Recognizing an alcohol addict

You would think that it should be easy to recognize an alcohol addiction or at least recognize an alcohol addict. Not so. Firstly, alcohol addicts often hide their addiction from those around them for a long time. Second, when exactly are you an alcohol addict? Is that when you drink 3 beers a day? Or do you really have to systematically get rid of a crate every day?

Development of alcohol addiction

There seems to be a certain, typical developmental pattern in becoming an alcohol addict. This pattern extends across a continuum with the non-user on one end and the alcohol addict on the other. According to this model, there are different phases in (problem) drinking :

  1. Non-user
  2. Experimental user
  3. Social user
  4. Habitual user
  5. Compulsive user


1. Non-user

The name says it all: the non-user does not consume alcohol .

2. The experimental user

The experimental alcohol user consumes his or her first drink. This can be secretly during a break at school, under the influence of friends, or at home with the parents. The experimental user generally feels an excited mood when drinking.

3. The social user

The social user or companion drinker drinks some alcohol occasionally, but not on a structural basis . For example, people have a glass of wine with dinner, have a few beers on the weekend or have a mixed drink at a birthday party. In general, people drink a maximum of 2 to 4 alcoholic drinks per week .

4. The habitual user

The habitual user is someone who consumes alcohol virtually, usually in a group of friends or colleagues. People have not yet lost control , but they are already experiencing some resistance from family and friends. The partner often describes the habitual drinker as impulsive, depressed and short-tempered.

5. The compulsive user

The compulsive user can literally and figuratively no longer live without the drink. People no longer have control over alcohol consumption and drink several times a day. The person’s day mainly revolves around maintaining and obtaining alcoholics .

Alcohol dependence and recognizing an alcohol addict

Alcohol dependence refers to an inappropriate pattern of alcohol use that persists for at least 12 months. The dependence has symptoms such as tolerance, withdrawal symptoms and psychological dependence.


Tolerance means that you need more and more alcohol to create the same effect. This is because your body will arm itself against the ingestion of alcohol and protect itself , which increases the threshold for feeling an effect.

Withdrawal symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms are the symptoms you experience when you cannot consume alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms may include irritability, tremors, nausea, vomiting, faster heart rate and a feeling of being rushed.

Psychological dependence

People who are psychologically dependent on alcohol have difficulty continuing with daily activities without consuming alcohol. People feel vulnerable, dependent and insecure when they have not been drinking.


Also visit my Solving Alcohol Problem special for more information.

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