Alcohol Symptoms and Warning Signs
Before your loved one can develop dependence, addiction,
or even just tolerance, it is necessary to recognize
the signs of alcohol abuse.
Alcoholism can ruin a person’s life with its devastating health effects. Beyond that, it also affects their mental health, their relationships, their career, their finances, and other important aspects of their life. To help a loved one avoid this downward spiral, it is important to recognize the symptoms and effects of alcoholism.
Alcohol abuse is defined as any use that causes negative consequences to the user. This includes all the health effects such as bad hangovers and alcohol-induced accidents. But it also includes social effects such as doing or saying regrettable things while intoxicated.
But it is important to note that just because someone abuses alcohol or drinks a lot does not mean they are dependent on or addicted to alcohol. It is merely the first step towards developing a more serious problem down the line.
Some people start binge drinking in their teenage years, or even earlier, but adults and the elderly may still pick up the habit. This type of behaviour leads to an increased tolerance to alcohol, which means they start needing more alcohol just to get the same effects. Of course, this presents many social and health problems along the way.
Before your loved one can develop dependence, addiction, or even just tolerance, it is necessary to recognize the signs of alcohol abuse. This will help determine whether or not they need help.
Common signs of alcohol intoxication include: slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination, rambling or repetitive statements, difficulty standing up or walking, disorientation, agitation, anxiety, and blank stares.
Warning Signs of Alcohol Abuse
Because of the widespread usage of alcohol and the fact that social drinking is such a common activity, many people don’t recognize the damaging effects of alcohol. It is prevalent in society. This is why it’s hard to tell the difference between someone who is just having a good time, and someone who really has an alcohol use disorder.
Social drinkers drink in order to socialize, limit their inhibitions, and feel buzzed. However, the ramifications of alcohol abuse can persist long past the initial period of intoxication. It can develop into a habit. Long term abuse of alcohol affects every organ in the body, so it takes a serious toll on the person’s health.
Short term side effects of alcohol abuse include breathing difficulties, impaired judgment, headaches, blackouts, nausea, vomiting, and distorted vision or hearing.
Long term effects of alcohol abuse are more serious. It can cause irreversible damage that could even lead to the person’s death. Common long term effects of alcoholism include depression, psoriasis, anxiety disorders, chronic pancreatitis, hand tremors, high blood pressure, gastritis, malnutrition, liver cirrhosis, and permanent brain damage.
It is also common for those struggling with alcohol use disorder to suffer from unintentional injuries such as falls, burns, and drowning. Abusing alcohol and driving under the influence is a very common cause of fatal crashes.
Alcohol abuse also causes many non-medical effects. It is common for those with alcohol use disorder to struggle with legal issues, relationship problems, and financial issues. As they engage in more risky behaviour, they become exposed to a wide range of social problems.
Loved ones may notice a shift in the person’s priorities. They may start neglecting their responsibilities in favour of drinking. They might miss school or work and exhibit signs like tardiness, absenteeism, and decrease in productivity. They will spend the majority of their time on activities that involve drinking.
The person may feel guilt or shame about their drinking habits, but will be unable to quit. They will feel like they need alcohol to relax or feel better. One clear sign of alcoholism is drinking alone. They are unable to control the amount of alcohol they drink because they experience intense cravings. They may even suffer from withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop drinking. In the end, they relapse.
Recognizing an Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction is the inability to quit drinking even when facing legal, social, economic, physical or psychological problems. Instead, the person might give up important social, professional, and recreational activities because of alcohol abuse. The person will struggle with obsessive thoughts about drinking.
Studies have shown that people who use alcohol as a teen are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence compared to those who began drinking at 21. Interestingly, teens who abuse alcohol also have significant issues with normal brain development.
Alcoholism is diagnosed on a spectrum. There are 11 criteria for recognizing an addiction, with different levels of severity based on the number that apply.
Here are the 11 criteria used by professionals to diagnose alcoholism:
- Taking alcohol in larger amounts or for longer than you’re meant to.
- Wanting to cut down or stop using alcohol but not managing to.
- Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of alcohol.
- Cravings and urges to use alcohol.
- Not managing to do what you should at work, home, or school because of alcohol use.
- Continuing to use alcohol, even when it causes problems in relationships.
- Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of alcohol use.
- Using alcohol again and again, even when it puts you in danger.
- Continuing to use, even when you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by alcohol.
- Needing more alcohol to get the effect you want (tolerance).
- Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance.
According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 15.1 million adults ages 18 and older had an alcohol use disorder or AUD.
An alcohol use disorder can be mild, where the drinker only meets two or three of the criteria for addiction. If someone meets four or five of the criteria, they have what is considered a moderate disorder. The more criteria are present, the more severe the disorder.
Recognizing the warning signs is the first step towards helping your loved one get started on recovery. When alcohol’s effects overwhelm them, they might not realize that they need help. If they are unwilling to seek treatment or are denying that they have a problem at all, you might need to stage an intervention.
If someone in the family is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, it is important to seek help. A combination of medical detox and behavioral therapy can go a long way in the fight against drug abuse. But because every individual is affected by addiction differently, a comprehensive program tailored to their specific needs is necessary. Look for a nearby addiction treatment facility today and find out how drug treatment programs work.
Rehab is Your Best Chance
Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.