Alcohol Rehab Cape Town

Alcohol Addiction and Treatment

Alcohol dependency/Alcoholism – what does it mean?

You are likely to be reading this because you or a loved one appears to be abusing alcohol in some way. You may be wondering whether you or the person you love is an alcoholic.

Alcoholism is not the behaviour of someone who is weak willed or bad in some way. It is a primary disease that has both chemical (alcohol effects the brain in a different way to non-alcoholics) and biological factors (a tendency towards alcoholism can be genetically inherited). It is progressive (it gets worse over time), chronic (it will not go away by itself) and fatal (it causes premature death).

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th edition), alcoholism is diagnosed if at least three out of seven of the following criteria manifest themselves during a 12 month period:

  • Tolerance. This means that there is a need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication, or that there is a markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol. “Nowadays one drink does not even touch sides.”
  • Withdrawal. This means that characteristic withdrawal syndrome takes place following drinking, and/or a closely related substance (e.g. a pain killer) is taken to relieve withdrawal symptoms. “I always start my day with pain killers to kill my hangover.”
  • Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended. “I try and just buy a six pack on the way home but I usually go back and buy more.”
  • There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down, or control alcohol use. “I always promise myself that I will stop after 2 or 3 glasses but it never happens.”
  • A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the alcohol, use alcohol or recover from its effects. “The whole weekend is about getting the booze, drinking and sleeping it off.”
  • Important social, occupational, or recreation activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use. “I have stopped playing soccer and hardly go out.”
  • The alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is exacerbated by the substance. “I know that I get more depressed when I drink but I don’t seem to be able to stop.”

An alcoholic cannot just stop drinking on their own using will power or by being prevented access to alcohol by family or friends. The obsession and compulsion to drink is so strong that nothing will stand in the alcoholic’s way to have that drink. Family life, friends, jobs, finances, spiritual beliefs, health and well-being will continue to be put aside until the point that the alcoholic is willing to accept that they have a problem and seeks help.

Denial is the best friend of an alcoholic. Denial prevents you or your loved one from facing the reality of having to stop drinking. Denial will tell you that:

  • “Everyone drinks”
  • “I only drink in the evening”
  • “I need alcohol to deal with my stress, to relax, to feel better”
  • “I can give up if I want to”
  • “I can stop if I want to”
  • “I have stopped before”
  • “The alcohol is not the problem, the problem is my spouse, my job, my finances”

Family members can unwittingly add to the denial due to their own difficulty in accepting that their loved one has a problem.

  • “She only drinks at home”
  • “He only drinks when he is out”
  • “He doesn’t become aggressive”
  • “It helps her to sleep”
  • “I drink too”
  • “It’s better than drugs”
  • “If I make him stop drinking I will lose him”

The reason that Alcoholics Anonymous is so successful in supporting recovery from alcoholism is because it creates a forum where the alcoholic can continually be reminded of their own denial, and commit to sobriety on a daily basis.

Treatment for alcoholism provides you and your family the opportunity for sobriety to be put in place, and then for a wide range of coping mechanisms and tools to be integrated into your life to assist with maintaining abstinence. Recovery from alcoholism is sobriety alongside healthy changes in ways of thinking and behaving, as well as healthy management of feelings including depression, stress and anxiety.


How do you know if you have a problem and need treatment?

  • Do other people ever criticize your drinking, or have you been annoyed by it?
  • Do you ever feel bad or guilty about your drinking?
  • Do you feel that you should cut down on your drinking?
  • Do you ever do things while you are using alcohol that you regret or that made you feel ashamed?
  • Do you ever use alcohol or drugs first thing in the morning to feel better, or to get rid of a hangover?
  • Do you ever use alcohol in larger quantities than you intended?
  • Do you ever use alcohol more often than you intended?
  • Have you ever tried to cut down or control your use but found that you are not able to?
  • Do you spend a lot of time getting ready to use alcohol, using, or recovering from using alcohol?
  • Have you ever failed to meet a major life responsibility because you were intoxicated, hung over, or in withdrawal?
  • Have you given up any work, social, or recreational activities because of alcohol use?
  • Have you ever continued to use alcohol even though you know that it is causing physical, psychological, or social problems, or making those problems worse?
  • Has your tolerance (your ability to use a lot of alcohol without feeling intoxicated) increased since you first started drinking?
  • Do you ever get physically uncomfortable or sick the day after using alcohol?
  • Have you lied about how much you have drunk to family, friends or co-workers?
  • Do you hide your alcohol or drink secretly?

If you answer YES to three of more of the above questions you are advised to contact us regarding treatment options. Read about our Addiction recovery programme.

If you or someone you love needs help, please contact us for information and assistance.  We are a designated medical aid service provider.

Call: +27 21 761 7348