Alcoholism: What Are the Signs?
Do you suspect that someone you know may be an alcoholic? Many alcoholics and addicts learn how to hide their problem from their family and friends, so if you are starting to notice that something is not right, the addiction might be more advanced than you realize. Alcoholism can affect people of any age, race, gender, or socioeconomic background. If you see any of the following signs in your loved one’s behavior, they may be an alcoholic and/or may have been abusing alcohol recently.
What are signs of recent alcohol use?
- Slurred Speech
- Decreased Inhibitions: Another sign of current intoxication is decreased inhibitions that may lead to sexual or other forms of risk-taking (Read Substance Use & Sex: Know the Risks).
- Smelling Like Alcohol
- Impaired Cognitive Abilities: The person may have a hard time thinking or understanding. They may also have difficulty communicating their thoughts effectively. The problem increases in severity with increased alcohol consumption.
- Impaired Coordination: People who have been drinking may not be able to walk in a straight line or may exhibit other impairments in motor skills.
- Mood/Personality Changes: Alcohol can affect people in dramatically different ways. For example, some people may become chatty and uncharacteristically friendly whereas others may become violent and aggressive. Still others may show signs of depression. To learn more about which factors determine how a person will react to a substance.
What are risk factors for alcoholism?
- Genetic Predisposition: Increasingly, research points to a genetic component to addiction. If the individual has a family or personal history of alcoholism or drug addiction, they are likely to be at an increased risk of becoming an alcoholic themselves (Read Addiction & Genetics).
- Environmental Influences: Numerous environmental influences can put someone at increased risk for developing alcoholism. For example, people whose friends regularly abuse alcohol may feel more social pressure to drink, which may trigger an addiction in someone who is genetically loaded for developing alcoholism.
- Past or Present Stressors: People who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, victims of domestic violence, or others who have memories of or current experience with stressful situations may turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism (Read PTSD: When the Past Affects the Present; Substance Abuse: “Causing” and “Coping with” Domestic Violence; Veterans & Addiction: Bringing the War Home; Stressed? Avoid Unhealthy Coping Strategies; Repeating the Past: Marrying an Alcoholic).
What are signs of alcoholism?
- Drinking in the Morning: Alcoholics may drink in the morning to relieve the unpleasant experience of a hangover from the previous night.
- Drinking Alone: Alcoholics may refuse social activities so as to have an opportunity to drink alone (and, in doing so, hide the extent of their problem).
- Defensiveness or Denial: Most people have a difficult time admitting that they do not have complete control of a situation, and alcoholics are no exception. An alcoholic will often deny that they have a problem and may perceive the concern of a loved one as a judgment on their ability to be in control. Alcoholics Anonymous recognizes how problematic denial is; simply admitting to having a problem is the first step in the group’s 12-step program .
- Hidden Bottles: Alcoholics may hide alcohol (sometimes in strange places like closets) to: 1) make it appear that they drink less than they do, or 2) to know that they will always have access to alcohol, even if someone takes away the supply that is in plain view.
- Tolerance & Withdrawal: Alcoholics often develop tolerance of and physical dependence on alcohol. People who have developed tolerance to a drug require more of the substance (or require the substance more frequently) to achieve the same high. With alcohol in particular, tolerance may actually decrease if the alcoholism is prolonged, and an alcoholic may no longer be able to drink as much as they once were able to. If they become physically dependent, when they stop drinking for a period, they will experience withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms include tremors, insomnia, and anxiety. For more information on withdrawal, visit the alcohol page.
- Blackouts: In some instances, an addict may appear, to an observer, to be functioning normally. However, when they are later asked about the situation, they may have no recollection of it. This is called a blackout.
- Games of Control: In an effort to show that they have control over their out-of-control situation, an alcoholic may try to set rules or play “games” about when, where, how much, or with whom they drink. They may decide only to drink on weekends or only to drink when they are with friends from college.
- General Life Problems: Alcoholics may use stressful life situations as an excuse to “relax with a drink.” But, often, alcoholism causes just as many problems for them. They may have difficulty functioning effectively at work, home, or school. As the addiction becomes their number one priority, they may gradually have financial problems if increasing amounts of their income go toward alcohol.
- Mood/Personality Changes: An alcoholic’s mood will often fluctuate frequently between highs and lows. They may feel anger, resentment, and shame about their situation one minute and quickly shift to more pleasant behavior to keep the peace with a friend or family member, especially if that friend or family member is useful for maintaining the addiction in one way or another.
- Broken Promises: Despite good intentions to the contrary, alcoholics may begin to forget appointments or commitments because their addiction takes over.
How can I help my loved one?
Alcoholism is a complex problem; often, physical and psychological variables that are unique to the individual in question will complicate the matter. If your loved one has resisted your attempts to persuade them that their alcohol use has become a problem, they may need a professional intervention. eDrugRehab has assisted many alcoholics and their families in arranging and preparing for interventions as well as in selecting rehab facilities. Please visit the contact us page for more information on how to get help today.
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