be properly understood. This uncertainty has led to mixed messages and some confusion.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

Your Room | NSW Health and the Alcohol And Drug Information Service

A joint initiative by NSW Health and St Vincent's Alcohol and Drug Information Service to get facts about alcohol and other drugs.

Read more on Department of Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo