Knowing the signs of alcoholism may save someone’s life. Alcoholism is a disease that can be put into remission. It is a chronic, relapsing, and fatal condition.
One of the important things to look for is their body has become dependent on alcohol. They may be obsessed with alcohol and unable to control how much they drink. They’re drinking may be causing serious problems with their relationships, health, work and finances.
It’s possible to have a problem with alcohol, but not be an alcoholic.
Here is a list of the key signs to look for:
- Cravings for alcohol
- Loss of control
- Drinking alone or in secret
- Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink
- Losing interest in activities and hobbies that used to bring pleasure
- Feeling the need or compulsion to drink
- Irritability when your usual drinking time nears, especially if alcohol isn’t available
- Keeping alcohol in unlikely places at home, at work or in the car
- Having legal problems or problems with relationships, employment or finances
- Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms
Someone with alcohol use disorder is considered to be an alcoholic. It might help to understand the disease concept by thinking of this condition as an “allergy” to alcohol. It is a medical condition.
Alcohol use disorders are medical conditions that doctors can diagnose when a patient’s drinking causes distress or harm. In the United States, about 18 million people have an alcohol use disorder, classified as either alcohol dependence — perhaps better known as alcoholism — or alcohol abuse.
Alcohol dependence, the more serious of the disorders, is a disease that includes these key symptoms:
- Craving – A strong need, or urge, to drink.
- Loss of control – Not being able to stop drinking once drinking has begun.
- Dependence – Withdrawal symptoms (nausea, sweating, shakiness)
- Negative emotional states (anxiety after stopping drinking)
- Tolerance—The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to feel the same effect.
People who are alcoholics often will spend a great deal of their time drinking, making sure they can get alcohol, and recovering from alcohol’s effects, often at the expense of other activities and responsibilities.
Although people who abuse alcohol are not physically dependent, they still have a serious disorder. They may not fulfill responsibilities at home, work, or school because of their drinking. They may also put themselves in dangerous situations (like driving under the influence) or have legal or social problems (such as arrests or arguments with family members) due to their drinking.
Keep a close out for changes in their life. Have they stop doing things they used to enjoy doing, for example. Is the performance at work or school dropped? Someones mood swings can also be a good indicator of a serious drinking problem.
Dependence – Tolerance
There seems to be an awfully lot of confusion about whether or not someone is just a “problem drinker” or a full blown alcoholic. The key thing to look for is the fine but important distinction of dependence and tolerance. If they suffer severe withdrawal symptoms and crave a drink the day after, and they are drinking more and more to achieve the same effect, then they are an alcoholic.
Since these things are rather subjective, the best thing to consider doing if you or someone you know may have a problem, is see a professional. Make an appointment with a licensed addiction therapist and get a complete evaluation and assessment done. That is the only way to know for certain whether they have this disease, or not.
Treatment is always the right best method of beginning the process of recovery. Proper medically supervised detox is always necessary. Alcohol detox is serious business. It must be done under the care of a trained professional. In some cases, outpatient may be the right level of care. In others, inpatient residential may be right. It will depend on a variety of factors. The person doing the evaluation and assessment should be able to help you decide what’s best.
Friends Talk About A Possible Alcoholic
My close friend hesitated, the concern in her voice palpable: “I’m not sure, but I believe my life-long friend has an alcohol problem.”
“Why do you believe that?” I said.
She went on to tell me that a good of friend of her friend had called her and asked her to join her for lunch. At that lunch, she told her that their mutual friend was drinking during work hours where they both worked and then she asked for her help.
My friend then said to me: “I don’t have any idea where to begin to help and I’m not certain my friend is really an alcoholic. I don’t think she drinks that much. What are the signs of alcoholism?”
First I told her that drinking at work, if she is, is a strong sign that her friend could have an issue with alcohol.
I said: “Let’s back up a little and take a look at the basic indicators of alcohol dependence.
Since you know your friend so well, if you knew your friend would answer these questions honestly, how many times would she say: “yes?”
Here’s what I asked:
When you go out with your friends, whether alone or with others, can you easily stop after having just one drink without even thinking about it?
Or, do you promise yourself and others that you’re just going to have one drink tonight and that n-e-v-e-r turns out to be true?
Do you ever hear yourself say to friends: “I r-e-a-l-l-y need a drink?”
Ever said to friends: “You know I used to get buzzed on a single glass of wine, but it seems I now need a couple of vodka’s to get my buzz goin’”
Ever wake up in the morning, startled, wondering how you got there even if it’s your own bed?
Ever wake up in the morning and can only remember some of what happened last night?
Have you gotten used to heading out after a work for a drink with everyone and get annoyed or even pissed, when that doesn’t happen?
After a couple drinks, do you finally “normal?”
Ever hide alcohol around your apartment so you can have a drink without your roommate knowing it?
Ever get up in the morning and have a drink to smooth-out the effects of last night’s drinking?
Ever order a “double” or a couple of back-to-back “doubles” to get the night really rolling?
Do you wish others would stop asking you about your drinking?
Ever try to cut down by not drinking the drink you love and switch to one you don’t particularly like?
Ever get pulled over for a traffic stop and feel relieved you hadn’t been drinking?
Did someone you care about ever ask you to stop drinking? And, if you didn’t stop, did they “disappear” from your life?
Did you ever say or do something when you were drinking that you would n-e-v-e-r have done if you were sober?
Ever have anyone tell you about a conversation you had with them and you can’t remember any of it?
Has your drinking caused “trouble” with friends, family or your roommate?
When you’re drinking, do you believe you’re funnier, smarter, better-looking or a much better dancer?
When you’re drinking do you feel more relaxed, more outgoing?
Late at night, do you think: “I’ve got a drinking problem, a real drinking problem and I don’t know how to stop?”
Are you afraid you’re going to lose your job because you drink during working hours and do it anyhow?
Can you think of even one thing you’ve always enjoyed doing that seems to have slowly disappeared out of your life?
At the end of the questions my friend paused and then said: “Phew, that’s a lot of questions.
She went on: “Those questions got me thinking about my drinking instead of my friends. I answered a couple of those questions for myself with “yes.”
“If you have one drink, honestly one drink, from time to time and you could answer only a few, like two or three of those questions with a “yes,” it’s unlikely you’re an alcoholic.
Alcoholism is cunning; it whispers in your ear that you’re not an alcoholic, you’re just having a good time, just like everyone else,” I said.
“Alcoholism tells you that having some wine with lunch is just like people all over the world, and they don’t make doggie bags for leftover wine, so you finish the half-carafe.
You think your telling yourself that when you have a couple drinks that you’re better looking, smarter and even funnier, but it’s alcoholism that’s speaking.
Alcohol dependenceis powerful; it, not lack of willpower, can make it impossible for you to stop drinking after the first drink.
Alcohol dependence is baffling; it can send mixed messages and quickly and easily manage to confuse you.”
“I’ve known her almost all her life and feel like I should have seen her alcoholic behavior and done something to stop it,” my friend said.
I gently told her: “This is not your fault. You didn’t cause your friend to drink, any more than you could give your friend arthritis. You can’t control your friends drinking. And, since alcoholism is a disease, you can’t cure it.”
“That’s just great,” she said sarcastically. “So, what can I do?”
“How about beginning this way?” I said. “Tell your friend you might have some alcohol issues because of those questions and you want her to read through them as if she were you and see how she’d answer them if she were you.
What might happen is that there could be a new awareness, maybe not right then in some miraculous epiphany, but a little later on, once she gets a chance to think about it. And, it may open a conversation with her.
My last suggestion is to do this in a loving, caring and non-judgmental way. You two are BFF’s and probably turn to each other for many things and this may open the door for her turning to you.”