7 Warning Signs Of A Drinking Problem
- Physical Dependence
- Appearance Changes
- Damaged Relationships
- Legal Troubles
In the U.S., many people drink alcohol to relax or celebrate. This type of alcohol consumption may seem harmless. Over time, however, it can lead to alcohol addiction (also called alcohol use disorder or AUD).
If you’re concerned that you or someone you love has a drinking problem, watch out for these seven warning signs.
If you only drink alcohol on occasion, it probably won’t take much to feel buzzed. However, if you drink more regularly, your brain will likely become less sensitive to the effects of alcohol. This is called building tolerance.
As your tolerance grows, you’ll need larger or more frequent drinks to feel the desired effects. In most cases, a high tolerance means you drink too much.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “drinking too much” means having more than one drink a day if you’re a woman and having more than two drinks a day if you’re a man.
2. Physical Dependence
When you drink too much alcohol, you may become physically dependent on it. That means your body can’t function normally without it. If you suddenly stop drinking, you may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- mood swings
- trouble concentrating
- loss of appetite
Some people also experience more intense symptoms, such as confusion, hallucinations, and seizures.
If you’re physically dependent on alcohol, withdrawal symptoms usually start within eight hours after your last drink.
To reduce withdrawal symptoms, never try to quit drinking on your own. Instead, attend a medical detox program. There, health professionals will help you slowly and safely stop drinking. They may also prescribe medications to ease certain withdrawal symptoms.
“Blacking out” means drinking to the point where you experience short-term memory loss.
There are two types of blackouts: complete blackouts and fragmentary blackouts.
A complete blackout means you can’t remember anything that happened while you were drunk. A fragmentary blackout means you can only remember some things that happened while you were drunk.
You’re more likely to blackout if you binge drink.
Binge drinking means drinking until your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches at least 0.08 percent. Most women reach this BAC after having at least 4 drinks in 2 hours, while most men reach it after having at least 5 drinks in 2 hours.
If you regularly experience blackouts, you probably have a drinking problem.
4. Appearance Changes
Like most drugs, alcohol affects your appearance, especially if you use it too much. For example, because alcohol hinders your sleep quality, excessive drinking can make you look tired all the time. Alcohol can also dehydrate your skin, making it look wrinkly, dull, and grey.
In addition, if you’re regularly drunk or recovering from a hangover, you may struggle to maintain personal grooming habits, such as brushing your hair or putting on clean clothes.
Other physical signs of a drinking problem include:
- bloodshot eyes
- puffy face
- red nose and cheeks
- dry, brittle hair
- weight gain
5. Damaged Relationships
Heavy drinking habits can easily strain your relationships. For instance, many people with alcohol problems neglect their friends and family members so they can spend more time drinking. They may also lose the energy they need to take care of their children.
In addition, alcohol may change your mood and personality. For example, you might experience mood swings, irritability, and aggression.
These changes can cause serious issues in your relationships. They may even make you violent toward your loved ones. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol is often linked to intimate partner violence.
6. Legal Troubles
Alcohol impairs your judgment and makes you more impulsive. That’s why people with alcohol problems face a high risk of legal trouble.
For example, they might drive while drunk, trespass, steal, or vandalize property. In addition, as mentioned above, alcohol can make you violent. All of these behaviors can have serious legal consequences, including fines, job loss, and jail time.
Do you ever crave alcohol to the point where you can’t think about anything else? If so, you likely have a drinking problem.
Most people with drinking problems have specific alcohol triggers. An alcohol trigger is something that makes you crave alcohol. For example, you might get triggered if you see a friend you often drink with or if you attend a party where lots of people are drinking.
When you have an alcohol problem, cravings may persist even if drinking has caused problems in your life, including relationship problems, legal problems, and health problems like depression and high blood pressure.
If you or a loved one shows these signs, please reach out to a Recovering Champions specialist. We offer a variety of substance abuse and addiction treatment options, including mental health counseling and support groups.
Recovering Champions Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.