signs of alcohol abuse

How to Recognize the Signs of Alcohol Abuse

Are you concerned about whether a loved one, a friend, or a co-worker may have an issue with alcohol? Do you think that you may have a problem yourself? When you have suspicions or doubts, it is critical that you know how to recognize the signs of alcohol abuse. Signs manifest themselves in physical symptoms as well as mental and emotional issues.

When Use Becomes Abuse

Alcohol abuse affects almost 14 million people in the US. Although more men than women abuse alcohol, the disorder truly has no boundaries in regard to gender or race. Young adults, age 18 to 29, do tend to have the most issues with alcohol abuse and adults over the age of 65 have the fewest.

It is important to learn how to recognize the signs of alcohol abuse as alcohol use can vary greatly between individuals and can impact each differently. Generally, use becomes abuse when drinking creates interpersonal difficulties, leads to a retreat from social activities, or interferes with regular daily activities of life.

Physical Signs

Many of the physical signs of alcohol abuse occur between drinking episodes. Withdrawal, even in the very short term, creates physical symptoms that cannot be ignored. Physical signs of alcohol abuse can include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Frequent blackouts
  • Cravings for alcohol
  • Smelling like alcohol
  • Overuse of mints or mouthwash (to cover up the alcohol smell)

Withdrawal symptoms can occur even if it’s only been a few hours since your last drink, when you have an alcohol abuse problem:

  • Shaking
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Restlessness

Changes in Social Interactions

When your focus is on drinking or on when you will get your next drink, your social interactions will suffer. When you know how to recognize the signs of alcohol abuse, you will understand how your addiction can also affect your friends, family, and co-workers.

You may have a problem with alcohol if:

  • You have given up other activities because of your alcohol use. You may be spending less time on activities with family and friends that used to be important to you. If you are no longer interested in hobbies or social gatherings (particularly if they don’t involve alcohol), you may be addicted to alcohol.
  • Your focus on alcohol takes up most of your energy. You may drink a lot, but you also may spend a lot of time thinking about your next drink and recovering from the effects of your drinking. You hesitate to participate in any social activities where alcohol will not be available.
  • You continue to drink even after you recognize the problems it causes you. Even though you see that your health is deteriorating, or your relationship is suffering, alcohol takes priority in your life.

Tolerance and Withdrawal

Two of the major signs of alcohol abuse are tolerance and withdrawal.

When you abuse alcohol, you have to drink more each day to feel its effects. Your body builds up a tolerance to alcohol so that the two or three drinks that may be enough today will not satisfy your cravings tomorrow. When you know how to recognize the signs of alcohol abuse, you will see that as time progresses you need more alcohol to feel the same effects.

Withdrawal symptoms in between drinking episodes are another major warning sign of alcohol abuse. If you need a drink to steady your shakes when you first wake up in the morning of if you drink to relieve your withdrawal symptoms of restlessness or nausea, you may be addicted to alcohol.

Your Health

Alcohol abuse can significantly affect your health. In addition to understanding how to recognize the signs of alcohol abuse, you should also recognize how much of a toll it can take on your body. Most people think of liver damage as one of the more significant and devastating effects of heavy drinking. Liver problems can include inflammation, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.

In addition, alcohol abuse can impact the health of your:

  • Brain – interfering with communication pathways and with the way the brain looks and works
  • Heart – damage can include irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and stroke
  • Pancreas – excessive alcohol use can cause the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can cause pancreatitis.

Many forms of cancer have also been linked to excessive alcohol use.

Contact Recovery Without Walls for Help with Alcohol Abuse and Dependence

Recovery Without Walls offers insightful solutions to promote deep and lasting alcohol recovery. We personalize your alcohol treatment program to best support your success. Our alcohol addiction treatment includes compassionate and caring physician-directed alcohol detox, experienced professionals who understand the medical risks inherent in alcohol addiction withdrawal. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.