Alcohol may be the most popular drug in the world, but the misery and anguish of an alcohol problem can be as devastating as that of hard narcotics. The signs of alcoholism are sometimes easily missed or not taken seriously because of the popularity of alcohol and drinking culture. Nonetheless, spotting the signs of alcohol abuse early could mean the difference between life and death.
Signs of Alcohol Abuse
Unlike other drugs, alcohol does not require paraphernalia or equipment for its creation or consumption. Thus, the signs of alcohol abuse come directly the behavior of the drinker:
- A strong compulsion to drink. While casual or moderate drinkers will be able to enjoy themselves without alcohol, a problem drinker will be compelled to make alcohol a part of every experience. If someone is incapable of going without alcohol – to celebrate good times or to make bad times bearable – this may be a sign that they are abusing alcohol.
- Withdrawal symptoms. Most people can stop drinking or go without alcohol without any ill effects, but an alcoholic will experience any number of dangerous withdrawal effects if their supply is cut off: anxiety, tremors, depression, agitation and irritability, inability to sleep, nausea, headache, increased heart rate, etc. Symptoms like these are clear signs that someone is dependent on drinking alcohol.
- Increased tolerance. Casual and moderate drinkers don’t need much alcohol to feel its effects, but a problem drinker gets so used to alcohol that they have to drink excessive amounts in order to experience inebriation. Someone having to drink repeatedly or in large quantities just to enjoy a pleasant buzz is a red flag that they consume alcohol too much.
- Unwillingness to stop drinking. Most people are capable of realizing when they’ve drunk too much. However, someone with a drinking problem may refuse to quit drinking – either short-term or chronically – insisting that they don’t have a problem with alcohol, or acting offended and outraged that their control is being questioned. Even some alcohol abusers are able to go long periods without drinking, which makes it harder to talk to them about having a problem with drinking.
This is especially true when a person’s drinking starts affecting the other parts of their life. Even if their academic and professional performance suffers, even if they lose interest in activities or hobbies, or even if their relationships deteriorate because of their overuse of alcohol, they are unwilling or unable to stop drinking to reverse the slide. This is one of the clearest signs of alcohol abuse.
- Being ashamed of drinking. Whether alcohol is consumed socially or privately, casual and moderate drinkers don’t try to hide the evidence that they drink alcohol. However, a problem drinker who knows he or she is abusing alcohol – and is unable or unwilling to stop – will try to hide the signs of their drinking. They may feel guilty about drinking, but cannot stop drinking because of how much of a hold their habit has on them. Then, to cope with the shame and the weakness, they drink again.
Getting Treatment for Alcohol Abuse
In 2012, almost 25 percent of American adults reported to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that they went binge drinking in the previous month. While this is dangerous – five consecutive drinks or more for men, four consecutive drinks or more for women – it’s a sign of a culture that does not fully appreciate the dangers of flirting with an alcohol abuse problem.
Fortunately, even when things get bad, treatment can help you start over. That’s why we are standing by to answer your questions about alcohol abuse and to give you the information you need about getting help for a problem. Our dual diagnosis treatment programs can help you overcome your compulsion to drink and teach you how you can keep yourself clean and sober for the rest of your life. Please call us now to start the process of your recovery.
Further Reading About Spotting the Signs of Alcohol Abuse
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.