signs of alcoholism

Alcohol Addiction Signs & Symptoms

Alcoholism is a devastating but treatable condition. Around 15.1 million US adults have an alcohol use disorder according to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). You may be surprised to learn that U.S. government health institutions define low-risk drinking as one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men, with no more than seven drinks a week for women and 14 drinks a week for men. If you’re drinking well over that amount, it may be time to take a hard look at your substance use.

Is It Time for Inpatient Alcohol Treatment?

Some people require inpatient rehab to recover from alcohol addiction. If you’re concerned you or a loved one has a problem with alcohol and may need inpatient rehab, review the warning signs of addiction below.

Warning Signs of Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

If you think you may have an alcohol problem, it’s a good indication that you do. Other common signs of alcohol addiction include:

  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol (needing more to get the desired effects of alcohol)
  • Drinking in secret or alone
  • Experiencing blackouts or sickness because of alcohol use
  • Feeling unable to turn down alcohol when it’s offered
  • Not feeling able to stop drinking once you start
  • Drinking to intoxication every time you drink alcohol
  • Developing an alcohol dependence that leads to alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the absence of it such as:
    • Shakiness/delirium tremens
    • Headaches
    • Nausea
    • Anxiety
    • Insomnia
    • Feeling “out of sorts”
  • Preoccupation with when you’ll drink next
  • Regular binge drinking or heavy drinking
  • Relationship, financial and work issues as a result of alcohol abuse
  • Legal issues like DUIs for drunk driving
  • Failed attempts to quit alcohol or curb alcohol use on your own
  • Concern about your alcohol use from loved ones or coworkers

Maybe you consider yourself a high-functioning alcoholic. You should still consider addiction treatment. The long-term effects of alcohol abuse can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health.

Effects of Alcohol Abuse

The effects of alcohol abuse and addiction can cause long-term damage to your physical and behavioral health. The National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse reports several potential adverse consequences for people who abuse alcohol. These may include:

  • Brain damage to communication pathways that may cause mood, behavior and coordination deficits
  • Alcohol poisoning that includes vomiting, abnormal breathing and confusion
  • Physical alcohol dependence that results in alcohol withdrawal symptoms without alcohol
  • Damage to the heart resulting in stroke, stretching of the heart muscle and irregular heartbeat
  • Liver problems such as:
    • Hepatitis
    • Cirrhosis
    • Fatty liver
    • Cirrhosis
    • Liver failure
  • Pancreatitis (severely inflamed liver)
  • Increased risk for a number of cancers such as:
    • Liver cancer
    • Neck and throat cancer
    • Breast cancer
    • Colorectal cancer
    • Esophageal cancer
  • Behavioral health issues like depression and anxiety disorders
  • Weakened immune system, increasing susceptibility to infections and disease like pneumonia and tuberculosis
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones)
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Death

Some of these alcohol symptoms are irreversible, but you can prevent further physical and mental decline with alcoholism treatment. Alcohol rehab is the first step in mending the body and mind from the damage of alcohol abuse and addiction.

Causes and Risk Factors for Alcohol Addiction

Certain people’s biological makeup and life circumstances make them more prone to developing alcohol addiction than others.

Substance abuse risk factors include:

Mental health disorders

Substance use disorders and mental health disorders regularly go hand-in-hand. Alcohol and drug abuse can begin as a way to self-medicate anxiety disorders, depression or other psychiatric symptoms. When people with alcohol use disorders also have a mental health condition it’s known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. Research shows people with alcohol use disorders are nearly four times more likely to be depressed than those who don’t abuse alcohol. Much research also shows a strong link between anxiety disorders and alcohol use disorders.

Difficult Upbringing

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can haunt you well into adulthood. Studies show that trauma from emotional abuse and neglect as a child can be culprits behind a problematic drinking behaviors. Physical abuse and an unpredictable home environment are also contributing factors to heavy drinking in adulthood.


If family members have problems with drugs and alcohol, you’re more likely to abuse them as well. Some research shows genes account for about half of the factors that contribute to a substance use disorder. There’s also mounting evidence pointing to an “alcohol gene” that makes some people more susceptible to becoming heavy drinkers.

Starting Young

People who start drinking in their early teens are more likely to develop alcoholism at some point in their life. If you start young, you’re also at greater risk for developing alcohol dependence early in life and are high risk for multiple relapses. Some data shows almost 50% of teens who drink alcohol meet criteria for an alcohol use disorder by the time they’re 21.

Many times, people with addictions struggle with all three of these risk factors for alcohol abuse. This can create the perfect storm for developing substance use disorders. Behavioral and medical professionals at drug rehab centers are trained to treat even the most complex addiction cases. There’s no shame in reaching out for help. An alcohol use disorder is a disease of the brain. Many people require intensive alcohol interventions such as inpatient rehab to get better.

Get Help for Alcohol Abuse

We know the first step is often the hardest. Clarity Way’s recovery advisors understand what you’re going through. Learn more about our inpatient treatment center for alcohol addiction or call us to chat about what’s been going on with you or a loved one. We’ll help you figure this out. 

Editorial Staff

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Editorial Staff

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