Did you know that approximately 16% of adults in the US binge drink, and at least 6% report they engage in heavy drinking? Excessive alcohol use can increase your risk of heart disease and liver disease and also increases your risk of injuries. Knowing the signs of problem drinking in yourself or a loved one is essential.
Awareness of these signs can pave the way to making significant changes in your life. However, these signs aren’t always easy to pick up on if you don’t know what to look for.
In this guide, you’ll learn ten signs of problem drinking and what you can do to take action.
1. Craving Alcohol
Alcohol cravings are relatively common in people who drink regularly or have binge drinking episodes of more than five days a month. Cravings can occur over time since alcohol can affect the neurotransmitters in your brain.
These types of changes can lead to higher alcohol tolerance, which results in cravings. You can also get alcohol cravings due to a trigger like an emotion or memory associated with drinking alcohol.
If you or a loved one is craving alcohol, it’s a sign to pay attention to. Talking to a therapist about an alcohol treatment program is a great start.
2. Using Alcohol to Manage Stress
Alcohol triggers chemical changes in the brain. These changes lead to short-term feelings of relaxation. If you or your loved one are experiencing a lot of stress in your life, you might turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism.
Alcohol can make you feel more social, confident, and relaxed at the moment, making social situations easier to cope with.
It’s important to realize that although alcohol reduces feelings of stress temporarily, it can lead to long-term problems. This is because alcohol is a depressant that slows down your brain function, changing how you feel and think.
3. Social Life Revolves Around Alcohol
It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between a social drinker and a person with an alcohol use disorder.
Social drinkers typically only drink in social situations and don’t drink until they’re intoxicated. They don’t experience personality changes, get into legal trouble, or think about alcohol when they’re not drinking.
On the other hand, people who have trouble with problem drinking tend to look at every social function as an opportunity to drink. You might notice they’re the first ones that arrive and always bring alcohol.
It’s also common for people to avoid social situations that do not involve alcohol. If you can’t go into a social situation without alcohol, it can indicate a problem with alcohol use.
4. Acting Defensive About Drinking
People with alcohol use problems also tend to get extremely defensive about their drinking habits. If you bring up drinking to your loved one, they might act very hostile towards you about these questions.
You might also notice they become resentful and angry about the topic. They also might make excuses for their drinking or minimize the severity of the issue overall.
These behaviors can make it very difficult to have an honest conversation with a loved one about their drinking habits. Your best course of action is to reach out to a therapist. You can get actionable tips and advice on how you can handle the situation.
5. Lacking Alcohol Limits
When you have an alcohol use disorder (AUD), you can have trouble curbing the number of drinks you have in a night.
People often make plans for the night and initially decide to limit themselves to three drinks in one night. However, they have problems keeping this boundary in place.
All too often, three drinks turn into eight drinks, and they still want to have more. The bar might be ready to close, but they want to find somewhere else to go.
If this sounds like you or a loved one, then it’s essential to take a moment to think about this behavior. Ask yourself honest questions about these behaviors. If you have trouble controlling yourself, you may have AUD.
6. High Tolerance for Alcohol
Another sign of AUD is having a high tolerance for alcohol. You may notice your loved one is not affected by alcohol like other people.
After a shot, other people might feel the effects, but your loved one doesn’t feel much at all. In addition, you may notice they can consume large amounts of alcohol and not feel drunk.
If you have this problem, you might not be fully aware of it. In this case, you might have other people comment about your tolerance. Ultimately, this tolerance grows over time as you continue to drink. You’ll need more and more alcohol to get the same relaxing effect.
Increased alcohol tolerance can lead to other problems, such as:
- Increased alcohol consumption
- Ineffectiveness of prescription medications
- Organ damage
- Alcohol dependence
- Difficulty performing daily tasks
- Increases the toxicity of other medications like sleeping pills
7. Changes in Personality
People struggling with alcohol issues can often experience extreme personality changes while drinking. People who are generally reserved can become loud and talkative. They will also be open about feelings they wouldn’t typically express.
Sometimes, this behavior can turn violent or aggressive, resulting in physical confrontations.
Personality changes can result in making poor decisions. These decisions can range from leaving the bar with a stranger, or driving while intoxicated.
Personality changes are due to the way alcohol affects the body. When you drink alcohol, it goes through your stomach and intestines before it goes into your bloodstream. Once in your bloodstream, it travels through the body and impacts the brain.
As a result, the way your brain functions changes. Once this occurs, you’ll experience things like:
- More likely to engage in risky behavior
- Slurred speech
- Poor judgment in various situations
- Emotional behaviors like crying or yelling
Over time, you can experience long-term behavioral changes like anxiety, depression, and antisocial behaviors.
8. Frequent Legal Trouble
Since alcohol can alter your behavior, it can often lead to consequences such as legal trouble.
You might notice your loved one has had frequent job changes or has problems finishing an educational program. DUI arrests are also a common consequence. You might also see your loved one getting into trouble for public intoxication, physical fights, or domestic violence.
Many people don’t see the connection between their drinking and these consequences. You may notice your loved one blames their boss or the police for being too strict.
If you notice these changes in your life, it’s a good indicator that your alcohol use is causing more problems than you may realize. It leads to a stressful cycle that alters your life and relationships.
Talking to an experienced therapist will allow you to form a plan to pave the path toward healing.
9. Drinking All Day
You might also notice that drinking doesn’t only occur at night or after work. People with alcohol use problems may start drinking at work or school during the day.
Drinking excessively in the morning or after lunch is common. You might notice your loved one brushing their teeth often or using mouthwash to cover up the scent of alcohol.
Functional alcoholism describes people who are dependent on alcohol but are still able to function in society and do their job each day. Drinking doesn’t cause them to miss work or other obligations; they typically appear healthy mentally and physically on the outside.
However, just because they can manage their life doesn’t mean they don’t experience cravings, depression, or obsessive thoughts about drinking.
10. Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol use problems can also lead to symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. It’s a sign that occasional drinking has become an alcohol addiction problem. It’s also essential to be able to recognize these symptoms in a loved one or yourself.
Alcohol withdrawal occurs after a person who regularly drinks alcohol abruptly stops. There are different stages of alcohol withdrawal, and the first stage can begin anywhere between 6 to 24 hours after your last drink. The symptoms of the first stage include:
- Shaky hands
- Nausea and vomiting
Stage two occurs 12 to 48 hours after your last drink. This stage has more intense symptoms like confusion, seizures, hallucinations, and irregular heart rate.
Finally, stage three begins 48 to 72 hours after drinking. People in this stage can experience vivid delusions and hallucinations. They can also have heavy sweating, fever, high blood pressure, and a significantly elevated heart rate.
Remember, not everyone will experience all these symptoms, and some will experience mild symptoms. Most people don’t need medical attention, but be sure to call 911 for severe symptoms like seizures or disorientation.
A quiet place, healthy food, and limited contact with people help relieve most symptoms.
Get Treatment for Problem Drinking Today
If you or your loved one have problem drinking behaviors, then it’s time to take an honest look at how it’s affecting your life.
If you’re ready to find a long-term solution, you can turn to At Detox to Rehab for help. We have information on various alcohol treatment programs, including inpatient and outpatient detox and rehab programs.
We’ll help you take the first steps toward recovery by providing all the resources and information you need. We can also help you develop solutions if you’re concerned about a loved one’s alcohol use.
You can reach us today by calling our treatment hotline at (866) 578-7471 to speak with a care counselor. You can also visit our website to fill out a contact form.