Alcoholism: 6 Major Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder
Clinically Reviewed by:
24 March, 2023
Drug and alcohol addiction is a global phenomenon and health crisis. This chronic health disorder has destroyed millions of lives worldwide and will potentially damage a considerable number of people in the future.
But people didn't always recognize this.
In fact, some people do not even consider alcohol addiction as a health problem. This is not a new phenomenon, as a few decades back, people used to think that all kinds of addiction are more of an individualistic and character flaw rather than a health problem. Whether it was due to a lack of education, awareness, or scientific studies, alcohol addiction was seen through a moral lens instead of a scientific one.
Even now, some people think that drinking alcohol is a habitual issue that can be controlled if one wants to.
By the Numbers:
Global statistics estimate the level of alcoholism around the world. It is said that around 1.4% of the world's population can be diagnosed with alcohol addiction or alcohol use disorder (AUD). The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS) states that every year around 140,557 Americans lose their life owing to alcoholism. 1 in every 10 Americans can be diagnosed with Alcohol Use Disorder.
These numbers have increased even further by 60% due to the lockdown restrictions for COVID-19.
For many, it can't be. Even one drink turns into a DUI, a blackout, or worse. Recognizing the signs of alcoholism is critically important.
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6 Major Signs of Alcoholism
It can be a little difficult to recognize and spot the signs of alcohol dependence. This is because, first, it can vary from person to person; second, people can be very conspicuous about their problem; and lastly, they can be high-functioning alcoholics and look fine.
However, alcoholism does have a few major signs.
#1: Loss of Control Around Alcohol
Most people who have developed alcohol dependence cannot control their urges. As a result, they cannot stop drinking, even on inappropriate occasions. This is why alcohol abuse slowly spirals out to become a full-fledged addiction.
#2: Prioritizing Alcohol Consumption
If someone you care about is putting drinking before everything else in their life, then there is a possibility that they are dealing with AUD. People suffering from this condition slowly start rearranging their life and priority based on their alcohol consumption. They end up putting everything on the back burner and start focusing on getting intoxicated.
#3: Health Effects
A person who is dealing with alcoholism will soon develop a high tolerance for alcohol. This means that their body will get accustomed to the amount of alcohol consumed. This will result in them drinking more alcohol than before to feel the same effect.
Apart from that, they will also become physically dependent on these drinks. This means that even if they try to quit or cut back the usage, they will fail to do so. This is because they experience the painful and nauseating effects of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are bad enough to cause people to begin drinking again for relief. However, alcohol withdrawal symptoms are far easier to tolerate at a drug rehab.
Physical health effects from alcoholism have both short- and long-term signs:
Short-term Health Signs of Alcoholism
Alcohol overdose (also known as alcohol poisoning)
Slowed reaction signs: This is why driving under the influence is so risky
Blurred vision and slurred speech
Difficulty with coordination or walking
Long-Term Health Signs of Alcoholism
High blood pressure
Increased risk of stroke and heart attack
Weak immune system
#4: Problems Related to Alcohol Use
This includes being intoxicated all the time, showing up to the office or college being drunk, having financial problems due to investing a lot of money in buying alcohol, showing risky behavior by being involved in legal battles, brawls, and even unsafe sexual activities, borrowing money from friends, and eventually stealing too.
#5: Behavior Symptoms of Alcoholism
One of the biggest symptoms of alcohol dependence is making risky decisions and living on the edge. Many alcoholics become embroiled in crimes, legal battles, accidents, fatal injuries, and similar things. This behavior can even lead someone to their death.
Other behavioral symptoms include drinking alone, losing appetite, overreacting and showing signs of aggression, poor hygiene, not showing up to work or college, drinking on every occasion, and missing out on social meet-ups, & other activities.
Alcoholism changes behavior radically, both in the short and long term:
Short-term Behavior Signs of Alcoholism
Reckless driving, including driving under the influence
Long-term Behavior Signs of Alcoholism
Isolating from others
Sudden changes in personality, like a lack of personal hygiene
#6: Physical Symptoms
Problems at work or school
Withdrawal from activities once enjoyed
Denial about their relationship with alcohol
Some commonly experienced physical symptoms include intense craving, withdrawal symptoms like nausea and vomiting, memory gaps and lapses, dehydration due to lack of water intake, and body tremors.
If you suspect that you or someone close to you might be dealing with alcohol abuse or addiction, looking at some common symptoms is the best way to figure it out. These symptoms are commonly experienced by people who are suffering from alcoholism. These include both physical and behavioral symptoms. So check out some of them.
What Is Alcoholism?
It is not unusual to see people binge drinking or underage people enjoying alcoholic drinks. Even when there is an age restriction on the consumption of alcohol, it does not deter high school kids and college students from getting drunk.
But does this mean they have alcohol use disorder? No.
Can they be at higher risk of developing alcoholism? Maybe.
So, how do we know when a person is alcoholic, and not just enjoying a drink occasionally? There is a large difference between social drinking, alcohol abuse, and full-blown alcoholism. Alcohol abuse can easily be developed into a full-blown addiction if it remains unchecked.
When somebody gets drunk regularly, they're engaging in alcohol abuse. If this occasional habit becomes a daily routine, the person is at risk of developing alcohol dependence. This means they need to drink more to feel the same effects. Eventually, this behavior turns into alcoholism.
Alcoholism is more than enjoying getting intoxicated on one or two occasions. Alcohol use disorder is actually a pattern where an individual consumes a copious amount of alcohol and has trouble controlling their intake. It's best described as a strong and uncontrollable desire to drink. Alcohol use disorder is the official name for alcoholism.
A person experiencing alcoholism is familiar with the negative outcomes of using alcohol but compulsively uses it. They will often abandon all responsibilities and commitments to continue to drink.
Alcoholism also involves binge drinking. Binge drinking is a pattern where a person has more than four or five drinks within two hours. Many people do not describe themselves as alcoholic because they think binge drinking does not cause any harm as it is done occasionally.
This is incorrect, as binge drinking is associated with various health hazards. It can lead to disruption in social, marital, and professional life and ultimately lead to serious health complications.
What Are the Causes of Alcoholism?
After understanding the basic definition, nature, and meaning of alcohol use disorder, the next relevant query is to know the cause. What causes alcoholism? Is alcoholism genetic? Several factors stem from the problem of alcoholism. Some of these factors are mentioned below.
Some common factors that can be a cause of Alcohol Use Disorder:
Genetic and Biological Factors
Various researchers have studied that there is a significant link between alcohol addiction and genetic factors. Apart from that, there are biological and physiological elements involved. There is a possibility that people who have an alcohol addiction can pass their genes down. Therefore, the next generation can be at high risk of developing this problem. On the other hand, some people limit their alcohol impulses while others cannot.
Every individual has unique ways of coping with situations. For example, some people cope with stressful situations by drinking alcohol. On the other hand, some people believe that their mental health problems can be reduced by getting high or drinking alcohol. Over time, this turns into a severe drinking problem.
Environmental risks include a person's proximity to bars and alcohol shops. Some studies have shown that people who live near retail shops are at high risk of drinking and developing this disorder. Online advertisements and media normalcy also play an essential role in conveying the acceptance of alcohol in society.
Social drinking is more about someone's perception that is created through one's culture, region, religion, family, and work. For example, a recently Oscar-winning Denmark movie titled Druk/Another Round (2020) showed the Scandinavian culture of alcohol and how even underage high school students find it acceptable to indulge in drinking.
What Are the Effects of Alcoholism?
A person who is struggling with alcohol use disorder will have the following kind of health complications:
Immediate Effects of Alcoholism
Some immediate impacts are felt by someone who deals with alcoholism. These immediate side effects include slower reaction time, blackouts practicing binge drinking, lack of motor coordination, impaired sense of judgment and decision-making, slurred speech, memory lapses, and more.
Common Side Effects of Alcoholism
Most people with this problem have various health complications. These complications are physical, behavioral, and mental. For example, it would include hair loss, malnutrition, dark circles, gaunt appearances, sleep troubles, thiamine deficiency, and more.
Severe Side Effects of Alcoholism
Apart from the above two side effects, some people experience serious problems. This includes high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, bleeding in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, liver damage, sexual dysfunction, hepatic encephalopathy, damage to brain cells, insomnia, pancreatitis, dementia, nerve damage, fatal hepatic coma, etc.
Recovery & Alcoholism Treatment
Alcoholism can seem helpless, not just for the person with the disorder, but for everyone around them. It's why alcoholism is called a family disease.
However, it's treatable. With the right help, a drug rehab can give people the resources and mechanisms they need to leave alcoholism behind.
Everyone who is dealing with alcoholism should accept and make peace with it that they have this problem and that they need to get better. After this, the next best step is to seek medical attention by going to a drug rehab center. These medical facilities are designed for patients struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.
Some common treatments available for people with alcohol dependency are:
Struggling With Alcoholism? The Edge Treatment Center Effective Treats Alcohol Use Disorder & More
Alcohol and drug addiction is a very complex health condition. If you or someone you care about is struggling with this disease, seeking medical treatment from a drug rehab center is imperative.
The Edge Treatment Center combines cutting-edge addiction medicine with evidence-based methods to free people from alcoholism. Our long-term outpatient drug rehab specializes in dual diagnosis, allowing people to explore and understand the motivations behind their drinking. We find this is the best way to help people develop positive coping mechanisms and leave alcohol abuse behind.
If you want to learn more about how The Edge Treatment Center can help you leave alcohol abuse behind, reach out today.