What is alcohol addiction?

For some, alcohol is a normal and enjoyable part of many social occasions and celebrations. However, alcohol is addictive, and overuse or reliance can result in alcohol addiction or ‘alcoholism’.

Problem drinking can arise for a number of reasons, including a way of handling stress, anxiety or depression. It can also be triggered by large emotional life events, such as the loss of a loved one or losing a job. However, most suffers do not realise that the use of alcohol is compounding and exacerbating these symptoms.

Alcohol dependency and addiction can also run in families.

Alcohol abuse often results in damaging physical and psychological consequences; however, it can be understood and treated using a variety of approaches.

If you feel you may be suffering from an addiction to alcohol, you should make an appointment with your GP and get a referral to specialist services. The problem will often not go away without specialist support.

Signs and symptoms of an alcohol addiction

Some warning signs that you have an alcohol addiction are:

  • You do not feel right without a drink or need a drink to start the day
  • You get very shaky, sweaty, and anxious/tense a few hours after your last drink
  • You regularly drink more than you intend to
  • You need to drink more and more to get the same effect
  • You try to stop, but you find you can’t
  • You try to control or stop, but find you can’t
  • You get ‘memory blanks’ where you can’t remember what happened for a period of hours or days
  • You find that your drinking has increasingly become a coping mechanism

Signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction

How can alcohol addiction affect you?

Psychological effects of alcohol addiction include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Memory problems
  • Impaired learning
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings
  • Psychosis

Physical effects of alcohol addiction include:

  • Shrinkage to the frontal lobes of your brain
  • Blacking out
  • Slurred speech
  • Heart damage and cardiovascular disease
  • Liver damage
  • Pancreatitis
  • Infertility
  • Birth defects
  • Cancer
  • Lung infections
  • Fatigue
  • Thinning bones
  • Sexual dysfunction

How much alcohol is too much?

According to UK’s Chief Medical Officers, in order to keep the health risks from alcohol to a low level, men and women should not regularly drink more than 14 units a week. 14 units are equivalent to six pints of average strength beer or six medium (175ml) glasses of average strength wine.

However, regardless of your intake, if alcohol is causing complications in your life, then you have a problem.

If this is the case, you should seek professional support as soon as possible.

Treating alcohol addiction at Nightingale Hospital

Some people do recover from addiction with no professional treatment, and there is not only one path. However, the evidence is clear – professional treatment works and makes it more likely that people begin recovery and continue in recovery.

An effective first step can be a consultation with an addictions therapist, or a consultant psychiatrist specialising in addiction. Depending on the severity of the addiction, patients can either be supported in an outpatient setting or participate in an intensive inpatient programme.

Our approach to treating alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction includes individualised treatment programmes with therapies based on current clinical evidence.


We treat alcohol addiction using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, known as CBT, Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET), Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) and Twelve-Step Facilitation (TSF). We consider biological, psychological and social factors in our alcohol addiction programmes.

We also treat any co-existing conditions such as depression, anxiety etc. If detoxification from a chemical or substance is required we have experts in this field to carry out specialist detoxification as the first stage of treatment.

Alternative therapies

Through therapy, education on alcohol abuse and relapse prevention and alternative approaches such as mindfulness, sleep therapy, relaxation techniques, nutrition and physical therapies, we aim to give you the knowledge and coping skills for living without depending on alcohol.

Family support groups

Those nearest to the sufferer often blame themselves, going through a range of emotions from despair, depression and guilt to anger and frustration, leaving them exhausted and having difficulty coping, as well as feeling powerless in how to deal with the situation.

Research has shown that the involvement of families in the treatment process greatly increases the prospects of a person’s recovery.

Addiction monthly free family day for inpatients

Our addictions family day takes place once a month and is led by addictions and family specialist therapists. It consists of two groups.

One group is for family and partners only. It will offer them education in not only how to deal with the addicted person, but also how to safeguard themselves in this difficult situation. This can allow you to help your loved one in a healthy way while still being able to lead your own life.

The other group is to bring together the families and partners and the addicted person. It gives the addicted person the opportunity to learn how their addiction has affected family members and partners. It gives a forum for them both to express their thoughts and feelings.

Addiction weekly family free support group for inpatients

Family support groups are aimed at families, partners and friends of people suffering from an addiction problem. When these problems arise, they can have a devastating effect on those who are close to the person. The family support group is there so that you do not have to go through this alone.

Aftercare for inpatients or day patients 

Avoiding relapse is the greatest challenge so we offer to step down programmes, individual counselling and free aftercare to sustain motivation against alcohol abuse.

Free telephone consultation

We offer a free telephone consultation to determine if alcohol addiction treatment and rehabilitation would be right for you or a loved one. Complete the form below and a member of our expert addictions team will be in touch to arrange an appointment.

Alcohol addiction specialists at Nightingale Hospital

Nightingale Hospital London has a number of consultant psychiatrists and specialist therapists that can help you with alcohol addiction. It is vital you find a specialist that you can trust and work with on your recovery.

Our addiction treatment team is led by:

  • Dr Anshul Swami – Lead Consultant for Addiction Services Consultant Psychiatrist at Nightingale Hospital
  • Patrick Maxwell – Lead Therapist for Addictions, Nightingale Hospital

Useful resources

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Alcohol addiction

We offer a free telephone consultation to determine if addictions treatment would be right for you, or a loved one.

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“When you have a problem and you drink, take drugs or gamble, the problem won’t go away. Stay and tackle the problem”