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Signs of Problem Drinking

Problem drinking, also known as alcohol abuse, refers to a pattern of excessive and problematic alcohol consumption that causes significant harm to an individual’s health, relationships, work, and social life.

Navigation: Problem Drinking: What is Alcohol Abuse?, What is Alcoholism?, What are the Signs of Problem Drinking?, Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms, Becoming More Reclusive or Engaging in Risky Behavior, How to Talk to a Loved One with An Alcohol Use Disorder, Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder, Rehab Is Your Best Chance


People drink for a variety of reasons. They use alcohol to relax, to socialize, to celebrate, to forget their problems, or to relieve some stress. Alcohol is one of the most commonly used substances in the world and is seen as a way to bond with friends, family, and co-workers.

But for some people, drinking alcohol becomes a habit. Over time it develops into something more serious. They may begin to drink regularly without thinking about it. Drinking alcohol may become a problem, and they may become addicted to it.

This is why drinking alcohol should always be done responsibly and in moderation. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to serious health problems and addiction.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to tell apart someone who is just drinking to have fun and someone who genuinely has a drinking problem. Alcoholism is a serious medical condition that needs to be treated. So the first step in helping someone with an alcohol addiction is to know the signs and symptoms.

Recognizing the problem will allow you to provide the proper support someone needs in order to recover successfully. Let’s take a closer look at the definition of problem drinking, alcoholism, and the signs of addiction.


Problem Drinking: What is Alcohol Abuse?

When you drink alcohol, you experience alcohol intoxication, which makes you feel euphoric and relaxed. Drinking alcohol when there’s a special occasion is normal. But alcohol affects the brain, causing significant changes. Just like drug abuse, alcohol abuse begins when you lose control over your intake. If you are drinking early in the morning or drinking when you are alone, it is time to start rethinking drinking altogether.

Before we get into the various alcoholism warning signs, we need to define what problem drinking is.

Problem drinking, also known as alcohol abuse, refers to a pattern of excessive and problematic alcohol consumption that causes significant harm to an individual’s health, relationships, work, and social life.

Severe alcohol abuse can lead to physical, psychological, and social problems, including addiction, health issues, financial difficulties, and strained relationships.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), low-risk drinking for women is defined as no more than one drink per day and no more than 7 drinks per week. For men, low-risk drinking is defined as no more than two drinks per day and no more than 14 drinks per week.

It’s important to keep in mind that everyone’s tolerance to alcohol is different, so these guidelines may not apply to everyone. Additionally, the effects of alcohol can be influenced by factors such as age, weight, gender, and overall health.

Excessive drinking often interferes with daily responsibilities and leads to negative consequences, such as frequent absenteeism from work, decreased productivity, financial difficulties, strained relationships, health problems, and legal issues.

Problem drinking can escalate and lead to alcohol dependence and addiction. It is a complex issue that requires professional intervention and treatment to address.


What is Alcoholism?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a “problematic pattern of alcohol use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least two of the following [criteria], occurring within a 12-month period.”

The DSM was developed to collect information about mental disorders in the US.

Alcohol use disorder, also known as alcohol addiction or alcoholism, is a medical condition characterized by an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, leading to negative effects on an individual’s physical and mental health, social life, and daily functioning.

Alcoholism is a chronic and progressive substance use disorder characterized by a strong, persistent craving for alcohol and an inability to control the amount consumed.

It is a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol that leads to negative consequences such as physical health problems, social, financial and personal difficulties. People with alcoholism are often unable to stop drinking despite the harm it causes to their lives, relationships, and careers.

AUD can range from mild to severe and may lead to alcohol addiction if left untreated.

Symptoms of AUD may include tolerance, withdrawal, difficulty controlling alcohol consumption, a preoccupation with alcohol, and the neglect of other important aspects of life.

What are the Signs of Problem Drinking?

If you are worried that someone you love may be engaging in problematic drinking or binge drinking, you need to know what signs and symptoms to watch out for.

Some common signs of problem drinking include increased tolerance to alcohol, withdrawal symptoms such as shakes or sweats when not drinking, and an inability to control or limit alcohol consumption.

Aside from these physical signs and symptoms, you should also watch out for some behavioral changes that may point towards a drinking problem. For example, they may neglect responsibilities at work, home, or school, prioritizing alcohol over everything else. Here are other important signs to watch out for.

Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms?

The addicted individual may keep drinking despite the consequences because they have become dependent on alcohol. Although alcohol addiction and alcohol dependence are two terms that are often used interchangeably, they are actually different concepts.

Alcohol addiction refers to the psychological dependence on alcohol, where an individual craves alcohol and feels an intense urge to drink. This results in a compulsive and repetitive pattern of alcohol consumption, even though the individual is aware of the negative consequences of their drinking.

Alcohol dependence, on the other hand, refers to the physical dependence on alcohol. This occurs when an individual’s body has adapted to the presence of alcohol. People with alcohol dependence experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking, such as tremors, anxiety, and depression. It is possible to be alcohol dependent without being addicted, but oftentimes this means addiction is about to develop.

In summary, alcohol addiction is more about the psychological aspect of drinking. Withdrawal is a clear sign of alcohol abuse.

Becoming More Reclusive or Engaging in Risky Behavior

Some behavioral changes of alcohol abuse are more noticeable than others. You don’t necessarily have to wait for your loved one to go through withdrawal before you recognize their drinking problem.

They may simply spend more time alone, isolating themselves in their room or elsewhere. They will be more secretive, even resorting to lying in order to hide their drinking from loved ones.

For an alcoholic, drinking is their top priority. They will drink even if they are alone or even in the middle of the day. Their days will revolve around thinking about alcohol, seeking out alcohol, drinking alcohol, and recovering from its effects. After drinking, they will experience severe physical and mental health problems.

At the same time, they will begin to lose interest in things they used to enjoy. They will stop pursuing their hobbies and completely lose interest in their passions. Even their relationships with other people will be affected.

They may change the people they spend time with, preferring to hang out with people who drink with them or support their drinking. It is common for people with alcoholism to leave behind their old friends in favor of new ones who drink with them.

People struggling with alcoholism are also more likely to engage in dangerous or risky behavior when trying to obtain alcohol or while under its influence. This also puts them at a higher risk of getting into a car accident or something similar.

Close family members and friends are usually the first ones to notice these behavioral changes.

It’s important to note that not all of these signs need to be present for someone to have a problem with alcohol. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be time to seek help. If someone cannot recognize that they have a drinking problem, they might require an intervention.

How to Talk to a Loved One with An Alcohol Use Disorder

It’s not easy dealing with alcohol addiction. But it is also hard on their loved ones. Having someone you love suffer from the effects of addiction can be overwhelming. Recognizing the signs of addiction is only the first step.

You have to help them realize that they need help and that you have their back as they go on their addiction treatment journey.

Approach the conversation with compassion and empathy. Avoid using blame, criticism or judgmental language. You don’t want the conversation to become a confrontation.

You can talk to them one-on-one and have a proper discussion about their situation. But if they choose to walk away or disengage, do not pursue it any further. You may need a proper intervention to reach them.

Hire a professional interventionist to facilitate the intervention. An interventionist is a professional who helps individuals or families in addressing and resolving addictive behavior or mental health issues. They use various techniques and strategies to motivate the person in need to seek help and make positive changes in their life.

An interventionist may also provide support and guidance to the loved ones of the person struggling with addiction or mental health issues. They help the individual and their support system to develop a plan for treatment and recovery, and may also provide referrals to resources and programs.

Choose the right time and place for the conversation. Avoid bringing up the topic when the person is drunk or upset. Express your concern for their well-being and how their alcohol use is affecting their life and your relationship.

Ask the person to share their thoughts and feelings about their alcohol use and listen actively to what they have to say. You can then offer a proper treatment option which they have to accept on the spot.

Do your research so you can offer a good rehab option for your loved one so all they have to do is say yes to it. Be patient and understanding, but also be clear about the consequences should they refuse to accept treatment.

Overcoming alcoholism is a difficult journey, but you can give them the support they need to work on their sobriety.

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

According to experts, alcohol treatment should be personalized. Every individual’s experience with addiction is unique, and therefore their treatment plan should reflect their specific needs, circumstances, and goals.

Personalized alcohol treatment takes into account a person’s physical, emotional, and mental health, as well as their social, family, and work situation. This approach can lead to better outcomes, such as higher success rates in achieving sobriety and improved overall well-being.

With that said, there are some common treatment methods that are used in most rehab facilities. They often use a combination of medical detox and behavioral therapies.

Medical detox addresses the physical symptoms of AUD such as the adverse health effects of alcohol abuse as well as the withdrawal symptoms that come from quitting alcohol. Detoxification is the process of allowing the body to rid itself of alcohol. It involves gradually lowering their intake while managing their withdrawal symptoms.

This should be done under medical supervision to ensure the safety and comfort of the person undergoing detox.

Meanwhile, behavioral therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and contingency management address the reasons behind the person’s addictive behavior.

Therapists and counselors can get to the bottom of why the patient has continued abusing alcohol despite the risks and consequences. It is common for rehab facilities to treat co-occurring mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. A mental health professional can offer their support and help the patient deal with their symptoms.

It is not enough to treat alcoholism if you have co-occurring mental disorders. You need to treat these conditions simultaneously in order to have a lasting impact. These programs will also teach patients various coping mechanisms that will help them stay healthy and sober even after leaving treatment. The goal is for the patient to maintain their sobriety for the long term.

Other commonly used treatment methods for alcohol addiction are the following:

Residential Treatment: This involves staying in a treatment center for an extended period of time to receive 24/7 support and care.

Medications: Some medications, such as disulfiram, naltrexone, and Acamprosate, can help reduce cravings and prevent relapse.

Support Groups: Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery provide a community of people who understand what you are going through and can offer encouragement and support.

It is important to remember that recovery from alcohol use disorder is a long-term process and may involve multiple attempts and setbacks. The most important factor in achieving successful recovery is the individual’s willingness to change and the support of family and friends.

Look for a rehab treatment center near you today

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 drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.


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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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