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Alcoholism Symptoms And Warning Signs – Addiction Center

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Alcohol abuse is defined as any use that causes negative consequences to the user. Alcoholism symptoms can encompass health effects, such as bad hangovers and alcohol-induced accidents, as well as social effects, such as doing or saying regrettable things while intoxicated. Just because someone abuses alcohol does not mean they are dependent on or addicted to alcohol, but it is generally the first step towards the development of an issue later.
Binge drinking and alcohol abuse can start in the teenage years or even earlier, though adults and the elderly may pick up the habit too.
Alcoholism often begins in a person’s early 20s and is characterized by frequent heavy drinking. This behavior leads to an increased tolerance to alcohol and eventually presents social and health problems. Recognizing when someone you care about is abusing alcohol can help you determine if they need help.
Some of the signs of alcohol intoxication include:
Many people don’t recognize alcoholism symptoms because they are so prevalent in society. Whether it’s having one too many drinks at happy hour after work one night or developing a pattern of frequent binge drinking, the effects of alcohol abuse can be seen across the country in many forms. Long-term abuse of alcohol takes a serious toll on the brain and body, as every organ is affected by it. Certain organs, such as the liver and the brain, are affected more than others.
Although many people drink to feel buzzed, the ramifications of alcohol abuse can persist long past the initial period of intoxication. Short-term side effects of alcohol abuse can include:
Long-term effects of alcohol abuse are more serious and can include irreversible damage that could lead to death. Some of the common long-term effects of alcoholism include:
Alcoholism symptoms can be non-medical as well; often these side effects are as serious as or worse than many of the health consequences. Non-medical effects of alcohol abuse include:
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Studies have shown that those who use alcohol as teenagers have up to five times the risk of developing a dependence on alcohol compared to those who begin drinking at 21. Teens who abuse alcohol also have significant issues with normal brain development.
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Alcoholism is diagnosed on a spectrum. There are 11 criteria for recognizing an addiction, with different levels of severity based on the number that apply.
According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 15.1 million adults ages 18 and older (6.2 percent of this age group) had an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Because alcohol is so prevalent throughout society, diagnosing an addiction to it can be difficult. Heavy drinking can lead to dependence, but a heavy drinker doesn’t necessarily have a use disorder — at least by the clinical definition according to the DSM-V. Here are the 11 criteria used by professionals to diagnose alcoholism.
An alcohol use disorder (AUD) can be mild, where the drinker only meets two or three of the criteria for addiction; four or five is considered a moderate disorder. The more criteria present, the more severe the disorder. These are what people traditionally think of as alcoholics.
Recognizing an AUD comes down to the negative effect of alcohol on the user’s life. When alcohol takes priority over close relationships, work responsibilities, or personal health, the user likely has a problem. Alcohol has the highest rates of abuse and addiction in America, with millions of people suffering. There are also many rehabilitation centers and programs that are experienced specifically in treating alcoholism.
If you’ve noticed alcoholism symptoms in someone you care about, there are several ways you can help them. If they are unwilling to go to treatment or are denying that they have a problem at all, you might consider staging an intervention. Telling someone you care about that they have a problem can seem daunting.
It’s important to treat your loved one with care and respect, avoiding accusations or casting blame. Focus the intervention on how their alcohol use has caused emotional or physical distress for you or others that they care about. Make sure they know your intervention is coming from a place of concern and not of judgment.
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The first step of recovery is alcohol detox, or cleansing the body from all physical traces of alcohol. Those who have used alcohol heavily over a prolonged period have developed a dependence on it, meaning their body doesn’t quite function normally without it. The detox period is crucial as well as dangerous — alcohol is one of the few drugs with withdrawal symptoms that can be fatal. For this reason, it is imperative to have medical supervision during detox.
If someone you care about is exhibiting alcoholism symptoms, there are resources available to help you find treatment and support. For more information, contact a treatment provider today.
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Last Edited: October 5, 2021
Jeffrey Juergens
Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. Jeffrey’s desire to help others led him to focus on economic and social development and policy making. After graduation, he decided to pursue his passion of writing and editing. Jeffrey’s mission is to educate and inform the public on addiction issues and help those in need of treatment find the best option for them.
Clinically Reviewed: December 7, 2018
Theresa Parisi
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.
Theresa is a Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), a Certified Behavioral Health Case Manager (CBHCM) by The Florida Certification Board, and a Certified International Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC) by The International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC). Theresa is also a Certified Professional Life Coach and volunteers at a local mental health facility helping individuals who struggle with homelessness and addiction. Theresa is a well-rounded clinician with experience working as a Primary Addiction Counselor, Case Manager and Director of Utilization Review in various treatment centers for addiction and mental health in Florida, Minnesota, and Colorado. She also has experience with admissions, marketing, and outreach. Eager to learn, Theresa is currently working on her Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. As a proud recovering addict herself, Theresa understands first-hand the struggles of addiction. There is no limit to what Theresa is willing to do to make a difference in the field of Addiction!
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