Alcohol: how to know if you have a problem

Alcohol addiction

According to recent statistics released by Public Health England, a staggering 589,101 adults across England are dependent on alcohol and in need of specialist treatment, yet only 1 in 5 of those are getting the help they need through Government-funded services.

Experts believe that alcohol abuse is so intrinsically woven into British culture that it can be difficult to recognise the 5 main signs of dependency and the 5 stages of alcoholism.

You could be alcohol-dependent if you:

  • Need more alcohol than normal to feel ‘drunk’- this indicates an increased physical tolerance in the body

  • Notice blood vessels on your skin, looking like tiny red spider-webs. These are called spider angiomas

  • Develop a continuous reddening of the face, especially the nose

  • Lose or increase your appetite leading to noticeable weight loss or gain

  • Feel clammy and sweaty without reason

Experts at UKAT, UK Addiction Treatment Centres, believe that alcoholism develops over 5 stages.

Stage 1 - Binge drinking

If you enjoy the taste or the way alcohol makes you feel, you might choose to drink again, but at this stage, you can still exert control over your drinking, even if you do choose to drink more than the recommended weekly amount.

Stage 2 - Alcohol abuse

Your use of alcohol is more frequent and more than the recommended amount. You might be drinking for non-social reasons; to feel better, different, confident or relaxed. In this stage you are developing an emotional attachment to alcohol.

Stage 3 - Problem drinking and denial

You have now developed a problem with alcohol and drinking will be habitual. It may be starting to impact your life, mood and sleeping patterns. At this stage, denial can take over and you will convince yourself that you simply enjoy alcohol and that it is making your life better, not worse.

Stage 4 - Physical dependence

You now require more alcohol than normal to feel ‘drunk’ because your tolerance has increased. This increased consumption of alcohol causes your body to get used to its presence, and when you aren’t at full consumption, you experience physical withdrawal symptoms like rapid heartbeat, tremors, sickness, shaking and sweating.

Stage 5- Addiction

You are now drinking because you have a physical and psychological need to do so, not for pleasure or because you want to. You will crave alcohol and it will prevent you from enjoying life. It will have a negative impact on your relationship with family, friends, work colleagues as well as on your health and finances. You will be compelled to drink because you have lost the power of choice.

What's vital is that if you believe that either yourself or a loved one is currently in stage 3 or further, you should seek professional help and support.

Visiting your GP is always a good place to start your journey to recovery from alcohol addiction.

If you’d like further information on alcohol addiction, you can visit