A 2015 study based on a nationwide survey found that nearly 14% of adult Americans had an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in the past year, and 29% had suffered from an AUD at some point in their life. But perhaps because it is so common, or perhaps because alcohol is a legal drug, alcoholism may not always be easy to recognize.
Here are a few signs that indicate someone you know, perhaps a loved one, may have a serious drinking problem.
Let’s start with the obvious – the person drinks to excess, even when they are alone.
Drinking alone isn’t necessarily terrible, as long as it’s one or two drinks to unwind. However, frequent solitary drinking to the point of intoxication is one of the key signs of alcoholism, and that something is very, very wrong.
You may see stashed or thrown away empty bottles en masse, and have the general feeling that someone is trying to be stealthy in their drinking habits.
In other words, he or she doesn’t want others to know the extent of the problem.
You may also notice a friend or loved one who shows up to parties or events seemingly already impaired. Or, they may often call you or message in some way when they are drunk.
Drinking becomes a priority over everything else.
Alcoholics will frequently miss work, school, social events, and neglect all sorts of obligations due to drinking. Just like drug addiction, alcohol addiction often takes precedence in a person’s life. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be an addiction.
Some people contend there are no high-functioning alcoholics. I disagree. I have been one. I didn’t miss work very often, and I managed to maintain a home life. I didn’t drink much during the day if it all. My problem was drinking too much in the evenings.
But, in many ways, my family and friends did suffer from my selfishness. I also got a DUI. No matter what – no way around it- alcohol abuse will impact other life responsibilities in one way or another.
The person seems excessively moody.
Alcohol abuse affects thoughts, feelings, and moods on a very fundamental level. Withdrawals from alcohol are equally as bad, and many people who drink too much are on a roller coaster of ups and downs, just like someone who is dependent on drugs.
During drinking or after a night of drinking he or she may get intensely angry or depressed for seemingly no reason.
They appear to be unable to control their reactions and behavior, and over time, these altered personality traits may become more persistent and even permanent.
Money has become a problem and/or they have gotten into legal trouble.
Alcohol itself isn’t exactly cheap, and everyday use can quickly do a number on a person’s pocketbook.
They may also miss work or lose their job as a result, and incur legal expenses for things such as impaired driving convictions or public intoxication. When I had my DUI, I calculated the end total at about $5,000, and it could have been much worse. I had to fall back on credit cards and ultimately, file for bankruptcy.
Their tolerance for alcohol appears to be increasing.
Tolerance occurs when more of a substance is needed to achieve the same effect. This is one reason why alcohol use tends to increase in people with a disorder. If you notice someone is drinking twice the amount they used to without additional effects, this is a good sign that their tolerance has increased due to alcohol abuse.
They often present with withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol withdrawal is horrible. You can be sweaty, shaky, nauseous, and anxious.
Alcohol is one of the few substances that can cause death upon quick cessation after extended use. All this, of course, is enough to make someone extremely moody and irritable.
Moreover, if someone you know presents with these signs of alcoholism when sober, it is very likely they have become dependent on a regular, excessive intake of alcohol.
They deny they have a problem.
Well, clearly, if someone does not have a problem he or she will deny it. But if someone who is obviously abusing alcohol on a regular basis says he/she doesn’t have a problem, that is further evidence that he/she is in denial and do not want to face up to the cold reality of their addiction.
And interestingly, the level of denial often corresponds to the severity of the problem. That is, the more serious the dependency, the more strongly they the person tends to deny.
Alcohol addiction is a very serious condition that takes a toll on the lives of every single person close to the alcoholic. A person has to want help to receive it, and be able to do the work to recover.