How do you know if your loved one is an alcoholic?
Alcoholism is a chronic and potentially life-threatening condition characterized by a person’s inability to control their drinking. Signs of alcoholism include developing a tolerance to alcohol, experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit, and continuing to drink despite negative consequences. Other signs may include neglecting responsibilities, such as work or family obligations, and experiencing relationship problems. If you or someone you know may be struggling with alcoholism, seeking help from a healthcare professional can be a crucial first step towards recovery
Wedding toasts, happy hours, and New Year’s Eve are common occasions to have fun with loved ones and a drink. Our culture tends to normalize the consumption of alcohol. However, many people blur the line between social drinking and being an alcoholic, using celebrations to mask an addiction. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), in 2021, 29.5 million people over 12 had Alcohol Use Disorder.
What is Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?
The NIAAA defines Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) as the inability to stop drinking despite damaging effects on a person’s life. Whether the results are missing work or health problems, alcohol abuse impacts every aspect of a person’s life. Still, we cannot take this to mean people with AUD lack self-control. Ultimately, it is a brain disorder. Without proper treatment, people can experience a decline in quality of life, health issues, and even death.
Based on 11 criteria regarding individual drinking habits, experts classify AUD as Mild, Moderate, or Severe. You may be most familiar with severe AUD, more commonly known as alcoholism. About 4.5% of the entire U.S. population has severe AUD.
“Am I among the 4.5%?” can be difficult to ponder. It is a question that is asked around the country every day. When asked to answer this question, Alcoholics Anonymous states, “If you repeatedly drink more than you intend or want to, if you get into trouble, or if you have memory lapses when you drink, you may be an alcoholic.”
Even if this question does not pertain to you, you probably know someone with a drinking problem. Yet, people with mild or moderate AUD can be harder to spot. It could be a relative who drinks too much on family occasions. It could also be a colleague that consistently pushes you to drink with them after work.
Signs of Alcohol Addiction
If you believe your loved one has a drinking problem, it may be enough of a concern that you want to offer help. But how do you know for sure? There are several warning signs you can look for that may reveal if your loved one may need help:
1. Alcoholism in Social Life
Social drinking takes on a new meaning for people with alcohol use disorder. If an event such as a house party involves drinking, they’ll be the first ones there. Almost every social function or celebration must involve alcohol for them. Family commitments may become irrelevant to them if they don’t include drinking.
2. Drinking as Stress Relief
A person with AUD likely uses alcohol as a stress reliever. The minute they feel frustrated or stressed about something, they want a drink. 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.
3. Defensiveness About Drinking
When questioned, a person with alcoholism often gets defensive about their drinking. Loved ones may bring up their drinking to them and receive hostility in return. Someone with an alcohol addiction can become irate when their excessive consumption is brought up. They will make excuses for why they drink or minimize how bad their issue is.
4. High Tolerance
A person with AUD probably has a high tolerance for alcoholic beverages. While people around them may feel the effects of alcohol after a shot, they don’t. They can put away multiple drinks without feeling drunk. Their tolerance also continues to grow with time. As they continue to drink, they may need more and more liquor to get the desired effect.
5. Personality Changes
A person struggling with an alcohol issue may undergo personality changes while under the influence. Reserved individuals could become loud and boisterous. People that are typically closed off could become an open book. Personality changes can be especially harmful to others if a person with AUD becomes aggressive and violent while drinking.
6. Drinking All Day
While most people are working or at school, an alcoholic is drinking or at least thinking about it. Even worse, they may secretly drink in class or on the job. They may be aware enough to know that others could perceive them as an alcoholic. So, they often take steps to hide their day drinking. One example is brushing their teeth several times a day to mask the smell of alcohol.
7. Lack of Alcohol Limits
A telling sign of an alcoholic is that they don’t know when to quit drinking. People with AUD may try to curb their drinking and limit themselves to two drinks at night. But they can’t uphold their boundaries. Two drinks turn into seven in one night. When everyone else is ready to leave the bar and go home, they want to order another round.
8. Alcohol-Related Consequences
The consequences begin no matter what they may say about their alcohol habits. Maybe they’ve gotten a DUI or lost their job due to their alcohol habits. While aware of these consequences, they may deny that their alcoholism caused them. They point fingers at their boss instead of holding themselves accountable.
9. Impulsive Decisions
They make risky decisions while under the influence of alcohol. They regularly drive drunk and insist they’re ok to do so. Or maybe they tend to get into physical fights at the bar. You know they wouldn’t make these decisions sober. But they can’t seem to stop making dangerous decisions under the influence.
10. Withdrawal Symptoms
If a person with AUD suddenly stops drinking, they might experience severe withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms may include nausea, sweating, or a rapid heartbeat. They may even experience extreme symptoms such as hallucinations or convulsions that require medical attention. No matter how severe these symptoms become, they crave alcohol to fix them.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Excessive alcohol use is responsible for more than 140,000 deaths in the United States each year, or 380 deaths per day.” Speaking up can save a life.
If you’re still uncertain and interested in learning more, you might be interested in viewing the following blogs:
- What are the Stages of Alcoholism?
- What is a Functioning Alcoholic?
- Alcoholism or Alcohol Use Disorder
According to the NIAAA, “However severe the problem may seem, people with (Alcohol Use Disorder) can benefit from treatment. Unfortunately, less than 10 percent of them receive any treatment.”
At Bradford, we’re ready to offer a helping hand to those who might need it. Visit our website for more information, or call us at 888-SOBER-40.