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Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

Ongoing alcohol abuse causes more than 2 million deaths every year across the globe - both indirectly and directly. Millions more end up losing their families, loved ones, jobs, health and wellness, and the joy of sober living. Read on to learn more:

About Alcohol

Although alcohol is legal and socially acceptable, it comes with a high risk of substance abuse and addiction. If you have been abusing this substance on a regular basis and you suddenly stop drinking or reduce the amount you used to take, there is a risk that you could develop withdrawal symptoms.

Most of these symptoms will start about 2 hours after your last drink but fail to stop several weeks later. As a result, you may find yourself resuming your drinking just to stop them in their tracks.

According to the DSM-5 - the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - developing an alcohol use disorder can lead to debilitating outcomes. You need to meet the criteria defined by this manual before you can be diagnosed with this condition.

Based on to the total number of criteria that you meet, you may receive a diagnosis for a severe, moderate, or mild alcohol use disorder. To this end, if you present more criteria, then it would mean that you have a more severe disorder.

These criteria include:

  • Continuing to drink alcohol even after you realize that it has been causing social, psychological, physical, professional, personal, and relationship problems
  • Declining engagement in the hobbies and social activities that used to interest you
  • Developing a high tolerance for the substance, meaning that you find that you need to drink more often or in higher doses to experience the pleasurable effects that you desire
  • Devoting significant resources and time to drinking
  • Experiencing alcohol cravings when you are not drinking
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking or significantly reduce the amount you consume (including, cravings, shaking, sweating, and nausea)
  • Facing issues at work, school, or home due to ongoing alcohol use
  • Feeling powerless over your control of the level of alcohol that you use at any given time
  • Finding yourself drinking more so that you can feel better
  • Having a deep desire to decrease or stop drinking but finding that you are no longer able to
  • Using alcohol even in high-risk situations, such as when you are driving or swimming

According to Psychology Today, more than 29 percent of the entire population of the United States - around 68 million people - have struggled with alcohol use disorders at one point or the other in their lives.

But how can you tell that you have been engaging in alcohol abuse? Consider the following signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse and addiction:

1. Psychological and Physical Symptoms

When you drink alcohol, it will cause its effects to be felt immediately. These effects include but are not limited to:

  • Acknowledgement of the side effects and medical complications arising from growing alcoholism
  • Alcohol cravings
  • Alcoholic ketoacidosis (with dehydration-type symptoms)
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Asterixis (where you involuntarily shake or flap your hands)
  • Becoming distressed when you think about not being able to access alcohol
  • Being emotional even in inappropriate settings
  • Being secretive about how much you drink
  • Blacking-out
  • Cirrhosis
  • Clumsiness
  • Delayed reflexes
  • Denial about how serious your alcohol abuse problem has become
  • Depression
  • Diminished attention span
  • Diverting energy from your work, social, and family life so that you can drink
  • Engaging in dangerous behaviors while intoxicated
  • Fatal hepatic coma
  • Hepatic encephalopathy
  • Ignoring your family, professional, and scholastic obligations
  • Illnesses
  • Impaired judgment
  • Impaired thinking
  • Inability to walk normally or properly
  • Incoherent speech
  • Increase in the time you need to recover from drinking alcohol
  • Increasing the amount of alcohol that you consume because your tolerance has risen
  • Insomnia
  • Issues with motor coordination
  • Lapses in your memory (or blacking out)
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of control over the amount you consume once you begin drinking
  • Memory impairment
  • Memory lapses
  • Nausea
  • Nutritional deficits
  • Oversleeping
  • Poor balance
  • Poor coordination
  • Poor judgment
  • Redness in the face while or after drinking
  • Reduced attention to your professional and personal responsibilities
  • Repeated efforts to reduce your alcohol consumption but finding that they are unsuccessful
  • Risk-taking behavior without considering the consequences that might follow (such as by engaging in drunk driving)
  • Significant hangovers
  • Sleep troubles
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Slurred speech
  • Stomach pains
  • Thiamine deficiency
  • Tremors (or involuntary shaking)
  • Vomiting
  • Wanting to stop your drinking but finding that you are not able to do so
  • Withdrawal symptoms when you are not able to consume alcohol

2. Behavioral Signs

According to the NCADD - the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence - most of the behavioral signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse and addiction will often become apparent to everyone around you. These symptoms include:

  • Becoming angry or violent when someone asks you about your drinking habits
  • Becoming fearful that you will run out of alcohol
  • Being unable to control the amount of alcohol you take
  • Continuing to drink even after it has been causing legal, personal, social, economic, or professional problems
  • Depression
  • Drinking alone
  • Drinking in secret
  • Drinking more before you can feel the effects (due to having a high tolerance)
  • Failure to eat properly
  • Giving up important recreational, social, or occupational activities due to alcohol use
  • Hiding alcohol at work or around the house
  • High risk of accidents
  • Increasing secretiveness about your activities
  • Irritability especially while intoxicated
  • Keeping a ready supply of alcohol nearby
  • Making excuses so that you can drink
  • Missing school or work because of drinking
  • Moodiness
  • Neglecting your personal hygiene
  • Not eating
  • Problems in your relationships
  • Showing a diminished level of care for your physical appearance
  • Signs of injury
  • Stopped showering, shaving, and washing or changing your clothes

Getting Help

If you have been displaying any of the above signs and symptoms due to ongoing alcohol use, it is recommended that you seek help before your alcoholism gets out of hand. You can do so by checking into an outpatient or an inpatient alcohol addiction treatment and rehabilitation center.


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