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10 Early Signs of Alcoholism

There are various warning signs to help detect potential alcohol abuse. While many early signs of alcoholism are recognizable, others may be more challenging to identify. Also, the severity of alcoholism may play a role in the warning signs a person displays. For instance, some people try to cover their alcohol abuse by drinking in private and isolating themselves from others. This makes it difficult for family members or friends to intervene and help their loved ones.

Because alcohol is both legal and socially acceptable, there’s a common misconception that it doesn’t pose as big a threat as other illegal drugs. The fact of the matter is that alcohol addiction is extremely dangerous and even fatal [1]. Mild alcohol abuse can be easily overlooked. However, what may appear as a minor problem can turn destructive over time. These early signs of alcoholism should not be ignored. Seeking alcoholism treatment sooner rather than later will allow you to get back to the things you enjoy most in life.

If someone you know has an alcohol problem, the most important thing is getting immediate help. But how do you know if there’s actually a problem? To help you out, we’re breaking down ten early signs of alcoholism.

Early Signs of Alcoholism
Although there are many early signs of alcoholism, some can be hard to recognize. No matter how minor a drinking problem may seem, alcohol abuse signs should not be ignored. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism, get professional help.
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1. Neglecting Responsibilities

If an individual suddenly starts falling behind on their responsibilities, this is a sign they may have a problem. This is especially true if they’ve always been very hard-working and diligent.

Some examples could include calling in sick frequently or performing poorly at work. Or, they may begin neglecting schoolwork or failing classes.

An individual with an alcohol issue may also start to ignore social engagements. This is a sign that alcohol has started taking priority over other things or that they’re oftentimes hungover.

2. Relationship Problems

Excessive alcohol intake tends to make individuals aggressive or irritable. This may lead to problems with family members or friends. Many times this happens because the person is unhappy with himself or herself for allowing the alcohol problem to get out of hand. This can lead to tension in a relationship. A person may also have a falling out with friends because of erratic behavior or simply because they’re now hanging out with other drinkers.

3. High Tolerance to Alcohol

Extremely high tolerance would be one of the early signs of alcoholism, especially if a person’s tolerance was previously normal. This happens after regular, and sometimes daily alcohol intake. That person simply needs more alcohol to achieve the desired effect [2].

If you notice a loved one continuing to drink once everyone else is stopped, this is one of the early signs of alcoholism. You may also notice they don’t seem drunk after several shots. Because their tolerance is higher, they’re able to drink more and not seem intoxicated.

4. Drinking to Relieve Stress

It’s very common for a problem to start when a person begins using alcohol as a means to relax. For example, it could be a way to unwind after a long day at work or forget about an argument or confrontation. Eventually, the person will reach for a drink any time they’re under a lot of stress. Drinking could also cover up other emotional issues such as depression or anxiety.

If you notice a loved one repeatedly turning to alcohol when they’re having a rough time, there’s a chance they’re becoming an alcoholic.

5. Hiding or Lying about Drinking

People who struggle with alcohol often deny they have a problem. Unfortunately, this leads to them lying about how much they drink or hiding their drinking. You may notice a loved one becoming more isolated and staying in more than usual. This is a sign they’ve started drinking at home to keep their problem private.

When asked, a loved one may downplay how much they drink. Their goal is to keep the attention off them and their drinking.

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6. Regularly Blacking Out

If you notice a loved one drinking to the point of unconsciousness on a regular basis, this is a sign of alcohol blackout, and it’s time to intervene. This means that they’ve developed an addiction to alcohol that’s starting to get out of control.

There are a few reasons why someone drinks to this degree. Either their tolerance has increased to a level where they must consume a huge amount of alcohol or they’re covering up another issue by drinking.
Regardless of the reason, it would be best to intervene right away. Drinking to this degree is very dangerous.

7. Withdrawal Symptoms

Educating yourself with common alcohol withdrawal symptoms is crucial if you suspect a loved one has an alcohol drinking problem. Common behavioral symptoms include irritability or anxiety. A person may also exhibit signs similar to depression.

You can also keep your eye out for some physical effects of alcohol and withdrawal symptoms. The most common include shakiness, fatigue, or excess sweating. A person may also have insomnia when going through alcohol addiction.

8. Dangerous or Risky Behavior

Many individuals struggling with alcohol start things they would have never done in the past. Unfortunately, this behavior tends to be unpredictable and sometimes dangerous. The most serious of these acts are drinking and driving. A person may start to feel they’re invincible and that driving under the influence poses no danger.

Other types of risky behavior may include consuming other illicit drugs while drinking. It could also include irresponsible sexual encounters or criminal activity.

If a loved one begins exhibiting this type of behavior, they’re now a danger to themselves and the people around them. It’s time to intervene.

Early Signs of Alcoholism
It’s time to stop making excuses for your drinking and get the help you deserve. 

9. Changes in Appearance

Another of the typical early signs of alcoholism is the sudden change in appearance. The appearance effects of alcohol usually involve falling behind on personal hygiene or an overall messy look. You may also notice a loved one often looking sickly and tired. This is a sign they’ve been drinking regularly and neglecting their basic needs. A person may also have a sudden weight change. Alcohol contains many calories, which causes some individuals to gain weight. On the other hand, they could lose weight if they aren’t eating properly.

10. Memory Loss

A person who’s drinking excessively on a regular basis will usually have memory loss. They’ll also mix up dates and events. This commonly happens after a person has become completely addicted. In severe cases, a person can develop permanent memory loss [3].

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Physical Warning Signs of Alcohol Abuse

  • Regular cravings for alcohol
  • Flu-like withdrawal symptoms
  • “Blacking out” or memory loss from drinking
  • Red, broken capillaries on the face, particularly around the nose
  • Yellowing of eyes and skin (a sign of jaundice)
  • Breath and sweat smell of alcohol on a regular basis
  • Dull, dry skin
  • Brittle hair and broken fingernails
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Flushed skin
  • A tired, aging appearance
Early Signs of Alcoholism
Denial is one of the main reasons why millions of people do not receive treatment for alcoholism

Mental Warning Signs of Alcohol Abuse

  • A preoccupation with drinking, particular at inappropriate times.
  • A feeling of restlessness, agitation, or discontent when not drinking.
  • Difficulty focusing on anything but the next drink during periods of alcohol abstinence.

Social Warning Signs of Alcohol Abuse

  • Friends and family comment on excessive drinking, causing the abuser to respond with irritation and frustration
  • Continued drinking despite detrimental consequences to career and relationships
  • Withdrawal from social situations
  • Use of alternative mind-altering substances when alcohol is unavailable
  • Broken promises to quit drinking. One has made an intrinsic pledge, as well as an outward offer to friends and family members, that one will not drink during a specific occasion, throughout an important weekend or before driving; sadly, they break these promises on a regular basis
  • An inordinate amount of money spent on alcohol, to the point of financial troubles.
  • Suggestions of alcohol abuse from a doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist
  • Denial of alcohol abuse
  • Legal trouble such as a DUI or Public Intoxication

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How to Recognize Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse 

Alcohol abuse is almost similar to other disorders. The earlier you identify its symptoms, the sooner you can seek inpatient alcohol rehab treatment for your alcoholic loved one, helping him to rebuild his earlier productive and healthy lifestyle. Often, a person struggling with alcohol does not have the mental clarity or physical ability to recognize the early signs of alcoholism himself. Some individuals might also try to hide their alcoholic behavior. The charge is on you to learn how to recognize symptoms of alcohol abuse and save a life.

Not all alcoholics turn up at parties or offices in an obviously “drunk” condition – staggering unsteadily or mumbling irrationally. And neither do all alcoholics sport messy looks. That individual has become a staunch addict or that he is abusing beer or any other alcohol might not be obvious at first glance.

Nevertheless, you would want to learn how to know the early signs of alcoholism for the benefit of a loved one whom you want to encourage to lead a healthy, fruitful, and alcohol-free life.

How to Spot an Alcoholic

  • Carelessness to both professional and personal responsibilities
  • Unexplained mood changes
  • Drinking in perilous situations and alcoholism relapse even after the decision to quit
  • Drinking at unsuitable times
  • Dishonesty about alcohol consumption
  • Excessive alcohol tolerance
  • Fickle relationships
  • Psychological addiction to alcohol
  • Loss of consciousness after binge drinking
  • Legal problems related to drinking
  • Physical effects of alcohol

Get Help for Alcoholism

Overcoming alcoholism should be completed under the care of medical professionals in an inpatient treatment rehab facility. Alcoholics who attempt to self-treat may cause more harm than good. For example, the detox phase can entail highly uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, which are best treated in a rehab program.

Enrolling in a recovery program with the help of an addiction specialist will give you the most excellent chance for long-term sobriety. Treatment professionals and substance abuse counselors guide you through every step of the recovery process and help you set attainable sobriety goals. After rehab, your alcohol addiction specialist will put you in touch with alcohol abuse counselors and support groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous. This will ensure you keep your sobriety and allow you to meet other peers who have overcome alcohol abuse.

When alcohol use begins to interfere with your daily life, it is time to seek treatment and recover from alcohol addiction. If you or a loved one is suffering from alcoholism, call us We Level Up NJ to get information about available facilities, treatments, therapies, helpful facts about alcohol abuse, including early signs of alcoholism, and the path to recovery.

early signs of alcoholism
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[2] SAMHSA –

[3] NIAAA –