How Is Alcoholism Defined?
It can be difficult to spot the signs of alcoholism in yourself or your loved ones because alcohol is such a prevalent substance in our culture. Many people drink moderately, which is not usually a cause for concern in most adults, but when that drinking gets out of hand, an alcohol use disorder can develop. Keeping an eye out for the early signs of alcoholism will keep you and your loved ones from falling into addiction, and it can help you to know when you may need additional help from a professional rehab clinic.
Alcoholism begins with alcohol abuse. This can take two forms:
- Binge drinking – having five or more alcoholic drinks within two hours for men, or four or more for women, or drinking enough to bring your blood alcohol content (BAC) to 0.08%
- Heavy drinking – according to the CDC guidelines, heavy drinking in men is defined as having 15 or more drinks per week, and in women 8 or more drinks per week
Alcohol abuse does not always lead to alcoholism, but those who develop the disorder will develop a physical need to drink alcohol, with psychological symptoms that lead to compulsive drinking, regardless of the issues it causes at work, home, or in interpersonal relationships.
There is both a physical and a psychological component to alcoholism. Physically, the body will develop a tolerance to alcohol, so you need to drink more to achieve the same effect, and you will begin to notice withdrawal symptoms if you try to cut back. This leads to psychological dependence, feeling like you cannot get through the day without drinking. Your thoughts and actions will become focused on obtaining and consuming alcohol to the point where the drinking interferes with daily obligations and responsibilities.
How Prevalent Is Alcoholism?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction (NIAAA), around 17 million American adults (or around 7.2 percent) have an alcohol use disorder, with nearly 900,000 teenagers aged 12 to 17 dealing with alcoholism. This statistic may sound shocking, but many alcohol addicts successfully hide their addictions from the world, sometimes for years, before it affects their day-to-day life, work, and relationships. High-functioning addicts can hold good jobs, live in nice homes, and have friends and family, although this house of cards will eventually come falling down, even with the strongest individuals.
Check out our guide to talking to kids about alcohol and drug use here:
16 Early Signs of Alcoholism
Some of the most common early signs of alcoholism include:
- Occasional binge drinking or party drinking sessions
- Using drinking as an excuse to get together with friends
- Relying on alcohol to “have a good time”
- Using alcohol to feel “normal”
- Gaining weight due to alcohol consumption, or losing weight because you are foregoing healthy meals for alcohol (“liquid lunch”)
- Drinking when feeling bored or lonely or to cope with a stressful day
- Drinking to cope with difficult feelings like sadness
- Changing friend groups to hang out with others who also drink a lot
- Developing an emotional attachment to drinking
- Deterioration of your personal grooming habits
- You start dropping the ball at work or school, missing deadlines, or not cleaning the house because of hangovers and drinking
- Problems in your life are made worse by your drinking habit (financial issues, relationship problems, etc.)
- Starting to isolate yourself from close friends and loved ones, avoiding their calls, and canceling social hangouts
- You start to give up hobbies and other activities, preferring to drink instead
- Spending a lot of your time getting alcohol, drinking, and dealing with hangovers
- People you care about begin to mention your drinking
Later Signs of Alcoholism
Some later signs that a person may be addicted to alcohol are:
- Losing friends and close relationships due to problem drinking
- Starting to drink in secret or feeling ashamed of how much you are drinking
- Needing a drink first thing in the morning
- Having difficulty in social situations without being drunk
- Spending a lot of money on alcohol, even when you have other bills to pay
- Getting into legal trouble, getting arrested for DUIs, or having run-ins with the law because of alcohol use
- Engaging in risky behaviors like drunk driving, swimming while under the influence, or getting into fights while drinking, waking up the next day knowing you could have been hurt or hurt somebody else
- Blacking out during a night of drinking with no memory of what you were doing
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms like irritability, tremors, nausea, insomnia, and sweating when you try to stop or cut back
- Serious health concerns like fatty liver disease or heart issues may begin to develop
- Continuing to drink even when negative health effects, personal problems, or professional issues are made clear
- Being unable to limit drinking to “just one”
- Developing a tolerance and needing to drink more alcohol to get the same effect
- Being unable to think of anything except when you can have your next drink
- Experiencing physical cravings for alcohol
- Compulsive behaviors lead to drinking whenever and wherever you want
Break the Chains of Alcoholism at WhiteSands Alcohol & Drug Rehab
Alcohol addiction does not define you as a person, and you have the power to overcome this disorder within you. If you have noticed early signs of alcoholism in yourself, there is time to make changes to your life, worldview, and habits to build a healthier and happier future for yourself. Long-term drinking can cause serious issues like:
- Liver damage
- High blood pressure
- Increased cancer risk
- Sleep problems
- Heart disease
- Changes in libido
- A weaker immune system
- Nerve damage
- Gout flare-ups
- Persistent mood changes like depression, anxiety, or irritability
- Brain damage, with problems with focus and memory leading to dementia
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Mental health disorders with an increased risk of suicide
At WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab, we provide the tools and support you need to regain control of your life and quit drinking for good. We have levels of care that include medical detox, inpatient rehab, outpatient treatment plans, and long-term connections to our drug- and alcohol-free community. We provide therapy, peer support, mental health treatments, counseling, healthy eating and exercise plans, holistic treatments, relapse prevention programs, and 24-hour medical care available in our luxury residential rehab programs.
We can customize your treatment plan to best suit your individual needs. If you need to get away from stressful home life or unsupportive family members, you may wish to come to our inpatient treatment center for 30 to 90 days, or if you are still in the early stages of addiction and cannot leave your job, you may find an intensive outpatient program is better for you at this point.
Please call us at any time to learn more about how our nonjudgmental and caring team of doctors, nurses, therapists, and addiction specialists can not only get you through your detox period safely without suffering but can also set you up for a lifetime of sober success, with a future full of promise. You are not alone in your alcohol addiction; we are here 24 hours a day to help you start fresh.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.