Alcoholism: Symptoms, Stages, and Complications

For those concerned themselves or their loved one may be abusing alcohol, there are some noticeable physical signs of alcohol abuse. The helpline is free, private, and confidential. We do not receive any commission or fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a caller chooses. Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Calls to any general helpline (non-facility specific 1-8XX numbers) could be forwarded to SAMHSA or a verified treatment provider. Calls are routed based on availability and geographic location.

symptoms of alcoholism

While making excuses for a drinker and engaging in the consumption of alcohol with them can initially seem compassionate, these actions will only make it difficult for them to stop. Arguing with someone who has a possible drinking problem can create defensiveness and worsen feelings of shame and guilt. Liver problems result in one of the most serious symptoms of alcoholism. It’s one of the leading causes of death for alcoholics, and it occurs because the liver scars over. As a result, addicts turn yellow, suffer immense pain, and then die.


Some of the seemingly lesser short-term effects of alcohol abuse, like loss of coordination, can act as a catalyst. A significant fall while intoxicated can land someone in a hospital bed and may result in lasting complications. While this list of symptoms may be useful outward indicators of a drinking problem, signs of alcohol abuse go much deeper and may only be noticeable by the drinker themselves.

What are the signs you might be an alcoholic?

  • Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
  • Wanting to cut down on how much you drink or making unsuccessful attempts to do so.
  • Spending a lot of time drinking, getting alcohol or recovering from alcohol use.
  • Feeling a strong craving or urge to drink alcohol.

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are both categorized as alcohol use disorders—affecting people of all ages and stages of life. Alcohol is often seen as harmless because it’s legal, but just because it’s legal doesn’t mean alcohol is safer than illicit drugs. Just like other forms of substance abuse, people can become dependent on alcohol, resulting in a dangerous and sometimes deadly addiction. Heavy alcohol use has many negative effects on a person’s health, mental health, and lifestyle. In fact, people with alcohol use disorder have an average lifespan that’s 24 to 28 years shorter than people without alcohol addiction. It can also result in negative life consequences, such as strained relationships with loved ones, job loss, and arrests or jail time.

Alcoholism in Social Life

It also includes binge drinking — a pattern of drinking where a male has five or more drinks within two hours or a female has at least four drinks within two hours. It can be painful to watch a loved one experience challenges with alcohol consumption. As a supportive loved one, you may be unsure of how to guide a lending hand towards inspired action. Understand that enabling drinking and punishing your loved one will worsen the circumstances.

  • It’s important to understand that while binge drinking is a dangerous, unhealthy drinking habit, it is not the same as alcoholism or AUD.
  • Throughout history, alcohol has played a significant role in different cultures around the world.
  • In 2014, roughly 16.3 million adults in the U.S. had an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

About 50% of people who drink in this group have alcohol use disorder. Several evidence-based treatment approaches are available for AUD. One size does not fit all and a treatment approach that may work for one person may not work for another. Treatment can be outpatient and/or inpatient and be provided by specialty programs, therapists, and health care providers.

How is alcohol use disorder diagnosed?

Reach out to a treatment provider for free today for immediate assistance. Although there are many warning signs for alcoholism, some can be hard to identify. Alcohol use disorder can include periods of being drunk (alcohol intoxication) and symptoms of withdrawal.

  • Alcoholics Anonymous is available almost everywhere and provides a place to openly and non-judgmentally discuss alcohol problems with others who have alcohol use disorder.
  • When someone has used alcohol to cope with negative emotions, such as sadness and stress, in the past, they have gotten used to self-medicating.
  • It can help someone handle withdrawal symptoms and emotional challenges.
  • Alcoholics can become so dependent that their judgement becomes clouded and they may do things they normally would not.
  • People who have become chronic alcohol abusers may go through alcohol withdrawal syndrome if they suddenly cut back or stop drinking.

Therapy is useful to help teach someone how to manage the stress of recovery and the skills needed to prevent a relapse. Also, a healthy diet can help undo damage alcohol may have done to the person’s health, like weight gain or loss. Get professional help from an online addiction and mental health counselor from BetterHelp. Treatment professionals are trained to determine if an individual does or does not meet the requirements for a substance use disorder diagnosis. Typically, this is done by completing an in-depth assessment. Join the thousands of people that have called a treatment provider for rehab information.

Unsure where to start? Take Our Substance Abuse Self-Assessment

This article explores the symptoms, stages, and complications of alcoholism. If you suspect that you or someone you love has alcoholism, you’re not alone. This condition affects approximately 18 million adults in the United States. Heavy regular drinking can seriously affect a person’s ability to coordinate their muscles and speak properly. The criteria include having a pattern of consumption that leads to considerable impairment or distress. Excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol is not necessarily the same as alcohol dependence.

This person may have had healthy outlets, like exercise, reading, or painting. But now, they use alcohol as their main hobby and an escape from everyday life. Even if this question does not pertain to you, you probably know someone with a drinking problem.

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