There are many warning signs that may help reveal potential alcohol abuse. And although a lot of signs are easy to recognize, some others may be harder to identify. Plus, the severity of alcohol abuse might play a part in the warning signs a person shows. Some people try to hide their alcohol abuse by drinking in private and staying isolated from others. This can make it difficult for family members or friends to step in and help their loved ones.
It’s easy to overlook mild alcohol abuse. But what might seem to be a minor issue can become dangerous over time. Early warning signs should not be disregarded. Obtaining treatment sooner rather than later will give the person the opportunity to bet back to the things they enjoy in life.
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Warning Signs of an Alcoholic
Does this sound like you or someone you know?
You have problems controlling your drinking:
There have been times when you ended up drinking more than you planned to. Or maybe you stayed drinking longer than you should have. It may not be a problem if it only happens once in a while, but it does show that you have a hard time controlling yourself while drinking. It is also an early warning sign.
It is likely that you’ve been worried enough that you’ve already thought about or actually tried to cut down on your drinking. But then you didn’t do it. Since alcohol frequently covers up unhappy emotions, those feelings may reappear when you stop drinking. This makes it harder to stick with your goal. When you try to abstain from drinking, you obsess over alcohol or switch to another drug or behavior. That’s another red flag.
You’re preoccupied with alcohol:
This doesn’t mean just the times you have a glass or can in your hand. There’s getting the alcohol, feeling sick after consuming the alcohol, and recovering from the effects of the alcohol later. There are probably times when you want a drink so badly you can’t think about anything else.
That strong urge may be triggered by people, places, things, or even times of day that remind you of drinking. Emotions and physical sensations can also trigger the urge. Your brain reacts to these triggers differently than a social drinker’s brain.
Try keeping track of your activities in a daily journal for a few weeks. Then take an honest look at yourself. What do you do for fun besides drink? Then think about the things you used to enjoy. Consider the issues that used to be important to you and what you used to do in your free time. Has drinking pushed those things out of your life?
You keep using alcohol even when it causes problems in your life:
Do you remember the times when you went to work with a hangover, missed work deadlines, or got behind on school assignments because of your drinking? If your alcohol use (including being sick from drinking) prevents you from keeping up with responsibilities and obligations at work, home, or school, you’ve got a problem.
Also, if you’ve been arrested or had other entanglements with the law more than once due to your alcohol use, you should know that it’s getting serious. You may have to deal with the consequences of that for years. It’s never too late to get help.
Do you keep drinking even though you know it’s harming your health or making those problems worse? Alcohol can damage your:
- Immune system
Alcohol can also heighten your risk of getting certain cancers. And even though you know that it’s hurting you, a physical or emotional dependence on alcohol can make quitting very difficult.
You need to drink increasingly larger amounts to get the same effect:
Have you found that you need to drink more than you used to to get buzzed? “The usual” amount doesn’t have as much of an effect on you lately. This is because, over time, your brain adapts to alcohol and becomes less sensitive to its effects.
Does it seem like you can drink more than other people without getting drunk? If you answer yes to either or both questions, you have signs of “tolerance,” which can be an early warning sign of AUD. Tolerance means that you need more and more alcohol to feel the effects you felt initially.
You have withdrawal symptoms when you suddenly decrease or stop drinking
Do you need a drink in the morning to steady your shaking hands? If you do, you are probably drinking to ease withdrawal symptoms, another red flag. When you drink heavily over time, alcohol changes your brain chemistry, so your brain tries to adapt. Then, if you suddenly stop drinking, your brain has to adapt again, causing withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually include:
- Sleep problems
- Shakiness or trembling
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
Common Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder
If it’s left untreated, alcohol abuse can get out of control quickly. When it starts to cause harm to an individual’s life, it is diagnosed as alcohol use disorder (AUD). Recognizing the signs of alcohol abuse and getting treatment can make a difference in the process of recovery. Although there isn’t an exact formula to know if someone is an alcoholic, there are co-occurring symptoms. One may lead to the next, driving additional problems over time. Signs include:
- Experiencing short-term memory loss or temporary blackouts
- Showing signs of irritability and extreme mood swings
- Making excuses for drinking to relax, deal with stress, or feel normal
- Keeping isolated or distant from friends and family members
- Drinking alone or secretly
- Feeling hungover when not drinking
- Changing people you socialize with
- Changing your appearance
Warning Signs of Alcoholism: Recognizing Your Habits
There are screening tools that are used to help determine whether someone has AUD. One is known as CAGE. It’s a questionnaire that measures the severity of a drinking problem.
The 4 CAGE questions are:
- Have you ever thought you should cut down on your drinking?
- Have you been annoyed by people who criticize your drinking?
- Have you ever felt guilty or bad about your drinking?
- Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get over a hangover?
If you answer “yes” to two or more questions, you should get professional medical help. The CAGE is a brief questionnaire that you can take to detect if you have a problem with alcohol. Any negative results in just one area of your life, despite how much or how often you drink, are reasons to be concerned and an indication that you need professional help.
Warning Signs of Alcoholism: The Dangers Of AUD
AUD can lead to issues that affect both your personal and professional life. Extended drinking can put you at risk for developing serious health problems and can cause other possibly life-threatening consequences.
One of the main reasons that millions of people don’t get treatment for alcoholism is denial. Some people will try to rationalize their behavior by blaming other people or certain situations for their drinking. Instead of acknowledging the problems they’ve experienced from alcohol use, they become defensive when someone mentions their excessive drinking behavior. Refusing to recognize the harmful consequences of alcohol prevents you from living a sober, healthy life.
What Are Some Causes?
The ways factors that impact how alcohol affects your body and behavior are:
There are theories that suggest that drinking has a different and stronger effect that may lead to AUD for some people. Over a period of time, drinking too much alcohol can change the normal function of the areas of your brain associated with the feeling of pleasure, judgment, and the ability to practice control over your behavior. This results in craving alcohol to try to recall the good feelings or reduce the negative ones.
What Are Some Risk Factors for AUD?
Alcohol use might start in the teens, but alcohol use disorder happens in the 20s and 30s most of the time. However, it can start at any age. Risk factors for AUD include:
- Drinking steadily over a period of time. Drinking too much on a regular basis for a prolonged period or binge drinking on a regular basis.
- Starting alcohol use at an early age. People who begin drinking, particularly binge drinking, are at a higher risk for AUD.
- Family history. People who have a parent or other close relative who has problems with alcohol have a higher risk. This may be prompted by genetic factors.
- Mental health problems
- Trauma. If you have a history of emotional or other trauma, you have an increased risk.
- Bariatric surgery. There have been studies that indicate that having bariatric surgery may increase the risk of AUD or of relapsing after recovering from AUD. Bariatric surgery is a surgery meant to treat obesity by decreasing the amount of food you can eat.
- Cultural and social factors. If you have friends or your partner who drinks regularly can increase your risk. For young people, the influence of parents, peers, and other role models can affect risk.
How Does Alcoholism Impact Your Health?
Drinking too much on a single occasion or over time can cause these health problems:
- Heart problems. Excess drinking can cause high blood pressure and increases your risk of heart failure, stroke, and an enlarged heart.
- Complications of diabetes. Alcohol interferes with the release of glucose from your liver and can increase your risk of low blood sugar, which is dangerous if you are already taking insulin to lower your low blood sugar.
- Sexual function and menstruation problems. Excessive drinking can cause erectile dysfunction for men and interrupt menstruation in women.
- Vision problems. Heavy drinking can cause involuntary rapid eye movement and paralysis of your eye muscles.
- Birth defects. Use of alcohol during pregnancy may cause a miscarriage or fetal alcohol syndrome.
- Bone damage. Alcohol may prevent the production of new bone. This can lead to thinning bones, increasing the risk for fractures.
- Neurological complications. Alcohol can affect your nervous system. This can cause numbness and pain in your hands and feet, dementia, and short-term memory loss.
- Weakened immune system. Heavy drinking can make it more difficult for your body to resist disease.
- Risk of cancer. Excessive alcohol use over the long term has been linked to a higher risk of many cancers including:
- Interactions with medication. Alcohol interacts with some medications, which increases its toxic effects.
Do You Have AUD?
Do these warning signs of alcoholism sound like you or a loved one? Would you like to find out if there is a real problem? And if there is, do you want to recover? You can do all of that and more at Intrepid Detox. We can provide you or your loved one a comprehensive program in one facility.
You will be able to start with a medical detox to help you through the difficulty of withdrawal. From there, you may enter one of our several levels of care for your treatment. You might want to take advantage of our sober living program. Intrepid can offer you options to customize your treatment to meet your needs. Give us a call today. Let our nationally accredited staff help you on your path to life-long recovery.