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Alcohol is the most often used addictive substance in the US due to its widespread availability and social acceptance. [1]

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol poisoning claims the lives of approximately 2000 Americans each year[2]. Although young individuals may have a reputation for consuming alcohol carelessly, most documented binge drinking-related deaths involve people in their middle age.

If you are worried your drinking habits may have gotten out of hand, learn the signs of alcoholism and what to do if you check the boxes.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a severe type of alcohol misuse involving the inability to control drinking patterns. The term alcohol use disorder is frequently used to describe this condition. 

There are three levels of alcohol consumption disorders: mild, moderate, and severe. Each level has a unique set of symptoms and potential negative effects. Any alcohol misuse can quickly become out of control if left untreated or ignored.

Often, a person who has evolved into an alcoholic cannot stop drinking when they’ve had even just 1 drink.  

a person who has evolved into an alcoholic cannot stop drinking when they’ve had even just 1 drink.

What is Considered 1 Drink?

While the specifications for what is considered may vary from country to country, in the United States, one drink contains roughly 14g of pure alcohol, which is about 5%. [3]

One Drink Alcohol Content
One Beer (12 oz) 5% – 8%
One glass of Wine (5 oz)  12% – 15%
One shot of liquor (1.5 oz) ~ 40%

 

What are the Signs of Alcoholism?

Those with alcohol use disorder are physically hooked to alcohol, distinguishing them from others who abuse alcohol. Still, some alcohol abusers develop an addiction since alcoholism is a progressive disease.

Alcohol misuse can leave obvious indicators that there is a problem. However, sometimes signs may take longer to appear. The likelihood of a full recovery greatly increases when alcoholism is identified in its early stages. 

Signs and symptoms of alcoholism may be apparent in three categories: in the body, within behavior, and psychologically. 

Body

Alcoholism typically presents physical symptoms. These symptoms showcase a visible manifestation of the disease and can vary from person to person. 

  • Redness in the face: There are numerous cosmetic indicators of alcoholism, such as swollen blood vessels that cause facial redness. Long-term overdilation of these arteries can result in spider veins on the skin.
  • Weight changes: Alcoholism can significantly affect someone’s appetite. Due to their attention being drawn to alcohol, they may forget their sense of hunger or lose their desire for food. If alcohol is consumed, the hormone ghrelin, which increases appetite, is produced. This may cause them to seek high-fat foods, causing weight gain.
  • Disheveled Appearance: Grooming and personal hygiene may start to lose importance. Dehydration and sleep deprivation, frequently linked to heavy alcohol use, can also result in dull skin and sleepy eyes. They may still smell like alcohol from the night before.
  • Uncoordinated movements: Under the influence of alcohol, the brain area that regulates balance and coordination may become less effective. Even while sober, this increases the danger of slips, trips, and accidents.
  • Yellow skin: When the liver has trouble processing certain substances in the body, it can manifest physically as jaundice, which causes the skin to turn yellowish-brown.

One does not need to have all the above signs to have alcohol use disorder, but if more than one is present, there may be an issue with alcohol. 

Behavioral/Mood

Alcoholism typically presents behavioral changes. These symptoms show a change in personality in those struggling with the disease and can vary from person to person. Common changes include: 

  • Increased risk-taking: taking heightened risks may include becoming drunk and getting into potentially harmful circumstances that could lead to harm, such as driving while inebriated or engaging in risky sexual activity.
  • Neglecting responsibilities: allowing drinking to conflict with family, career, or school commitments. Due to hangovers or intoxication, you can miss work or class or perform poorly at your job.
  • Losing control: consuming alcohol in excess regularly or for longer than you had anticipated and being unable to stop or reduce consumption even when you try.
  • Prioritizing alcohol: finding that alcohol is taking precedence over other things in your life after spending a lot of time drinking or recuperating from drinking.

One does not need to have all the above signs to have alcohol use disorder, but if more than one is present, there may be an issue with alcohol. 

depression

Psychological

Alcoholism also presents psychological changes. These symptoms show a change in those struggling with the disease and can vary from person to person. Common changes include short-term and long-term psychological effects.

  • Short-term: difficulty concentrating, short attention span, reduced inhibitions, memory problems, lack of coordination, vision problems, delayed reflexes.
  • Long-term: depression, anxiety, tolerance to alcohol, dependency on alcohol, decreased memory capacity, impaired learning. 

One does not need to have all the above signs to have alcohol use disorder, but if more than one is present, there may be an issue with alcohol. 

Other Common Signs & Symptoms of Alcoholism

Alcoholism can manifest in many ways and varies from person to person. Other signs and symptoms that indicate a problem with alcohol may include the following:

  • Frequently blacking out due to alcohol
  • Impaired judgment or finding you regret your behavior when drinking
  • Slurred speech
  • Unable to stop after one drink
  • Frequent hangovers
  • Getting into legal trouble
  • Emotional withdrawal from family and friends
  • Relationship problems

If the above conditions apply to you or someone you love, seek treatment to uncover what is causing the desire to drink and to learn healthier ways of coping with stressors.

How Do You Know if You’re Addicted to Alcohol?

Are you unsure if your drinking is excessively above usual or if a problem has been reached? Any following situations that appear familiar may indicate that adjustments must be made to prevent injury to yourself or others. To understand if you’re addicted to alcohol, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you drink more than you intended to when going out?
  • Do you stay out longer than intended when you drink?
  • Do you often misremember or fail to remember events from when you had a few drinks?
  • Are you waking up with a hangover frequently?
  • Are your relationships suffering due to your drinking habits?
  • Have you missed appointments, work, or other obligations due to a hangover or being drunk?
  • Do you find that you crave alcohol, even just the taste?
  • Have you put yourself at risk due to reckless behavior while drinking?
  • Have you recently gotten into legal trouble?
  • Are you unable to stop drinking after one or two drinks?

If you answered yes to two or more of the above questions, you might be struggling with alcohol use disorder. 

What Do You Do if You’re Showing Signs of Alcoholism?

If you’re showing signs of alcoholism, know that you aren’t alone, and there are ways to recover and regain control of your life. The first step is to admit you have a problem and enter treatment. Drop into an AA meeting and look into alcohol rehab options. 

What Happens at Alcohol Rehab?

If you are showing signs of alcoholism, you have options. Attending an alcohol rehab facility will help you stay sober and begin to regain control of your life. Those with alcohol use disorder receive compassionate care, understanding, and all-encompassing treatment in recovery. The most important thing is to ensure your alcohol detoxification experience is safe because alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be very severe.

When you are admitted, treatment professionals will gently support you during your alcohol withdrawal symptoms. In addition, you will be provided with therapy to uncover what is driving you to drink and how to build better coping mechanisms when stressors arise. 

Depending on your rehab, you may be offered yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, or acupressure to help you cope. At Ascendant, we offer a full mind, body, and spirit approach to treatment.

After treatment, your rehab center will provide you with a plan for aftercare treatment to maintain your long-term commitment to sobriety. 

You are Not Alone

You don’t have to face recovery on your own. Our team of compassionate and trained medical professionals is here to help you through your alcohol use disorder with dignity and respect. So if you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, please contact us today to get life back on track.

Sources: 

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Alcohol poisoning deaths. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved December 29, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/alcohol-poisoning-deaths/index.html   
  2. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, May 18). Alcohol use disorder. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20369243  
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). What is a standard drink? National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/what-standard-drink 

 

Medical Content Writer

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. As a person in recovery from disordered eating, she is passionate about seeing people heal and transform. She writes for popular treatment centers such as Ocean Recovery, Epiphany Wellness, The Heights Treatment, Infinite Recovery, New Waters Recovery and adolescent mental health treatment center BasePoint Academy. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being the a mother of a beautiful daughter.

Last medically reviewed January 9, 2023