The social acceptance of alcohol makes it one of the most widespread addictions. It is also the most costly.
For most people, drinking socially will not lead to abuse or dependence. However, there are millions of people who do have a physical dependence to alcohol. No matter what the consequences are, they will continue to drink, often ruining their own life and the lives of others. This is one of the key signs of alcoholism.
People who are addicted to alcohol never know when to stop and they have no regard for any of the consequences of their excessive drinking.
These warning signs of alcoholism may serve as predecessors to saving the alcoholic’s life. When family members and friends grow concerned about a loved one’s drinking, they have the ability to take action against the disease. By offering the alcoholic treatment or staging an intervention with the intent to help the alcohol recover, family members and friends can be saving the life of a loved one – a phenomenon that may not have otherwise occurred had the warning signs gone unnoticed and the drinker been able to fade away in the grips of a viscous disease. The recommended course for alcoholics is treatment.
Some research has revealed that alcoholism effects can be genetic, stemming from a family history. There are also other factors that can increase vulnerability. These include the existence of an alcoholic parent, anti-social behavior or a life event that has been transforming. Culture can also play a role in the onset of alcoholism. No matter what the cause is, it is important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms so that the person can relieve the help they need to regain control of their life.
For Those Who Believe a Loved One Is an Alcoholic yet Sustain Skepticism
There are various warning signs indicative of a possible substance abuse problem. In the case of alcoholism, the warning signs can present themselves in both physical and emotional shifts. In some cases, loved ones teeter between feelings of certainty that the identified patient is an alcoholic and chalking up recent behaviors to a phase. Consider the hypothetical example of a middle-aged man named John Smith who suffers from alcoholism:
John was once recognized for his extraverted and bubbly personality. However, slowly he is beginning to isolate – avoiding social functions and hiding out alone in his bedroom. His family members and friends do not hear from him for weeks at a time. Bottles of liquor are strewn throughout his house. John’s physical health is deteriorating. It takes his brother entering his home with the spare key and finding John and the house in shambles to show John’s loved ones the reality of his disease.
This example illustrates the types of shifts that can occur when alcoholism is introduced to the equation. Otherwise well-rounded, seemingly happy individuals undergo changes and their disposition shifts.
Abuse vs. Dependence+
Spotting the signs and symptoms of alcoholism can be difficult, especially for another person who does drink. There is a difference between abuse and dependence, and people should know what this difference is if they are to spot warning signs of alcoholism. People who abuse alcohol will drink in excess, but they will not have developed the physical dependence to the substance. They may not have any of the signs that were mentioned above. People who abuse alcohol will not have the severe craving for the substance and will not experience uncontrollable drinking spells.
Alcohol abuse can be the result of various things. When a person is abusing alcohol, they will exhibit some signs that may be detected. They will have some problems meeting their responsibilities at work or at home. They may engage in risky behaviors, such as driving while intoxicated. They could also begin to have legal problems that are a result of their drinking, like getting arrested for driving drunk. These people will continue to drink despite the negative consequences and effects their drinking has on family members, friends and their job.
Checklist of Warning Signs
If one is unsure about whether or not to identify as an alcoholic, one should determine whether or not the following apply:
- One finds that friends and family members make comments about their drinking, claiming that it may be in excess or inappropriate at times, to which the individual responds with frustration and irritation.
- One has a physical craving for alcohol hourly or daily; family members and friends sense that a mental preoccupation with drinking exists as well.
- One has gotten in trouble with the law – e.g., has been convicted of a DUI or arrested for public intoxication – on one or more occasions as a direct result of drinking.
- One has endured tangible, detrimental consequences to one’s career, romantic relationship and body; in spite of such consequences, one continues to drink.
- One finds that if alcohol is unavailable, alternative mind-altering substances are sought (such behavior can lead to polysubstance abuse, in which multiple drugs and/or alcohol are abused simultaneously).
- Without alcohol in the bloodstream, one feels restless, agitated and discontent.
- One has made an intrinsic pledge, as well as an outward offer to friends and family members, that one will not drink during a specific occasion, throughout an important weekend or before driving; sadly, these promises are broken on a regular basis.
- A doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist has suggested that one may suffer from alcoholism but one denies the validity of such an insinuation.
- One suffers from low self-esteem and reaches for alcohol as an attempt to fulfill an inner “hole” or void.
- One blacks out and does not remember the previous night, even on nights in which one has proclaimed to “take it easy” in regards to drinking.
- One spends an inordinate amount of income and assets on the drinking habit, to the detriment of oneself and other involved parties.
- Throughout the days or weeks in which one is abstaining from alcohol, one finds it difficult to focus on anything other than the next drink; these feelings are compounded by withdrawal symptoms from cessation of alcohol consumption.
Physical Red Flags
Shifts not only occur psychologically and emotionally. Family members and friends may pick up on a loved one’s alcoholism by observing changes in physicality. Physical symptoms of alcoholism, aside from the immediate withdrawal symptoms experienced upon cessation of regular use, include:
- Broken capillaries on the nose and face
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin, indicating a potential problem with liver functioning
- Breath that smells of alcohol on a consistent basis
- A marked decrease in attention to personal hygiene such as showering and dental care, resulting in unappealing aesthetics
- Notable weight loss or weight gain
- Dry skin
- Brittle hair and fingernails
- A flushed appearance
- Evidence of aging more rapidly than usual, such as a sudden increase in wrinkles and age spots
Induces Wear and Tear on the Human Body
Alcoholism wreaks havoc on the human body. Alcohol is a toxin that invades glands, organs and otherwise healthy body parts. For many alcoholics, the sugar and empty calories in alcohol induce significant weight gain. Endurance and physical flexibility become compromised. Prolonged consumption of excess alcohol can induce cirrhosis of the liver, in which the liver deteriorates and begins to lose its capacity to break down any chemicals, including alcohol, that are ingested. Thankfully, treatment is available to help patients recover from the debilitating effects of the disease. Through treatment, individuals can go on to lead healthy, fulfilling lives.
Why Get Treatment?
If any of these signs are noticed, they may indicate that the person has an alcohol dependency. When abuse turns to addiction, there is a serious problem and it needs to be addressed. Many lives are taken due to alcoholism. When the addict loses control and cannot stop drinking, they will continue to destroy their mind and body. This will also have many other affects on their life. They may become withdrawn from family, often resulting in divorce or separation. Alcoholics will often lose their jobs and be unable to retain a steady job for any period of time.
Alcoholism requires some sort of alcohol rehab treatment. Without treatment, people with the addiction will face severe withdrawal symptoms that could be fatal.